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Goodbye Sheldon Shaeffer Print E-mail


The end of December saw the retirement of Sheldon Shaeffer from his position as UNESCO Bangkok director. His two articles in the Bangkok Post made interesting reading. The former UNESCO director highlighted eight “challenges to education,” two of which I feel are connected and deserve closer scrutiny.  In his first article, Sheldon Shaeffer points out that there is increasing evidence of corruption in the world’s education systems, giving the example of teachers only providing the full curriculum to their students through private paid tuition.


The reason why I find this particularly worrying is that we all know that it goes on; however, we are not prepared to do anything about it. As a teacher and parent, I don’t have any problems with parents sending their children for extra classes after school, although to deliberately not teach the syllabus in order to make personal gain is really quite callous.


The big problem here is that as long as parents are prepared to pay, this abhorrent practice will continue to flourish, especially when parents lie to each other and hide the truth of what they are doing from their friends.


Sheldon Shaeffer also focussed on the expanding diversification of programmes and options at all levels of the system. This increase in demand for better materials and teachers compounds Thailand’s existing education dilemma in that it does not address the problem of the deployment of teachers, especially with regard to basic education requirements.


In his second article, he asks what kind of teacher usually gets assigned to the first grade of primary school. His answer was usually, not the best. The solution, we are told is to assign good teachers to where they are needed most.


In my opinion, the problem here is that there is a murky and opaque system as to how teachers are allocated positions in schools within districts. It involves the payment of money to secure the best positions at the best schools. The vast sums concerned do not find their way back into the education system, but into someone’s pocket.


Financially astute teachers will realise that it will not take long to recoup this money as there will be the opportunity to conduct private lessons, which brings us back to the first point highlighted in this article. And so the vicious circle goes around again.


There are some teachers who will talk openly about these subjects; however the vast majority keep the subject under raps, thus perpetuating the lie and these dishonest practices.


There is no point in blaming the government over this matter. Legislation is in place to prevent corruption of various sorts arising; however, it is the personal greed of the individual that motivates them to extort money out of our parents and teachers in order to satisfy their lust for cash.


In my opinion, it is up to all of us to decided whether to allow the present system to go on unchallenged or to stand up for what is right. It might be painful for some, as we all want what is best for our children; however, I happen to be one of those parents who decided not to line the pockets of dishonest teachers and administrators. Will anyone else join me?


Sheldon Shaeffer


Pupils from Bantatprachanukoon School in Ban Phue district Udon Thani. Surely our children deserve the best from out teachers and education system?
(Unedited article published in the Bangkok Post 3rd March 2009)



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