Using a Policy of "Gross National Happiness" to Guide the Development of Sustainable Early Learning Programs in the Kingdom of Bhutan: Aspirations and Challenges


  • Jessica Ball University of Victoria
  • Karma Chimi Wangchuk Paro College of Education, Royal University of Bhutan


Bhutan, Gross National Happiness Policy, Early Childhood Care and Education, preschool, culture, linguistic diversity, local funds of knowledge, language of instruction


A national study on demand for early childhood care and development programs in Bhutan found strong support for development of a new early childhood care and development (ECCD) sector.  A wide range of stakeholders participating in the study, including ministries of education and health, post-secondary institutions, private preschool providers, community management committees, parents and children, emphasized the goal of preschool to promote success in English-medium formal education.  Promoting cultural traditions was also a priority, while developing children’s proficiency in home languages was hardly mentioned. The study highlighted the changing needs of Bhutanese families in the current context of increasing urbanization, dual career parents, and a shift from extended to nuclear family homes. Recommendations derived from the study encouraged a made in Bhutan approach to ECCD policy, programs, and professional education.  Subsequent to the study, the national education policy included plans for implementation of ECCD covering children from birth to 8 years old. To ensure the sustainability and cultural congruence of new programs and investments with the Kingdom’s Gross National Happiness Policy, a Gross National Happiness Commission screened and approved the new National Education Policy, which the Ministry of Education is charged with implementing. The emergence of an ECCD sector in Bhutan points to the role that national aspirations and value-driven policies and review processes could play in maintaining language diversity and transmitting culturally based knowledge.

Author Biographies

Jessica Ball, University of Victoria

Professor, School of Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria

Karma Chimi Wangchuk, Paro College of Education, Royal University of Bhutan

Associate Lecturer
Paro College of Education