- Early childhood care and education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Primary and secondary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
- Tertiary education (Entry/Establishment ○ Financial operation ○ Quality of teaching and learning ○ Equitable access ○ Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability)
In Bhutan, there is no Education Act or Law (with plans to institutionalize and enact one in 2021-24). While the 2008 Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan makes no reference to non-state education provision, the National Education Policy 2019 (which governs both state and non-state education from early childhood to tertiary level in Bhutan) refers to “private” actors and the “Zhung Dratshang” (the supreme monastic body overseeing Buddhist education), with “communities” additionally mentioned in the provision of early childhood education.
In Bhutan’s 2010 Tertiary Education Policy, “private” is specifically defined as an “institution that is privately owned, whether by an individual, a corporation or any other nongovernmental body”. It further clarifies that the owner of such an institution has primary responsibility for its financing and management.
The diversity of non-state education provision is only explicitly mentioned in the country’s 2019 Annual Education Statistics and 10-year Education Blueprint (2014-24), which refer to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), communities, corporations, development partners, and religious leaders.
While the education system in Bhutan was traditionally provided by Buddhist institutions and nunneries, most education at primary (7 years, ages 5 – 11) and secondary level (6 years, ages 12 – 17) is managed and financed by the state (93% state schools, 93% of enrolments). The state is obliged to provide 11 years of free and compulsory education from primary to the first year of upper secondary school. In 2019-20, the government expanded free and compulsory education provision through the reduction of the enrolment age for primary from 6 to 5 years old and the provision of free scholarships to all class X passed students to continue their education in the first year of upper secondary school (class XI) in either state or private schools.
At primary level, the government has additionally established 74 extended classrooms in remote, rural and scattered settlements that are “parented” by a nearby state school, with the aim to reduce walking distances for younger children and bring education services closer to communities. These classrooms are mostly housed in Ihakhangs (temples), community learning centres, outreach clinics, non-formal education centres, and village houses.
Non-state managed, state schools
Autonomous schools are independently operated state schools (69 schools) that were granted formal autonomy in 2014 as part of the Royal Government of Bhutan’s policies of education decentralization. These schools are funded through per-pupil state grants and remain tuition-free, with autonomous assessment practices, schedules, and budget compared to regular state schools. They are obliged to follow the national curriculum but have increased flexibility in its implementation.
Central schools are 64 tuition-free residential schools (regular or boarding schools) established in rural and remote areas to increase education access to children who had to otherwise walk hours to reach their nearest primary or secondary school. These schools follow a similar financing and management model to autonomous schools.
Non-state funded, state schools
No information was found.
Independent, non-state schools
The most referenced non-state actors operating in primary and secondary education levels in Bhutan are private schools. Based on their unique establishment and operational guidelines, these schools appear to be independently owned, managed and financed. Most private educational institutions operate at early childhood (13%) and upper secondary (26%) level, which are outside of the free and basic education levels. These schools can either be regular day-schools or boarding schools and are free to follow their own curriculum.
Bhutan also has private monastic education institutes and nunneries, which are established, financed, and managed by religious leaders. Private monastic institutes may serve ages 6-23, whereas nunneries only appear to serve ages 6-12. There is no indication of the exact number of privately owned and run monastic institutes in comparison to public monastic education, nor is there any detail provided in terms of their tuition or profit-orientation. The courses offered in monastic institutes focus on language, philosophy, arts, literature, and mediation and have a separate program structure compared to state and private schools in Bhutan.
A few private international schools (although unspecified amount) have also been established based on Bhutan’s education sector strategy. These schools have a recognized international curriculum and examination system (such as Cambridge International or International Baccalaureate), and they are independent, although the MoE plans to fund the establishment of an increasing number of international schools.
State-funded (government-aided), non-state schools
In addition, the state funds and supports the establishment of state monastic education institutes, which are independently regulated and governed by the Zhung Dratshang (the constitutionally recognized supreme monastic governing body) and follow the Buddhist traditional form of education, with a focus on spiritual learning and development. State monastic education institutes are owned by the Zhung Dratshang and have a separate curriculum, assessment, and examination system compared to regular state schools. These institutes exclusively cater to male pupils and are supported by the Dratshang Lhentshog (in consultation with Zhung Dratshang) through the provision of teaching and learning materials (including textbooks). Monastic education institutes operate either as Zhirim Lobdra (pre-primary to class VIII), Dingrim Shedra (class IX to XII), Thorim Shedra (Class XIII to XV), or Tsugla Lobdra (masters Level).
Contracted, non-state schools
No information was found.
While no information could be found on the legality of homeschooling in Bhutan, during the COVID-19 school closures, remote, home-based education delivery was implemented by the MoE, including no-tech (printed material), low tech (TV and radio), and high tech (social media) curriculum delivery. The Royal Education Council determined school curriculum and assessment (with prioritized and adapted curriculum), while the MoE was responsible for facilitating and regulating different curriculum delivery platforms, which were then shared with provincial education authorities and schools. In 2021, the MoE published the Education in Emergency (EiE) Report, which outlined the government’s detailed education response to the pandemic. This included the development of the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ self-instructional materials to facilitate the education of students living in remote areas with limited or no access to the Bhutan Broadcasting Service or internet for e-learning lessons.
Market contracted (Voucher schools)
In 2019-2020, the government provided free scholarships to all class X passed students to continue their education in the first year of upper secondary school (class XI) in either state or private schools in an effort to expand compulsory education.
No information was found.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) is responsible for facilitating and regulating the establishment and operation of all schools, education centres, and institutions (including non-state) in Bhutan from early childhood to tertiary level. Specifically, the Department of School Education (DSE) has three separate divisions for monitoring and regulating state and non-state education provision: the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Unit, the Private School Division (is the only departmental division which exclusively focuses on the monitoring and regulation of non-state primary and secondary schools), and the Education Monitoring Division (which monitors compliance to education policies and directives). The regulation and operation of both state and non-state tertiary education institutions is the responsibility of the Department of Adult and Higher Education (DAHE) and the Tertiary Education Board (with the MoE as secretariat).
Besides the MoE (which centrally oversees the monitoring and registration of non-state actors), the Ministry of Economic Affairs is responsible for granting official business licenses to private institutions at early childhood and primary/secondary level. At the early childhood education level, the MoE also collaborates with the Ministry of Health (particularly for the provision of ECCD at ages 0 – 2).
Monastic education is governed and regulated by the Zhung Dratshang (central monastic body), with the Dratshang Lhentshog (Commission for the Monastic Affairs of Bhutan) specifically responsible for the regulation, operations, and establishment of private monastic education institutes.
The management and operation of education in Bhutan has been increasingly devolved to its municipalities or Dzongkhags (partially decentralized), which are responsible for the registration and administration of all state and non-state educational institutions within their jurisdiction from early childhood to upper secondary level.
Vision: Education receives one of the highest proportions of Bhutan’s annual budget allocation, with increasing focus on private sector participation to maximize access to quality education and share the financial burden of education provision with the state. According to the Education Blueprint (2014-24), the MoE plans on increasing school autonomy and scaling up private sector participation in education at all levels, especially through the introduction of more public-private partnerships. As stated in the Blueprint, “the provision of quality education until recently has been the government’s mandate. However, with the rising public expectations, increasing enrolment of students and increased demand on government resources, innovative partnerships with the private sector are crucial. The public-private partnership in education has the opportunity to maximize access to quality education”.
Private provision is encouraged at every education level (including early childhood and tertiary education). For example, in the Tertiary Education Roadmap (2017-27), non-state sector participation in tertiary education has been largely encouraged in order to increase the number of institutes and enrolment in TEIs in the country, while the mandate of the ECCD Unit is to strongly encourage public-private partnerships. At primary and secondary level, the government plans to “facilitate and encourage (the) establishment of more private schools around the country”, with a particular focus on international schools as part of the “government’s aspiration to promote Bhutan as an educational hub and provide wider range of options to learners”. This vision is equally reflected through the establishment of the Private School Division (under the DSE) which aims to “encourage, promote and facilitate the establishment and operation of private schools” in Bhutan. As stated in the Private Schools Establishment and Operational Guidelines 2018, “the Royal Government of Bhutan supports the private schools to grow and contribute in the process of providing alternative choice of education for the children of Bhutan” which is viewed as “high quality” and as part of the government’s goal of “educating for Gross National Happiness”.
However, while the government encourages increased private sector participation, it remains cautious to ensure that it does not lead to the “simultaneous emergence of a two-tier system in terms of quality and equity of opportunity”. The Education Blueprint (2014-24) recognizes a “growing tendency of elitism in the education system”, where “some private schools are branded as schools for the wealthy thereby creating distinct social strata” and “widen(ing) the gaps between the economically advantaged and disadvantaged communities”.
In Bhutan, early childhood care and education (ECCE) broadly covers ages 0 – 8, and is mainly provided by the state (87% of centres, 86% of enrolments), with 13% of centres owned by non-state actors including private actors (10%), corporations (2%), and NGOs (1%). In urban areas, most ECCE centres are operated by private individuals, whereas in rural areas the establishment of ECCE centres is supported by the government, NGOs, and development partners (such as UNICEF and Save the Children).
Registration and approval: The ECCD Unit has developed specific guidelines for the registration of private ECCE centres in Bhutan, with the aim to “provide proprietors and heads of private ECCD centers with information and knowledge required for the establishment and operation of early childhood centers”. According to the 2011 Guidelines for Private Early Childhood Care and Development Centers, for a private actor to establish an ECCE centre for ages 3 – 5, a proposal must be submitted through the relevant municipality to the Director General of the DSE. To be considered for registration, applicants are required to comply with the minimum standards in land, space, building, child-staff ratio, health and safety, and equipment, while the site proposed should be ideally self-owned. There is no requirement for applicants to be legal entities. The DSE provides approval for the centre’s establishment once the facilities have been inspected and carries out the final assessment once informed that the centre is ready to be open.
At the ages of 0 – 3, the registration and minimum standards of both state and non-state crèches are guided by the 2018 Guidelines for Crèche Center in Bhutan. Private proprietors must submit a proposal to the relevant agency (MoE or MoH), which scrutinizes the application on whether it meets the minimum standards. All crèches must meet the minimum physical and operational standards in space, safety, health and hygiene.
License: Once an ECCE centre has been formally approved, the private actor is required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the MoE which remains valid for two years (after which needs to be renewed every 2 years). The Ministry of Economic Affairs is then responsible for granting an official business license to open the ECCE centre. Crèches receive formal approval from the MoE or MoH, after which the proprietor and relevant agency similarly sign a MoU that remains valid for five years.
Profit-making: There is no mention or restriction of profit-making in the 2011 Guidelines for Private Early Childhood Care and Development Centers or the 2018 Guidelines for Crèche Center in Bhutan.
Taxes and subsidies: While the government plans to “facilitate the establishment of ECCD centers by private, corporate, NGOs/foundations, development partners, and communities” in the Education Blueprint (2014-24), no specific information on government subsidies or tax incentives to establish these centres was found. NGOs and development partners support the MoE in the establishment of subsidized rural and semi-rural ECCE centres for children aged 3 – 6.
Curriculum and education standards: Private ECCE centres are required to follow a curriculum guided by the MoE (developed and implemented by the ECCD Division) and the National Early Learning and Development Standards, which seeks to enhance the holistic development of children through play and exploration through the country’s core values of Educating for Gross National Happiness. The curriculum is uniform for all types of ECCE centres (state and non-state) and addresses developmental domains in physical well-being, health and motor development, language and literacy, cognition and general knowledge, and spiritual, moral and cultural development.
For crèches, the service must have a child-centered curriculum which enables children to use their senses to explore and discover, taking into account the basic needs of each child.
Teaching profession: The guidelines for services catering to children aged 3 – 5 state that one facilitator should be assigned for each group of 15 children (1:15 staff-children ratio). In addition, all staff employed should have “adequate knowledge and education” (with no specifics on exact qualifications or certifications required). Children with special educational needs may be enrolled in the centre, provided that “there are proper facilities and qualified staff to support the needs of such children”. Finally, centres are restricted from employing any person with history of criminal activity, pending charges, or who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Education Blueprint (2014-24) states that national quality standards for all ECCE centres should be instituted, which includes that every ECCE facilitator has a “minimum qualification of diploma in early childhood care”.
As for crèches (ages 0 – 3), all services must have “adequate caregivers as per the caregiver-children ratio set out in the minimum standards”. Caregivers must have at least basic training on caregiving and adequate first aid training to be able to cope with any emergency, which includes a minimum qualification of class XII and a basic training in childcare and development. Special consideration should be also given to the character and personality of the staff.
Fee-setting: Any fees charged by the private ECCE centre should be proposed by the centre and approved by the MoE. The fee amount should include the cost of admission, tuition, education materials, books, stationary, food, and snacks. The cost of transport services such as buses or vans (if made available) may be fixed and charged separately. Moreover, the guidelines state that a centre can charge different fees for full-day care and services compared to half-day care and services. No additional charges are allowed. The fees charged in in private crèches are determined by the provider, “depending on the services provided and keeping in mind the sustainability and standard of the center”.
Admission selection and processes: When it comes to equity considerations, the guidelines provided do not particularly address potential selectivity in admissions procedures or whether centres should make an effort to include children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The only admission criteria found is that no child less than 2 years old or over 5 years old is eligible to apply (revised in 2020). There is a brief reference to children with special needs, which centres are given “permission” to admit, but only if they have adequate facilities and trained staff in place to support these children’s needs.
Policies for vulnerable groups: In 2017, the Early Childhood Care and Development and Special Educational Needs (SEN) Division published a set of standards for inclusive education and the development of school/centre policies that will ensure children with special needs are being reached – but these are stated to only apply to schools or centres with SEN programs already in place, and not to private or non-state ECCE centres.
Reporting requirements: All private ECCE centres must keep records of children’s learning and development, in addition to up-to-date staff records at all times. Providers are additionally required to regularly communicate with parents to inform them of relevant daily happenings and their child’s development, with no information found on accountability towards the DSE. Crèches must similarly maintain child and staff records, attendance registers, and incident reports.
Inspection: The Center Management Board of each ECCE centre (which is comprised of parents, staff, and Ministry representatives) is responsible for ensuring the quality of the services provided by private ECCE centres, however there is no mention of how this quality is defined or understood. Moreover, the guidelines do not mention how exactly the standards in the guidelines are to be monitored and no information could be found on centre inspections. According to the 2011 Guidelines for Private Early Childhood Care and Development Centers, the MoU must be renewed every two years.
Private crèches are monitored by the MoE/MoH every five years (where they are required to renew their MoU), with no specific information found on service inspections.
Child assessment: All ECCE facilitators are required to regularly observe and document children's behavior, reporting any change or abnormality that may be observed to the head of the centre, along with keeping records of each child’s learning and development.
Sanctions: The 2011 Guidelines for Private Early Childhood Care and Development Centers make no reference to criteria for revoking a granted license from a private provider or closing the centre. According to the 2018 Guidelines for Crèche Center in Bhutan, private crèches may be disqualified for operation if the program fails to meet the national minimum standards.
Registration and approval: Similar to private ECCE centres, the DSE has established separate registration guidelines for private schools in Bhutan. According to the 2018 Private Schools Establishment and Operational Guidelines, to establish a private school, an Expression of Interest must be initially submitted to the concerned Dzongkhag (municipality), along with a schematic master plan. The guidelines do not clarify who can establish a school (or whether applicants can be natural or legal persons). Once the application is reviewed, the Dzongkhag must confirm the ownership and registration of the land and then forward the application to be reviewed by the MoE for joint verification. To be considered for registration, applicants must meet minimum infrastructure standards in classroom size, land requirements, toilets (separated by sex), and student-teacher ratios, in addition to the 2020 School Design Guidelines, the latter of which are applicable to both state and private schools. The Dratshang Lhentshog processes the registration of private monastic education institutes.
License: To process an official Business License, which is carried out by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and be granted Project Approval, the applicant must submit a Detailed Project Report, which needs to be cleared by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. If the private school covers middle or upper secondary education levels, it must be additionally affiliated with the Bhutan Council of School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA), an autonomous body that is responsible for school assessment and evaluation. The final approval and validation are then facilitated through the MoE, who must sign a Delivery and Performance Agreement with the private actor. This agreement remains valid for five years and is subject to annual assessments by the MoE.
Autonomous Schools must sign a similar Delivery and Performance agreement with the MoE which outlines accountability expectations, while the license to operate a private monastic education institute is granted by the Dratshang Lhentshog.
Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH): According to the 2018 Private Schools Establishment and Operational Guidelines, all private schools must provide toilets separated by sex with a minimum ratio of 1:20 and a safe and regular water supply with one tap for every 40 students.
Profit-making: While no specific information was found regarding profit-making of private schools in official government sources, the guidelines state that all private schools must maintain records of their financial statements (including any profits or losses) and all income must be used to promote the general welfare of the school, while “ensuring certain returns of investment to the promoter”, suggesting that profit-making is allowed.
Taxes and subsidies: The government strongly encourages the establishment and operation of private schools in Bhutan through what is defined in the 2018 Private Schools Establishment and Operational Guidelines as “enabling policies and conditions”.
Private schools may lease government land or government reserved forest land to establish their school through a land lease agreement with the local authority (Dzongkhag or Thromde). This must then be approved by the National Land Commission. Monastic education institutes are supported by the Dratshang Lhentshog (in consultation with Zhung Dratshang) through the provision of teaching and learning materials (including textbooks), while autonomous and central schools (which are state-owned but independently operated) are funded through per-pupil state grants and remain tuition-free.
Curriculum and education standards: Private schools are free to set their own curriculum, with schools encouraged to develop “autonomy and creativity in pedagogical and curriculum approaches” while embodying the national philosophy of Gross National Happiness (understood as “more important than Gross National Product”). However, any curriculum followed by private schools must be certified by the Bhutan Council for School Examination and Assessment (BCSEA), follow the national curriculum standard set by the Royal Education Council (an independent professional body), and be recognized by the MoE. The MoE is specifically responsible for recognizing any internationally-orientated curriculum, such as International Baccalaureate or Cambridge International General Certificate.
Autonomous schools, on the other hand, are required to follow the national curriculum which is based on the Bhutanese values of Tha-Damtse Ley-Judrey, Zacha-Drosum (solemn devotion and trust), and SampaSemke (notion or idea) and developed by the Royal Education Council. Private monastic education institutes follow a curriculum approved by the Geden Tsugla Dutshog (Monastic Education Council of Bhutan). The National Education Policy 2019 states that the national language of Dzongkha must be taught in all schools to ensure students acquire a high level of proficiency, with English being the main medium of instruction.
Textbooks and learning materials: The MoE is required to support private schools in providing them with textbooks free of cost, but each school is responsible for the financing of any additional learning material. Moreover, the Dratshang Lhetshog (in consultation with Zhung Dratshang) supports students and teachers with learning material, including textbooks.
Teaching profession: Similarly to state school teachers, private school teachers are included under the Teacher Human Resource Policy (2014) which cover qualifications, career progression, and professional development. Not all provisions in the policy apply directly to private school teachers, but may act as a reference point. Salaries and compensation should commensurate with their qualifications, experience and skills. The 2010 Civil Service Act of Bhutan is not applicable to private school teachers.
All teachers are additionally required to legally obtain a teaching license, which must be renewed periodically based on their performance. The 2020 Bhutan Professional Standards for Teachers establishes the basis for the registration and certification of both state and private school teachers. The guidelines that apply to private schools additionally specify that all teaching staff should have a professional degree and attend all professional development programs provided by the school, which private schools are required to facilitate. Schools must additionally ensure that at least 80% of their primary teaching staff and 70% of their secondary teaching staff are Bhutanese nationals. The MoE is responsible for facilitating the participation of private school teachers in the Teacher In-service Education and Training Program.
Corporal punishment: In 2019, the Royal Government of Bhutan stated that corporal punishment has been banned in all school settings. However, this prohibition is yet to be translated into law, as the 2011 Child Care and Protection Act (Art. 214) only bans “harsh or degrading” punishment.
Fee-setting: When it comes to fees, the guidelines strictly state that any fees charged must be approved by the MoE, and should be utilized to promote the general welfare of the school, while ensuring adequate returns of investment to the private actor. Any fee proposal made to the MoE must specifically “promote access” and “maintain equity” in education, while any tuition fees collected should cover learning materials, staff salary, teacher development programs, utility expenses, use of space, and annual maintenance of infrastructure. If the private school offers residential services (private boarding schools), the fees must cover school expenses such as accommodation, utilities, food, salary of hostel staff, and annual maintenance. Any other fees must be strictly endorsed and justified by the School Management Board and formally approved by the MoE. Students may receive a 50-75% fee refund if they are withdrawn from the school.
Autonomous schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, with any additional fees charged subject to pre-approval by the MoE.
Admission selection and processes: The admission process of all private schools in Bhutan must be based on any prevailing policy issued by the MoE, with the admission of foreign students required to be cleared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and approved by the MoE. According to the guidelines, “all foreign students admitted in any schools should be oriented in Bhutanese culture and tradition”.
Policies for vulnerable groups: According to the private school guidelines, all private schools should aspire to offer “equitable opportunities” for the continuation of students’ studies. Based on an initiative by the government in 2019, all children that pass the final year of middle secondary school (class X – aged 15) are provided scholarships to continue education in the first year of higher secondary school in either state or private schools (2,138 scholarships). The guidelines additionally state that private schools should offer scholarships on an annual basis as part of the school’s Corporate Social Responsibility, although there is no mention of the exact number of scholarships or to which groups they should be targeted.
Finally, according to the 2019 National Education Policy, monastic Lodras and Shedras must put appropriate measures in place to ensure equitable access to students with special educational needs.
School board: Private schools are required to use the MoE General Guidelines for School Management 2017 as a guiding document. The private school guidelines suggest having a School Management Board (which does not interfere in daily administrative tasks), a School Management Team (for daily affairs), and a Student Council (to assist in school management). Autonomous schools are similarly suggested to appoint a School Management Board and School Management Committee.
School Management Boards are comprised of 10 members, including the Principal (as the Member Secretary), a Chairperson (elected parent), as well as elected representatives for parents (2), teachers (1), local government (1), and students (2). According to the National Education Policy 2019, all “schools shall engage the community through school management boards, parent teacher meetings/associations, parenting education awareness programme, alumni associations and community services”.
Reporting requirements: In order to ensure effective quality assurance mechanisms of all the above requirements, private schools must develop a School Performance Management System (for self-assessment and review) and maintain financial records of all income and expenses. Autonomous schools undergo ongoing self-assessment by their School Management Board.
School inspection: The MoE is responsible for the quality assurance of all private and international schools in Bhutan. According to the 2018 Private Schools Establishment and Operational Guidelines, private schools are only inspected by the Dzongkhag or Thromde if the MoE receives a report that the school is in violation of the required standards. When it comes to quality assurance of autonomous schools, the schools are required to undergo an independent review in the final year of their Delivery and Performance Agreement, which is made public and sent to the Director of the DSE.
Student assessment: Most private schools in Bhutan are subject to annual assessments by the MoE and national level examinations by the autonomous body, BCSEA. International schools follow international examination systems that have been approved by the MoE. Private monastic education institutes follow an independent assessment and examination system under the Zhung Dratshang. All non-state schools (irrespective of the type) must be affiliated with a national or internationally recognized assessment, examination and certification body that has been endorsed by the MoE and the BCSEA.
Diplomas and degrees: The MoE is responsible for issuing the Bhutan Certificate for School Examination, Bhutan Higher Secondary Examination Certificate, and National Education Assessment for private schools.
Sanctions: If the MoE receives notice that a private school has failed to comply with any the guidelines, the MoE investigates the concerns, gives the school written warning if found non-compliant, and may recommend suspension or termination of the school’s license (and eventual school closure) if it does not adhere to the warning. In the case of autonomous schools, the DSE is responsible to decide what action to take if the school is found to be non-compliant.
The tertiary education system in Bhutan, which mainly covers ages 19-23, follows a single 2010 Tertiary Education Policy published by the MoE, with private institutions subject to the same academic standards, rules and regulations that pertain to public institutions. According to this policy, tertiary education institutes (TEIs) can mainly be categorized into three types: universities, colleges, and autonomous institutes. Each type with separate establishment, operational, and profit-making guidelines. All TEIs can be managed and/or financed by non-state actors such as private businesses, corporate bodies, NGOs, charitable trusts, foundations, or philanthropies (with institutions mainly distinguished between state and private entities). In 2020, there were 15 state TEIs and 3 private TEIs in Bhutan (excluding technical/vocational institutes, of which there are only 6 owned by the state). Most students (87%) are enrolled in state TEIs, with private institutions covering 13% of total enrolment.
Registration and approval: According to the 2010 Tertiary Education Policy, any proposal for the establishment of a non-state university or autonomous institute must be made through the MoE following the criteria set out by the Bhutan Accreditation Council (BAC), a national autonomous body responsible for institutional accreditation and quality assurance. Applicants can be companies, individual promoters, trusts, foundations, or philanthropists (either Bhutanese or foreign nationals).
Colleges, on the other hand, require a proposal to be made to the Registrar for Tertiary Education, which will then need to be approved by the Registrar and the Tertiary Education Board (TEB) through the recommendation of the BAC. The criteria for the establishment of a college include (among others) that it is locally based, shows evidence of financial viability, and proves that each program offered may lead to a university award.
The 2010 Tertiary Education Policy additionally states that any non-state TEI that undertakes profit-making commercial activities needs to be registered under the Companies Act (2010) of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Not-for-profit universities, colleges, or institutes which are established by NGOs, charitable trusts, or foundations, need to be registered under the 2007 Civil Society Organizations Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
License: The Registrar for Tertiary Education is responsible for issuing the Gold Leaf (educational license) for non-state universities, autonomous institutes, and colleges if the TEI fulfills the set requirements set by the BAC. Profit-making TEIs need to be additionally licensed by Registrar of Companies under the 2010 Companies Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Profit-making: Whereas colleges are allowed to operate for private profit, all fees gathered by universities and autonomous institutes are required to be reinvested back to the institute for its continuous development.
Taxes and subsidies: To provide a more enabling environment for non-state sector participation in tertiary education, the Royal Government of Bhutan provides non-state institutions financial incentives, such as tax breaks, clear entry procedures and limited bureaucracy. For example, private institutions which devote significant budget to research activities are granted higher rates of tax rebate.
Curriculum and education standards: Universities and autonomous institutes are allowed to develop and implement their own curriculum, whereas colleges (which are established outside the university structure) must create their curriculum with the support of their affiliated university. According to the 2010 Tertiary Education Policy all non-state institutions are subject to the same standards, rules, regulations, and accreditation processes as state institutions, in order to ensure cross-sector quality.
Teaching profession: To ensure that most teachers employed in a state or non-state TEI are adequately qualified to teach in a higher education environment, the tertiary education policy requires at least 80% of academic staff to have obtained a postgraduate qualification.
Fee-setting: All TEIs are given the autonomy to determine the cost of specific programs, except for colleges which need to get prior approval for any fees charged by the TEB. The cost of fees can either be self-financed or gathered through state, donor, or philanthropic support (in the form of scholarships, grants, or loans).
Admission selection and processes: The 2010 Tertiary Education Policy requires all TEIs to have a policy in place which ensures equality of opportunity to access tertiary education, and that admission be based on merit, and not origin, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. Access to non-state tertiary education is further enhanced through the state-funded Undergraduate Scholarship Program which offers various scholarships on an annual basis based on a list criteria set by the Undergraduate Scholarship Committee, such as academic merit, age, and Bhutanese citizenship. The number of scholarships offered is based on funding and donor support, as well as the intake capacity of the TEIs. Besides government scholarships, there are also a few NGOs and private colleges which offer half or full program scholarships.
If a student does not qualify for these scholarships (and can afford the fees), they tend to study privately in colleges within our outside of Bhutan by self-financing. Based on the annual education statistics 2019, most Bhutanese students (whether self-financed or on scholarship) study abroad, with the majority in India.
Board: All universities are required to have a University Council (as the main governing body), an Academic Board (responsible for academic affairs), and Vice-Chancellor to operate.
Reporting requirements: All tertiary institutions in Bhutan are required to be institutionally accredited by the BAC to “assure educational quality and accountability”. Moreover, each institution which receives any form of government funding is required to submit annual reports to the TEB on its finances, operational statistics, plans and targets, programs and student numbers, and a self-analytical report on its operations. According to the 2010 Tertiary Education Policy, institutions “need to be accountable for the financial resources provided to them”. Moreover, all institutions (whether in receipt of government funding or not) must make their policies and plans transparent and “open to public scrutiny”. Universities are externally accountable towards the BAC and are additionally required to create an effective quality assurance system that covers all degrees and programs offered (including a periodic evaluation of each program and an action-oriented report). Finally, colleges are expected to submit an annual report to the Registrar for Tertiary Education.
Inspection: While the TEB oversees all quality assurance in tertiary education, the BAC is responsible for assessing the quality of individual TEIs and ensuring they meet and maintain the minimum standards. All TEIs and universities in Bhutan are subject to inspection at least once a year and a five-year period external review by the BAC based on the Bhutan Qualifications Framework. If the MoE has any serious concerns about the quality of a program (whether through an external review or any other source), it has the power to set up an official review of the TEI in question with the help of the BAC.
Assessment: The Bhutan Qualifications Framework (established by the BAC) defines a common assessment approach that applies to all TEIs in Bhutan (state and private).
Diplomas and degrees: Based on the 2020 Annual Education Report, the MoE relies on TEIs to confirm and validate their degrees. Universities and autonomous institutes in particular are accredited to award their students their own degrees (which includes undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral certifications), while students who attend colleges are granted awards from their affiliated universities. The BAC is additionally responsible for interpreting and recognizing qualifications and ensuring the credibility of programs or awards offered by non-state TEIs.
Sanctions: If the TEB has any serious concerns about a program being offered, a formal review is set up which may lead to “appropriate actions”. However, the exact sanctions are not defined.
According to the 2019 National Education Policy 2019, private tutoring is banned for all teachers (state and non-state) in Bhutan, which states that “all teachers shall refrain from providing private tuition”. Instead, schools are required to provide free in-school learning support for any students who may require it. While private tutoring was initially also banned for commercial operators by the MoE, the business sector was granted permission to establish private tutorial centres in 2013. According to a report published in 2014, outside-classroom tutoring is almost non-existent in Bhutan, with less than 1% of students reportedly receiving private tuition classes.
No information was found.
All teachers in Bhutan are strictly prohibited from providing private tutoring services. The regulation was initially issued in 2001 for state school teachers, and was extended to private school teachers in 2002.