Junta forbids criticism of regional education reform

Following an order from the junta, the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) has prohibited regional education staff from discussing or criticising the junta’s regional education reform plan.

On 28 May 2017, the Facebook page of the Bureau of Personnel Administration Development and Legal Affairs of OBEC posted a letter from Karun Sakulpradit, the Secretary General of OBEC to directors of Educational Service Areas (ESAs), regional primary and secondary school management boards throughout the nation.

The letter states that ESA personnel are prohibited from expressing opinions or criticising the junta’s regional education reform initiative according to National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)’s Head Order No. 19/2017.

The letter adds that OBEC will shortly discuss details of the regional education reform plan with the directors of ESAs.

Amid criticisms of plans to centralise Thai education under the latest constitution, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, junta leader and Prime Minister, in March 2016 invoked his absolute power by issuing NCPO Orders No. 10/2016 and 11/2016 to abolish local teacher committees and form regional education reform committees.

The Order dissolved ESAs nationwide and replaces them with Provincial Education Committees and Sub-committees to manage primary and secondary schools.

The NCPO gave the reason that there are many management problems in primary and secondary schools because of inefficiency and a lack of unity. Therefore, the Orders are necessary.

Athapol Anunthavorasakul, lecturer in the Faculty of Education of Chulalongkorn University, denounced the Orders, reasoning that they will not bring about education reform, but will only make things worse.

He said the Orders will re-centralise the educational system of the country and negate the process of education decentralisation which began after the promulgation of the 1997 Constitution.  

“It’s like taking a time machine back to 17 years ago,” wrote Athapol on his Facebook profile. “It’s sad that some people really believe that this centralisation process could bring about education reform.”

To deal with an education system characterised by oversized classrooms, unqualified teachers, and rote learning, the Thai military government in early 2015 dissolved three education boards, including the Teachers’ Council, in a move viewed by many as a step towards education reform as promised by the coup-makers. However, signs of improvement in the appalling state of Thai education are yet to be seen.

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