Nobel winner praises Thai virus fight

Nobel winner praises Thai virus fight

Sen tells conference education is crucial

Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen yesterday told a conference that Thailand is among the developing countries with a higher level of education and urged it to go the extra mile.

At the same time, he stressed the importance of education in keeping society safe in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

The professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University said countries that have been successful at controlling the outbreak have been those with a high level of general education [a programme of study aimed at developing learners' general knowledge and skills].

"Thailand counts among them because the level of education here is higher than that of most developing countries," the Indian economist said.

His remarks came at the International Conference on Equitable Education: All for Education being held yesterday and today by Thailand's Equitable Education Fund (EEF) to take stock of the journey after 155 countries joined the World Conference on Education for All in Jomtien in 1990, pledging to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4 (inclusive and equitable education) in 2030.

Prof Sen illustrated his point with the coronavirus outbreak in his native country of India, suggesting that though it has now recorded the world's third-largest caseload [at nearly 800,000], its high level of education can bring the situation under control through testing, contact tracing and other appropriate measures.

"That indicates how with an educated society you can deal with most problems, including Covid-19, which is new to the world," he added.

Alice Albright, the president of Global Partnership for Education, urged all countries to maintain their investment in education. In the aftermath of lockdowns, 1.6 billion children were left out of school, more than half in developing countries.

"Education can contribute to social stability and provide better economic prospects for learners. This is the only sustainable way out of the economic crisis we are facing," she said.

Meanwhile, Prasarn Trairatvorakul, the president of the EEF, stressed that social protection -- food, family, travel, school and community securities -- can ensure equitable education, especially for vulnerable students.

"Before a school can start, a child should be healthy and ready to learn. No one should go without food or risk travelling to school … These five securities will be the backdrop of equitable education for our children in this post-Covid-19 society," he said.

Mr Prasarn, a former Bank of Thailand governor, said the coronavirus disruption has forced the education system to develop agility in bridging its knowledge and capacity gaps.

"It is not just about classroom-based and face-to-face schooling. It is about social protection and other factors of child development. Schools must embrace the reality that education and its good support system are necessary to promote equitable education anywhere anytime -- whether it be at home, school, online," he said.

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