In a recent meeting of the Trat Provincial Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Governor Pinyo Prakobphon proposed that students wear school uniforms to online classes. The Governor argued that wearing uniforms would improve discipline and academic performance. He said schools will decide whether the policy should be enforced but his proposal has drawn considerable online criticism.
A 31 May directive from the Trat Primary Educational Service Area Office asked that provincial school directors require students who attend online classes this month to wear uniforms “to promote order and discipline.” According to the document, Trat Governor Pinyo Prakobphon raised the idea in provincial CCSA meeting.
A local website, tratonline.info, reported the development on 1 June, asking parents for their views on the matter. A number responded critically, noting the financial burden this posed and pointing out the absurdity of wearing uniforms to online classrooms. Additional criticism arose after Bad Students, an activist group advocating education reform, shared the story on Facebook.
Publicly mocking the policy, The Studio Apollo, a local design studio, created a student uniform camera filter, compatible with Google Meet, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. With the filter installed, a student appears to be wearing a uniform, precluding the need to actually put one on.
Many profile pictures were also posted online using a student uniform overlay published on Facebook by ‘Hua Num’. An abbreviation on the right side of the uniform chest reportedly stands for ‘With stupid leaders, we are all going to die’.
On 2 June, the Governor responded to the criticisms, saying that it was merely a suggestion while reiterating that schools were free to disregard it. According to Tratonline, Governor Pinyo said he was passing on a proposal from Bangkok counterparts. He also suggested that prayer and attendance taking be required as well.
The Governor defended his proposal, claiming that it would improve student concentration and academic performance by making sure that students bathed before coming to class. With regard to the criticism that his policy would create a financial burden for parents, Governor Pinyo noted that as students already had uniforms there was no need to buy new ones.
Like most provincial governors in Thailand, Governor Pinyo was appointed by the Ministry of Interior and does not need to stand for election.
The Trat Provincial CCSA announced that from 1 June, teaching in the province will be conducted by giving students materials to study at home, allowing students to engage in self-paced learning with various applications, conducting courses on cable television, and teaching over the internet. Students will be allowed to return to schools from 14 June.
Minister of Education Trinuch Thianthong announced on 31 May that a school can reopen classes if they pass the Ministry’s Thai Stop Covid Plus (TSC+) assessment programme and get permission from the Provincial CCSA.
Minister Trinuch also said that she signed an order on 19 May which allows schools to waive tuition and other fees in the 1st semester of academic year 2021 to alleviate the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. She added that if schools found it necessary to collect tuition fees, payment could be delayed or discounted and encouraged schools to consider providing other relief measures for families affected by Covid-19.
The announcement came as Parliament passed the National Budget Act for 2022. The Ministry of Education will receive 332,000 million baht, the largest of the 20 ministries in Thailand. The budget is 24,000 million baht, 6.7 percent, less than the amount allocated in 2021.
In Parliament, Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, a member of the opposition Move Forward Party pointed out that the budget for disadvantaged children was cut from 604 to 532 million baht, despite the fact that the pandemic had caused the number of disadvantaged children in country to increase from 33,528 in 2020 to 34,005 in 2021. Wiroj added that this reduced the per capita budget per child by 2,781, leaving each to receive only 15,657 baht per year.
Trinuch defended the budget proposal in the parliament, saying that the reduction was due to Thailand’s declining birth rate.