Ministry to draft laws for 15 years of free education

national June 16, 2016 01:00

By THE NATION

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NCPO order confirms no cuts to scheme when the next government takes office.



FOLLOWING THE latest order by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday that required the Education Ministry to prepare a law that ensures 15 years of free education for Thai children to take effect within six months, Education Minister General Dapong Ratanasuwan said he would draft and amend related laws accordingly.
This would ensure the 15-year free education scheme would remain in effect when the next government comes in. He said the NCPO order wasn’t against the charter as related officials, including the Constitution Drafting Commission, had discussed and adjusted details for this order. 
He said the 15-year free education policy was a Cabinet resolution passed in 2009 that was implemented on a yearly basis, hence this new order would boost public confidence that the free education would continue. 
He also assigned the Office of Basic Education Commission to study schooling expenses to see which of them wasn’t necessary for parents to pay such as fieldtrips, which a school budget should cover. He cited the order that there would be six free items provided, instead of the previous five. 
Former education minister Chinnaworn Boonyakiat said that he would like the NCPO and the government, one year from now, to focus on the quality and preparedness to compete with other Asean countries. For example, bachelor’s-degree holders should be of quality and have good English skills, citizenship and virtues, he said. 
Teachers should be developed to maintain a high professional standard and all education institutes should have good quality up to par. 
Vocational colleges should focus on employment and good citizenship, while universities serve society and carry out research, he urged.
NCPO chief General Prayut Chan-o-cha issued the order yesterday under Article 44 of the Interim Constitution, which gives him the power to do so. It will become effective as soon as the order appears in the Royal Gazette. 
The move reflects the NCPO’s intention to assure the public that the number of free educational years will not be reduced. 
Current laws stipulate that the government must provide free education for 12 years. However, since 2009 every government coming to power has made it a policy to give 15 years of free education. 
Public concerns have grown lately that perhaps such a policy might end because the current charter draft, which will go to the public referendum on August 7, prescribes that free education shall run from kindergarten to Mathayom 3.This clause has drawn widespread condemnation.
The latest NCPO order said that it should be the duty of the state to |provide free education for 15 years from kindergarten up to Mathayom 6 or equivalent. Under this order, authorities must arrange free and quality education to children for 15 years. 
The Education Ministry, with approval from the Cabinet, will seek budget for free tuition, textbooks, learning equipment, school uniforms, activities for students’ quality improvement, and so on. Children with special learning needs will also be covered by the provision.
“The NCPO chief [believes] 15 years of free education can boost educational opportunities, ease equalities, tackle poverty, develop human resources, and fulfill the needs of people,” the order said yesterday. 

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