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UN representative queries Education Ministry’s response to students’ complaints

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United Nations resident coordinator in Thailand, Gita Sabharwal, visited Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan on Monday (September 21) to enquire how the ministry plans to respond to recent student protests. 



Students across the nation recently protested against many obsolete school regulations such as forced short haircuts, and these protests slowly escalated into rallies against the establishment. 
After the meeting, the minister said Sabharwal sympathised with the ministry and also suggested that the students’ move was “very bold” and “rarely seen in any other country”. 
She also asked how the ministry plans to respond to the flurry of opinions submitted to the ministry by students, Nataphol said. He added that he told the UN coordinator that the information collected via several platforms, including, will be used to improve his ministry’s moves to reform the education system and also ensure the students’ information is fully protected. 
Nataphol said teaching staff nationwide have petitioned for an improvement to the evaluation process for promotions, while the ministry is also seriously looking into revising the curriculum and elevating the standard of teaching. 
“I assured Gita that the information we are gathering is very beneficial to our reform process, and all the complaints revolve around the original reform plan that the Education Ministry had completed earlier this year,” the minister said. 
When asked if he is concerned about the ongoing protests, Nataphol said the Education Ministry has already acted upon several school policies in response to the students’ demands. However, he said, some demands are controversial and will take more time to evaluate. 
As for removing Grade 1 entrance exams, Nataphol said policies are already in place to remove these exams, but every school will have to adhere to this new rule to ensure that reform is in place. 
In relation to classroom sizes, he said new rules stipulate that classrooms have no more than 40 students at any given time, to ensure teaching standards are met and students have equal access to quality education. 
“I don’t want any classroom to have more than 40 students. This may be tough for some large schools that have 4,000 to 5,000 students as they may not have enough available classrooms. However, large classrooms do not offer an ideal learning environment for all students, which causes education inequality. We must work harder in finding alternatives and improved measures to ensure the students we produce in rural areas are as competitive as those produced in urban settings,” the minister added.

Published : September 21, 2020

By : The Nation