By Chularat Saengpassa
EDUCATION reform in the country faces an uncertain future after the Cabinet backtracked on its decision to push for an executive decree on national education.
“You have to wait for the new government,” Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin said yesterday, referring to the new national-education law that is a cornerstone of reform.
“I can’t tell whether the new government will stand by the key principles of the education reform that have been endorsed during the tenure of this government.”
Established by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) in 2014, the current government is set to pass the torch on to the new administration soon.
The current government had reportedly been so determined to sanction education reform that it was preparing the executive decree to fast-track reforms in the education sector.
Charas Suwanwela, president of the Independent Committee for Education Reform (ICER), applauded the government last month for preparing the draft executive decree.
Assoc Professor Dr Jiruth Sriratanaban, a member of the ICER who chairs an ad-hoc panel on drafting the National Education Bill, said yesterday he was surprised to hear about the government backtrack.
“Just late last month our president received a message that the government decided to introduce an executive decree and have the National Legislative Assembly [NLA] endorse the bill soon,” Jiruth said.
He now believes the Cabinet might abandon its plans amid political transition that makes it difficult to push ahead with an executive decree.
“So many NLA members have resigned,” Jiruth said, adding that the education minister had also quit and was set to join the junta-appointed Senate soon.
“Deputy Education Ministers Lt-General Surachet Chaiwong and Udom Kachintorn will soon do the same,” he said.
Another ICER member, Assoc Professor Daranee Utairatanakit, said she was worried that the essence of planned education reform might be affected if the draft law had to be deliberated upon by the new Parliament.
Reforms proposed by the ICER are controversial, namely its proposals to punish agencies that fail to provide integrated educational services and leave goals unmet, that school directors be referred to as headmasters or headmistresses, that teaching licences be replaced by certificates, that a curriculum institute be set up, and that entrance exams up to Mathayom 3 level be banned.
Critics, including prominent educator Asst Professor Athapol Anunthavorasakul, have voiced opposition to the reform plans.
“Do not stage any protests. I can tell you no such law will be passed during the remainder of the current government’s term,” Teerakiat said.
The ICER will convene a meeting next Tuesday to discuss the Cabinet’s decision not to fast-track the new law.
Despite expressing her concerns, Daranee took heart in the fact that plans for national reform – which cover the education sector – have already been promulgated in the Royal Gazette.
“In line with this, the Education Ministry will have to push hard for education reform. I also trust that the core essence of our planned reform will remain intact even if the law endorsing it is handled by the new Parliament or government,” Daranee said.
She insisted that the planned reform focused on boosting the quality of education, reducing educational gaps and increasing Thai students’ competitiveness.
The ICER’s term comes to an end at the end of this month.