Education budget to be held to account
A new accounting system has been launched to track education spending and investment and tackle the problem of inequality in Thailand.
The Equitable Education Fund (EEF) has created the National Education Accounts (NEA) in collaboration with the Research and Accounting Institute, Thammasat University and it will be headed by Assoc Prof Chaiyuth Punyasavatsut, a TU economics lecturer.
Assoc Prof Chaiyuth said Thailand had invested more in education than many other countries in the past 10 years. In 2018 alone, the country spent 816.46 billion baht, or 5% of its GDP, on education compared to 4.9% on average by the 17 member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In fact, he regretted that money set aside to reduce education inequality had decreased. In 2018, this budget totalled 18.68 billion baht, decreasing from 28 billion baht in 2016.
Almost 20% of the country's fiscal budget had been allocated to education since the education reform plan was first introduced in 1999.
However, pupils' performances were still not satisfactory, judging from their Ordinary National Education Test (O-Net) and Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores, said Assoc Prof Chaiyuth.
He said the problem was not that the country had spent too little on the problem but that it hadn't spent its budget wisely.
He suggested the Education Department focused on its per capita spending, prioritising students' needs, the cost of living differences in different areas and the size of each school.
The current budget allocation for education put small schools at a disadvantage, resulting in an inability to provide an equal quality of education, Assoc Prof Chaiyuth said.
Pumsaran Tongliemnak, an education economist at the EEF there other factors influenced the quality of education, not just the budget.
Statistics showed that budget allocations to local authorities in Thailand came to merely 16% of the total, compared with 40% in countries with quality education such as Finland and the US.
Director of the Equitable Education Research Institute (EERI), Kraiyos Patrawart said it was hard to be sure how the education budget was really being spent due to a lack of accounting systems.
The new NEA would help distribute resources more equally, he said.
New accounting procedures would pinpoint which activities had received funding, how much each province had received and which groups had benefited, the EERI director added.
More details of Thailand's educational spending can be found at https://research.eef.or.th/nea/.