BANGKOK – Secretary-General, Payom Chinnawong from the Office of Private Education Commission (Opec) reported today that the trend of private schools closing is expected to worsen, coming on top of the 40 or so that have shut down in recent years due partly to falling student rolls.
Payom Chinnawong, said the shrinking student population is the result of Thailand’s low birth rate and teacher “brain drain” which in the past two years have forced 43 private schools to close.
Many more schools are at risk of closure as a result of the trend, he said “I’m afraid the number of closures could be higher if we combine data from Educational Service Area Offices nationwide, adding not all schools report to Opec when they shut down.
Many independent schools, especially small-sized ones, have also suffered a brain-drain problem as teachers leave, unhappy with their perceived job security, or lower pay and inferior benefits compared to public schools.
“This factor has led to shortages of teachers in small private schools. When schools have recruitment problems, they have to increase salaries to attract qualified employees and some find it hard to remain financially healthy in this kind of situation after experiencing a drop in student enrolments for many years,” he said.
Opec is now trying to help private schools tackle these problems. The agency will propose the government increase subsidies to boost teachers’ salaries. This could require an extra 4 billion baht from the government.
Opec will also hold talks with the Finance Ministry, asking it to exempt private schools from a new land and buildings tax, to help the owners keep the schools in business.
Private Education Council president Jirapan Pimpan said the country has 3,845 private schools, fewer than 1,000 of which are well known. She believes many schools are at risk of closing down.
Many owners of private schools today are the second- or third-generation children of the founders. Some are not interested in running the business which is one reason why so many have closed in the past decade.
Ms Jirapan also believes some private schools have management problems as many are family businesses and lack a clear sense of direction.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin says plans to increase the amount of time which primary students spend in English classes may have to go on hold because of a shortage of qualified English teachers and resources.
Dr Teerakiat said many schools were already found not to have proper educational aids in the classroom, while some schools still do not have sufficient qualified English teachers. Saying the ministry will keep plans to teach English flexible, adding schools which have adequate personnel and resources can proceed.
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