Speaking at a forum held by the Equitable Education Fund (EEF) yesterday (Jan 28), Sompong Jitradub, a lecturer with Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education, urged the government to come up with a plan to help these students cope, saying school closures will have an adverse impact on the entire nation if not addressed.
“Since the COVID-19 outbreak, schools in Thailand have been forced to stop providing in-person education for about 90 days, or about 40%, of the academic year. As a result, the quality of education for many students has deteriorated,” he said.
Mr Sompong said a recent study found spending long periods out of school can cut students’ maths knowledge by half and their literacy by almost a third. “Education inequalities between poor and well-off students were already an issue in Thailand, even before the pandemic,” he said.
“If we do nothing to reverse the learning losses during the pandemic, the gap will be even wider, which may lead to a cycle of poverty that repeats over multiple generations.”
Mr Sompong said the government has launched several economic stimulus and relief packages, but he has not seen remedial programmes for education yet.
“We only see schemes like Thai Chana (“Thais Win”) and Rao Chana (“We Win”), but not Rongrien Chana (“Schools Win”),” he said. “The government should consider creating a Rongrien Chana scheme to ensure learning recovery and reduce drop-out rates.”
EEF education economist Pumsaran Tongliemnak said many countries are now concerned about the long-term impact of lost teaching time caused by COVID-19. For example, he said, the UK has set up a £1 billion fund (about B41bn) to help pupils catch up on missed classes.
He said the UK has also set up the National Tutoring Programme to give schools access to subsidised tutoring sessions and free coaches, which covers up to two million disadvantaged pupils.
“Many countries already have a plan, so Thailand should have one as well. We might not be able to see the impact of school closures now, but we now know that it could cost us in the future,” he said.
In addition, Nanthaporn Chancharia Seributra, head of Starfish Country Home School Foundation, urged the government to come up with a plan to support the mental wellbeing of children when schools reopen. Learning from home for a long time can affect children’s social and emotional development, she said.