Country just does not have enough good public schools
Several thousand students who failed their entrance exams will have to go through a draw process for admission into public secondary schools tomorrow.
Of that number, around 8,000 of them will fail to get places from the number of seats earmarked for local residents, according to the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec).
It is just tough. I can bet that no parents would want to send their children to attend the draw. It is such a torment: a kid standing on shaking legs draws a coupon and sees if he/she gets the place in the school.
Yet the draw is the best solution thus far that the public schools have used to allocate seats to students after the examination process.
Admissions this year started with the bold initiative of Education Minister Wijit Srisa-an who announced a ban on "tea money" and any kind of donation being given during the admissions process. Undoubtedly, it was a measure introduced with good intentions. However parents doubt if it is the most effective solution for solving admission problems that have been accumulating for decades.
The fact is that there are just not enough good public schools around.
A simple - very simple - piece of proof is that there has not been much change in the growth of schools, either in quality or quantity.
That is why famous schools including Hat Yai Wittaya, Satri Wittaya, Suan Kularb, Bordin Decha, Triam Udom Sueksa Pattanakarn and Samsen Wittayalai have had the highest number of applicants in past decades.
It is not difficult to read through statistics and determine whether the government really cares about public education. It just takes a bit of simple math - more schools should have been built to go along with the expansion of residential areas.
Take the Obec Region 2 of Bangkok, where housing estates have been mushrooming over the past 20 years as an example - the ratio of students to schools is highly skewed. Well-known schools like Bordin Decha and Triam Udom Sueksa Pattanakarn had over 3,300 applicants each, while the number of seats they had available for entrance exams was only about 250. Contrary to the Obec announcement saying that the schools were operating on a 7:1 ratio for students to seats, it is almost twice as competitive just because Obec doesn't exclude the quota of students from the draw. For example, Triam accepts only 250 students from the exam and the other half will come from the draw. Certainly all of these facts and figures are nothing new for Wijit and the officials at Obec, especially the officials who have seen them year after year.
The education minister recently announced that schools are allowed to receive donations after school admissions are finalised. On paper it says that this is permitted 15 days after the schools formally announce the names of successful candidates.
In reality, the process started earlier. Only for inexperienced parents will it start right after the draw process. Obec also allows schools to take additional students depending on their capacity. All measures - again put forward with good intentions - are meant as emergency aid so that this year's admissions go smoothly. There is nothing new with this kind of problem. Wijit may have tried his best. If he were a doctor, he would have been good enough to make the symptoms stable if not actually cure the disease.
All past governments have demonstrated hardly any political will towards education. Once we dreamt of schools with Internet access. Many times we mentioned something more significant like education reform. Yet policy-makers may have forgotten that you cannot build anything without a good foundation.
For a start, may a parent like me humbly suggest that the ministry must first and foremost build enough quality schools? If this were to happen in the future, one "tomorrow" in the near future will no longer be a day that children aged 11 to 12 will have to line up to pick something from a box that will decide their fates.