1 school, 3 pupils, 1 teacher: no future
NAKHON RATCHASIMA - As the debate over the Education Ministry's plan to close or merge small schools continues, one school in this northeastern province is willingly accepting its fate.
- Published: 10/05/2013 at 06:25 PM
- Newspaper section: topstories
The only three students at Ban Ta Chu proudly show off their school which could be shut down. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
Ban Ta Chu School in Khong district had 150 students three decades ago but today there are only three with one teacher. If that is not bad enough, the three students are in three different levels.
The school, which has one building and five classrooms on three rai of land, has served tambon Ta Jun, especially Ban Ta Chu, for seven decades. But most parents these days send their children to bigger schools that are around five kilometres away.
Better roads made it easier for parents to decide to send their children to larger, better schools, said Paiboon Khomkokkruat, the village chief.
Villagers at Ta Chu and other neighbouring communities tried to keep students from having to travel longer distances to other schools by holding a Pha Pa ceremony to collect more money for the school, but that could not stop the decline.
If Ban Ta Chu school is closed, its three students probably will have to go to the 40-student Nong Bua Thung School three kilometres away. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)
The remaining students - probably the last three - are Nutthawut Soonklang, a 12-year-old boy in Prathom 4 (Grade 4); Nutthawat Innok, 11, in Prathom 5; and Cholada Pitaknok, 12, the only girl in Prathom 6. They are taught by Thawat Prasertsri.
After Education Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana introduced the plan to close small schools or merge some of them, Mr Paiboon talked with the students' parents and other villagers. They were ready to send the students to a new school, probably Nong Bua Thung, with 40 students located three kilometres from the village.
But the villagers will oppose the ministry if it decides to close Nong Bua Thung as well, he warned.
Mr Thawat was ready to follow his pupils to Nong Bua Thung, the village chief added.
The teacher was not available for comment but one of his three students reflected on what their classroom day is like.
Nutthawat said the three learned at the same time with the teacher shuffling around.
He admitted that he had problems in some lessons because there were no other helpers available, but that was offset by the family atmosphere in the school.
"We keep in close touch even after class. When I don't have pocket money, the teacher always gives me 10 or 20 baht," he said.
"I never felt envious of my friends who went to better schools because I learned near my home. I didn't have to pay for transport. I didn't have to worry about accidents. I biked to the school. It's just 100 metres from my place."
Under the ministry's plan, schools with fewer than 60 students are considered small and could be shut, with their students transferred to bigger schools.
Parents across the country are worried about the distances their children might have to travel to new schools. Not only will children be tired from travelling, which could affect learning, but also there will be increased safety concerns.
Critics say the ministry is picking the wrong issue to improve education. Better school management, decentralised power and better teachers are the main focus, they add. Some say the plan violates the right to education of students.
The plan will is scheduled to start taking effect with the fiscal 2014 budget, which starts in October.
About the author
- Writer: Prasit Tangprasert
- Position: Reporter