Govt to merge 2,290 small schools

A least 2,290 small schools will be merged with larger ones, according to Education Ministry plans for managing schools with fewer than 60 students.

Education activists march from the Royal Plaza to the Education Ministry on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue Thursday to rally against the ministry's plan to close down schools regarded as too small to continue operating. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Chinnapat Bhumirat, secretary-general of the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec), which is overseeing the plan, said Thursday 179 out of 182 provincial educational zones had submitted their reports on which schools should merge.

Obec is still waiting for figures from the other three zones, he said.

Some students from these small schools would be transferred to study at larger schools nearby, he said.

Mr Chinnapat said the small school merger plan involved splitting the schools into four groups.

First, all 648 primary-level schools would be merged with bigger ones. Second, either primary division (Grades 1-3) students or junior division (Grades 4-6) students in 484 schools will transfer to larger schools.

Third, some primary level students in 781 schools will transfer.

In the last group, some but not all students from 377 higher-grade schools will be transferred to study in bigger schools.

Who they are will depend upon what subjects they are studying.

However, Mr Chinnapat said the ministry had no plans yet to close down any small school buildings.

He said the ministry would ask local authorities and residents to make use of the buildings if there were no students left there.

He insisted at least 2,200 small schools nationwide would remain open and that 300 of them were located in special areas such as in some suburban areas, on islands and areas in the deep South.

He is likely to get the reports from the other three zones today, after which he would forward the total number of small schools to be merged to a joint committee for further discussion.

The joint panel, comprising critics of the scheme and the Education Ministry, was set up after the Thai Alternative Education Council Association (TAECA), an NGO working on alternative education promotion, and its allies met Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana about the plan.

The TAECA and its allies wanted the ministry to review the plan. They set up the joint panel chaired by former deputy education minister Sirikorn Maneerin and Mr Chinnapat as the deputy chairman.

Meanwhile, about 200 people from the TAECA and its allies set up a stage to discuss the issue in front of the ministry.

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Writer: Lamphai Intathep
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