Thailand ranks second in ASEAN and fifth in Asia when it comes to the problem of children missing out on basic education.
Ichiro Miyazawa, a specialist with the literacy and lifelong learning programme at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, said yesterday that 586,000 children of primary-school age in Thailand have had no access to education. Across Asia, Thailand is behind India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
Citing an analysis by Nicholas Burnett, Unesco's former assistant director-general, Miyazawa said Thai children's lack of opportunities to receive a proper schooling could cause Thailand an economic loss of about Bt330 billion (S$13.9 billion) a year.
"This is about 3 per cent of the country's gross domestic product," he said.
Globally, 67 million children are estimated to have not been in school at the time they should have been receiving a primary education.
Aware that so many Thai children lack access to education, Unesco is striving to promote innovative financing in some areas where state funds proved inadequate to deliver education to children.
"For example, an initiative may be launched to collect CSR fees from the private sector. The fees can then be used to address big issues in society, including those related to education," he said. The collection of sin taxes for health promotion in Thailand was an example of innovative financing, he said.