Let’s start with a brief history of TVET in Bhutan. The Royal Government of Bhutan, after having realized the importance of TVET, began the dialogue on it with the commencement of the first Five Year Plan in 1961. Thus, in 1964, Bhutan’s first TVET was established to train Bhutanese youths in skill-based education in Rinchending, then Kharbandi. After that in 1974, Royal Bhutan Polytechnic was established in Dewathang. However, it was only in 2003, TVET was moved into the, newly established, MoLHR. Since then, six Technical Training Institutes were established in addition to the two Institutes of Zorig Chusum. According to the Bhutan TVET Sector Assessment report, which was part of TVET Blueprint Working Paper [may be published in 2016, couldn’t find the year of publication], Bhutan now has 88 TVET training provider: government – 17%; NGO – 8% and private – 75%. Even the Ministry of Education acknowledged the importance of TVET programs in Bhutan and some of the issues it is facing currently.
Bhutan Education Blue Print 2014-2024 made this statement: “Limited provision of vocational subjects in the schools does not support building the foundation in students for entry into Technical Training Institutions (TTIs). Although Vocational Skill Development Curriculum (VSDC) was piloted in five schools, it failed to attract students to opt for the programme due to factors such as inadequate financial resources, professional instructors, assessment methods and its image as second-class education. Therefore, there is a need to make technical/vocational programme relevant and attractive for students to take up programme from earlier years in the schools”. With this statement, the Bhutan Education Blue Print recommended to introduce pre-vocational orientation at grade VII and VIII; provide TVET courses as elective at middle and higher secondary levels and to increase the number of TVET institution. No-where it states the need to establish separate TVET program within the ministry, let alone coming up with TVET as one of the “streams” in class XI.
Now, if we try to unlock the message conveyed in Bhutan Education Blue Print 2014-2024, it clearly specifies the need to introduce TVET from very early on to our youths to remove the mentality of TVET being viewed as “Second-class education”. I think this is important. I also think that it makes total sense to introduce TVET as part of early school education programs in schools. Planning to embark on a full fledge TVET program by MoE, doesn’t click with me as we already have ‘established’ TVET institutions in the country. I think the country would benefit more by investing in building the existing TVET institutions.
Let’s look into another issue on, what if, MoE starts TVET program. If MoE starts TVET as another “stream” for class XI, the already “down-looked” TVET programs of TTIs will suffer. This would mean, fewer students or let’s say, under-privileged students, who are left with no options, will opt to pursue this course. There is every possibility of TTI’s TVET program getting downgraded to “Third-class education” [of course, this I believe will be how our youths shall perceive TTIs TVET] from the already viewed “Second-class education”. If the argument to have fourth “stream” as TVET in MoE is to provide opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree, MoE is wrong, as graduates from TTIs also have career progression path. The only problem, for now, is the lack of proper policies and the failure on either the MoLHR or the graduates from TTI to pursue it further. If the objective is to develop skills to get employment, MoE is wrong here too, as, an employer would always give preferences to graduates from TTI’s for they graduate either with National Certificate II or III or even Diploma. Will MoE also provide such certificates or will it just be class XII graduate?
My curiosity lead me to skim through TVET Blue Print 2016-2026. The blueprint of TVET has plans, in place, to come up with one vocational college and to upgrade/increase the capacity as well as facilities in the existing TTIs. TVET blueprint estimates the budget required to build a new vocational college and to upgrade or improve current TTIs. The blueprint estimates that, should these developments happen, TTIs in Bhutan will be able to increase its capacity from 1500 students at present to near about 4000 students. The blueprint states that “…investment will also enable the diversification of programmes on offer and support upskilling, as well as move to deliver national diploma and higher level certificate programmes in priority areas of demand”.
While my vision is obstructed by what I believe and what I read, but I believe that for a small country like ours, with a small economy, we should invest in building and improving what we have instead of starting a new one all over again. Whatsoever, if the education conference decided on it, it must have been done with valid arguments and justification of many brains. My plead may not be heard nor it would make sense to many, but, should it reach any policymakers of ours, I would like to request to give the decision a second thought and weigh the pros and cons of implementing such.
I would still argue that our investments should be to build and improve existing TTIs and not build a new one all over again.
I’m a mortal being with limited vision, I stand to be corrected and brainwashed.
Paldhen Drukpa Gyel-Lo