The requirements for getting enrolled into Prathom 1 is having a negative impact on children, their parents and even schools, a recent Suan Dusit Poll has found.
Chanasuek Nichanon, vice president of Research and Education at Suan Dusit University, said parents end up spending more than Bt100,000 per year per child on tuition fees to prepare them for these exams.
Getting children to spend long hours preparing for these exams affects them physically, emotionally and socially, and also hampers their intellectual development, he said.
For instance, getting young children to study during their afternoon naptime or playtime only causes them stress. Getting them to learn by rote prevents proper brain development, and they also lose out on family bonding time.
He said kindergartens have also been focusing too much on academic content instead of providing learning experiences in line with early-childhood education policies. This results in primary school students who are not willing to learn and are unable to apply lessons to real life because their only purpose for studying has been to pass the Prathom 1 entrance exam, he added.
According to the poll, 51.77 per cent of the parents had no problem putting their children through entrance exams, while 48.23 per cent said otherwise. Of the polled kindergarten teachers, 42 per cent backed the exam and 58 per cent opposed it. However, all academics polled were completely against entrance exams.
The most cited reasons for opposing exams were: an entrance exam cannot assess a child’s potential; it is not in line with early childhood education principles and child development; it causes stress and pressure on young children; and it deprives them from appropriate development.
The reasons for supporting exams were: children got a chance to develop their academic skills; the exam helps schools put children with similar abilities together; and the exam ensures all children get equal opportunities.
Respondents also suggested that Prathom 1 admission should be based on age-appropriate development and performance (22.7 per cent); accepting children zone-wise (22.27 per cent); drawing names (17.5 per cent); interviewing the child (16.39 per cent); testing them (10.9 per cent); interviewing parents (5.97 per cent); and a combination of methods (4.27 per cent).
Chanasuek said parents wanted their children to enrol in private schools (56 per cent); schools under the supervision of universities (19 per cent); schools run by the Office of Basic Education Commission (13 per cent); and schools under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (12 per cent).
Factors parents base their choice of school are: teachers and learning system (37 per cent); convenience (24 per cent); reputation (18 per cent); facilities (7 per cent); tuition fees (7 per cent); classes until upper secondary level (6 per cent); and a sibling or relative already studying there (1 per cent).
The number of hours per week children spend preparing for entrance exams: two hours (25 per cent), more than four hours (22 per cent), three hours (20 per cent), four hours (19 per cent) and 1 hour (14 per cent). Preparations for entrance exams in kindergarten include class activity adjustment (44 per cent); after-class tutoring sessions (25 per cent); tutoring during weekends and holidays (16 per cent); tutoring during lunch break (10 per cent).
Paediatrician Dr Suriyadev Tripati, a former director of Mahidol University’s National Children and Family Development Institute, said entrance exams affect children’s emotions, especially in families with two children, one of whom manages to get into a famous school and the other doesn’t.
Nowadays, children also don’t know how to play, because they spend their playtime attending tutoring sessions, he said. Also, parents don’t know how to talk to their children – they fail to ask what their children want, and keep talking about what they want.
“The development of good and able persons should put emphasis on virtue and ethics as well as life skills. The creation of good children should come before the creation of academically excellent children – the entrance exam system is quite the opposite of that,” he added.