If the education system is good, other things would follow

“I feel it is about education. I think, if the standard of education were good, other things would follow. If the infrastructure were good, other things can improve,” said Issadaorn kulsantao, one of the core members of “Bad Student” movement.

A network of high-school students started their movement in May last year, under the name “Bad Student”. They have been protesting in front of the education ministry, making symbolic gestures in their schools, and joining the anti-establishment protests.

Their main goal is education reform, but they are also discussing the draconian regulations on uniforms, which include hair style rules and even the kind of school bag student may use. In some conservative schools, the rules go down to detail of the length of the skirt in centimeters, the length of their hair from the root to end, the color and the width of the hair ribbon, the kind of socks and shoes among other things.

The students see these regulations as irrelevant to improving their education. It frustrates some of them, even.

After making noises for months, the education ministry announced that schools must relax their uniform rules. But many schools, however, have still not changed. Now the students are calling for the education minister to resign.

Nataphol Teepsuwan became the education minister in July 2019. He is one of a few in the past decade who have remained in this post longer than an average, which is less than a year. He said that the government already had a reform plan in place, and endorsed by the prime minister.

“We have the plan for reform in place. The prime minster has endorsed the platform. We plan to reorganize the curriculum. We have plan to re-educate teachers, in order for them to be able to improve their skills.” said Nataphol

Thailand allocates a very large budget to the education ministry. Every government talks about the need for the systemic reform. But it has not happened.

Some academics say that, because education reform is very complex, and it takes a long time to see the results. Thailand has had almost 20 education ministers in the past 20 years. From a politician’s point of view, education reform is not worth the energy, if they think about it in electoral terms.

Nattapol admits that the lack of continuity, from policy to policy, is part of the problem. He is trying to lay down a foundation for the next minister.

“If education has no quality, people will have no quality” reiterated Issadaorn.

This statement is not just an opinion. In some people’s minds, it is a fact. While Thailand has been struggling to grow from a developing country for decades, one important element has often been overlooked, an education system to benefit the country.

by Kiratikorn (Tulip) Naksompop Blauw



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