The Bhutanese education system, for reasons unknown to most, offers 3 streams of study. Students in grade XI must choose to study either Science, Commerce or Arts. The choice of streams is probably because the system of education was adapted from the ICSE board of India.

The purpose of education is obviously to prepare students for some sort of career. Blindly following the formula of dividing the student population into just 3 streams, without properly looking at the prospects for future careers, may not be such a good idea. From the science stream how many doctors, engineers and other professionals do we need? There are far more candidates than our economy can absorb. The commerce stream produces too many B.Com graduates that remain floating in the market for years. And the economy seems not have any career options for the arts graduates.

The Royal Education Council (REC) has a proposal to loosen the system by breaking up the structure of ‘streams’ and offering subjects on an ‘a la carte’ basis. In this system, students can choose any combination of 5 or 6 subjects with no particular structure. The choice would depend completely on the student’s interest, assuming of course that the student knows what he or she wants. Theoretically, with a few extra subjects offered, students can prepare themselves for any career choice that exists.

The obvious problem with this solution, fantastic for the students though it may be, is that it would simply multiply the resources demanded by the same student body in terms of extra teachers and classrooms. Any one who has made time tables in a school will immediately understand this. It will be a real problem in a country that is already seriously short of both teachers and classrooms.

A more modest approach might be to simply widen the scope of ‘streams’ on offer. Depending on the future prospects of growth in the economy, and thereby growth in employment prospects, new streams could be offered that provide education suited for those areas. One very obvious possibility of growth and employment is sports. One could argue this is a solution simply staring us in the face.

Yet in Bhutan, sportsmen are nothing if their grades are bad. There is no such thing as a sports quota in government schools and colleges. The government makes no special privileges for successful athletes. Top performers in sports during their school days are down the line found working as security personnel or support persons in government or corporate offices. It is no surprise that most Bhutanese parents try hard to stamp out any sporting ambitions their children might exhibit at an early age. In other words we are nipping a potential sector of our economy right in the bud.

An obvious solution would be to allow students to both pursue their sporting ambitions as well as graduate from high school. This will be possible if a stream for a sports career is introduced. A sports stream could produce both competitive athletes or specialists in the sports industry from referees to coaches to sports trainers and psychologists. The stream could keep difficult subjects like mathematics or regular science as options and in their place offer more relevant subjects such as sports psychology, nutrition, sports leadership etc. Such subjects already exist in schools abroad and need not be invented.

A sports stream would be recognized by universities that offer degrees in sports and would thus enable further studies.

Bhutan has good potential for sports and a decent chance of establishing a sustainable sports industry. Why not pursue it? We can start by making it possible within the school system itself.

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