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Topic Summary

Posted by: thaiga
« on: February 03, 2012, 10:56:51 AM »

  SPECIAL INTERVIEW: The education minister wants to have a radical shake-up

Providing every Prathom 1 student with a tablet computer is not the only education policy that has sparked controversy under this government. Other issues to agitate critics include legalising the payment of school admission tea money, changing the teacher appraisal system, terminating the "new breed" teacher project and calling off English-speaking campaigns.

 
Suchart: Aims to tackle corruption
"Policies that go against nature should be changed," Education Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview.

He said he would concentrate on tackling corruption in all levels of education during his tenure as minister. Mr Suchart said the practices of bribing or donating to a school in order to gain admission for a student must be clearly defined.

He said that money that ends up in an individuals' pocket is a form of corruption, but not donations to a school. Encouraging financial donations was better than doing nothing as schools will only wait for government funding that is inadequate to cover costs.

"It is better for rich parents to make a donation for school development than send their children to study overseas instead. And it should be OK to issue a donation receipt," he said.
Still, schools must not discriminate against students whose parents have no money to donate.

"Schools might set a special admission quota to those donors apart from the normal admission system," he said.

Another practice that he intends to stop is that some teachers are charged a fee when they are appointed to a new position, transferred or when their salary is adjusted. Teachers who are victims of this practice can send a complaint directly to the ministry where officials responsible for fighting corruption will handle it.

"I have announced this policy to almost 800,000 teachers. If someone takes advantage of you, you must fight back because the state alone cannot monitor corruption thoroughly," said Mr Suchart.

Teacher evaluations should not be done by supervisors alone but should also involve others, including students and parents, he said.

"That way, the evaluations will be more transparent as all concerned parties would be allowed to take part," he said.

Teachers typically have to show their academic work to prove their abilities if they want to be promoted. But some evaluation processes do not really rely on content, but rather the size of the works. And many teachers who want to be promoted do not process the paperwork themselves but hire others to do it for them. "In that case the paperwork is useless as others were hired to do it and the practice leads to unnecessary costs," he said.

The minister also hinted that he would not continue the "new breed" teacher project introduced during the Democrat-led administration.

The scheme is designed to promote the teaching profession and offers scholarships and guaranteed jobs to top education students following graduation.

Under the pilot project, fourth-year education students at various universities were asked to take an additional year of teacher training before starting work.

"Why would those smart students want to be teachers when they have a better chance to make much more money in other careers?" Mr Suchart asked.

The minister said policies encouraging students and teachers to speak English one day a week, an effort launched by his predecessor Woravat Au-apinyakul, seemed impractical. "I will not continue policies that seem to go against human nature and are impractical," he said.

However, he said he would carry out the "One Tablet PC Per Child" policy, a major Pheu Thai campaign promise.

Olarn Chaipravat, adviser to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, is working on developing curriculum software for the tablets, he said.

"A total 900,000 tablets worth around 2 billion baht will be bought from China to prevent the possibility of corruption and then they will be delivered to all Pathom 1 students nationwide," he said. There are about 860,000 Pathom 1 students, including children in remote areas.

Due to the large number of devices, he is concerned about delays in tablet production. The tablets are scheduled for distribution in the 2012 academic year, which starts in May.

The tablet policy has led to concerns that students will gain access to inappropriate content and play games. "Is playing games that bad? Parents can check what their children have seen on a tablet," said Mr Suchart.


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