Govt to help ailing private schools

Govt to help ailing private schools

Ministry to offer Covid survival loans

Many private schools have struggled with liquidity during the pandemic which has discouraged them from staying in business, according to recent findings.

The Education Ministry plans to let them borrow "school promotion funds" of up to 3 million baht to help tide them over, with interest set at 2% and the debt to be repaid in full within three years, Education Minister Treenuch Thienthong said.

Nuananong Nuankhiew, president of the Private School Administrator Association in Pathum Thani, said some private schools were in such difficulty they had planned to close down.

Some 80% of students who attend private schools in the province come from middle-class families, Ms Nuananong said. While 60% have paid their fees for the first term of the 2021 academic year, most of the fees for the second semester have yet to be paid, she said.

She urged the government to offer subsidies for private school students covering all their basic costs. She also recommended the government chip in to help cover the cost of school lunches.

Previously, the government only assisted the families of students in basic education by reducing their expenses by 2,000 baht per person for the first term of the 2021 academic year. The government also helped mitigate the schools' burden by allowing schools to use their budget for development activities to buy instructional materials and textbooks.

Ms Nuananong said the ministry's plan would allow medium-and-large-size private schools to borrow from the school promotion fund to maintain liquidity, but smaller private schools would not be eligible.

Thee Sangkasanya, chairman of the Association Board of Coordination and Promotion of the Private Education (APPE), said the main problems facing private schools are paying staff salaries and buying equipment. While the government provides subsidies of up to 3 million baht, most schools' expenses stretch to around 4 million baht a month, Mr Thee said.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also affected private universities. Siam University president Pornchai Mongkhonvanit, who is also the president of the Association of Private Higher Education Institutions of Thailand, said some private universities have been taken over by foreigners due to fallout from Covid-19.

Mr Pornchai urged the government to expand the ministry's new lending plan to encompass private universities as well.

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