Canadians are celebrating International Development Week (IDW) across the country from February 3-9, 2019. The week recognizes the work of Canada and its partners in the Global South as they strive to improve wellbeing and reduce poverty. IDW has been held in Canada every first week of February since 1991.
The week marks a good time to reflect on Canada’s role in working together with Bhutan to promote education and wellbeing in the country. Going all the way back to the early 1960s, Canadian Jesuit Father William Mackey established the first secular school in the east of Bhutan. Since then, Canadian organizations like WUSC, the University of New Brunswick, Humber College and the Bhutan Canada Foundation have continued the tradition of supporting Bhutan’s education efforts.
This year’s IDW theme is “Together for gender equality.” Bhutan’s education system has made significant strides in providing both girls and boys with equal access to education. Recent statistics from the Ministry of Education1 show that girls now have a slightly higher net school enrollment rate (93%) than boys (92%) as they represent 51% of total enrollment up to class XII. Yet gender challenges remain. Women still lag behind men, for example, in adult literacy rates at 57% to 75%. Girls also underperform when compared to boys in areas such as math. As Bhutan moves forward to address these kinds of challenges, Canada will continue its history of working with Bhutanese partners to strengthen the education sector and build networks between Bhutanese and Canadian education institutions. International Development Week is a good time to both celebrate the history of Canadian- Bhutanese collaboration in education and look toward to the future.
1 Ministry of Education (MoE). (2018). Annual Education Statistics 2018. Thimphu: MoE. http://www.education.gov.bt/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Annual-Education-Statistics-Book-2018.pdf