Non-Formal and Continuing Education Programme

Country Profile: Bhutan


754,000 (2013)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$ 1.25 per day)


Official Language


Other spoken languages

Chocangacakha, Khengkha languages, Brokpa languages et al.

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

9.4% (2010)

Access to Primary Education – Total Net Intake Rate (NIR)


Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 2005–2008)

Female: 68%
Male: 80%
Total: 74%

Statistical Sources
  • UNESCO (2011) EFA Global Monitoring Report:
  • UNICEF: Information by country, accessed August 2012:
  • World Bank: World Development Indicators database, accessed August 2012:

Programme Overview

Programme TitleNon-Formal and Continuing Education Programme
Implementing OrganizationNon-Formal and Continuing Education Division (NFCED), the District Education Office
Language of InstructionDzongkha, English (only in the case of post literacy programmes)
Programme PartnersUNICEF, UNESCO
Date of Inception1991

Background and context


The Government of Bhutan is committed to providing lifelong learning opportunities to adult learners. In 1991, the Non-Formal Education (NFE) Programme was created by the joint efforts of the Dzongkha Development Authority (DDA) and the national Women’s Association of Bhutan (NWAB). In 1996, the NFE Programme was taken over by the Ministry of Education and it began growing rapidly. Currently, 953 NFE centres exist and more than 13 500 learners participate in the NFE Programme annually. Despite this progress, Bhutan still faces a low literacy rate. The NFE Programme, therefore, occupies quite an important role in meeting Bhutan’s objective of lifelong learning.

Non-Formal and Continuing Education Division (NFCED)

The Non-Formal and Continuing Education Division (NFCED) is a division within the Department of Adult and Higher Education in the Ministry of Education.

The objectives of NFCED are:

Programme implementation: Approaches and methods

Programme implementation

NFCED coordinates and facilitates the policy formulation, curriculum development and capacity development for non-formal and continuing education programmes. District education officers in 20 districts in the country are then responsible for managing the NFE centres in their districts. At community level, school principals who are mandated by the Ministry of Education, are designated to supervise and provide support for the NFE centres and facilitators. Village elders under the chairmanship of the village chiefs are also actively involved in the management of the NFE in their communities.

Programmes offered




Programme content and material development


In order to provide relevant content in NFE programmes, learners’ needs are identified through surveys, seminars, workshops and interaction. Small surveys on literacy are conducted by district education officers and other relevant sector heads, and seminars and workshops are conducted for stakeholders such as local leaders, sector heads at the districts, parent principals and NFE instructors. In addition, economic, social and cultural needs, as well as other emerging issues in communities and the nation at large are also considered. The current content is broadly based on seven thematic areas: health, environment and agriculture, income generating/livelihood, social/cultural issues, early childhood development, good governance and disaster management.


The materials are developed through material development workshops which are attended by all stakeholders at the national level, such as NFE instructors, parent principals, programme coordinators from other relevant agencies, education officers from the districts and programme coordinators from the NFCED. The draft materials are then pre-tested for necessary adjustments. Often, international consultants are also involved to ensure the quality of the materials.

The content of the teaching and learning materials is updated regularly to suit emerging needs.


Facilitators are grade X or grade XII graduates. They are hired full-time and paid. Training for new facilitators is conducted annually and refresher training for current facilitators is arranged at regular intervals. Because most of the learners are adults, courses on adult learning principles and teaching techniques are given during the initial and refresher training. When new curriculum materials are developed, workshops are organised for the facilitators so that they can familiarise themselves with the changes in the materials. In addition, a series of cluster- (several NFE centres from different districts) and national-based in-service workshops are organised to build on this and to update instructors on the recent changes and developments. The training and workshops described above are provided by experienced facilitators. They are the most competent and committed facilitators who have been identified and trained to become trainers of facilitators. Regular refresher courses for these trainers are also conducted. District education officers are trained on the policies and programmes of the NFE at national level. The district education officers, in turn, train school principals who are in charge of managing and providing support to the NFE centres and facilitators.

Monitoring and evaluation

The monitoring of the NFE centres is entrusted to different stakeholders at different levels:

The Division mainly depends on the quarterly progress reports submitted by the NFE centres through the district education officers as well as field visits made by the programme officers. As for outcome evaluation, because most of the NFE’s programme activities are supported by international agencies, it is measured, recorded and submitted to funding agencies. The outcome evaluation is conducted by the Planning and Monitoring System (PlaMS), and the line Ministry submits reports to the Government – Gross National Commission.

An impact assessment on NFE programmes was carried out in 2008, and the findings were shared among the stakeholders. The stakeholders at community, district and national levels, are currently taking action on the recommendations arising from the assessment. The impact assessment report is available.




The following strategies are adopted to ensure sustainability.

Encouraging community participation and ownership:

In order to ensure that the NFE centre in each community makes a significant impact in improving literacy levels, the NFCED encourages communities to initiate the establishment of the centre themselves in order to take ownership of the centre and its programme. To establish a NFE centre, the community formally makes a request to the District Education Office through their leaders/representatives. Then, the office reviews the request and recommends its establishment. Through this process, communities become well-prepared for having a NFE centre in their community and understand the needs of such centres for their communities, well before the centre is established. This helps those in charge of running the centre to receive better cooperation from the communities and results in higher success rates for the programme.

Establishment of CLC committees:

In order for CLCs to be sustainable in the community and to provide support for the needs of the community, local CLC committees are created. A local CLC committee includes school principals, village elders, and learner representatives under the chairmanship of village chiefs. The committee is responsible for planning and management of the CLC. In addition, the committee surveys and identifies the community’s needs, advocates, motivates, creates a code of conduct, and provides logistical support to the CLC to ensure its sustainability. The survey is for CLC learners so that they can access the facilities in the CLCs and advocate the head districts on the importance of CLC. It is the function of the committee, along with the CLC manager, to motivate learners and ensure they receive the maximum benefits from having a CLC.

Lessons learnt

Although the NFE programme has been quite successful in raising literacy levels in the country, there has been a high drop-out rate; about 20% in the basic literacy programme. Even for those who complete the basic literacy programme, a good number of them do not enter the post literacy programme. One of the reasons appears to be the length of the basic literacy programme and reducing its duration to about a year might help more learners complete it. Another reason may be the long distance some learners have to travel to reach the NFE centres which makes it physically difficult for them to continue attending the programmes. Creating NFE centres closer to where they live will probably reduce the number of dropouts.


Contact details Ugyen Tshomo
Deputy Chief Programme Officer
Non-Formal and Continuing Education, Ministry of Education, Thimphu, Bhutan

Tel: 00975-02-324712/ 17605278
Fax: 00975-02-325067

Email: ttandin (at), somtshering (at)