Tongue-Thai’ed! Part VIII - Tea Money left to learn: Minister touts transparent bribes for schools

Originally published at Siam Voices on September 13, 2011 “Tongue-Thai’ed!” encapsulates the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures – in short: everything we hear that makes us go “Huh?!”. Check out all past entries here.

Education is one of the many problems hindering Thailand from being competitive compared to its regional neighbors, often due to anachronistic attitudes towards teaching (for example foreign languages). While Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra said in a press conference in July that the Thai education system has to change in order to support "life-long learning", the new government has not made any far-reaching proposals yet other than handing out free tablet PCs to school children (more on that in a future blog post).

One of the issues plaguing Thai parents is to get their children into better schools. And normally, when there are no good schools in the district they're living, they of course would try for one somewhere else more prestigious - in many cases parents are willing to pay bribes in order to send their children there.

The new education minister Woravat Auapinyakul wants to tackle this problem head-on, but not in the way many would have thought...

นายวรวัจน์ เอื้ออภิญญกุล รมว.ศึกษาธิการ เปิดเผยกรณีมีแนวคิดเปิดช่องคนรวยจ่ายแป๊ะเจี๊ยะเข้าโรงเรียนดัง ว่า (...) ต้องยอมรับว่ามีการจ่ายแป๊ะเจี๊ยะกันอยู่ ตนอยากจะเอาสิ่งที่อยู่ใต้ดินมาอยู่บนดิน (...) ต้องไม่กระทบสิทธิคนอื่น

Woravat Auapinyakul, Minister of Education, has hinted at the idea to pave the way for rich people to pay 'additional fees' for the attendance to prestigious schools, saying (...) that "we have to accept that there are some 'hidden payments' being made. Thus, I want to bring out what's hidden below to the surface (...) It must not affect the rights of others"

(...) สิ่งที่ทำแบบหลบๆซ่อนๆ มีการฝากกันเพื่อให้เข้าเรียนในโรงเรียน แต่ไปเข้ากระเป๋าคนบางคน ต่อไปต้องรายงานและชี้ให้ศธ.รู้ใครอยากจะรับก็รับได้แต่ต้องบอก (...) ตนไม่อยากให้มองว่าเป็นเรื่องการแลกที่นั่งเรียนอย่างเดียว

"Money paid for a school entry has been done in secret [in the past], but that [money] sometimes goes into someone's pockets. From now on, they have to report [such payments] to the Ministry of Education - whoever wants to receive can do that, but they have to report. (...) I don't want the people to think that this is just [an issue of] exchanging money for a school seat!"

"รมว.ศึกษาดัน“แป๊ะเจี๊ยะ”ขึ้นบนโต๊ะ", Daily News, September 12, 2011, translation by me

Woravat suggests that this money should be used to in order to improve the school and this initiative should provide more transparency where actually that money goes into. While never directly uttered by the minister, the use of the word "แป๊ะเจี๊ยะ" in that article is noticeable, which actually means "tea money" (as in bribe). So, in an effort to prevent the payment of bribes in order for parents to send their children to prestigious school, Woravat basically endorses the payment of bribes (as long as it is 'transparent') and thus also supports the idea of competitiveness among schools and parents instead of trying to raise the quality standards of all schools onto the same level.

But hey, if there's enough money left to burn, then there's enough money left to learn - except for those who don't!

h/t to a reader for the link

Just because we have a new government, it doesn't mean they all suddenly stop saying stupid things. If you come across any verbosities that you think might fit in here send us an email at siamvoices [at] or tweet us @siamvoices.

Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist currently based in Bangkok, Thailand. He can be followed on Twitter @Saksith and now also on his public Facebook page here.