The Education Ministry has ordered the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) to close schools with less than 60 students and merge them with larger ones nearby.
The plan was confirmed yesterday by Obec secretary-general Chinnapat Bhumirat.
The commission will conduct a survey to find out how many of its schools nationwide have less than 60 students enrolled, Mr Chinnapat said.
More than half of the schools under Obec's jurisdiction were regarded as having a small student base, he said. About 17,000 out of the roughly 30,000 Obec schools nationwide have less than 120 students enrolled.
Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana yesterday told a meeting of education area directors that they were required to implement the ministry's policy to close small schools. Any schools deemed too small or that were failing to meet the ministry's education standards would be closed down and merged with the closest larger school, he said.
"In my hometown, Samut Sakhon, one school has only 20 students, most of whom are immigrants. The question is: Why should this school remain in operation? Its quality is very poor," Mr Phongthep said.
A better school is less than one kilometre away, so it would be best for the students from the smaller school to be transferred to the larger one, the minister added.
Mr Phongthep said the first priority would be preparing local communities for the school mergers. Meetings will be held between local education authorities and affected communities before the closures proceed, he said.
Even developed countries such as the United States maintain a policy of dissolving schools that are too small, Mr Phongthep said.
Obec had set aside a budget for purchasing 1,000 vans to transport students who would be forced to travel longer distances to their new schools.
If the new school is not too far away, a budget will be allocated to purchase bicycles for students who commute, he added.
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- Writer: Lamphai Intathep