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Lecturers struggling to cope with ordinary wages, unfair evaluation systems, group says

Will frustrated lecturers work well for their class? The answer in a large number of cases is probably "no". Yet, many educational institutes have now left a large number of their teaching staff in frustration.

Many lecturers are dismayed today about the lack of transparency at the management of their institutes. They wonder how the top executives evaluate their performance and decide on their employment status.

At a time some believe they have found a respectable profession, many lecturers at rajabhat and rajamangala universities find they are denied housing loans on grounds that their employment contract is renewed on a yearly basis.

Presently, university lecturers are divided into two groups: those with civil servant status and those with employee status. The civil servants receive a salary at a rate prepared by the Office of Civil Service Commission and are entitled to a great package of benefits reserved. Whereas teaching staff with employee status receive benefits that aren't as good; their employment is less secure and whether their salary is higher or lower depends on where they work.

"Now, their morale is extremely low," said Sumit Suwan. Being a lecturer at Kasetsart University, he has decided to come forward and found a network of unhappy lecturers to try to push for good governance and a fairer remuneration package.

Sumit said he could not make sense of the fact that some university lecturers earn less than what newlyrecruited civil servants earn. Lecturers with a master's degree earn about Bt12,000 a month, while a PhD holder earns just Bt20,000.

According to a Cabinet resolution issued on August 31, 1999, the minimum pay for university employees must be 1.7 times of what newlyhired civil servants earn. Today, each newlyrecruited civil servant earns no less than Bt15,000 a month. When the government approves a fivepercent pay rise for civil servants, teaching lecturers with employee status at many universities get nothing.

"A lecturer at a rajabhat university earns just Bt30,000 a month after working for 10 full years. Some universities indeed have not raised the pay for quite a long time already," Sumit said. His network has now attracted the support from employees at about 40 universities.

Presently, universities across the country have hired about 50,000 employees, who account for about 60 per cent of all human resources. Many of the lecturing employees work for Rajabhat universities, and they are concerned about unfair assessments.

These employees are now calling for a fairer evaluation system to ensure their job security. They also want a package of fringe benefits that are as good as those offered to civil servants.

"If we leave the situation like this, it will certainly affect the quality of graduates and pose longterm problems to education quality. If lecturers endure poor life conditions, how can they have the energy to deliver their best in class? Some now have to earn extra income from supplementary channels such as selling insurance policies. This claims much of their afterwork time. Some even resigned and became primary school teachers, to get the better benefits as civil servants," Sumit said.

The Office of Higher Education Commission, which oversees universities nationwide, has given a much freer hand to the managers of highereducational institutes, in line with decentralisation principles.

Decentralisation efforts for highereducational institutes started in 1999. To date, 14 universities from over 100 nationwide have already attained autonomy while many others are preparing to follow suit. With less control from the central authorities, these universities are expected to improve their efficiency as their executives can fast decide on who to hire, how to run their places, and how best to use their budget. Tuition fees can also be set according to expenses.

However, decentralisation has backfired at some places where good governance is lacking.

Many university lecturers now lament about how their institutes have become like big corporations and ones with flawed systems too. Their boss has the last say. Students become like customers. They have to teach what sells more than what is best for society in the long run. Greater efficiency, which is expected to arise without bureaucratic red tape, is not really happening either.

In the real corporate world, clear key performance indicators are being used for fairness in terms of career promotion and incentives. A whistle blower system is in place, under which anonymous complaints can be made about unfair superiors. But at universities, most lecturers dare not speak up directly because their immediate supervisors, deans of faculties, also sit on the universities’ councils that will make decisions on everything.

If poor management of human resources continues to drag on at highereducational institutes, how can we expect these lecturers to do more to enhance the quality of students to match market demands?

Chularat Saengpassa

chularat@nationgroup.com


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