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Exercising a lesson in tolerance

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Admissions examinations at secondary schools across Bangkok have gone ahead smoothly despite fears they could be upset by red shirt rallies. 

More than 3,000 Mathayom 3 (Grade 9) students from across the country gather at the Muang Thong Thani convention centre in Nonthaburi to sit the admission test to further their studies at the prestigious Triam Udom Suksa School. CHANAT KATANYU

Some students arrived at examination venues late yesterday but such instances were believed to be unrelated to the activities of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, said Chinnaphat Phumrat, secretary-general of the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec).

About 5,000 red shirt protesters rallied at the 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen in the morning, while others remained at Phan Fa Bridge.

Instances of absent students have been reported at some exam venues but the Obec insisted the figures were normal.

Parents were prepared for disruptions at the exams and managed to avoid traffic problems which might have been caused by the red shirt rallies, Mr Chinnaphat said. Many parents took their children to the exam venues as early as 4am. The exam began at 9am.

Mr Chinnaphat said he had visited Suankularb Wittayalai, Satriwithaya and Horwang schools.

It was feared these schools would be most affected by the rallies, but none had been disrupted.

Kanchana Limpaphawetyanon, 51, who arrived at Satriwithaya School with her child to sit an exam, said most parents were relieved when the exam was not postponed again.

Satriwithaya director Patchara Thippayathas said she walked to the nearby red shirt rally point at 5am to ask for the cooperation of the protesters. She asked them not to use megaphones or make loud noises during the exam period.

The protesters said they would honour the school's request and no students were interrupted, she said.

Benjamarachalai School director Sumanarat Asatrakul said the school allowed a student who arrived at the school two hours late to sit the exam.

The student said he was given the impression by the media that the exam had been put off to Monday. School authorities said they sympathised with him as "the political situation is not normal".

A total of 365 schools across the country which are allowed to hold admissions exams have seats for 133,489 Mathayom 1 students - but 299,100 students applied for admission.

Those same schools have space for 112,683 Mathayom 4 students - but 154,273 applied for enrolment.

The Bangkok Education Service Area Office2, which has received the largest number of applicants, has decided to allow the schools in its precinct to increase the maximum class size to 50 from 40 students.

The office's director, Preecha Chitsing, said the number of applicants was 5,000 more than the number of seats available.

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