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Education

Understanding that education is vital to enabling citizens to improve their lives, His Majesty has been engaged on a number of fronts to promote formal learning, especially for disadvantaged, handicapped, and minority children. He began at, Hup Kaphong where 13 of the initial 20 development projects were related to constructing schools. Moreover, between 1952 and 1970, His Majesty's Chao Pho Luang Upatham Foundation established eight schools for needy primary and secondary school children, primarily in the North. It also built four welfare schools in the Bangkok suburbs to which many rural people have migrated in search of better incomes. Beginning in 1972, His Majesty built Romklao schools in border areas affected by military conflicts. These schools were staffed by trained military or Border Patrol Police. And between 1963 and 1974, His Majesty built nine schools for children in remote hilltribe villages, as well as 31 schools for children of Royal Forestry Department officials and employees.
 
Today, the Navaruek Foundation supports needy primary and secondary school students. With his personal funds, His Majesty initiated construction of temple schools, staffed by monks to teach poor children and orphans. Other schools were built to teach children of parents affected by leprosy, and to educate physically handicapped and developmentally-delayed children. Schools have also been erected in response to national emergencies. After the tsunami struck the South in 2004, His Majesty rushed funds to the affected areas to re-build four schools in the Provinces of Phang-nga, Phuket, Krabi, and Ranong.
 
Sensing that there was a pressing need for vocational training, His Majesty established the Phra Dabot (hermits) schools in 1975 to provide professional training to indigent students. The name suggests the type of personalised training once conducted by knowledgeable forest monks. Open to everyone, it began by providing electronics and radio training at the Royal Household Bureau in Bangkok. Encouraged by its success, it was later expanded to include radio repair, welding, construction, and electrical skills in its curriculum. To enable worthy students to advance their education to the tertiary level, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1965 revived the tradition of the King's Scholarship which had been set up by his Grandfather, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn early in the century. Recognising the lack of reference materials available to students, His Majesty initiated the Thai Junior Encyclopaedia Project under which teams of academics labored to produce three editions of a comprehensive encyclopaedia. The most complex edition is designed for older children and adults. The other two are for middle and elementary school pupils. The initial print run of 10,000 copies has been reprinted several times with half of the books being distributed to school libraries across the country.
 
In keeping with the times, the Distance Learning via Satellite Foundation, launched in 1995, links classrooms in His Majesty's private school, Wang Klai Kangwol in Hua Hin, with those in all regions of Thailand. It ensures that the same quality education being delivered to students in urban elite schools was available to students in rural areas. Recognising the value of the programmes, governments in Yunnan, the People's Republic of China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam requested the broadcasts to be beamed to students in their countries. Several schools and universities in these countries have also received royal grants to purchase distance learning equipment. In large part, as a result of his pioneering efforts and his inspiration, children throughout the Kingdom are afforded a quality education, regardless of their circumstances. The results are most graphically illustrated by statistics. In the mid-1940s, the literacy rate stood at 50 percent. Today, over 95 percent of the country's 63 million citizens are literate.
 

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