Border closure, travel restrictions and Covid-19 vaccine passport systems have limited the higher education opportunities for thousands of Bhutanese students who finished higher secondary school this year
Border closure, travel restrictions and Covid-19 vaccine passport systems have limited the higher education opportunities for thousands of Bhutanese students who finished higher secondary school this year. Many students, including the brightest, have no means to pursue further education outside the country, Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel said in an editorial.
Out of the 12,595 students who qualified to study in government colleges or bagged government scholarships to study in specialized fields outside Bhutan, only 3,567 have been absorbed in government colleges within the country.
The issue is now politicized as the government is not clear on the way forward. Political parties are questioning the government and accusing them of lack of farsightedness, the editorial said.
The Royal University of Bhutan is looking into the possibility of taking in more students. How and when, however, is not clear.
“The government directed the RUB, even before the issue was pointed out, to look into the issue. Taking in more students, however, requires more than a government directive. Are we prepared? Do we have the infrastructure? Do we have the faculty to teach students who would be studying engineering, architecture, medicine, environmental engineering and so on?’ the newspaper worndered.
Like in any other sector, the pandemic disrupted education. For almost a year, students have not attended regular school. At the primary level, notwithstanding the learning, there were not many issues as students were promoted to higher classes.
“The problem is at the higher level. While we have assured government schooling without cut-off points, we have overlooked the capacity of our tertiary education,” the editorial said.
“It will not be soon that we return to normalcy. Even without the pandemic, not all Bhutanese students, who do well in higher secondary school, study within the country. We have no capacity to absorb nor teach or train the professional skills that are still in short supply, for instance doctors,” it said.
The editorial said a permanent solution would be building institutions that can not only absorb Bhutan’s students, but make the country an educational hub “where the brightest minds, the best teachers or professors would want to come to live, work in Bhutan and be a part of the change”.