BANGKOK – Thailand’s Education Minister Adm Narong Pipatanasaihas said that the new charter could extend compulsory education to cover kindergarten years, to boost children’s competency from an early age.
Speaking at an Office of Basic Education (Obec) seminar yesterday, Education Minister Adm Narong Pipatanasai said he backed extending compulsory education from nine years to 11 years.
The idea was aired at a meeting on Wednesday of the steering committee on educational reform.
“Whenever we talk about education reform, we rarely discuss pre-primary education even though children at this age learn faster,” the minister said.
The minister said the new arrangement could be written into the new constitution.
“Basic education is essential to equip students with knowledge to further their study at higher levels. The sooner they are taught, the faster they can remember and learn,” he said.
The panel, comprising members of the National Reform Council, the National Legislative Assembly, education officials and civic sector groups, has backed the idea in principle.
In Thailand, compulsory education covers Grades 1-9, and basic education Grades 1 to 12.
Under the Compulsory Education Act 2002, children must attend school for nine years from primary to secondary school.
The steering committee also discussed downsizing classes, cutting the maximum number of students per class from 50 to about 30.
It also debated cutting examinations such as Obec’s annual National Test and the Local Assessment System held by an educational service area office, to relieve the burden on students.
Under other proposals, the Office of the Education Council could be hived off from the Education Ministry to serve as another ‘super board’ and oversee the education system.
Amnat Wichayanuwat, director of Obec’s Bureau of Police and Planning, said while kindergarten is not compulsory, the state allocates a free-education subsidy of 1,700 baht to all kindergarten students a year.
“If pre-primary education becomes compulsory, all children at kindergarten age or 4-5 years old must enroll in the educational system,” he said. The government would also be obliged to provide funding.
Most young children already take part in pre-primary education, except for those in rural areas.