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close this bookReducing Girls' Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS: The Thai Approach (UNAIDS, 1999, 56 p.)
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentWhy girls become prostitutes
View the documentThe particular vulnerability to HIV/AIDS of sex workers in Thailand
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View the documentAppendix A: Thailand’s Education System
View the documentAppendix B: The Thai Women of Tomorrow Project Partnership Structure
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Appendix A: Thailand’s Education System

The reformed education system in Thailand is presented in Figure 1. Four government agencies are responsible for the formal education system: the Office of Prime Minister, Ministry of Education, Ministry of the Interior, and Ministry of University Affairs. Pre-university education is provided mainly by the public sector. At present, the formal school system in Thailand is divided into four levels: kindergarten, primary, secondary and tertiary. Compulsory free education is set at six years, equal to completion of Grade 6, though efforts are under way to expand compulsory education to nine and then twelve years. By Grade 6, most children have reached 12 years of age.

In 1990, secondary school enrolment was only 30 per cent and unevenly distributed across the total population (TDRI, 1991). Table 3 shows that children from farming families are least likely to rise in the education ladder, with only 14.5 per cent receiving a secondary school education, compared to 96 per cent for professional and business families and 24 per cent for labourer families. Poverty is seen as the main reason that children of farming families are unable to continue their education.

Table 3.
Gross Enrolment Rates for Children from Households of Different Occupations: Secondary and Tertiary Level (1985)

Occupation

Secondary

Tertiary

Proportion of total population

Professional and business

95.8%

57.7%

12.8%

Labourers

24.2%

7.1%

21.3%

Farmers

14.5%

1.7%

65.9%

Source: TDRI, The 1991 Year-End Conference, Educational Options for the Future of Thailand, Volume 1:7.

With respect to gender, boys have slightly more opportunity than girls to pursue higher education. In 1990, 38 per cent of boys continued their education to Grade 7 as against 36 per cent of girls. In 1992, the figures were higher, 48 per cent and 46 per cent, but the gender differential was only slightly smaller. Table 4 breaks these figures down by region.

Table 4.
Continuation Rates of Boys and Girls from Grade 6 to Grade 7 (1990-1992)

Regions

1990

1991

1992


Boys

Girls

B>G

Boys

Girls

B>G

Boys

Girls

B>G

Bangkok

75.8

75.5

0.3

76.1

74.7

1.4

76.2

74.2

2.0

Central

48.6

47.1

1.5

53.2

52.2

1.0

58.1

56.9

1.2

South

38.4

35.9

2.5

42.1

39.4

2.7

45.5

43.3

2.2

North

35.9

33.5

2.4

41.1

38.7

2.4

46.8

45.2

1.6

Northeast

26.0

23.4

2.6

31.1

28.6

2.5

38.3

36.1

2.2

Whole Country

38.3

36.3

2.0

42.9

40.9

2.0

48.4

46.6

1.8

Source: Office of National Education Commission, 1995. Evaluation of Extension of Education Opportunities: Secondary Education level, Table 14, p.52.

The environment surrounding this situation is changing, however. Parents acknowledge that a Grade 6 certificate is no longer sufficient for employment in the labour market and the difference in wages between workers with and without secondary education is obvious. In addition, children who finish primary school are usually too young (about age 12) to legally enter the labour market (the age of legal entry is 13 years). Thus education beyond primary school is clearly seen as important for their children’s future; the main obstacle to advancement is the cost. The 1992 Children and Youth Survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO) showed that 53 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 who were not attending school had no financial support, while 20 per cent said they had to work to earn a living; only 10 per cent reported no interest in further study. The average direct cost, including fees, books and materials, uniforms, transportation, etc., is about 1,425 baht (about US$ 36) per year for lower secondary school.


The structure of the Reformed Education System

Responding to this low secondary enrolment rate, the MOE began two projects:

1. Extension of Basic Education to the Lower Secondary Level, initiated by the Department of General Education;

2. A Pilot Project for the Extension of Educational Opportunities, initiated by the Office of the National Primary Education Commission (ONPEC).

After these projects were implemented, the secondary school enrolment rate increased markedly, from 30 per cent in 1990 to 85 per cent in 1994, according to data from the National Education Commission.

However, children from poor agricultural families, the most vulnerable group, remained at a disadvantage, because these two government projects covered only costs related to tuition fees, free uniforms and textbooks. Travel and meal expenses, as well as costly but required uniforms for other activities such as physical education and boy scouts/girl scouts, were not provided. Moreover, a study by the Office of the National Education Commission noted that personal costs for education are about two and one-half times greater than direct education costs. This is compounded by the indirect cost of loss of income when children are in school rather than working on the farm or in other jobs.