Bangkok gubernatorial hopefuls seemed to have played down the significance of education.
Unlike traffic, garbage and the environment, education policies have not been mentioned much in campaigns, despite the new governor being responsible for more than 310,000 students at 437 schools – who will grow up to shape the capital’s future.
Even cycling policies have had more prominence than education.
Some candidates have, however, released details from their education policies in the final weeks before Sunday’s election.
Compared to his rivals, independent candidate Pol General Seripisut Temiyawet has offered fewer details about his education policies.
Pheu Thai Party candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen, Democrat Party candidate Sukhumbhand Paribatra and Seripisut have focused on increasing education infrastructure and facilities.
Meanwhile, Suharit Siamwalla has targeted making changes in teaching, learning techniques and teacher promotion.
But they all agree on one thing – the importance of the English language and information and communication technology (ICT) for today’s children, with Asean Community integration just around the corner. This can be seen in the candidates’ promotion of bilingual international education, extra English classes and ICT.
Pongsapat promised he would upgrade the standard of nurseries catering to children up to the age of five, provide online education initiatives for more students aged six to 19, create a “Pongsapat Academy” where locally and internationally respected scholars would conduct online tutorials, establish bilingual and trilingual schools, and provide a separate Skytrain compartment for students going to and from school.
He also vowed to help teachers address debt problems, increase their academic standing, and to foster a teacher-exchange project with other countries.
Sukhumbhand pledged to give students at schools under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) free computer tablets and up-to-date educational software, quality free education and high-speed wireless Internet at 5,000 spots in schools, public parks and libraries.
He also targeted improvement of students’ English communication via extra English-language classes, while hiring popular Thai teachers and lecturers. He promised to set up 437 music schools across Bangkok and continue with the current ethics programme.
Increasing the number of wireless hotspots across Bangkok is also Seripisut’s intention. On his watch, all BMA schools would offer bilingual education. Outstanding students in each district would be rewarded with scholarships to study abroad.
Seripisut also aimed at getting more students reading by extending opening hours until midnight at some libraries. His “Midnight Library & Easy Space” project would also create relaxation zones, including coffee shops, restaurants and hangout areas for library users to enjoy.
Suharit is proposing to set up alternative schools where self-learning is encouraged, and inexpensive international schools to improve students’ English. He would reduce learning-by-rote and assess students on their ability to apply knowledge in real life rather than in written exams.
He wants to train teachers in new teaching techniques, improve their incomes and welfare, and reward them according to their students’ academic progress.