Mathayom 6 students in the far South need all the help they can get to secure a seat at university, as they have to contend with violence in the region which disrupts their studies.
The students lag behind their peers from other provinces academically, in large part because of the educational disadvantage they face as a result of having to live with the threat of daily violence.
Southern students scored lower than the country's average in all eight core subjects in last year's Ordinary National Education Test (Onet). Indeed, they ranked lowest in the country.
A low Onet score means a poor chance to be admitted into higher education.
The Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) this week held a catch-up tutorial for Mathayom 6 (Grade 12) students in the three southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, plus two violence-plagued areas in Satun and Songkhla.
The five-day project, which ran until yesterday, has been held every year since 2003.
More than 100 well-known teachers, tutors and coaches were invited to take part.
Nureeda Jae-arong, a Mathayom 6 student from Sueka Songkhro Narathiwat School close to the Thai-Malaysian border, said schools in the area are often closed because of insurgent attacks.
"We are unable to catch up with what students in other provinces have learned," said the 18-year-old, who wants to be a nurse.
She added that many students could not attend tutorial courses after class or over the weekends, as they are concerned about their safety.
She said the state-run tutorial project helped her learn several techniques for the coming Onet test and university admission exam.
Natamanee Ponlasit, a Mathayom 6 student from the same school, wanted the tutoring project to run for longer.
"I want more time to be tutored on subjects I am not good at, especially physics and chemistry," she said.
She said a similar offer should be provided to students in other grades to help them prepare for exams.
Areef Asae, another student from the school, admitted he sometimes felt southern students were inferior to their peers. They lag behind not just in terms of education quality but must also work with outdated learning tools and struggle with a shortage of teachers.
It is tough for southern students to take the same exams as those from other provinces who have more chance of attending after-school tutorials.
"But the disadvantage we face does not discourage us. It stimulates us to try harder," he said.
Surangrat Saowong, a maths teacher from Takbai School, said the government should provide a similar course for students in Mathayom 4 and 5 to prepare them for performance assessments and university admission exams.
Even though the state-run tutorial only lasted a week, it helps refresh students, while giving teachers a chance to observe teaching methods and techniques employed by well-known tutors and lecturers, she said.
Kannikar Sa-nguanmoo, a lecturer at the top-ranked Triam Udom Suksa School in Bangkok, said she has tutored as a volunteer in social studies, culture and religion for five years.
"I have found some southern students are weak academically and I am delighted to help fill in what they do not understand," the retired teacher said.
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- Writer: Lamphai Intathep