As the political landscape gears up for the upcoming elections, the five major political parties have unfurled their ambitious pledges, with a particular spotlight on the crucial and highly debated education sector. In an effort to secure voter support, these parties are championing promises that span from the overhaul of existing policies to the introduction of innovative measures.
In the last fifteen years, the education sector has witnessed a slew of promises from political contenders, often resulting in impractical policies and regulatory changes under each government. The absence of a well-defined education policy, lingering in draft form since 2019, has allowed political parties to exploit loopholes, manipulating policies to align with their narrative, claim bureaucrats and relevant agencies.
While most parties advocate for a review of the individual work plan (IWP) and alternative measures, the Bhutan Tendrel Party takes a distinctive stance by vowing to abolish it altogether. However, the lack of a specified alternative measure has raised eyebrows and sparked curiosity about the party’s proposed approach.
Notably, Bhutan Tendrel Party goes further by pledging to establish an education reform council and introduce a separate education bill, all aimed at minimizing political interference. Additionally, the party promises a one-time allowance for teachers to purchase laptops, fostering a technologically advanced learning environment.
The contentious issue of contract teachers also takes center stage, with both Bhutan Tendrel Party and People’s Democratic Party pledging to convert them into regular or para-regular civil servants. This echoes a commitment made by Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa in 2018, which faced hurdles due to the Royal Civil Service Commission’s mandate to hire specific employees on contract.
Various pledges related to school infrastructure, teacher incentives, and curriculum adjustments feature prominently in the manifestos. Parties such as DPT, BTP, DTT, and PDP advocate for involving private schools to de-crowd classrooms and contribute to the growth of the private education sector.
Diving into specifics, the promises range from declaring Saturdays as days off, digitizing schools, enhancing technical vocational education and training (TVET), investing in early childhood care and development (ECCD), to focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The lunch promises for urban schools by Bhutan Tendrel Party, reinstating central schools with additional perks by PDP, and the introduction of boarding facilities in Thimphu by DNT for lower-income families showcase the diverse approaches taken by the parties.
Noteworthy is the commitment to improving the work environment for teachers. DNT, PDP, and DPT have all pledged to deploy more administrative and support staff, aiming to enhance the overall quality of education.
In the tertiary education sector, Bhutan Tendrel Party and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa focus on reinstating arts and humanities courses, underscoring the parties’ commitment to offering equal opportunities for diverse educational pursuits.
As the political parties vie for public endorsement, the education sector stands as a focal point, with pledges aiming to create an attractive and conducive learning environment for the educational advancement of learners.