Thai education to get worse under new charter: youth education reformers

Despite promises of education reform as the country ranks among the worst in the region for academic success, a youth civil society group says that Thai education will only get worse under the draft constitution.

Education for Liberation of Siam (ELS), a civil society group comprising students and youth activists campaigning for education reform, on 9 March 2016, posted a message on its Facebook page criticizing the draft constitution.

ELS pointed out that unlike the 1997 and 2007 Constitutions in which children are entitled to 12 years of free schooling, the first paragraph of Article 50 of the draft constitution reduces this to only nine years of compulsory education.

According to the junta-appointed Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) under President Meechai Ruchuphan, the budget saved from removing the last three years of higher secondary education will be allocated to the kindergarten level instead.

Criticizing the policy, ELS on its Facebook page argued that although kindergarten and primary education are important, the family plays greater role in child development during the earlier years of schooling. Therefore, the state should prioritize the financing of higher education.

“In general, higher secondary education and vocational education are expensive to the point that certain students are forced to withdraw from school. Therefore, if this benefit is cancelled under the draft constitution, inequality of education will only rise,” ELS argued.  

In addition, the page added that part of the third paragraph under Article 50 stipulates that the state is required to ‘direct, promote, and support’ local and private education to conform to the national education plan.  

As local education is characterized by the unique identities of different regions of the country, ELS said that the draft constitution will allow the state to monopolize education by imposing a centralized curriculum to which educational institutions will be forced to conform.

“The draft constitution also brainwashes us. The fourth paragraph of Article 50 stipulates that the whole purpose of education is to create good and disciplined citizens who are proud of the nation,” ELS wrote. Therefore, the youth education reformers asked “if an individual’s concepts [of good and disciplined citizens] differ from those of the CDC and the junta, does it mean that they are failures of Thai education?”

Since 2014, ELS has been active in voicing opposition to the Thai junta’s controversial nationalistic 12 Thai Values, which were imposed on the public school curriculum after the coup d’état.

The so-called 12 traditional Thai values invented by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader, after the coup d’état in May are:

  1. Love for the nation, religions and monarchy

  2. Honesty, patience and good intentions for the public

  3. Gratitude to parents, guardians and teachers

  4. Perseverance in learning

  5. Conservation of Thai culture

  6. Morality and sharing with others

  7. Correct understanding of democracy with the monarch as head of the state

  8. Discipline and respect for the law and elders  

  9. Awareness in thinking and doing things, and following the guidance of His Majesty the King

  10. Living by the sufficiency economy philosophy guided by His Majesty the King

  11. Physical and mental strength against greed

  12. Concern about the public and national good more than self-interest.