THE TRANSFER of authority to supervise private vocational and technical colleges to the Office of the Vocational Education Commission (Ovec) will be a big help in their development.
It will cater to the country’s educational needs and promote effective resource use, Ovec chief Chaipreuk Sereerak said.
For better planning, Ovec will have statistics related to nearly 1 million vocational students, he told The Nation in a recent interview.
The interim charter’s Article 44 was used to issue the transfer order, published in the Royal Gazette on February 5.
Chaipreuk said the aim was to help private vocational/technical colleges achieve quality and standards that matched those of public colleges.
“We must elevate and strengthen private schools, [so that] what is substandard or improper could be dealt with,” he said.
Chaipreuk said the private colleges agreed with the move. They saw a decline in new students because many youths chose the better-equipped public colleges. Some places survived due to their reputation in specialised fields or by opening up only courses such as marketing and accounting, he said.
“Some private colleges saw student numbers shrink from thousands to a few hundreds,” he said, adding one Surin college would soon fold and was passing on its students to Ovec to ensure they would graduate.
Private colleges get a budget of Bt4.532 billion in per-head subsidy. Now they want a shift from the Office of the Private Education Commission (Opec)’s monthly payment method to a semester basis for more streamlined management, he said.
Chaipreuk said he understood Opec’s monthly subsidy. “The rate of students getting in and out of private colleges was high and the number of students reporting at some colleges was also high when the semester started. They then decreased [possibly a doctored figure for subsidy or student loan benefits]. So Opec resorted to paying the subsidy monthly,” he said.
For fiscal year 2017, Opec had set aside Bt4.4 billion for private colleges, which Ovec would take over, he said. Ovec would pay private colleges the subsidy at 80 per cent early – as in May-June for the first semester and in October-November for the second semester.
Ovec would check on the student turnover rate to provide more money or retrieve excess funds in the subsequent semester, he added.
It was also considering whether to implement a per-head subsidy for students over 25 in the same model as in non-formal education.
Ovec would review the colleges’ teaching-learning standards and help with what they lacked, possibly via resource sharing, he said.
“We must collect data from private colleges, number of students and teachers, fields of study. How can some only have 5-19 students? It’s not worth operating,” Chaipreuk said.
Among such schools was Sara Buri Technical College, which, according to its website, offered only information technology. As of last October, there were 84 students at the vocational certificate level and 59 at the advanced vocational certificate level. Besides having its own research institute, teacher development office, professional qualification institute and development budgets, Ovec also had a Teachers’ Club, furnished with budget for teacher training, Chaipreuk said. The club could provide partial funding, which would be met by colleges’ contribution, to arrange teacher training, he said. In the past, private-college teachers received little training and the turnover rate was high.
Ovec now supervises 886 vocational colleges covering 976,615 students – 425 public colleges with 674,113 students and 461 private colleges with 302,502 students.
The Association of Private Technological and Vocational Educational Colleges of Thailand chairman, Jompong Mongkolvanich, said he had been waiting for this change. He said a meeting of the associations last September called for the transfer. They believed it would elevate academic standards and enable vocational education to better cater to the needs of the industrial and service sectors, regional clusters and the Asean Economic Community.
“We want public and private colleges’ joint recruitment of students via a provincial-level mechanism while curriculum standards would be lifted in the same direction. In the past, the Dual Vocational Education (DVE) cooperation between vocational colleges and the industrial sector didn’t include us,” he said.
Thavorn Chalassathien from the Federation of Thai Industries, agreed with the transfer in principle. He believed it would benefit vocational education, particularly private college operators and students, through resource sharing and a common direction. It would be convenient for the private sector to coordinate with vocational education people and DVE would be achieved more easily.
Nakhon Ratchasima’s Kusoom Technology College director Supaset Khanakul said this change would improve student quality and other aspects while providing private colleges with more government support.
It would also benefit students training under DVE, he said. If it didn’t yield results as expected, he hoped people would be held accountable.