Houghton Mifflin English

Research Report

Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon

By Katie C.

Two nicknames are often used to describe the small country of Bhutan: “the Land of the Thunder Dragon” and “the Last Shangri-la.” These names give a sense of the country's grandeur and beauty, shown in its majestic mountains, powerful rivers, and warm, sunny plains. Yet this Asian land also faces many challenges. Its systems of education and health care lag behind those in other parts of the world. Bhutan is a paradise with a few big problems.

Where exactly is Bhutan? It is sandwiched between India and China. Within its borders lie part of the Himalayas, a huge chain of mountains. In the mountains of the north, the climate is cold all year round. In the south, the weather can be hot and humid. Thus, in spite of its small size (46,500 square kilometers), this Asian country has regions that are very different.

Bhutan also has many different groups of people. The largest group is the Bhotias, also called Drukpas, or “dragon people.” Related to the people of Tibet, the Bhotias practice Buddhism — in fact, Bhutan is considered the only Buddhist kingdom in the world. Another smaller group of people, the ethnic Nepalese, live mostly in the western and southern parts of Bhutan. They are related to the people of Nepal, and they mostly practice Hinduism. Sometimes conflict has existed between these groups.

The people of Bhutan make a living in different ways. Because lots of the land is mountainous, it makes farming difficult. Still, many Bhutanese are farmers. Some grow chilies, oranges, and cardamom, which is a spice. Other farmers raise livestock, such as cattle, goats, and yaks. Yaks are oxlike animals that can be used as beasts of burden or as sources of milk or meat. However, not every person in Bhutan is a farmer. Some people run businesses in forestry and mining. Others create textiles and leather products.

The people of Bhutan face many challenges today. First, their system of education needs improvement. There are not enough schools, classrooms, and teachers, and some children have to hike for miles to get to school. Only 53 percent of children attend primary schools. What's more, girls are even less likely to go to school than boys are. For a country in which only 47 percent of adults can read, Bhutan needs to give education lots of attention!

Likewise, health care in Bhutan has some real problems. Many people live far away from clinics and hospitals. The tall mountains and deep valleys make it hard for health care workers to get to people who need them. Many Bhutanese do not get enough food, which means that lots of children do not grow up strong and healthy. Some suffer from problems, such as severe colds and anemia, which could be solved by basic health care. The government of Bhutan needs to address these issues.

In summary, Bhutan is a small country with stunning scenery. With its variety of climate, geography, and people, life in Bhutan could never be boring. If the challenges of education and health care are met, this country could truly become a Shangri-la.


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