Interim report calls for urgent education act

The Education Act will be developed in alignment with Bhutan’s unique cultural and developmental context, preserving the principles of Gross National Happiness (GNH)

NGAWANG JAMPHEL
Thimphu

The education landscape in Bhutan stands at a critical juncture as the Special Committee for Education prepares to submit its interim report to the 33rd Session of the National Council. The report, compiled by the committee tasked with reviewing education-related legislation, punctuates the pressing need for an Education Act to fortify Bhutan’s education system with a robust legal framework.

Tshering Tshomo, Deputy Chairperson of the Special Committee for Education, emphasized the urgency of formalizing Bhutan’s education policies into law.

“Currently, the education ministry lacks an official Act and operates under executive orders and draft education guidelines from 2018. We need to make these policies official and improve our education system,” she stated. The reliance on guidelines like the Education Policy Guidelines and Instructions (EPGI) has led to inconsistencies in policy implementation, hindering sustained improvements in educational quality and accessibility.

Comparative analyses with countries such as Singapore, the United Kingdom, and India emphasize the transformative impact of robust legislative frameworks on education.

These nations have utilized Education Acts to establish clear standards, ensure accountability, and drive comprehensive educational reforms. In contrast, Bhutan’s policy initiatives, including the Bhutan Education Blueprint (2014–2024) and the draft National Education Policy (2022), lack the enforceability and stability provided by formal legislation.

The interim report identifies key challenges within Bhutan’s education landscape, including disparities in rural and urban educational infrastructure, variations in teacher quality and availability, and limited access to technological resources. These challenges necessitate the establishment of a formal Education Act that can provide a stable framework to address these issues systematically.

Stakeholder consultations and public surveys conducted during the review process have highlighted widespread support for legislative reform. Educators, administrators, parents, and students have expressed concerns over the unpredictable nature of policy changes and the need for a coherent, legally-backed framework that can guide strategic educational initiatives effectively.

The proposed Education Act aims to comprehensively address these concerns by codifying educational policies and guidelines into law. It seeks to establish clear standards for curriculum development, teacher qualifications, infrastructure enhancement, and educational assessment methods. Moreover, the Act aims to strengthen governance structures within the Ministry of Education, promoting transparency, accountability, and efficiency in resource allocation and policy implementation.

Importantly, the Education Act will be developed in alignment with Bhutan’s unique cultural and developmental context, preserving the principles of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

It aims to cultivate well-rounded individuals who contribute meaningfully to national development while upholding Bhutanese cultural values—a holistic approach that distinguishes Bhutan’s educational vision from conventional academic-centric frameworks.

Looking ahead, the interim report outlines a strategic pathway for legislative action. It calls upon policymakers to expedite the drafting and enactment of the Education Act through inclusive multi-sectorial participation and rigorous consultations. This collaborative approach aims to ensure that the Act reflects diverse stakeholder perspectives and aligns with global educational standards, setting a precedent for inclusive policy formulation and implementation in Bhutan.

The final report, slated for presentation during the 34th session, will build upon the interim findings to propose actionable recommendations. These recommendations will focus on bridging existing gaps, enhancing educational governance, and advancing Bhutan’s educational goals in consonance with international benchmarks and best practices.

For stakeholders eager to engage further, the interim report will be available through official channels of the National Council of Bhutan. It encourages continued dialogue and collaboration to shape a transformative Education Act that promises a prosperous future for Bhutan through inclusive and high-quality education.

Bhutan’s educational journey traces back to 1914 with the establishment of its first school under the Royal Command of the first king, Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck. Since then, the kingdom has made commendable strides, currently boasting 1,896 educational institutions serving 196,441 students across public and private sectors. Similarly, there are 12221 teachers, lecturers and instructors in the country. Despite these achievements, Bhutan faces critical challenges exacerbated by the absence of an overarching Education Act.

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