Dropouts up as subsidy funding lags

Dropouts up as subsidy funding lags

The government's free education programme needs to be revised to improve access to and the quality of basic education following an increase in dropouts among poor students, a seminar was told.

Chaiyuth Punyasavatsut, lecturer at Thammasat University's faculty of economics, told a forum held by the Equitable Education Fund that public spending on education is inadequate though the education budget for the 2021 fiscal year was worth 76 billion baht.

Under the free education programme, public and private schools receive state subsidies that cover learning materials, student development activities, uniforms and books, and other needs. However, the subsidies are insufficient and parents have to shoulder expenses, he said.

Moreover, the scheme does not cover pre-school level and the Matthayom 4-6 level, resulting in an increase in school dropouts among underprivileged students in the past few years, he said.

Mr Chaiyuth suggested two approaches to revising the free education programme to improve access to education. One is to increase the number of students in the scheme targeting kindergarten and Matthayom 4 levels, at an estimated cost of about 495 million baht.

The other approach is to increase the subsidy per head for Matthayom 1-3 students from 3,000 baht annually to 4,000 baht, which is estimated to cost about 2.34 billion baht.

Assoc Prof Varakorn Samakoses, a member of the national committee on education reform, said government subsidies have not been adjusted for 13 years and do not reflect rising costs. With inflation predicted to be around 4%-5% this year, some 2.4 million students from extremely poor families are likely to be affected and forced to leave school, he said.

Assoc Prof Varakorn said free education programme should be extended to cover Matthayom 4-6 level and vocational education so that they can pursue their undergraduate study.

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