Her Royal Highness Princess Shakri Sirindhorn

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn has shown concern about plans to merge small schools with larger ones. It is expected to affect at least 10,000 schools nationwide, according to the education minister.

The minister said that the Princess is aware of the scheme to merge small schools and has conveyed her concerns. The scheme is to be put in place by the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec).

The policy to merge small schools faces a number of challenges including agreement from local communities which will be adversely affected if their schools are merged with others, the minister added.

However, it appears that the scheme has been welcomed by a large number of the communities.

Obec has set aside a budget of 500 million baht to improve larger schools which would take in students from small schools. These large schools will be strengthened in terms of education quality and resources to help attract the students.

Assurances have been given to directors of small schools that they would not face reduncancy.

Any vacancies left by retirees will be filled by directors  affected by the mergers. They will also be still eligible for their old payments and benefits.

The scheme was reintroduced in June after it had been put on the back-burner for several years.

It was resurrected out of concern that small schools lacked educational resources and teachers, resulting in poor educational quality. It was considered students would be better off if they could could attend larger schools in the vicinity.

286 small schools will be merged in the second term of this academic year. It is not clear if some of the smaller schools will eventually be closed, though this would appear to be likely.

Having been a teacher in the UK for thirty-four years, I can see pros and cons in this proposal.

On the face of it, small classes have always been looked on as better. However, they do pose several problems that at first glance are not apparent.

Certainly in Thailand, very small schools will have a wide spread of ages of pupils. Right away this creates problems of staffing, resources and organisation. Mixed-age classes are not ideal and adds increased pressure on teachers.

Very small classes restrict the acquisition of social skills ie getting on with other children, sharing, integrating in larger groups and playing. These are all important aspects of children’s development, especially very young ones.

Conversely, very large classes make individual attention from the teacher difficult if not impossible. More introvert, timid children can feel intimidated in a large class.

With older children it is easier for the “less motivated” ones to hide so that teachers do not find out they are having problems. And of course troublemakers thrive in this environment.

It will be interesting to see how these changes turn out in the long-term.


(With thanks to the Bangkok Post)

By Juninho