Decades ago, when they decided to close all hostel facilities in the capital, the reason given was that when educational facilities were in short supply, hostels were an inessential ‘luxury’. All the hostels in YHSS were promptly converted into classrooms. This act of prioritizing obviously makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, the understanding today seems to have warped into a rule against any form of hostels, whether in government or private schools.

One other reason for banning hostels in urban centres was as a measure to control the growing rural to urban migration. In hindsight with what has actually been happening, it is a reason also standing on increasingly flimsy legs.

The standing rule today simply and sweepingly dismisses any hostels as an ‘inessential’ expense. However, a deeper study reveals that in the context of modern Bhutanese society, hostels today have become an absolute essential.

1. Broken families – The modern Bhutanese family is suffering from an epidemic of breakups. While the parents appear to not suffer from scars or stigmas from a divorce (or two), the same cannot be said of their children. There is a direct link between being from a broken family and poor academic performance, delinquency and behavior problems. These families are unable to provide the stable guidance needed by their children, and the school has no opportunity as the students go home immediately after school. Many of these parents are able and willing to pay for hostel facilities but do not have that choice in Thimphu.

2. Balanced diet – We find that many students fall ill very easily. It turns out that many students, too many in fact do not eat a balanced diet. For a lot of parents, ‘food is food’ seems to be a guiding principle and many children eat kewa datshi every day. This diet has lots of carbohydrates and calories, but no vitamins no protein. Wai-wai and maggie noodles are also considered an adequate food group it seems! Many students are caught bunking class just for a quick bite in the canteen because no breakfast was prepared at home.

A well-run hostel would easily be able to provide a healthy and balanced diet that growing bodies desperately need. And it does not have to be expensive.  In fact, most students living at home spend more on casual shopping than would be spent on a residential program. A strict residential program would in fact help parents cut expenses on pocket money and casual shopping.

3. Discipline – The modern Bhutanese parent seems at a loss on whether to follow the old strict ways or the modern ‘anything-goes’ approach with most ultimately leaning toward the latter. It is an approach that  suits their busy lives which spares little time or energy even for family. It is not surprising therefore that many children in Thimphu are not taught even basic manners.

A well-run hostel staffed with seasoned wardens and matrons would have the opportunity to impart good manners, self-discipline and the all-important sense of responsibility.

4. Activities – In sharp contrast to the healthy active lives that Bhutanese students studying in places like Darjeeling and Kalimpong enjoy, most students in Bhutanese schools hardly play any sports or participate in any type of hobbies. Students stroll home after school and spend most of their free time simply hanging out. Though they may not admit it, many parents seem to be happy just to have their children out of their way when they themselves have had tough or long day.

The hard fact is that despite our best intentions, it is difficult to spend the necessary amount of time with one’s children. The first choice of solution is for somebody to teach parents what their roles are and how to go about it. A residential school program should be recognized, second choice though it might be, as a legitimate alternative while we figure out how to make the first choice a reality.

To start with, the regulations need to recognize this and allow at least those schools with the space and the desire to open residential facilities.

The daily schedule typical of a good residential school:

  • Rising bell: 5:30am
  • Physical education (PE): 6:00am – 6:30am (in sports clothes)
  • First Study Hour: 6:30am-7:30am
  • Breakfast: 7:30am – 7:50am
  • Change to formal clothes: 7:50am – 8:10am
  • Morning Assembly: 8:30am – 8:50am (day-scholars arrive)
  • First to sixth periods: 8:50am – 3:30pm (Lunch at 12:45pm)
  • Change to sports clothes: 3:30pm – 3:45pm (day-scholars depart)
  • Sports programs / Activities: 3:45pm – 5:00pm
  • Tea break: 5:00pm – 5:15pm
  • Shower/change clothes: 5:15pm – 5:30pm
  • Second Study Hour : 5:30pm – 7:00pm
  • Dinner: 7:00pm – 7:30pm
  • Third Study Hour: 8:00pm – 10:00pm
  • Bedtime: 10:00pm


Good habits are the ladder to success and a good residential school help develop good daily habits.


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