New bill to tackle education gap for low-income students

national November 20, 2017 01:00

By Chularat Saengpassa
The Nation

THE INDEPENDENT Committee for Education Reform (ICER) will today present the Equitable Education Fund Bill to Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.



The legislation is necessary for the establishment of the Equitable Education Fund, which is meant to benefit 4.3 million children and youth in low-income families. 

“We expect the bill to be legislated as the law by April 6 at the latest,” ICER chairman Professor Charas Suwanwela announced last week. 

He said the Prayut-led Cabinet and the Council of State would look into the bill before it was submitted to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for deliberation. 

The current charter, which took effect on April 6 this year, requires that a fund be set up within one year of its promulgation for the purpose of providing educational help for people who lack financial resources. The ultimate goals are to reduce educational inequality and to improve teacher quality. In response, the ICER has developed the “Equitable Education Fund”.

The Constitution Drafting Committee included the fund clause in the current charter, after the initial charter draft was attacked for ensuring just 12 years of free education starting from kindergarten. 

There were concerns that if the 12-year mandatory education started in kindergarten, instead of Prathom 1, millions of children would quit formal education after they completed Mathayom 3. 

Thailand has seen big inequalities in various sectors, including education. A child’s chance of furthering his or her education to university level reduces by half if they come from the poorest segment of society when compared with a child from the richest segment. 

The Equitable Education Fund aims at closing the educational gap within 10 years. 

Among its goals is to enrol every child in school, boost the quality of teachers in remote areas, and guarantee educational opportunities and quality.

“The fund will cover about 4 million youth in low-income families,” said ICER member Kraiyos Patrawart, who is also an educational-economics expert at the Quality Education Foundation. 

He added that the fund would take care of children in both the formal and informal education sectors. The fund would also extend help to stateless children. 

“The fund, moreover, will allocate a budget to help older youth with vocational training while teachers, particularly those teaching the underprivileged, will also receive training and capacity development,” Kraiyos said. 

He said the government would provide a Bt1-billion start-up fund for the Equitable Education Fund and allocate an additional subsidy every year at the amount of no less than 5 per cent of the state budget allocated to education.

Taxpayers will also be encouraged to donate to the fund, with tax forms to include a question asking if they would like to donate their refunds to the cause.

Dr Anusorn Tamajai, who chairs a subcommittee on national education planning, said he expected the Equitable Education Fund team to be small in size but efficient. 

“The team should leverage big data and utilise existing networks and mechanisms in pursuing its goals. For example, it should facilitate its work through collaboration with relevant organisations both inside and outside the Education Ministry,” he said. 

He added that the fund should ensure its efforts are not redundant.

Anusorn said he expected that the fund, which will be independently managed, would complement the Education Ministry’s works and solve red-tape issues.

He also said he believed the fund would make it possible to allocate money in support of educational causes based on the demand side, not the supply side. 

Kraiyos said the entire public should see incomes rise after the Equitable Education Fund goes into action. 

“As children from low-income families are not financially compelled to leave education, they will have more job opportunities and higher income. There is a higher chance for them to leave poverty,” he said. 

In the long run, Thailand would benefit from the fund, he added. 

“Poverty will reduce. Quality of life, productivity and competitiveness will, on the contrary, increase,” he said. 

 

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