The exemptions will be a few schools in remote areas.
The education minister was speaking during an inspection of Chumchon Samphrao School in Muang district of Udon Thani province, one of the schools included in the planned mergers.
Gen Dapong said there are 15,537 schools with fewer than 120 students, according to the Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec). These small schools with be merged with selected main schools, which will results in better management and better teaching, he said.
Implementation of the plan had begun this year with 827 schools, each with fewer than 20 students, to be merged with 300 main schools located near to them. Teachers and students at the small schools were being transferred to the bigger schools.
The Education Ministry had a target to complete the mergers within five years, he said.
Chumchon Samphrao School is absorbing a total of 57 students and 11 teachers from two nearby schools, Ban Nayat and Ban Maet.
Gen Dapong said the process will be gradual over the next few years. First, schools with fewer than 40 pupils will be merged with larger schools, then 60, 80 and 120 students. This would result in stronger management and better quality education.
However, not all small schools would be shut down, he said. Some were located in remote communities with no large school nearby.
Udon Thani governor Chayawut Chantarathorn said the province attaches more importance to the development of human resources than building of infrastructure.
This was one of the nine development strategies of the province, he said.
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