Sep 5, 2011

Talking Masters


Grads, where is your masters destination?

People upgrade their academic qualification mainly because they need to either advance their knowledge about the work or their social status. And Bhutanese are by no means exception to this. In Bhutan getting an opportunity to study far from your family and loved ones is seen as an achievement in life and not without reasons.

The thump rule is - farther you can travel from your country by that degree the venture becomes lucrative. That’s why we have thousand competing for a slot or two to study in foreign soil. This is because in this part of the world, upgrading one’s qualification or the act of upgrading, at least, is seen as a moment to earn some additional income and bring home dollars.

People would not mind washing dishes in a foreign land so that they can comfortably relax and enjoy once they return. There is nothing bad in this and in fact we should applaud them. I really admire their hard work and dedication.

Masters degree can be obtained from three different places for Bhutanese. The first one and the most sought after is the opportunity to study abroad (places other than India, preferably Australia these days). This is the land of opportunities, a place where one’s dream can possibly turn into reality.

There are avenues to earn extra income during off hours in these places, which other places that are closer to home do not provide. Then the stipend is paid mostly at par with international standard.  Some are paid as high as 2,500 USD while the minimum is anywhere between 1,000- 1,500 USD. Roughly that is almost an average civil servant’s six-month’s salary. Those on government scholarships are also paid full salary during the first year.  Isn’t that a wonderful opportunity? No doubt the course fee is high and same with the living standard.  

Then we have masters in India. While we may have many people availing the opportunities to get their masters in India, I am sure many opt out of no choice. Because given the option they would prefer to go elsewhere. And there is no opportunity of working part time in a place where thousands look for jobs. Even if there is, how much do you think they would pay? And lo our people who study in India are paid as low as Nu. 6,000/- as stipend, which is a peanut compared to what their lucky colleagues get for having had the chance to study in other countries.

Although India’s education system is really developed and far more relevant to our setting (to people in Bhutan), there are less people willing to have their masters in India. This is a sad truth. On top of losing the opportunity of making more money abroad, those people we send to India, are paid less stipend. This means we are indirectly discouraging those who avail their masters in India. Tuition fee is less here. Living standard maybe low here. But what is the logic? You see, someone is already losing the opportunity and now we are even paying him less – he/she is losing at both the ends. Our policy it seems is less responsive and supportive to those studying in India.

And now we would have masters programs in our own backyard.  Sherubtse College - the nation’s first college - is planning to offer three masters degrees initially while RIM recently announced the introduction of three masters programs between 2012 and 2013. All these are very good signs of growth of our education system. We have come a long way.

But again, applying the same hypothesis - excuse me- we would have even less candidates applying for the homemade degrees because the point is if you stay in the same place, you don’t even qualify for stipend. That’s purely my assumptions here and I don’t know what modalities the authorities have worked out for this.

Let’s talk of relevancy. If we can avail our masters in Bhutan, there is nothing like it. We would have people teaching through their experience and learning through practical and realistic examples, which are closer to home. Same is the case with those who study in India; Indian education system is the closest system that can cater to our needs. This means we have more reasons to send people to India. But I am also not discounting exposure our might get from foreign places and different cultures.

Our policy it seems is discouraging people who travel shorter distance for their higher studies. We need to promote what is relevant to us and to our country. And there is the need to promote what is our own by making them more attractive.

While it does not make sense to pay stipend at par with those studying in Australia or the USA, how about paying at least fifty percent of what they are paid to those who opt to study in India? How about making our homemade courses attractive so that our people have no reasons to leave behind their loved ones and travel abroad.

Given the choice, even if we pay half the amount we spend on those who travel to Australia or the States, we would have many people willing to upgrade their qualification at home or at least closer to home.