About The Project

Education for all has been and continues to be a priority for Bhutan. Recognizing a gap in special education, the Bhutan Foundation works in collaboration with the Ministry of Education’s Early Childhood, Care and Development (ECCD) and Special Education Needs (SEN) Division to enhance educational opportunities for children with special needs. The program supports 12 public schools across Bhutan, mainly in building capacity for teachers and providing teaching/learning materials and resources to enable children with disabilities to succeed in the classroom. This program focuses on the largest percentage of students requiring help, which is the group of students with mild-to-moderate learning difficulties.

Supporting Schools that Provide Access to Education for Children with Special Needs

The Bhutan Foundation’s Special Education Program started in 2008 in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. Over the last seven years, the program has increased the capacity of Bhutanese teachers to provide assistance to children with special needs, 12 schools have been identified by the Ministry of Education to provide these services throughout the country, a US Special Education Advisory Committee has been established, and the Ministry of Education has drafted a National Special Education Policy for the country. These accomplishments have been possible through the support and hard work of our partners on the ground, the Ministry of Education, and supporters and donors of the program who have provided pro-bono technical assistance and advice for the project. As the program continues to grow for Bhutan with more children identified and increased awareness, more challenges lay ahead to address the children’s needs.

Helping to Make Meaningful Employment a Reality 

Opportunities for individuals with disabilities to transition into and function in Bhutanese society are vital for an inclusive community. In partnership with the Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan (DPAB) and in collaboration with Amankora Bhutan, a branch of the luxury hotel group, Aman Resorts, with presence in more than 15 countries across the world, the Bhutan Foundation has started a transition program to train visually impaired youth in spa therapy. With the hotel and spa industry growing in Bhutan, a career as a spa therapist could mean a more secure future for the trained youth. Under the program, eight candidates identified by DPAB, who have either dropped out of school or have never been to school, spent six to nine months training in spa therapy. After being certified as spa therapists, three of the trainees ventured even further to start their own business—Dhungsel Home Spa.

The Bhutan Foundation hopes to support such social ventures in the coming years. In addition to spa training, we also helped initiate an intern program for four students from the Wangsel Institute for the Deaf to train in hotel services at the Amankora Resort in Paro, Bhutan (western Bhutan).

Building Capacity of Social Workers

According to UNICEF’s two-stage disability survey carried out in 2011, the prevalence of moderate to severe disability in Bhutan is 2.8 percent. The country is now seeing an increase in the population of individuals with moderate to severe disabilities with growing awareness and an increase in services available to them. To address this need, the Bhutan Foundation in collaboration with the Anderson Center for Autism in upstate New York is supporting the training of two social workers from Ability Bhutan Society, a local civil society organization that serves children with disabilities. These social workers are on a one-year fellowship at the Anderson Center for Autism to train with experienced professionals in the social services fields, contribute new ideas, and learn best practices. These skills are then taken back to Bhutan where these social workers will adopt effective approaches within their organization to train more social workers and further enhance services for children and adults on the autism spectrum.

21% OF CHILDREN 2 TO 9 YEARS OLD IN BHUTAN WERE FOUND TO HAVE AN IMPAIRMENT/DISABILITY, ACCORDING TO UNICEF'S TWO-STAGE DISABILITY STUDY

Project Updates

March 2, 2018

The Bhutan Foundation organized a three-day workshop from March 2nd to 4th to provide children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment (MDVI) the support needed to prepare them for school. We worked in collaboration with Ability Bhutan Society (ABS) and with technical support from Perkins International.

The workshop was conducted for parents and caregivers of children ages zero to six with MDVI. It was also extended to Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) facilitators and social workers from ABS. The training focused on helping parents understand what they can do at home so that their child is better prepared to go to day care or school, and understand the role day-care facilitators/educators can play to support the children’s development.

According to Dr. Namita Jacob, one of the technical experts, “The hope is that the professionals and parents can work together to prepare the children for entry in schools. This is part of the transition plan that we are working on supporting children with MDVI in going to school.”

Ability Bhutan Society (ABS) is a public benefit organization founded on the recognition that persons living with moderate to severe diverse abilities, primarily children and their families, have special needs. Perkins International is a US-based organization committed to helping marginalized populations who are blind, deaf–blind, or blind with additional disabilities to unlock their potential and realize their unique value as members of their communities.

September 15, 2017

We extend our congratulations and appreciation to Tshering Dorji and Yonten Jamtsho for proudly representing Bhutan at the 1st Asian Chess Championship for persons with disabilities, held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Tshering and Yonten won 7 out of 14 games in their category. More than 100 contestants from 10 countries participated in this event. 

Tshering currently manages Dhungsel Home Spa, a social venture by the visually impaired, and Yonten currently works for the Disabled Persons' Association of Bhutan (DPAB), one of the first registered Disabled Persons' Organizations in Bhutan. We are happy to have supported their trip through DPAB creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities to transition and function in Bhutanese society, which is essential for an inclusive community.

May 13, 2017

The Bhutan Foundation in collaboration with Perkins International supported two Bhutanese mothers of children with disabilities in participating at the 5th Parent Advocate for Visually Impaired Children (PAVIC) Congress in the Philippines. The two parents, Ms. Ugyen Choden, mother of a four-year-old daughter with autism and low vision, and Ms. Karma S. Dorji, mother of a nine-year-old son who is also on the autism spectrum, learned about the importance of forming a parent support group and their roles to actively advocate for their children.

Upon arriving back to the country, the two parents got together with other parents who were in the same position and instantly started a Facebook group. The group plans to meet once a month and currently serves as the only platform for Bhutanese parents to share information and concerns on issues affecting their children and to network with other parents.

April 2, 2017

Celebrating this year's theme "Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination" for World Autism Awareness Day, on April 2, 2017, the Bhutan Foundation launched a 16-minute film, "Amrith: The Story of His Inner Vision." The film raises public awareness about the needs and rights of persons with disabilities in Bhutan. The story features five individuals, each living with a different disability. The main character, Amrith, is a popular freelance blogger, who currently works for the Department of Youth and Sports under the Ministry of Education as a youth counselor. Amrith, who is visually impaired, shares his perspective on the challenges and opportunities of persons with disabilities and their families. As he interacts with these individuals from different age groups, we learn about five different types of disabilities, and how each individual faces their own set of challenges.

We also learn about the progress Bhutan has made over the years, yet an underlying need for continued support and intervention from the government and relevant agencies to break the social barriers. We learn about the need to create an environment that enables persons with disabilities to transition into independent members of society. The film draws inspiration from the individual stories and highlights the possibilities a person with disability can achieve if given the opportunity. The video was co-produced with Bussi-en Social Welfare Company.

January 3, 2017

In our efforts to enhance access and quality of education for children with special needs, the Bhutan Foundation and the US Special Education Advisory Committee are pleased to hand over teaching and learning materials to Gesarling Central School and Tsenkharla Central School. These two schools have now endorsed a special education needs (SEN) program and will be able to more effectively teach children with different abilities. The materials include books on classroom management, best teaching practices and methods, a screening tool to identify mild to moderate learning difficulties, phonic cards, magnetic boards, and more. These materials will be crucial in implementing the SEN program and delivering quality teaching to children with special needs.

There are now 14 schools in Bhutan with a special education program under the Ministry of Education.

December 14, 2016

Dr. Namita Jacobs from Perkins International and Mrs. Radah Ramesh, special education teacher, conducted a two-day training on transition to adult life. The training was conducted at Changangkha Middle Secondary School, and participants included all the special education needs (SEN) program teachers from the school and social workers from local organizations, like the Ability Bhutan Society, Disabled Persons’ Association of Bhutan, and Draktsho Vocational Training Center for Special Children and Youth. The training introduced the process of future planning and discussed how it could be implemented within the constraints and opportunities of each individual’s situation. Activities included interviewing parents who had a child with significant disabilities and developing a map for each of these children. The participants worked together to problem solve on concrete steps to move each individual close to achieving their dreams in their adult life.

The remaining days were spent visiting families and individuals with disabilities to discuss possible strategies and choices that would motivate and help them live an independent adult life. The Bhutan Foundation, in partnership with Perkins International, supported the training.

December 3, 2016

The Bhutan Foundation celebrated International Day of Persons Living with Disabilities by handing over the first playground for children with special needs at Changangkha Middle Secondary School in Thimphu. The playground is a great addition at the school, allowing the school to implement a “Learning through Play” program especially for the 47 students with special needs. The playground was possible with support from the Rotary Club of Thimphu, Mr. Phil McMaster and Dr. Angela James, and the Bhutan Foundation. We also want to thank Mr. Jamtsho for providing pro-bono services during the construction phase of the project.

May 27, 2016

The Bhutan Foundation’s Special Education program supported two participants from Bhutan, Ms. Chimi Lhamo, Special Education Coordinator in Changangkha Middle Secondary School, and Ms. Sonam Yangden Tobgyel, Program Officer at the Bhutan Foundation, in attending a five-day workshop on transition titled, Preparing Individuals with Multiple Disabilities and Visual Impairment for Adult Life, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The training was conducted by Dr. Namita Jacob from Perkins International with a special emphasis on the “idea of a good life as an adult” and how that applies to a person with disabilities. It addressed the need for schools to better prepare children, their families, and their communities for the transition to adulthood and problem-solve together common concerns, including work and independence, social participation, companionship, and leisure.

March 7, 2016

In March 2016, the Bhutan Foundation was excited to welcome Perkins International to Bhutan to carry out a needs assessment of Bhutan Foundation's Special Education Program which is now in its eighth year. The Special Education Program has come a long way since we first started the program in 2009 in close partnership with the Ministry of Education, Early Childhood Care and Special Education Needs Division and various other stakeholders working in the disability arena in Bhutan. During the two-week trip, Perkins International team and the Bhutan Foundation met with all relevant stakeholders involved in supporting individuals with disabilities in the country. After evaluating the needs assessment of the program, the Bhutan Foundation will work in partnership with Perkins International to develop a three-year plan to fill critical areas of need in achieving universal education for all children with disabilities in Bhutan.

September 16, 2015

In our efforts to support the schools teaching children with special needs across Bhutan, the Bhutan Foundation supported an exchange program from seven of the schools to visit programs at the two lead pilot schools, Mongar Lower Secondary School in Eastern Bhutan and Changangkha Middle Secondary School in Western Bhutan. These two schools have been supported by the program for the last seven years to develop into model schools for the rest of the country. The main objectives of the exchange program were to learn about the how the two model schools have developed and adapted a SEN Program and to exchange effective teaching practices. This year, the Ministry of Education has identified two additional schools, Tsangkha Central School and Gongpasingma Lower Secondary School, which also participated in this exchange program.

July 15, 2014

The Bhutan Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and members from the US Special Education Advisory Committee held a Special Education Needs (SEN) summer conference in Thimphu for all SEN schools in the country. Administrators from the Ministry of Education, ECCD and Special Education Needs Division, District Education Officers (DEOs), principals and SEN teachers from all schools catering to the needs of children with disabilities, Special Education Needs coordinators (SENCOs), and lecturers from the teacher training colleges attended the conference. Prior to the conference, 15 trainers underwent a two-day Training of Trainers (ToT) program to further roll out the SEN program to more schools throughout the country.

The Bhutan Foundation has conducted six summer conferences over the years bringing special education needs experts into the country to help train local teachers through embedded and large-scale staff development in screening, remediation, classroom management strategies, classroom accommodations, and development of Individualized Education Plans. During these trainings, the Bhutan Foundation also provided additional teaching resources and assistive devices to all schools that participated in the training.

October 10, 2013

The Bhutan Foundation supported three officials from Bhutan’s Ministry of Education, ECCD and SEN Division, in visiting the United States for a 10-day study trip to explore US special education services. The team also included two principals from two lead schools providing services to children with disabilities in the eastern and western parts of Bhutan. The team visited various schools and settings that provided a whole continuum of services for children with disabilities.

The 10-day visit included various school settings that provide services from the least restrictive (inclusive) to the most restrictive (specialized services) settings in Westchester, New York. The team visited services provided by the Westchester Arc, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), Democracy Prep Public Schools, Mamaroneck District Public Schools, and Mount Pleasant Blythedale Public School. The team also visited Perkins International in Boston, Massachusetts, and visited the services that they provide to children who are visually impaired and have multiple disabilities. The team was able to discuss and connect with the various organizations and explore methods of future collaboration.

Our Partners

The Bhutan Foundation works with local and international partners to create awareness and improve the lives of individuals with disabilities in Bhutan through our programs in educational services in public schools and transition. The success of our programs would not be possible without the support of our international partners and, in particular, our partners on the ground who are implementing the programs. Our international partners include Perkins International and Anderson Center for Autism, and our local partners include the Ministry of Education, ECCD and Special Education Division, Draktsho Vocational Training Center for Special Children and Youth, Ability Bhutan Society, Disabled Persons' Association of Bhutan, and the Bhutan Canada Foundation's Teach in Bhutan Program.

IN BHUTAN, 14 PUBLIC SCHOOLS PROVIDE EDUCATION TO CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, AND 3 LOCAL CSOs PROVIDE SERVICES FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES

How You Can Help

The Bhutan Foundation seeks support for education for children with disabilities to succeed in their schools and then to transition to live an independent life. All donations will go toward training teachers and social workers, assisting students with disabilities to learn in the most effective ways, and providing assistive devices and teaching resources for the local public schools. Please help us improve the quality and access to education for children with disabilities in Bhutan: