It is another article where a Thai person points out just one of the many things wrong with Thailand’s education system. Thais have written about it for so long but it never gets fixed and below is one of the things that disgusts me.
The article below is in its entirety and the link to the paper is here at, Education Ministry is the problem! I will print in the full form as often the links go dead from this paper, I don’t know why.
When my young co-worker was trying to enrol her child into a prestigious school, my first question to her was: "How much did you tell them you would pay?"
The figure was in the mid five-figures range. An exorbitant amount of money for her, but a necessary investment for her child's education and future, she said.
"I'm worried," she added, sighing. "I heard other parents would pay up to six and seven figures. I wouldn't have a chance."
Money is not the only channel to get a seat in the best schools, however. Connections count. Like other parents, she frantically started finding people who knew the school administrator who could help.
This is the stressful game all parents must play if they want to enroll their children into famous schools for access to academic excellence and work success.
Since "tea money" for school admissions is illegal, many schools in need of financial support to train teachers and improve school facilities have devised a system to avoid being targeted for misconduct, as well as to maintain quality control and the school's allure.
The system requires parents to overcome many hurdles.
First is the tough screening exam to ensure that the school still gets the cream of the crop to maintain brand reputation. Fierce competition then starts very early, forcing the kids to attend tutorial schools from kindergarten onwards.
But having good scores is not enough. Many schools require the parents of prospective students to be actively involved in the parent-and-teacher associations for a number of years, to heighten their children's chances of school admission.
Tea money is also no longer called tea money. It is pledged donations for school development.
When there are much more qualified students and engaged parents than available school seats, the pledged donations can make or break the parents' dream. Hence the fierce donation bidding game.
Education Minister Woravut Au-apinyakul is right when he says the law has failed to stem the "pae jia" or school admission tea money, and pushing it underground only fosters corruption.
But he is totally wrong to believe his plan to legalise school admission tea money is the solution.
As education minister from a political party that rode to election victory on the disparity ticket, Mr Worawut should know better than anybody else what education problems plague our country.
Amid the serious education gap, the Education Ministry's policy that equates rote-learning to academic excellence has enabled well-off kids who can afford expensive tutorials to get ahead, leaving the poor further behind.
Amid the rising popular frustrations against social injustice, the current education system still endorses the hierarchical social structure that perpetuates disdain for the poor and exploitation of the weak.
To defuse ethnic tensions, the country needs to embrace cultural pluralism and tolerance. Yet the education system continues to contaminate young minds with ethnic prejudice and ultra-nationalism.
Against the ever-louder cry for decentralisation, the education authorities still fiercely hold on to central power that prevents local communities from managing the education of their children.
The "pae jia" or tea money system is the byproduct of disparity and the education authorities' not understanding the value of learning. This problem will not end with top-down orders from the minister. Neither will it end when school decision-making is being monopolised by school directors.
Each community is different. With active participation in school management from parents and communities, they can choose their own different methods to manage the "pae jia" money.
Participatory education reform is the key answer. But this is a pipe dream when the centralised Education Ministry refuses to budge.
What we need is not the "opening up" of the tea money system as proposed by Mr Woravut. We need the "opening up" of the Education Ministry. The "pae jia" is not the problem. The Education Ministry is.
Tea money is illegal, but all schools do it as a donation now, Assumption College, my old school has this on the application form when you apply. You write a figure and then wait to see which class your child gets into. The new school I am at now also does it as well.
And it is “tea money” as simple as that. The money goes where, and how it is spent I shudder to think. An English programme at a school that is meant to be the best for secondary education here in Ubon Ratchathani. The school is not, it is the same fuc#ed up system like every other school and the teacher change over rate is high, last year they sacked the entire foreign teacher force. I met one of them and not a word of a lie, he told us he was a god, he could make it rain, snow and so many other things, and he was teaching there. He was an utter fruit cake, he had so many screws loose but he was teaching there.
I know a parent that paid a six figure amount to get his boy into the programme, I told him he was mad, absolutely mad. The money to this guy isn’t a problem but it secured his boy a spot, his son is useless at English, and that is being polite. He asked me to tutor him about 4 years ago, to prepare him for the entrance exam, his son could hardly read, could not pronounce basic words, no idea about basic grammar as so forth. A nice kid but spoilt and had no chance in hell of passing the exam on merit.
I was paid a stupid amount for an hour of tutoring, two hours each weekend, to try and raise his level of English to a passable standard. After a month I told my friend (a golf buddy) it was a waste of time and money. I told him the truth but we pushed on for the last three months and the poor kid still could not get his head around the basics of “verb to be”, subject / object pronouns and so on, to the hardest part on the entrance test being, describing a picture in detail.
Anyway, a few weeks after the test I played golf with the guy and he told me his boy was in the programme and I was miffed but when he told me how, I understood!
Where Sanitsuda says,
“First is the tough screening exam to ensure that the school still gets the cream of the crop to maintain brand reputation.”
I have not seen this, my old school was private and we tried our hardest to have entrance exams, the reason being the difference in students’ abilities in classes. I am not talking about young learners but secondary students.
Each year we would arrive back for a new year and you would be met by the old, straight and expressionless faces, but also scared to the bone new ones. I remember one student, a boy in year 10, so around 16 years old. After starting the first class of the year and students started their activity, it was time to mingle.
So I made my way around, small chat with some old students and then I arrived at the new fellow. Some basic questions, “What is your nickname? Where do you come from? Where did you study before? How many fingers am I holding up?”
One of my old students said, “He cannot speak English!” I of course enquired to why and it came out that he had never studied with a foreigner before and not really learnt English before at his old school.
So I arranged for him to be brought to my office at lunchtime and I gave him a basic test. I gave him the test I gave to all my primary 1 students (6 and 7 year olds) when we started each year.
I had laminated sheets with some basic words printed on them. Things like, cat, dog, boy, girl, one, two, the, it and so on. He could not read one word, not one.
I grabbed the other test I gave the primary one students, the alphabet. A sheet of laminated paper with the alphabet mixed up. So I started pointing to letters and he got two letters correct, that was it. I was pissed off, not at him, it wasn’t his fault. I was pissed at the administration. The administration who accepts these kids and cheat them out of an education. That is what they are doing! They are cheating the students as these kids have absolutely no hope in an English programme studying about perfect tenses, passive voices, adjectives order, reading and comprehension and the list goes on.
And we had a basic entrance test, a primary three or four test that these students had to do, but pass or fail they were accepted as they paid their school fees, paid their “tea money” and peoples' pockets were padded and they were happy.
“Amid the serious education gap, the Education Ministry's policy that equates rote-learning to academic excellence has enabled well-off kids who can afford expensive tutorials to get ahead, leaving the poor further behind.”
Again so true, rote learning saturates the Thai education system; I have seen it day in and out. I have never come across people who are meant to be educators that are plain selfish. I do not think I have ever met a Thai teacher that I can truthfully say gives 100% in their class to make it a student centred learning environment.
This is pure gold, Sanitsuda said,
“To defuse ethnic tensions, the country needs to embrace cultural pluralism and tolerance. Yet the education system continues to contaminate young minds with ethnic prejudice and ultra-nationalism.”
I like this,
“Neither will it end when school decision-making is being monopolised by school directors.”
School directors (principal) are seen as gods here. The masses bow and grovel to them. Thai principals are nothing of principals I remember from home, back home principals were so active with the running of the schools, most rolled up sleeves are got the arms dirty, kept all the parts well greased.
My old school, I never saw my first director (4 years he was there) once walk into my classroom, to say “hello” or just check that I wasn’t asleep, throwing kids out windows, belting the shit of students with small cane sticks or rulers, not once in 4 years. I think he walked past my classroom a few times but that was it.
I am horrified at the amount of classes that go unattended. Every day I have to endure students from other classes loitering outside the classroom I am teaching, some even enter to see what I am teaching, others run up and down the corridor and when I enquire to what they are doing, the reply is usually always, “The teacher didn’t come.”
Teachers are often in meetings, away at competitions, and the best are the ones that go the class ten minutes late, give some work and then leave, back to their office thinking that twelve or thirteen old kids will sit down and complete their work quietly.
I have been critical of the Ministry of Education (MOE) many times here. I have written my thoughts plenty of times and often scathing. I have at times emailaed them; I have written around 7 emails over the last 6 years and never had a reply.
I had people warn me about doing this, they said, “you could be refused a teaching licence, they won’t allow you to teach, you will be kicked out of the country,” and so on.
I don’t give two hoots if they refused a licence, didn’t let me teach. Go for it. People should be able to be critical of a government department that continues to fail in its duties as The MOE does.
I just wish they would retrench the entire MOE department and the majority of directors of schools across Thailand and replace them with people who are dedicated to their job, live and breathe it, want to improve the system for the better of the children.
I personally believe now that 90% of these people do not have the best interests of students in their thoughts. The students should come first, above all else in my book, but they are sadly so far down the rung on the ladder.
Thailand’s education system is in a shambles, it is the complete mess that is written about it, and the terribly low scores that are collated each year after national tests are true, this is because the students’ level of competence for their age for the majority is poor.
I do hope that people, like the above columnist continue to write about the education system and its failings as they have done for years, you hope that one day there has to be one person at a high level that takes a step to start to change things for the better.
I can only hope this for the children of Thailand.