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Power shift may help local mafia

THAILAND

TEACHERS fear criminal gangs will syphon off scarce school funds if a planned shake-up of the country's education system succeeds. Under the new National Education Act, control of the nation's 40,000 schools will be decentralised.

But teachers believe local mafia chiefs, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats will be able to cream off funds intended for equipment or building and modernisation programmes.

Reform of the country's antiquated school system is long overdue and the Act -the first major piece of legislation in the 107 years since the education ministry was created - is an attempt to bring in pupil-centred learning that focuses on local needs.

However, the reform process has been beset by problems. Poorly trained rural teachers, used to teaching by rote, have little idea how to encourage their pupils to think for themselves and are wary of the changes. There have also been behind-the-scenes tussles for control of the education budget and how it is spent.

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