EDUCATION executives and politicians have impeded Thailand’s education reform, a leading educator has said.
“For top officials, they don’t really want changes because together with those changes they may have to give up their posts,” said Assoc Prof Wittayakorn Chiengkul, the honorary dean of Rangsit University’s College of Social Innovation.
He was speaking at a seminar entitled “Thailand’s educational situation between 2014 and 2015”.
The seminar took place on September 29, and was presided over by Dr Suthasri Wongsamarn, the then-secretary general of the Education Council.
At the heart of the seminar, Suthasri said, were findings from the report on “Thailand’s educational situation between 2014 and mid-2015” that identified the strengths and flaws in the country’s education development.
“We need the right information to formulate the most efficient educational policies and plans possible. Thailand needs to ensure an educational quality that will help it keep pace with the world.”
Wittayakorn said top education officials were partially to blame for the country’s education reform failure.
“They have much at stake, power and benefits associated with their posts. So, it is difficult for them to really assess their role and think for real reform,” he said.
Citing research findings, Wittayakorn said these officials and politicians were problems in the |educational sector.
He lamented that executive-level officials and politicians in the education sector had limited knowledge and understanding of the sector, lacked vision, and failed to decentralise the education system.
He said education ministers |usually did not have a solid know-
ledge of educational affairs.
Thailand started efforts to reform the education sector more than a decade ago.
Education budgets have been growing but research shows the massive investment in the sector has not translated into education quality.
The average scores for Prathom 6 students in national tests and the average scores for Mathayom 3 and 6 students in the Ordinary National Educational Tests have been disappointing.
Between 2012 and 2014, Prathom 6 students saw their average score go past the half mark in only one subject, social studies (50.67 out of 100) in 2014.
Over this three-year period, Mathayom 3 students have not seen their average Onet go above 50 in any subject.
For Mathayom 6 students, their average Onet score in Thai reached 50.76 in 2014 – the best average score during the three years for all subjects.
In international rankings, Thai students also do not perform well (see graphic).
These disappointing facts point to education reform not going anywhere.
Wittayakorn said establishing the powerful and highly efficient Education Reform Commission was a strategic move designed to bring about successful education reform.
He said the commission needed to operate in |tandem with the recruitment of better teachers.
“The remuneration must be good enough to attract capable people,” he said.
He also insisted that teacher training must be improved and student evaluation methods changed.
“Exams and assessments must look beyond what students can remember,” he said, adding that Thailand needs to focus on teaching analytical thinking and skills that match the country’s economic context.
“Children, for example, must be encouraged to express their opinions,” he said.
Wittayakorn said efforts to drive education reform must also taken into account social, economic and political factors.
“These factors are intertwined. It’s not possible to look at them separately,” he said.
“Political and economic conditions affect the |education and vice versa.”
He said the education system should be in line with the country’s economic context, while Thailand needed to provide various forms of education methods for children given so many students had dropped out of school.
Research findings show that nearly one-third of students aged between 15 and 19 have dropped out of school.
It is estimated that about 79 per cent of students aged between 20 and 24 have dropped out of |higher-educational institutes.
Such figures reflect that more than one million young people have entered the labour market without completing 12 years of basic education.
“Common causes for dropouts include poverty, unwanted pregnancies, drug abuse, physical disabilities, and migration,” Wittayakorn said.
The Office of Vocational Education Commission secretary general, Dr Chaipreuk Sereerak, said his office was trying to reduce the dropout rate to zero through many measures such as developing an efficient database, assigning teachers as advisers to students, research, and visiting students’ homes.
“We are also planning to bring dropouts back to class,” he said.