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Bhutan: Educating for Gross National Happiness enriches the universal values of education

THIMPHU (3 June 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, ended his eight day mission to Bhutan, noting that “educating for ‘Education for Gross National Happiness’ (GNH) is an important way to achieve the education objectives set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Mr. Singh said, highlighting that Bhutan has already met all the education-related Millennium Development Goals set by the UN.

“Rapid economic development and urbanization risk creating a generation who only focus on material well-being, the human rights expert added,  commending Bhutan’s efforts to counter-balance such forces through GNH. “Paramount importance should be attached to the humanistic mission of education.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that “the four pillars of GNH promote values of sustainable development, preservation of cultural values and the natural environment, and good governance, which are of critical importance in a globalizing world.” 
 
“This concept is a unique development vision of Bhutan, which should be included in discussions around the education goals for the post-2015 development agenda,” the independent expert said. “This will bring into the limelight a new development model.”

He also praised Bhutan’s significant strides in universalizing access to education and improving its quality throughout the country, but warned that the preservation of national culture and language needed special consideration.

“If English remains the only medium of instruction, then great care must be taken to ensure that national languages and writing skills are not lost,” Mr. Singh cautioned* at the end of his first official visit to the country.

The Special Rapporteur drew attention to the existing gap between the education provided, and the skills required in the country, while stressing the importance of technical and vocational education and training for Bhutan’s future development. “Key measures include the need to improve the social esteem of teaching and of technical professions through targeted interventions,” he said.
 
“The Government must also ensure that education provided is universally available to all children in Bhutan without discrimination, as required by human rights law, and that its policies and practices are in line with this requirement,” the expert urged. 

During his nine-day mission, Mr. Singh met with high level Government authorities, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and international organizations.  He also visited schools, technical colleges in Paro, Thimphu and Punaka, as well as the Royal University of Bhutan, and spoke with academics, teachers, students and administrators.

The Special Rapporteur will prepare a report to be presented at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015, providing recommendations for building on the gains made in the realization of the right to education in Bhutan.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full end-of-mission statement:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14660&LangID=E

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Kishore Singh is the Special Rapporteur on the right to education since August 2010. He is an Indian professor specialized in international law, who has worked for many years with UNESCO for the promotion of the right to education, and advised a number of international, regional and national entities on right to education issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Singh has supported the development of the right to education in its various dimensions and worked to better understanding this right as an internationally recognized right. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Education/SREducation/Pages/SREducationIndex.aspx   

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