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Thailand’s Poor Students Quitting School as Education Costs Soar

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Thailand's Students Dropping out As Education Costs Soar

An increase in dropouts among poor students demands a revision of Thailand’s free education program, according to a recent seminar.

At a forum hosted by the Equitable Education Fund, Chaiyuth Punyasavatsut, associate professor at Thammasat University’s faculty of economics, said public spending on education is inadequate. This is despite the budget being 76 billion baht for the fiscal year 2021.

In the free education program, public and private schools receive state subsidies to cover the costs of learning materials, student development activities, uniforms, and books.

However, subsidies are insufficient and parents must shoulder expenses, he said.

Furthermore, the scheme does not cover pre-school and Matthayom 4-6 levels, leading to a recent increase in school dropouts among underprivileged students, he said.

Chaiyuth suggested two ways to improve access to education revising the free education program. The first thing is to increase the number of students enrolled in the kindergarten and Matthayom 4 levels, at an estimated cost of about 495 million baht.

Read: A Mystery as Two Students found Dead Weeks Apart

An alternative would be to increase the annual subsidy for Matthayom 1-3 students from 3,000 baht to 4,000 baht, which would cost 2.34 billion baht.

A professor on the national committee on education reform, Assoc Prof Varakorn Samakoses, said government subsidies haven’t been adjusted for 13 years and do not take into account rising costs.

He said that with inflation predicted to be around 4%-5% this year, some 2.4 million students from extremely poor families may be forced to drop out of school.

In order to enable them to pursue their undergraduate studies, Assoc Prof Varakorn believes that free education should be extended to include Matthayom 4-6 level and vocational education.

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