Youth unemployment conundrum

The Norzin Lam in Thimphu bore a different look last Friday. Young boys attired in gho, with files tucked in between their armpits, and beautiful girls in colorful kiras flocked in droves along this multicolored street, except that their faces were not as vivid as their dress or as lively as the street.

Most of them, college and XII passed graduates, were on their way back from the National Job Fair held at the YDF complex, hoping against the odds that they might land a job this time. While few were fortunate, it was the same ordeal for some others.

Nonetheless, this is the same scenario everywhere nowadays. For example, in the recent vacancies announced by the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan, for some negligible slots, more than 300 graduates have already put up their job application and resume.

And whenever a vacancy is announced, jobseekers hopping in just like dogs chasing a cat have become a normal scene. We can’t blame them either.

But the fact is youth unemployment is becoming a serious issue. Serious than the projection made by the government. The figures like unemployment rate is down from 2.5% to 2.1% and youth unemployment from 12.9% in 2009 to 7.3% now could be some consolation, but the real scenario seems to be otherwise so.

Some feel that youth unemployment could be many times more than the government’s projection. A few others blame the education system for not imparting students vocational skills, just as the government reiterates mismatch of demand and skills as the main reason for youth unemployment time and again.

However, more needs to be done than this mere explanation. Rhetoric alone wouldn’t suffice. As this issue continues to exacerbate in want of what needs to be or must be done, underemployment is another problem sprouting up recently.

There are graduates who are employed after years of schoolings, but survive on measly income, mostly underemployed. It seems they have no other options than to succumb to this predicament. One cannot imagine living alone in a place like Thimphu where rents show no signs of abating and inflation is on an upward trajectory.

The fact is something, somewhere is definitely going wrong. Even the private sector envisioned to be the engine of economic growth is presently in a shamble. It’s still weak. Employees from private companies are being laid off, further aggravating the youth unemployment setback.

But should be blame the country’s economic policy then for this quandary? Or the government for not creating enough jobs? Or for not doing enough? How long will this continue and what will help to solve this problem? We must delve for solution and must act; act before water crosses over our head.


Education at a crossroad

Bhutan’s story of 100 years of feat in education is truly remarkable. Bhutan’s attempt to be the knowledge hub and create a knowledge society is still a work in progress. At the turn of the century, to assess Bhutan’s strides in education is humbling and, yet, bewildering.

So where are we exactly?

eduThe most recent stride in education is the launch of Bhutan Education City proposal for an upcoming international education hub in the country. Literature on Education City in many of the countries reveals stories of struggle and challenge. So have we taken a step too soon?

Delinking the medical institutes in 2011 to be tied as constituent colleges of University of Medical Sciences (UMS) is a notable change in the educational scenario. Is the university system of UMS in place to handle its constituents, or should they still be with the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) to receive its second treatment until UMS comes in full force?

RUB as Bhutan’s only university produces graduates every year to form the formidable group of youth to take their positions in the different sectors, besides graduates from outside the country. To have a huge number of graduates with RUB’s co called double degree program as qualification, will it serve to fulfill the needs of the organizations and sectors who call for specialists?

School education in Bhutan has seen a massive change with two distinct types of schooling parents. It matters what family you are born into to go to any one of these schools. Private schools have made their mark in the urban areas and rightly so. Rural education system on the other hand is like a transport back in time with dearth of teachers and the type of schooling as old as time itself, with even syringe wielding teachers to train the minds of the future.

The education ministry’s attempts to resolve issues and tries to tune in to the social realities and is one of the highest spenders in re-creating its system to make it more dynamic. Education has to be made socially relevant and child-centric to serve its purpose, but has school curriculum even been put through that perspective?

In a healthy learning process where learners are participative, the approach to teaching is discussion than mere imparting of facts. Have the new textbooks served its function then? Were the old textbooks not as lively and as informative as the new ones? Have we given ourselves up to more pictures and less words in the age of new media?

Finally, our examination system is crafted to determine ‘pass’ and ‘fail’ tag on our students and can we then rest the blame on the incompetence of teachers? Our education scenario in Bhutan is at a crossroad, but who is taking note.