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Education minister puts focus on teacher training in overhaul of system


Teerakiat has been fierce critic of rigid bureaucracy and lack of strategy.

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EDUCATION Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin has focused on “knowledge quality” of teachers and students as priorities in the ongoing education reform.
The task of institutional reform of the Education Ministry, meanwhile, has been left to an independent committee chaired by Charas Suwanwela, professor emeritus at Chulalongkorn University’s School of Medicine.
That committee is made up of 25 well-known figure, with none of whom come from the ministry. It is expected to propose enacting a series of new education laws and regulations within a year.
Teerakiat, who has not minced words about his frustration with the Education Ministry’s rigid bureaucracy and lack of strategic thinking, told The Nation in an interview that actions were also being taken through the invocation of Article 44 of the interim constitution to deal with corruption cases to minimise “damages and destruction” to the school system.
But Teerakiat’s main focus is sustaining improvements in teacher quality and by extension also students’ – a process which he sees as dismantling top-down centralised directives and giving each teacher room to manage his or her |professional develop-ment and acquire knowledge.
“The objective is to have teachers acquire additional or new skills they think they need and to spend more time in classrooms teaching students” as opposed to outside activities or doing research, the minister said.
The realignment is complemented by a single standard examination for teachers, and the introduction of a career path system.
The initiative involved overhauling the Bt20-billion teachers’ development budget which “no one has known much about”, he said, and allocated responsibility to regional education zones to select and introduce new development courses. 

Education minister puts focus on teacher training in overhaul of system
Each teacher will be given a coupon worth Bt10,000 annually to spend on any one of hundreds of available courses. Abour 310,000 teachers of the 400,000 designated have applied. They can pick and choose the courses as they wish. “We empowered the teachers,” said Teerakiat.
A new website allows teachers to rate courses they have taken.
He welcomed criticism of some of the courses as evidence of transparency and a way to “let the market decide” what is best.
Another initiative for improving teaching quality is to allow outside professionals fill in teaching positions where there are shortages. Teerakiat said 500 graduates had applied in the first round of vetting, many of whom had overseas degrees in engineering, English or medicine.
The education minister has also made a big push on improving English learning by setting up 12 regional centres to organise teacher training “boot camps” to improve instructors’ capabilities, which then can be passed on to students. 
The number of centres will expand soon to 18 in order to meet the stated target of 40,000 trained teachers.
Teachers of English are subject to an assessment based on the Common European Frame of Reference (CEFR).
The ministry has also raised the time spent on English-language classes for Grades 1 to 3 to five hours weekly. 

Published : August 20, 2017

By : THE NATION