Bhutan: Education must expand and include all

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Even as we are in the process of restructuring our education system, our children in some quarters of this country are out of school. This is going by the latest Annual Education Statistics.

About 1,039 primary-age children are out of school, or are not enrolled in any form of structured learning process. It has been found that this group of children could be in the remote areas, in the nomadic communities. Many could be children of the migrant population, and there are those who may have learning disabilities with special needs.

These are important findings. And we need to reach the furthest communities and left-out groups. Because we are talking about education, in this century, it matters all the more. As we are in the process of shaping the 12th Plan, including education for all must be the ministry’s central focus.

Extended classrooms, which played a vital role in including our children in the remote areas in the education system once, is now found to be expensive and redundant. So the idea of central school was born. But still there are complaints from parents in the rural areas that their children do not get the first enrolment preference.

In the highlands, children do not pursue education beyond class VII because leaving their homes for higher education means compromising health and wealth of the family. Recently, in the highlanders’ meeting in Thimphu, this was the issue they raised. Although we have made concerted efforts to include children with special needs in the education system, we have much work to do to fully include them.

Maybe we have not been able to take education to our farthest communities or our central school idea has not succeeded to rope in the children from the remote villages. Otherwise, all our school-going children should be in schools. We are talking about the issue of children being left out of education system when our non-formal education adults who missed the bus is succeeding.

Education and its success is the basis on which a country’s success is measured. How do we measure up to our own education system? Bhutanese education must expand and reach out to the poor and the disadvantaged.

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