A lot has been written about Thai students’ poor English ability, about their ranking near the bottom of international maths and science tests, and even about how the majority effectively fail most standardised tests administered by Thais themselves, no matter what the subject.
But ’tis the season to be jolly, so let’s give credit where credit is due.
Thai students are basically as good as any of their international peers in art – be it drawing, painting or sculpture. They also do well in performing arts, a strength that shows in Thai theatre and musicals. Furthermore, Thai students have great calligraphy skills, writing as neatly as anyone else in the world. (I know for a fact that Thai teachers and students snicker at how illegible the writings of many foreign teachers are, complaining that such and such a foreigner’s writing is “ no beautiful”). But these skills are not tested in international standardised tests.
So, all things considered, Thai students are not nearly as bad as portrayed in the domestic and foreign media.
Perhaps we need to change our priorities. Judged on their artistic and musical skills, Thai students have proven that they can compete with the best; if they were so dumb, they would not be doing well in such subjects. Thus, instead of focusing so much on the previously mentioned disciplines, the Thai school system needs to place more emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, English and maths). Thai students presently engage in far too many art- or music-related activities, and not enough science-based subjects.