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Bhutan on the way to achieving universal primary education

Increasing enrolment and primary school completion rates indicate that Bhutan is very close toward achieving universal primary education, according to the Annual Education Statistics 2017.

The total enrolment from Pre-primary (PP) through to Class XII within the country for the current year is 168,092 with a total of 9,415 teachers. As of 2017, there are 60 central schools with a total enrolment of 46,081, comprising 22,747 boys and 23,334 girls.

This year, the net primary enrolment rate is estimated at 94.8%, meaning that 94.8% of 6-12 years old are enrolled in the primary education program. The adjusted net primary enrolment rate (ANER) stands at 98.8%, indicating that about 1.2% of the 6-12 years old children are not attending any forms of education.

“These children are expected to be in the remote and hard to reach areas, children of nomadic communities and migrant populations, children with learning disabilities whose special needs are not currently catered for and those who dropped out of school,” states the report.

According to the report, the ANER includes 6-12 year olds who are studying in primary education within Bhutan, and those enrolled in the secondary levels and monastic education.

Enrolment trends suggest that the overall enrolment have remained stable since 2013 with slight decline in 2017.

As of 2017, there are 94,184 primary students (PP-VI) enrolled in 515 primary and secondary schools showing a decrease from 96,654 primary students enrolled in 2016. This trend has been observed at the primary levels over the last five years.

The possible causes are saturation in terms of primary school enrolment, which could be attributed to ECRs enrolling right age children and also covering out of school children starting from 2010 onwards, leading to stabilization in the enrolment in the early grades and decline in school going age population

According to the report, the decline in gross primary enrolment ratio over the past few years is a positive development as it is an indication of the decrease in under-aged and over-aged children enrolled in the education system.

The apparent intake ratio for 2017 has increased to 92.2% compared to 91.4% in 2016.

The net intake rate in 2017 is estimated at 62.7%, meaning that 62.7% of the right age population (six years old) are enrolled in the 1st grade (PP) of primary education, while remaining 37.3% are either enrolled in the classes higher than PP (5.6%) or not yet enrolled in school (31.7%).

Similarly, in terms of age composition of the PP enrolment for 2017, 56.5% of the total PP enrolment, including the repeaters is the right age (six years old) while 39% are over-aged and 4.5% under-aged.

The expansion of the education system has been triggered by rapid growth in the student enrolment. From about 400 students in the early 1960s, total enrolment has increased at all levels of formal education and tertiary institutes within the country to 189,088 (excluding students studying outside Bhutan) as of April 2017.

In 2017, one primary school, one private lower secondary school and one private higher secondary school were opened. Three schools were merged (two primary schools and one lower secondary school) with the central schools while 11 ECRs, two primary schools and one private higher secondary school have been closed.

Pema Seldon from Thimphu