Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Number of Graduates in Bhutan

Title: Less graduates, fewer jobs
Published by: Kuensel

7 August, 2010 - Less than two percent of the Bhutanese population went to college and received a university degree in the past two decades.
There were about 8,200 Bhutanese with university degrees between 1987 and 2009, Kuensel records show that. The figure excludes a small percentage of Bhutanese graduates who did not register for the graduates orientation programme.

Year Grads
2009 : 1,330
2008 : 1,222
2007 : 1,034
2006 : 777
2005 : 664
2004 : 495
2003 : 401
2002 : 383
2001 : 272

With the tertiary education policy recently endorsed by the government, education officials say it will serve as a guide to make Bhutan a knowledge based society and cater to the increased demand of the people to pursue higher education.

From 62 in 1987 the number of graduates chasing every job on offer rose to 1,330 in 2009. Just ten years ago, only about 205 graduates entered the job market.
But even for the small percentage of graduates, considering the country’s total population, Bhutanese employers are struggling to creating avenues to accommodate people completing tertiary education.

In January this year, Druk Green Power Corporation saw more than 44 graduates apply for the post of an assistant finance officer, Bhutan foundation saw 60 applicants while Kuensel received almost 200 applicants against a vacancy for a marketing officer.

Education minister, Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel, said it is widely accepted that higher the education level of citizens in the country, the greater the benefits to the society. “It is important for Bhutan to continue expanding opportunities for its young people to enter tertiary education,” he said.

The minister said tertiary education, provided by the government and as well as funded privately, is available to over 21 percent of students completing class 12 annually. Which means that of the 6,500 students having completed class 12 this year, about 1,330 are continuing higher studies.
There are about 3,671 students pursuing tertiary education outside Bhutan, especially in India while colleges under the Royal University of Bhutan have about 5,243 students.

The new tertiary education policy, on the other hand, proposes the government increase the age-cohort participation rate, which means the number of 19-year olds entering tertiary education, to 33 percent by the year 2017. Education officials said by 2017, there will be approximately 14,000 students of which tertiary education should be available to about 4,600. This would be done through various funding and management mechanisms, giving tertiary institutions autonomy and assuring their quality and by incentivising foreign direct investments in tertiary education, education officials said.

Many reason that the streamlining of tertiary policies and increasing tertiary capacity to produce more Bhutanese graduates from within and outside Bhutan would pose increasing challenges to the job market.

A labour ministry official said although the quality and skills of the graduates have been debatable in recent years, the increasing numbers alone will not create a knowledge based society if these people are not supported through employment opportunities to gain hands-on experience, skills and knowledge. “At this stage, we lack a proper study of the job market,” he said. “We have, for several years, been saying that there is actually no dearth of jobs but the unemployment problem is a consequence of mis-match between the skills and available jobs.”

For instance, about 126 IT and computer science graduates competed for eight government slots through civil service entrance exams in 2009 while there were 22 government vacancies for 13 civil engineers.

An education management consultant from the United Kingdom who wrote series of articles in the media on tertiary education in Bhutan, Dr Austin Reid, had said that “unless the rapid growth in tertiary enrolments, a response to social demand, is matched by a corresponding growth and changes in the labour market to produce more jobs and increasing proportion of highly skilled ones, the consequences will lead to a mismatch between supply and demand.” He said the ramifications of that eventuality will be felt throughout sectors of society.

Lyonpo Thakur S Powdyel said the development of the recent education policy has been a joint effort of all relevant sectors and such coordinated approach was deemed absolutely necessary. “We should be mindful of the specific requirements of the different sectors of the economy and the possible mis match between qualifications so that graduates match the specific requirements of the job market,” he said. “The tertiary education policy will make possible specific programmes to support the country’s more immediate economy but also programmes that will support the holistic development of individuals and the society.”

By Phuntsho Choden

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