Until the 1950s, monastic education was the only form of education available in the country. While, monastic education continues to play an important role in Bhutan, modern, western form of education has been promoted and expanded and is now available throughout the country. Since its introduction, within a period of four decades, the government was able to create a modern education system spanning from primary to tertiary level.
Enrolment at all levels had grown at an impressive rate from approximately 400 students prior to 1961 to 1,26,718 students in 2001, spread over 382 schools and institutes. The gross primary enrolment ratio was estimated to be 72 percent in 2001, and is increasing annually at the rate of 6-7 percent.
The increase in enrolment had been attributed to the awareness on the value of education amongst the public, the population growth as a result of improvement in the health services and the priority being accorded to Education services by the government. Furthermore, the Education Department has since 1993 begun an Adult Literacy Program. Another major policy shift in recent teims had made secondary education more relevant by introducing a basic skills training program within the curriculum.
Sherubtse College, the National Institute of Education in Paro and Samtse, the Institute of Language and Cultural Studies, the National Institute of Health Sciences and the National Institute of Traditional Medicine, offer higher education in Bhutan .
The tradition of entitlements and welfare in the country has emphasized free education even in the medieval period when the state supported free monastic education. Similarly, in modern Bhutan, education is accessible to everyone. Students are provided with free tuition, test books, sports equipment, meals and boarding facilities required. Students in rural schools are provided with even free stationary. This free provision is balanced by appropriate contributions from the parents to engender a sense of participation amongst the communities.