Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Gone with the wind

I have learnt through Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS) on July 20, 2021, that the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) has discontinued Bachelor of Arts in Bhutanese and Himalayan Studies at the College of Language and Cultural Studies, Bachelor of Arts in Social Work at the Samtse College of Education, and Bachelor of Arts English and Dzongkha at Sherubtse College. The news report states that RUB has been receiving feedback that more than 60% of the graduates still remain unemployed and the worst is these courses did not even meet the eligibility criteria for Post Graduate Diploma in Education offered at Samtse College. Hence, the decision to discontinue offering these courses from this year. 

As I try to process this piece of information, I find myself deeply disconcerted. First off, I have never understood why BA Social Work at Samtse College was introduced at all. What adds to my confusion is that this course was introduced just a couple of years ago. When a newly introduced course does not even survive the first five years it is a statement in itself that the planning had been quite myopic, so to say. In bold and underlined. As a matter of fact, I had a presentiment when it was first started and it was founded on the premise that the course did not ‘promise’ much in terms of employability. Let us face it, as much as we, as a community, aspire to progress knowledge-and-information-wise, it is quite unlikely for us to head anywhere if we simply downplay the prospect of employment for the graduates. After all, we cannot just sit at parental home and work when work there is none. I am certain that BA Social Work was not introduced with the idea that the graduates will be social workers on allowance coming from their parents. 

As for BA Dzongkha and English, I believe that it was introduced in 2006 (?) or so when the Class 12 curriculum was in the final stage of the Bhutanisation process (although it stood, in principle, already Bhutanised in 2006 itself). Honestly, I still struggle to figure out why this course was introduced out of nowhere. Back then, it required a minimum of 85 in Dzongkha and 65 (or thereabouts) to be eligible to study this course. The entry criteria itself sounded like it was more of a Dzongkha course to me. I wanted to study English like a normal BA English but the introduction of this course made me revisit my plans. For a Commerce graduate in Class 12 like me, there were not many alternatives like Science and Arts graduates enjoyed. For us, it was just BBA or BBA or BBA. There was no room for what-ifs. The point is, the courses were limited then and we had to choose (I find it apt to call it a Hobson’s choice instead) from the limited range made available to us. If we were persistent in studying something not available within Bhutan, the only way forward was India or somewhere nearby. Since Bhutan could only offer limited courses, I thought that these courses were offered based on the demands of the job market. But I was na├»ve to think likewise. 

I do not have much idea about BA in Bhutanese and Himalayan Studies. But I can make out we would never need a host of job seekers with this degree except for a handful. I have heard about some professors who teach similar subjects in foreign universities but it is so done in English. 

So what we can deduce from this is that employability should be a top priority even if we might hate to admit it when new courses are introduced. We cannot vouch for education and dismiss the need for the employability aspect. It is when this aspect is not met, courses like BA Social Work meet their demise. As such, this calls for a serious job market study and analysis before a new course is introduced and also after every interval to assess the employability aspect of the existing courses. If this due diligence cannot be undertaken by competent agents and authorities, then why send our children to universities? They do not need a degree to sit at home and play PUBG. 


Original News Article: RUB discontinues three programmes

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