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Thimphu Thromde schools bursting at the seams

Old infrastructure and shortage of classrooms have pushed schools to use laboratories as classrooms 

Education: Almost all classrooms of Thimphu thromde public schools are overcrowded with some schools using laboratories as classrooms.

Thromde and school officials said this is a result of intense admission pressure they faced this year. In 2015 alone, Thimphu thromde received over 1,000 additional students in its 19 schools, which is double of what the schools took in the previous years. The revision of private school fees is also attributed to the increased admission pressures.

Loseling Middle Secondary High School (MSS) in Changjiji, for instance, has partitioned its biology laboratory into two to accommodate two sections of class III. All equipment from the lab is shifted to chemistry and physics lab.

The school had a capacity for 28 sections (PP-X) but following admission pressure, two additional classes had to be created this year.

This year alone, the school received 44 additional students in class IX and 26 in class VII. About 20 of the 44 students are football players who stay at the Bhutan Football Federation hostel below the school. It has 21 repeaters in class VII.

Students who completed class VIII from Chang Rigphel Lower Secondary School were transferred to Babesa MSS earlier but starting this year they are transferred to Loseling because of the school’s proximity.

This led to creation of two additional classrooms and in total, the school took 168 new admissions excluding preprimary. It has 1,230 students and 44 teachers.

Vice Principal, Tshering Lhaden, said although they have managed this year in the laboratory, it would be difficult to continue this way. At least a building with six units of classroom would solve the shortage for a few years.

“The two classrooms in the lab are partitioned with plywood and teaching in one class distracts the other,” she said. “More than creating additional classrooms, it was difficult to arrange additional textbooks and furniture.”

The school has 40-50 students in each class. The average strength in each class, according to education ministry should be 32.

Lungtenphu LSS, who has been struggling with structures that was built some 50 years ago, is also short of classrooms. The school gets flooded during monsoon and extremely cold during winter, while the wooden planks are uneven and widened.

Of the 36 sections, 12 are today conducted in the RBA officers’ old mess building, which is also partitioned with plywood walls.

Principal Sherap Dema said, although minor repairs are carried out every year, it has not helped.  “It either requires a major renovation or it has to be constructed anew,” she said. “The classrooms are so small that it can hardly accommodate 33 students.”

Classes became overcrowded in Lungtenphu LSS after it was merged with Choden LSS in 2013.

Sherap Dema also said that teachers lose time  walking from one class to another since the classrooms are scattered in three locations. Teachers use science laboratories as staff rooms.

For the last two years, the school has been requesting for a 12 unit building and although the thromde has accepted the proposal, it is not known when the structures would be built.

“Last year we had to conduct classes in open after some classes were flooded with rainwater,” the principal said. “When the learning environment is not good, it has a bad impact on quality of education.”

The difficult terrain and old structures are some factors that also impact the school’s assessment rating. The school is located above the Army colony in Thimphu.

Jigme Losel primary school also has old structures and is short of classrooms while Motithang HSS, Yangchenphu HSS, Dechenchhoeling HSS and Changzamtok LSS among others are facing admission pressure and have overcrowded classrooms.

Although it has adjusted this year, Dechenchholing HSS, which was upgraded from a middle secondary school would require some six additional classrooms next year.  Principal Tshewang Peldon said, the school would receive about four sections from Taba PS next year.

Deputy chief thromde education officer, Dorji Wangchuk, said admission process has been scrutinized but the pressure intensifies every year. At the end of each academic year, schools submit a list of available seat for next year based on which the thromde carries out the admission process.

“Parents who are transferred to the capital bring their children along but those going out of the capital leave their children in the schools here,” he said.  “This creates pressure and we can neither say no in admitting transfer cases or force parents to take their child while leaving Thimphu.”

He said, the closure of Changbangdu School in 2013 is one of the reasons why classes in Changzamtok LSS are overcrowded today.

Dorji Wangchuk said, construction of additional structures for some schools is included in the current Plan. So far, funding from Government of India is through to construct an 18-unit structure in Motithang HSS and a 15-unit structure in Zilnon Namgyeling PS.

In the 2015-2016 financial year, thromde got a capital budget of Nu 9 Million, which according to the Dorji Wangchuk is not enough to construct even a 12 unit building. Moreover, the budget is for buying furniture and other school equipment.

“We expect more students to go to central schools next year,” he said. “After few years, we hope everything will be in place.”

Currently, the 19 public schools in Thimphu have 18,829 students.

By Nirmala Pokhrel

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One comment

  1. The small is beautiful
    The very idea of small school was on the need to improve the quality and that was initiated with the help of the community in 80’s and 90’s. The Bhutanese education system was founded on the vision of the leaders, 3rd and 4th king, JYT and Sangay Ngedup, and needed to continue and nowhere from the blue sky came the blue print. We see leadership, with each leader wanted to have change glamourizing and popularizing on their. Does the educational blue print bring really a strategy that reforms the Bhutanese Education?
    The small is beautiful suddenly proclaimed short lived. Now many wanted to do away with the smallness and extended to be back to central school. On the ruse of so many expenses and resources, the decentralization by the people’s decision on the small schools is now on the mandate of the bureaucrats arm chair. It is to a big school and big brothers. If there could have been a study on the small schools as beautiful schools, a funeral service of the big suffocating schools would not have been in Thimphu. I as an observer find the strength of the small schools and small Bhutan as beautiful. The central schools have left many schools in the districts haunted.
    Studies have shown that small schools can help students achieve. To create more small schools, however, we must first overcome some significant barriers (Patricia . Wasley , Richard & Lear, 2001, p. 2). For the past 15 years, Bhutanese leaders in education have been creating beautiful schools for beautiful Bhutan and then suddenly with short circuit strategies in 2015 to do away with, many of the beautiful school in the country side remains as wild bush schools.
    Were the leaders being carried away by the “Vision van wagon”.
    In the study carried out (Peterson, 2001) it is stated that together, parents, teachers, and principals have found these small schools better able to engage the intellectual and emotional lives of students and to improve students’ academic performance. As the number of small schools has grown over the past decade, the quality of education in these schools also has grown, in both breadth and depth—enough to make the case for small schools compelling. Then in a small community, schools become more autonomous, they create new identities and establish unique school cultures. We also believe that the school’s culture is inextricably linked to classroom culture.
    The trend of the centrality is the sudden departure back to the past. The change to the small school was a pragmatic response made by Piaget seeing the child as the principal agent of education.
    This is another of urban pull and small schools in the villages are now refugee center school for rats, dogs and frogs.

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