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Could changing Thai children’s mindsets boost grades?

Jan 23. 2019
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One of the country’s leading economists has reported findings from less-developed regions that should send shivers down the spines of Thai economic planners.

Dr Kirida Bhaopichitr, lead researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), explains that much of the human capital in weak regions is “lost and beyond easy repair”, due to failures in child-development, including during the crucial first 1,000 days of life.

Thailand has had eight governments in the past 20 years and no less than 21 education ministers. The Education Ministry is the “generator” of the Kingdom’s human capital, yet politicians routinely overlook it in favour of other ministries. This despite constant complaints from business that “We can’t find skilled personnel”.

Kirida paints a bleak picture. However, new research focusing on weak regions in high-income countries could offer hope for Thai regions “lost and beyond easy repair”.

For the past decade, Stanford professor of psychology Carol S Dweck has been studying motivation in students in deprived areas of the UK, US, Australia and Ireland. Prof Dweck makes a distinction between “fixed mindset” students – those who believe their natural talent affords easy achievement – and “growth mindset” students, who know they must work hard to meet their goals.

Cultivating the growth mindset in students would be an antidote to a Thai education system of rote-learning, rigid hierarchy, fear of losing face and other debilitating poisons of the “social promotion” system. 

Dweck empowers students to face and overcome challenges and difficulties, the opposite of what the social promotion system does. In several countries, she was able to change thousands of ill-performing students into promising individuals, proving the usefulness of her “Mindset methodology” with amazing PISA and local results. Could this be something to incorporate into Thailand’s new four-year teacher training programme, in tandem with switching from rote-learning to a 21st-century system based on the 4Cs teaching method – Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Reflection. Offering help to people to change their mindset is a good start, but embedding the method in teacher training would be 


Dirk Sumter

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