Dropout rate concerns Unicef
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Dropout rate concerns Unicef

Better policies needed to reduce number of young people not in education, employment or training

A speaker presents research findings on young people not in employment, education and training (NEET) in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
A speaker presents research findings on young people not in employment, education and training (NEET) in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The number of Thais who are “not in education, employment or training” (NEET) is concerning, says Kyungsun Kim, director of Unicef Thailand.

Thailand is undergoing many changes because of its ageing population, digitisation, automation and advances in artificial intelligence, Ms Kim said, adding that children today need more “skills and productivity to help the country’s economy grow”.

Unicef, the Ministry of Labour and Chulalongkorn University have collaborated on a study on NEET among Thai youth, the findings of which Ms Kim discussed at a Unicef conference on Wednesday.

According to the report, while more students are enrolled in the education system, 2% drop out halfway through, she said. There are 1.4 million people aged 15-24 who classify as NEET, or 15% of this age group, she said, citing the most recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) report.

In addition, the number of people in this group in gainful employment has fallen from 4.8 million in 2011 to 2.7 million in 2021. According to the report, 70% of students who drop out of school have no plans for further education.

Ms Kim said 70% of NEETs are women, with most dropping out of school to care for their families. People with disabilities, migrant workers, and children from low-income families are also at risk when it comes to access to education and finding work.

“Investing in education is crucial to the socioeconomic prosperity of the country,” she said. “We hope this research will persuade the government of the importance of this issue, resulting in a long-term solution.”

Rattiya Phulaor, deputy dean of the College of Population Studies at Chulalongkorn University, proposed solutions to the NEET problem.

She said the country must develop an integrated NEET plan and monitoring system to provide timely assistance. A centralised database is also needed.

While lending assistance to specific age groups is essential, promoting work and life skills at various stages of life is also critical for long-term solutions.

By allowing for a broader interpretation of “education”, the system can reduce the number of students who drop out of school. Because working is also learning, work-based education should be promoted, she said.

On a larger scale, she suggests a national committee for NEET be set up to guide policy implementation. Career counsellors should focus not only on schools but also public employment services, as well as improving teacher quality, she added.

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