Saturday, October 31, 2020

Education minister unfazed by students' protests, ready to hear their suggestions

Sep 05. 2020
Nataphol Teepsuwan (right)
Nataphol Teepsuwan (right)
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By The Nation

The planned protest by "Bad students" at the Ministry of Education at 3pm on Saturday is not really a debate because the ministry has the same views as the children about reforming education, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan said on Saturday (September 5).

Bad student is a group of high school students and student organisations from 50 schools nationwide who are demanding that the ministry reform education.

Nataphol said the ministry has categorised students and visitors' demands as follows: student hairstyles, dress code, outdated learning courses, channels for expressing opinions, teachers' burden, O-Net exam cancellation, sexual harassment in school, sexual diversity in school, increasing English and third language learning courses and education inequality.

"We have unlocked rules on teachers' burden and students hairstyles, but the development of learning courses may not be as same as other countries because it must be in line with the context of Thailand, while we cannot cancel the dress code because students in countries worldwide still wear uniforms to ensure students' safety," he said.

He said to deal with sexual harassment in school, the ministry had established a centre for sexual assault victims' protection to investigate cases received from all sectors. He added that 15 teachers who had committed offences had been fired.

"The ministry is working on sexual diversity in school as Thailand has a Civil Partnership Bill, while the ministry will discuss the cancellation of O-Net exam next week as the Covid-19 pandemic has made it difficult for schools to reopen at the same time, resulting in inequality during the test," he said

For solving the problem of educational inequality, he said the ministry had launched the Digital Education Excellence platform, and it was also reviewing all learning courses.

"Also, we will open 185 Human Capital Excellence Centres nationwide," he said. "For increasing English and third language learning courses, the ministry will hire 20,000 foreign teachers."

He added that the ministry has urged schools to allow students to express their opinions, and had opened the website: www.nataphol.com to enable students to submit comments directly to the ministry.

He said he was not opposed to the Bad Students' protest at the Ministry of Education.

"We are ready to hear their suggestions if they come to hold a protest at the ministry," he said.

"If they want me to resign because I cannot meet all their demands, government officials in the ministry also would resign because the ministry has solved various issues for them, while there were a variety of channels to express opinions unlike in the past."

In the case of some 109 educational institutes not allowing students to make symbolic expressions, he added that this would not occur again. The ministry had already talked with teachers, students and parents, while there were no schools that had instructed students to refrain from making symbolic expressions, he added.

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