Opec drafts anti-brain drain plan for schools
Specialist status eyed as way to boost pay
The Office of Private Education Commission (Opec) plans to help teachers in privately-run schools who wish to seek academic ranks, known as Vidhayathana, in a bid to plug brain drain and solve critical teacher shortages among independent schools.
Opec's secretary-general Payom Chinnawong said many private schools, especially small ones, suffer a brain drain, as many teachers there often feel they lack job security or receive lower pay and poorer welfare than teachers in public schools.
"While teachers in public schools can get extra money each month as an incentive if they achieve special expertise or specialist teacher status under the Vidhayathana system, teachers in private schools cannot because there is no budget for them. So, many teachers consider teaching at private schools temporarily and move to public schools as soon as they get the chance," Mr Payom said.
Opec has recognised this problem and the agency is trying to help private schools cope, he said.
One such measure is to form a set of criteria for teachers in privately-run schools who want to achieve Vidhayathana.
It is expected to boost morale as teachers who achieve the ranks will be able to earn extra money each month like their peers in public schools.
According to the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec), teachers will receive the extra money each month until retirement if they achieve special expertise or specialist teacher status.
The special expertise title has two levels. The kru chamnankan title comes with an extra 3,500 baht per month, and the kru chamnankan piset level pays 12,000 baht extra each month.
On top of that, for specialist teachers, the kru chiewchan level pays an extra 19,800 baht per month and the kru chiewchan piset level pays an extra 31,200 baht per month.
However, asked whether private school teachers would receive the same amount as public school teachers and how far Opec is willing to subsidise it, Mr Payom said he did not have the answers yet as further discussions are needed with the owners of private schools.
"I understand that if Opec cannot offer as big a subsidy as private school owners want that they will resist this idea because it could become a huge financial burden for them. In that case, we may have to give up this idea and focus on other measures to help tackle the problem," he said.
For example, he said Opec also plans to propose an extra budget of 4 billion baht from the government to increase private school subsidies with the idea that the extra money would go directly to teachers' salaries.
Opec will also hold talks with the Finance Ministry, asking it to make private schools exempt from the new land and buildings tax, so that school owners can free up money to spend on improving teacher salaries and welfare.
Private Education Council president Jirapan Pimpan said she agreed with the idea of setting up the Vidhayathana system for teachers in private schools, but incentives received by private school teachers should be on the same level as public school teachers.
"We do not expect Opec to subsidise 100% of the cost, but it should not be less than 50%. For instance, teachers with the kru chamnankan title in public schools now get an extra 3,500 baht per month, so we want our kru chamnankan teachers to get that as well. But out of this amount, we suggest 1,750 baht should be subsidised by Opec," she said.
Ms Jirapan estimated that thousands of private school teachers quit their jobs to teach in public schools each year, which is disruptive to the system as new teachers have to be found.