The Equitable Education Fund has reported that more than 170,000 students in Thailand are on the verge of dropping out of school due to the lack of household income. Students parents have been badly affected by job losses and business downturns caused by Covid-19.
Kraiyos Patrawart, deputy managing director of the Equitable Education Fund, said the number of impoverished students this school semester is about 1.7 million. An increase of about 170,000 when compared with before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The income of some families has fallen from 1,205 baht to 1,077 baht per family, or 36 baht per day. About 73% of those surveyed, aged 15-65, are unemployed. Before the pandemic, the employment rate of low-income families was 44%.
The Equitable Education Fund is a government agency which helps students from destitute backgrounds continue their education. The fund has provided money and assistance to these students.
“Covid-19 has prompted us to increase the amount of financial assistance given to parents,” Mr Kraiyos said.
“Without help, we will see more students being affected or even forced to leave schools under this economic situation.” The fund has agreed to subsidize costs for more students, from 761,729 to 1,067,029 students in the next fiscal year.
These include nursing students in schools under the Office of the Basic Education Commission, students under the Department of Local Administration and Border Patrol Police. The 170,000 students affected by Covid-19 will also receive subsidies. Mr Kraiyos said that with financial help, the attendance rate of impoverished students in schools is likely to rise from 69.4% to 89.4%.
Education reform is top priority
Meanwhile, Thailand’s deficient and outdated education system is second to none. Education reform has become a self-contained and separate agenda for change. Thai students across the country, particularly in high schools, have been awakened and angry at the fact that they have been kept in the dark and cloistered in a state-imposed mind bubble for so long.
Unless it is answered, this awakening and anger is likely to galvanize more protests. Furthermore point to broader changes that have been pent up for decades. To be sure, Thai education is woeful not because of a lack of money.
The government’s budget regularly allocates around 20% to the Ministry of Education. By far the largest among the various ministries. For the 2019 fiscal year, Thailand’s education spending proportionally outstripped many other countries. Such as Indonesia’s, 8.1%; China’s 13%; the Philippines’ 17%; and the United Kingdom’s; and France’s 11%. Clearly, the problem with Thai education is beyond budget outlays.
Education woes run so deep and wide that the education portfolio in cabinet is not highly coveted despite its large budget allocation. No education minister to date has been able to loosen the rigid knot that stifles and suffocates Thai students.
Ask the students what’s wrong
Unsurprisingly, there has been a shoddy average of one education minister per year over the past two decades. Not only do such frequent changeovers bode ill for policy continuity. But they show that the institutional ills in Thai education are endemic and deeply rooted.
Experts and senior officials have looked at research and development, returns on investment, poor English proficiency, quality assurance measures, teachers’ training, class sizes, students’ scores in standardised tests, such as the Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa), and so on. They have decentralized and deregulated to open more universities and make tertiary education more accessible.
What these officials and experts have failed to do is to ask the students themselves about what’s wrong. In what is now tantamount to an insurrection in Thai education among young students, we are hearing different grievances from the bottom up in a fundamentally different way. – Read more..