In My OPINION
Bangkok Education Service Area Office 2 has allowed the schools under its control to increase class sizes from a maximum of 40 to 50 students to cope with increased student numbers.
Smaller class sizes lead to more teacher contact, allowing students, such as Naris Nesusin, forefront, to express themselves more often. STEVE GRAHAM
Repeating our mistakes
While it was pleasing to see that recent admission examinations went without a hitch in our troubled metropolis, the subject of class size has raised its ugly head again, with statistics clearly showing that action is needed to stop this easy solution to the ever-increasing demand for education.
More than double the number of students sat the examinations for the Mathayom 1 (Grade 7) seats available around the country, putting further strain on our already depleted resources.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has encouraged more outdoor education activities so as to improve the learning skills of students. His wish may be granted as students will soon be learning in the corridors if class sizes are allowed to increase any further.
Having written off the initial education reform from 2000 to 2009 as a waste of time and resources, our prime minister has called on officials to ensure that the next attempt does not repeat the previous mistakes.
After all, it was Einstein who stated that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
What could work in our favour this time is that this reform scheme has gathered input from the general public from across the country, so hopefully the information that has been gleaned may help address the nation's education woes. Only time will tell.
However, it is normally the implementation of these new policies that fails due to a lack of understanding and the lack of a collective will to succeed.
Control at local level
Rural schools, where the majority of Thailand's children attend classes, are having their own problems when it comes to class sizes. Some are underpopulated, resulting in mergers or closure due to too few students.
My niece has the benefit of being in a class of six in a school where 50 in a class is commonplace. To put this into perspective, my daughter has nearly 50 classmates in her class. You have to ask yourself how long small schools will last until they are closed and students sent farther afield.
In contrast, there are many rural schools that already have large-sized classes, depending on the catchment area and the location of other schools in the vicinity. Fortunately, some schools have decided to take matters into their own hands.
On a recent visit to Chumchon Ban Wang School, a rural school in Ban Phue district, Udon Thani province, I was surprised to learn that there were four Grades 1 to 3 classes. Prathom 1 and 2 (Grades 1 and 2) had one class each, and there were two Prathom 3 (Grade 3) classes.
Apparently, the director of the school wanted to split the class as he thought there were too many students for one class, resulting in there being two classes of 18 students each. He could have kept the class at 36 students, but he did what was best for his students.
I am sure that decisions like his are not made very frequently. However, it does show that there are people with an understanding of what has to be done to improve our education system in Thailand and are prepared to stand up and be counted.
Steve Graham is an English-language teacher at the Language Centre, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. Send your comments to 'In My Opinion' at email@example.com .