Ex-education chief urges reform
The Ministry of Education should work on promoting outstanding primary schools in every tambon nationwide, a former top education official says.
Varakorn Samkoses, member of a committee of national strategy on human resources development and former deputy education minister, said promotion of top schools was a way to reduce the large number of poor-quality primary schools.
These schools, he said, caused more than 1.2 million primary students problems in improving their education competency, he said.
Mr Varakorn said the country's poor standard of education for children living in remote areas is due to lesser development in such regions, with schools having fewer teaching materials and qualified teachers.
Despite the ministry's plan to merge small schools with bigger ones, it faced strong protests from teachers and parents who want to have schools close to their communities. Mr Varakorn said the best way to solve the problem is the ministry's efforts to improve and upgrade the level of tambon primary schools with full learning infrastructure, teaching materials and skilled teachers to be a lucrative choice for parents.
He said parents will have more choice and it would be a way to reduce the number of poor quality primary schools.
"The more we have poor quality primary schools, the more we will have problems with improving the education system," he told the course of middle-level media training hosted by Isra Institute Thai Press Development Foundation.
"Children are the ultimate victims from the poor educational system if there is no effort to improve."
A World Bank study found that 1.2 million primary schools students learning in remote areas of Thailand have two years' slower development compared with their peers learning in good quality schools.
Mr Varakorn said the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) has about 9 million students in the system, of which about half leave midway through.
Based on Obec's record, there are 30,000 schools with half of them having fewer than 120 students each.
Meanwhile, statistics show that while 100 students learn in primary schools, 85.6 students will continue studies in Mathayom 1, 79.6 students will continue until Mathayom 3 and 54.8 will go to Mathayom 6 or occupational schools.
He said the key element for a successful educational system is quality teachers.
A survey has found that 40% of employed teachers nationwide are aged between 50 and 60 year, and many have "lost their inspiration for teaching".
He added the ministry has required a change which should be done in a smaller scale, instead of a national scale that has not produced any effective results.
The small scale of change could be done in the strong capacity school by making it more independent and free to design proper learning courses for students.
These schools could then become models for other schools to follow.