Udom calls for a bold, skill-based approach to education
A former deputy education minister last week called on Ramkhamhaeng University and other varsities around the country to radically alter their approach to teaching, to cope with ever-changing career trends in the near future.
Clinical Professor Emeritus Udom Kachintorn MD, a deputy education minister from November 2017 to May 2019, was speaking at “RAM Talk”, a conference initiated by Ramkhamhaeng University (RU). The second session held on February 9 was titled “The Future of Thai Education”.
In a forceful speech, Udom said overhauling the curricula at several universities was important, and greater focus should be placed on experience-based and competency-based learning in time-sensitive subjects. He said the changes were necessary to cope with ever-changing career trends in Thailand and the world.
Udom, who was a senator from May 2019 to February 2020, also made the case for project-based learning. He said lecturers should master in subjects they teach by having on-site experience of them, perhaps by undergoing apprenticeship at business locations and working in related fields. He believed this should be made mandatory for hiring future lecturers in relevant fields for RU or other Thai universities.
As a career medical doctor graduating from the prestigious Siriraj Medical School, Udom also served from 2015 to 2017 as the president of Mahidol University (MU), which oversees Siriraj Medical School.
With Ramkhamhaeng University (RU) rector Suebpong Prabyai in attendance, Udom told the seminar that he would make a similar proposal at an upcoming meeting with MU while urging RU to heed his advice at the earliest.
Highlighting the title of the session, the 67-year-old Udom said Thai universities need to serve ever-changing career and market trends while coping with other changes at the global level.
"The future of Thai education should emphasise building manpower to deal with the new world, while also supporting communities, society and the country through creating a smart economy and a smart society," he said.
University graduates in Thailand need to improve their leadership skills instead of just being employees, in order to lead their businesses or create their own in a short period of time after graduation.
Regarding Thai universities adapting to train future leaders, Udom said knowledge- and innovation-driven learning must be immediately included in teaching to prepare for the new jobs of the 21st century.
Udom also coined the term "University 4.0" as a guideline for Thai universities to follow, by adopting a number of measures he had helped device during his stint as deputy education minister. “University 4.0 can be adopted immediately without orders from the ministry, especially by those now privately owned, but a few measures have been implemented or pursued,” he said.
He added that universities are important to instil leadership skills in students so that they develop entrepreneurial drive prior to their graduation.
And while developing their students in new subjects for future career trends, universities must also focus on providing "soft skills", such as interpersonal skills and service-oriented mindset, he said.
Universities in the future need to produce graduates with practical competence, through a customised higher education focusing on the development of skills and competency, instead of just academic lecturing and providing certificates, he said.
The third RAM Talk is scheduled for February 23. It is titled “With Love and Peace” in honour of highly-revered Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who passed away on January 23.
Special to The Nation