Big payments to get into top schools may be illegal, but a system to get around the rules has been created.
In photo above poor Karen and Lua hilltribe children attend school in mountainous Mae Hong Son province.
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COMMENTARY: Education Ministry is the problem by Sanitsuda Ekachai
When my young co-worker was trying to enrol her child into a prestigious school, my first question to her was: "How much did you tell them you would pay?"
The figure was in the mid five-figures range. An exorbitant amount of money for her, but a necessary investment for her child's education and future, she said.
"I'm worried," she added, sighing. "I heard other parents would pay up to six and seven figures. I wouldn't have a chance."
Money is not the only channel to get a seat in the best schools, however. Connections count. Like other parents, she frantically started finding people who knew the school administrator who could help.
This is the stressful game all parents must play if they want to enrol their children into famous schools for access to academic excellence and work success.
Since "tea money" for school admissions is illegal, many schools in need of financial support to train teachers and improve school facilities have devised a system to avoid being targeted for misconduct, as well as to maintain quality control and the school's allure.
The system requires parents to overcome many hurdles.
First is the tough screening exam to ensure that the school still gets the cream of the crop to maintain brand reputation. Fierce competition then starts very early, forcing the kids to attend tutorial schools from kindergarten onwards.
But having good scores is not enough. Many schools require the parents of prospective students to be actively involved in the parent-and-teacher associations for a number of years, to heighten their children's chances of school admission.
Tea money is also no longer called tea money. It is pledged donations for school development.
When there are much more qualified students and engaged parents than available school seats, the pledged donations can make or break the parents' dream. Hence the fierce donation bidding game.
Education Minister Woravut Au-apinyakul is right when he says the law has failed to stem the "pae jia" or school admission tea money, and pushing it underground only fosters corruption.
But he is totally wrong to believe his plan to legalise school admission tea money is the solution.
As education minister from a political party that rode to election victory on the disparity ticket, Mr Worawut should know better than anybody else what education problems plague our country
Amid the serious education gap, the Education Ministry's policy that equates rote-learning to academic excellence has enabled well-off kids who can afford expensive tutorials to get ahead, leaving the poor further behind.
Amid the rising popular frustrations against social injustice, the current education system still endorses the hierarchical social structure that perpetuates disdain for the poor and exploitation of the weak.
To defuse ethnic tensions, the country needs to embrace cultural pluralism and tolerance. Yet the education system continues to contaminate young minds with ethnic prejudice and ultra-nationalism.
Against the ever-louder cry for decentralisation, the education authorities still fiercely hold on to central power that prevents local communities from managing the education of their children.
The "pae jia" or tea money system is the byproduct of disparity and the education authorities' not understanding the value of learning. This problem will not end with top-down orders from the minister. Neither will it end when school decision-making is being monopolised by school directors.
Each community is different. With active participation in school management from parents and communities, they can choose their own different methods to manage the "pae jia" money.
Participatory education reform is the key answer. But this is a pipe dream when the centralised Education Ministry refuses to budge.
What we need is not the "opening up" of the tea money system as proposed by Mr Woravut. We need the "opening up" of the Education Ministry. The "pae jia" is not the problem. The Education Ministry is.
Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor, Bangkok Post
(Source: Bangkok Post, COMMENTARY, Education Ministry is the problem, 15/09/2011, Sanitsuda Ekachai, link)
Education Policy Vocabulary
"tea money" (pae jia) - the words used to describe the money given by parents to support schools (which they insist not be called a "bribe")
admission - permission to enter a place การเข้าชม การเข้างาน
school admissions - when a student gains entry to a school (can: 1. take a series of classes at the school; and 2. receive a degree)
school admission tea money - extra money that parents must pay to the government school (that operates with taxpayer money) (example: The wife of the low-ranking policeman could not afford 50,000 baht, so her child could not go to the best school in town even though her child had very high test scores.)
co-worker - a person you work with
enrol - register, sign up; put yourself (or your child) onto the official list of members of a course or college ลงทะเบียน สมัคร
prestigious - admired and respected by many people ที่มีชื่อเสียง ที่ได้รับความนับถือ
prestigious - respected and admired by many people
prestigious school - a famous school, respected and admired by all
figure - an amount of money จำนวนเงิน
the figure was in the mid five-figures range - around 50,000 baht (five digits: 5,0,0,0,0)
exorbitant - (especially of prices or demands) much too large มากเกินไป สูงเกินไป
exorbitant amount - very large amount, too much
investment - taking your money and putting it into projects to make a profit or earn interest (buying stock shares, bonds, real estate)
necessary investment for her child's education and future
sigh - letting out a deep breath and making a low sound (expressing feelings disappointment, tiredness or pleasure)
five figures - 10,000 or more
six figures - 100,000 or more
seven figures - 1,000,000 or more
would pay up to six and seven figures - can pay up to 100,000 or 1,000,000 if necessary
I wouldn't have a chance - I wouldn't have an opportunity (would not be able to do)
channel - a way of communicating with people or getting something done ช่องทาง
connections - the people you know, who can help you with your problems (social connections, business connections, family connections)
connections count - the people you know (and who can help you) are important
frantically - done in a frightened and worried way, with great energy
school administrator - a high level manager at a school
stressful - causing stress (difficulties that cause you to feel worried, nervous, tense)
access - the right or opportunity to have or use something ได้รับสิทธิ์หรือโอกาสในการใช้
academic - someone who teaches at a college, or who studies as part of their job นักวิชาการ
excellence - the quality of being extremely good ความเป็นเลิศ
access to academic excellence - able to have good teachers, good books, good library and study with other motivated students who want to learn
illegal - against the law อย่างผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
support - help, by giving money, for example สนับสนุน
financial support - helping by giving money
improve - to make better ทำให้ดีขึ้น
facilities - the buildings, equipment and services provided for a particular purpose สิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก
improve school facilities - make the buildings and equipment in a school better
devise a system - create a system
targeted - intended to attack or act against someone or something ตั้งเป้า เล็ง มุ่ง ตกเป็นเป้า
misconduct - unacceptable or bad behaviour by someone in a position of authority or responsibility การประพฤติผิด
avoid being targeted for misconduct - act so that officials accuse you and punish you for breaking the rules
maintain - keep in good condition รักษา
quality control - making sure that a task produces high quality output (checking the output to make sure)
allure -a pleasing, exciting, or famous quality that something has (example: the allure of being able to say that you graduated from Harvard)
the school's allure -
overcome - solve a problem or put and end to a difficulty; succeed in controlling or dealing a problem ต่อสู้อุปสรรคจนสำเร็จสำมารถดำเนินการต่อไปได้
overcome many hurdles - solve many problems and difficulties
tough - difficult to do or to deal with ยาก ยากลำบาก
screening - checking before accepting, checking for problems, safety, or suitability
tough screening exam - a difficult test (to check and see if children have the skills to succeed at the school)
ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
the cream of the crop - the best
brand - a type of product made by a particular company ตรา, ยี่ห้อ
reputation - being famous, the opinion that people have about you, remembered or known by the public for something (for example, a reputation among his friends for working quickly, good reputation, bad reputation) ชื่อเสียง ความนับหน้าถือตา ที่เป็นที่รู้จัก
brand reputation - what people think about a company's brand of product (good reputation or bad reputation)
fierce - very intense and very aggressive
fierce competition - very intense and aggressive competition (fightning for some scarce good)
tutorial schools - special schools that students go to after school, on the weekends and during break (to help them do better in school)
attend school - when a child goes to a school (takes a series of classes, graduates and gets a diploma in the end)
attend tutorial schools - go to tutorial schools
prospective students - children who might become students
actively involved in
parent-and-teacher association (PTA) - an organization of parents, teachers and staff to help parents participate and get involved with activities in a public or private school (See Wikipedia)
heighten their children's chances - increase the likelihood or probability of gaining school admission for their child
qualified students - students
engaged - actively involved in what you are doing
engaged parents - parents who are actively involved in their children's education and school activities
can make or break the parents' dream - important for success of dreams or plans (can do or fail to do what they dream of doing)
donation - money given by people to help some project or organisation financially เงินหรือสิ่งของบริจาค
pledged - seriously promised to do something สาบาน
pledged donations - promise to give money at a certain time (or at regular times in the future)
bidding - making an offer in an auction (here trying to offer to do project for lowest cost and thus win contract)
fierce donation bidding game - rich parents offering more and more money to get their children into a famous school
development - the gradual growth, formation and improvement of something
school development - improving the school over time
stem - to stop something from increasing or spreading หยุดยั้ง,ยับยั้ง,สกัด
corruption - (See Wikipedia on bribery, political corruption)
stem corruption - stop corruption
underground - hidden, activity done in secret
foster - help or cause something to grow and increase
foster corruption - help make corruption grow and increase
pushing it underground only fosters corruption
legalise - to make something be according to the law ทำให้มีอำนาจตามกฎหมาย ทำให้ถูกต้องตามกฎหมาย
election - the process of choosing a person or a group of person for a position, especially by voting elect (v) electoral (adj) synonym: the polls การเลือกตั้ง
disparity - a big difference between two things (here: income difference between rich and poor)
a political party that rode to election victory on the disparity ticket - the political party won because they promised they would end disparity
gap - a large difference between people or groups ช่องว่าง
education gap - difference in the quantity or quality of education (and also opportunity to meet future leaders of the country, children at prestigious schools)
policy - a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group นโยบาย (See Wikipedia)
equates X to Y - saying that X and Y are the same
rote-learning - learning by repeating things and memorizing them (instead of active problem solving, extending knowledge and applying it to solve new and different problems) (See Wikipedia)
academic excellence - when a teacher or a school has provided an excellence education to many students
equates rote-learning to academic excellence - thinks that memorizing things is the same as getting an excellent education (actually, being able to extend knowledge and solve new unmemorised problems,
well-off kids - rich children
afford - to have enough money to be able to pay for something มีเงินพอจับจ่าย ซื้อหา
afford expensive tutorials - have enough money to hire skilled teachers outside school to help their kids
injustice - failure to treat someone fairly and to respect their rights ความไม่ยุติธรรม
rising popular frustrations against social injustice - people don't accept unfair treatment anymore
current - of the present time ปัจจุบัน
hierarchical social structure - of a society or organisation in which differences in social position are very important ตามลำดับขั้น
endorses the hierarchical social structure
disdain - look down on; dislike for other people (because you think they are inferior, not important, not as good as you, etc) ดูถูก
disdain for the poor - dislike for poor people; look down on poor people
X perpetuates Y - X causes Y to continue (X aids in the continued existence of Y)
perpetuates disdain for the poor - causes people to continue to look down on the poor
exploitation - unfair treatment of another person for personal gain, or the use of a situation in a way that is wrong การใช้หาประโยชน์อย่างไม่ถูกต้อง
exploitation of the weak - using the poor and powerless for personal gain
defuse - 1. end a conflict or tense situation; 2. to stop a bomb from exploding by removing its fuse การถอดชนวนระเบิด
tensions - disagreements and lack of trust that could break out in conflict and violence ความตึงเครียด
defuse tensions - end conflicts (that could break out in violence)
ethnic groups - groups with different cultures, languages, traditions and even race (example: Muslim groups or hilltribes such as the Akha or Karen (Kariang near Mae Sot); the Akha in Chiang Rai and Kengtung, Burma and Yunnan, China speak a Tibeto-Burmese and have traditions very different from Thai, Lao or Tai Yai traditions)
ethnic - related to different ethnic groups
ethnic tensions - conflicts between different ethnic groups
defuse ethnic tensions - reduce or end conflicts between different ethnic groups
prejudice - an unreasonable opinion or feeling, liking some people or things more than others ความมีอคติิ, ความลำเอียง
ethnic prejudice - not liking a particular groups of people (for example: black people, people from Laos, hilltribe people)
embrace - 1. to accept something such as a belief, idea, or way of life ยอมรับ น้อมนำมา; 2. to hold someone tightly with both arms to express love, liking or sympathy, or when greeting or leaving someone การสวมกอดอย่างรักใคร่, การโอบกอด
cultural pluralism -
tolerance - allowing other people to say and do as they like (have different opinion) even if you don't agree with it
embrace cultural pluralism and tolerance - accepting cultural pluralism and tolerance (as good things to have)
contaminate - made dirty, poisonous or harmful by dirt, chemicals, germs (bacteria, viruses) or radiation
nationalism - love of one's country, the expression of great love for your own country
ultra-nationalism - extreme love of country (such as the belief that your country is better than other countries, that can affect relations with other countries and cultures in a negative way) ชาตินิยม ความเป็นชาตินิยม
contaminate young minds with ethnic prejudice and ultra-nationalism
decentralisation - the process of moving the control of an organisation or government from a single place to several smaller ones การกระจายอำนาจ
authorities - government officials; the police or people in official organisations who have the legal power to make people obey laws or rules เจ้าหน้าที่ (ตำรวจ หรือผู้มีอำนาจ)
education authorities - government officials in charge of education
fiercely - very strongly อย่างรุนแรง, อย่างดุเดือด
fiercely hold on to central power - when a large organisation continues to make all decisions from the center, instead of delegating some decisionmaking to local units (decentralization)
local - in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
community - local people, all the people who live in a local area or place ชุมชน
local communities - small groups of people who live near each other and know each other (thus can easily cooperate with each other)
X byproduct of Y - X happens as a result of Y happening (Y produces X plus other things)
top-down orders from the minister - the high level person with power (minister) just tells those under him what to do (without involving in the decisionmaking process)
monopolise - keep all for yourself (not let others have any)
school directors - the group that governs the school and makes all high level decisions (like a "board of directors" at a company)
school decision-making monopolised by school directors - the school directors make all important decisions themselves (without consulting or involving the lower level people affected by the decisions in the process)
active participation - being involved in an activity (rather than merely watching it happen)
active participation in school management from parents and communities
reform - improvement; improvements in the way government or an organization operates, a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป
participatory education reform - improving education (and making it fairer) by getting parents and communities more actively involved (in decisionmaking)
key - important คนสำคัญ
the key answer - the important answer
pipe dream - an impossible dream (as one might get when smoking opium from an "opium pipe")
budge - move, change
refuses to budge - will not move or change (even when people ask them to do this)
proposed - suggested (but not yet chosen or decided upon)
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