In My OPINION
Not a month goes by without another education bribery or corruption story hitting the presses. Graft in education is not new, and it is prevalent in many countries, not just in Thailand. By putting several stories together, I can see how attractive it must be for unscrupulous educators.
'Tea money' flows freely
If a parent wants a child to go to a popular government school where there are no vacancies, money often exchanges hands to oil the wheels of admission. The illegal payment can be up to 30,000 baht. The law is quite clear: there are to be no "donations" during the registration period. However, this practice continues unabated.
Soon after the government examinations for recruitment of teachers, a list is prepared showing the placements of the teachers who had sat the examinations. For a not inconsiderable amount of money, up to 250,000 baht, teachers can adjust their places on the list and thus be able to teach at the schools of their choice. Money can exchange hands for transfers, too.
At first, this would seem a lot of money to pay. However, if the money was borrowed, it could be repaid quite quickly with all the private classes that are on offer and regularly taken up by students that seem not to have learned enough during the daytime lessons. It is alleged that some teachers have offered to give special attention to pupils during normal class time, for a fee of course.
The Bangkok Post reported last December that a complaint had been sent to the then Education Minister, Jurin Laksanavisit, concerning the selection panel of the Teachers Council of Thailand (Kurusapa). The complaint stated that there was a lack of transparency in the panel selections of 178 of the 185 education zones. See "Teachers say bribes paid for spots on select panels", by Sirikul Bunnag, Dec 17, 2009 on page 4.
Up to half a million baht had been offered for seats on the panels, totalling at least 80 million baht. So what is so important about these panels? Well, they have the authority to promote, transfer and increase the salaries of teachers, as well as take disciplinary action against teachers and education staff.
Prapas Chan-erb from the Isan Teachers Association, who made the complaint, believes that those who paid their way into the panels wanted to demand money from: (1) teachers wanting a transfer to another school; and (2) teachers wanting to be education executives.
To parents: Just say no
I have an idea that is probably pure fantasy, but I will share it with you anyway. In my opinion, the way to stop this is for parents to stop paying the initial tea money and paying for extra classes. If this were to happen, then it is possible that teachers might stop paying for their placement into choice schools for the perceived increase in salary. After all, there would be no need to have so many extra after-hours classes if there wasn't the initial loan to pay off.
If teachers stopped paying for their placement, then maybe individuals wouldn't want to pay money to be on panels so that they then can demand money for teacher placements to offset the initial payment to be on the panel, and so on. Pure fantasy? Probably.
Well, it was just an idea!
The opinions expressed herein are solely those of Mr Steve Graham, who is an English-language teacher at the Language Centre, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. If you would like to discuss matters related to this article, you may send your comments to 'In My Opinion' at email@example.com .