Private schools suffer mass closures

Private schools suffer mass closures

Amnuay Silpa the latest to shut gates

About 60-70 privately-run schools have closed down over the past nine months due to financial problems, and 100 more are likely to follow suit, said Supaset Khanakul, president of the Association Board of Coordination and Promotion of Private Education (APPE) on Friday.

The warning comes as Amnuay Silpa Dhonburi School announced that it is closing down after the end of the 2021 academic year as a result of liquidity problems.

Mr Supaset said several privately run schools are in financial strife as parents are unable to pay tuition fees estimated at 1 billion baht.

However, he said these schools will not be in the clear even if they can collect fees again because of the expenses they must continually shoulder including teachers' salaries. Some schools are also reporting low enrolment for this academic year too.

According to Mr Supaset, as well as the 60-70 closures since the beginning of this year, ten others have informed the Office of the Private Education Commission of their intention to follow suit.

He said the issue has been brought to the attention of Deputy Education Minister Kanokwan Vilawan and Opec secretary-general Peerasak Rattana who are expected to come up with relief measures for the schools.

Mr Supaset also stressed the need for the government to supply rapid Covid-19 test kits to schools before reopening.

"Schools have no funds to buy antigen test kits for teachers and students. And if certain spending rules are eased to allow flexibility, it can help schools too," he said.

He noted that schools refrained from sending bills for the second semester because they are not certain if onsite classes can resume.

"If schools are unable to open normally next semester, another 100 private schools may have to close," he said.

Jate Prapamontreepong, president of Prapamontree school network, said the situation is dire for privately run schools which have seen lower enrolment over the past five to ten years.

"Thailand's low birth over the past several years has led to fewer students enrolling while state-run schools have also been expanding," Mr Jate said.

He said the private schools need urgent help and they have been left to fend for themselves for almost two years. He insisted that soft loans are not adequate.

"If these schools have to close down, the burden will fall on state-run schools and more than 100,000 teachers will lose their jobs," he said.

Ms Kanokwan said she and Mr Peerasak are aware of the problem and are discussing how to help the private schools.

The relief measures will be proposed to Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong for a full review before they are passed.

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