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More teachers and students find themselves in debt Print E-mail


Whilst Surapong Suebwonglee, the Finance Minister informs us that inflation is still under control, increased rice prices and the failure of this increased revenue to impact positively on local farmers adds to the already dangerous scenario where parents and teachers are finding themselves deeper and deeper in debt. 


The Income Contingent Loan Scheme needs to have its lending criteria reassessed to ensure that those unqualified for the loans do not benefit and that those who are in need of help actually get it. Earlier this year it was reported by the Office of the Student loan Fund that 90,000 students had failed to submit any repayment instalments during the past five years.


Encouraging students to take up part time employment will prove difficult if they are already having 32 contact hours a week at their university.


A recent survey revealed that approximately 100,000 teachers out of 600,000 that took part in the survey were in debt to the tune of an average of 1.2 million baht a person. The survey revealed that this was because of the costs of providing family support and living beyond their means.


The biggest danger here is the amount of non formal loans, or money borrowed from money lenders, which obviously attract a much higher rate of interest.


The Education Ministry has already set up a mobile financial clinic to ease the financial burden for teachers; however, is this really enough? If you look at the problem as to why teachers are in debt, you only have to look at the wages that contract teachers in government schools earn.


Compare the starting wage of a qualified teacher after five years of university training of 7,500 baht a month to that of an Issan third year student from a technical college working for Daikin as an intern at Amata Industrial Estate in Rayong of 8,000 baht a month.  


Bonus payments based on key performance indicators has resulted in one off payments to staff which are a welcome respite; although it does not tackle the core problem of a low salary.


The Deputy Finance Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee stated that the ministry aims to increase the minimum salary of workers under state contracts by 20%. If this were the case, then it would be a welcome cash injection into the lives of our overworked and undervalued teachers.


India, a country that is emerging from being a sleeping economic giant has recently cancelled small farmers’ debts. The cost of this is put at approximately 450 billion baht. This, in addition to the management of the supply side of food articles in conjunction with keeping inflation under control, is India’s way of boosting their economy.Whilst this is seen as a populist measure for the forthcoming election in 2009, one wonders what would happen in Thailand if similar measures were to be taken.


 In my opinion, education reflects on society and the economy and when the chief executive officer of Kasikornbank, Banthoon Lamsam in the Bangkok Post, informs us that a recent  poll, “..found that a majority of the public can forgive corruption by their politicians so long as they are successful.” I agree with him that, “If Thais still believe this, then we will have problems.”


Last December Chalongphob Sussangkarn the Finance Minister was also reported in the Bangkok Post as stating that “…more than half of the eligible voters, at around 60%, have only primary education. It wouldn’t be until 2010 before the majority have a secondary education or higher.” So the situation may be changing for the better.


Government policies tend to focus on output and the amount of free education that is available; whereas the quality of the education that is available is where the real emphasis should be concentrated.


In my opinion, the quality of teaching and learning can be improved if the burden of debt can be lifted. Teachers and students need government help if they are to get themselves out of their financial difficulties. Parents have the opportunity to influence education and economic policy by engaging with politicians and school directors, so that in the future there may be more opportunities for all children to be educated.

Buy me something!


Some self control and rethinking of ideas may be needed by some people to get out of mounting debt.


(Unedited article published in The Bangkok Post, 24th June 2008)

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