Information by Country

Bhutan: Background

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.
Bhutan has experienced solid economic growth in recent decades, and the Government is devoting significant portions of the national budget to health and education. But positive macroeconomic trends have not transformed living conditions in the countryside. Poverty is concentrated in rural areas and in the eastern regions, causing many people to migrate to the cities in search of jobs and better social services.

Significant disparities in enrolment and other education indicators exist between urban and rural areas, and between different income groups. Challenges include enhancing the access and quality of primary education to children in rural and remote areas.

Bhutan has made significant progress towards meeting the third Millennium Development Goal (promote gender equality and empower women) target, by ensuring gender equity in education. The percentage of girls to boys at primary and lower secondary education levels is now almost at par. The ratio widens, however, at the middle and higher secondary levels. This poses a serious challenge towards achieving gender parity at all levels by 2015. The barriers to enrolment of girls into education, particularly at the higher levels, are broadly identified as family responsibilities, traditional stereotyping of gender roles and individual household impediments.

Barriers to girls’ education

Major barriers to girls’ education include:

  • Many rural children have been left behind by migrating parents or have been sent by themselves into urban areas for education.
  • Basic education is free but not compulsory. Many schools in the south were closed due to political unrest in the 1990s and have yet to reopen.
  • Prevalent traditional views devalue education for girls.
  • There is a high turnover rate among teachers and other instructors.

UNGEI in action

UNGEI has not been formally launched, but girls’ education activities are ongoing.

Key initiatives for girls’ education

  • Early Childhood Care and Education practices to be carried out in some Non-Formal Education (NFE) learning centres.
  • Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) self-assessments and implementation of the CFS concept in some schools.
  • Construction of community primary schools.
  • Improving the content and quality of training for instructors.
  • Strengthening capacity of the Ministry of Education at the central level, as well as at the district level.
  • Assessment and mapping.


Partners include the Ministry of Education, Department of Public Health and Engineering under the Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan officials, Bhutan Broadcasting Service, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Helvetas (Swiss Association for International Cooperation), Save the Children and other non-governmental organizations, UNICEF, UN agencies and the World Food Programme.

UNGEI within other national and international frameworks

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) and sector-wide approaches to planning (SWAPs); Common Country Assessments (CCAs) and UN Development Assistance Frameworks exist at the national level.


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