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Thai education needs to open a ‘communicating vessel’ to Singapore

May 22. 2019
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Isaan construction workers use an ancient technique called communicating-vessels to determine the same height for two different points.

This phenomena should have been put to use long ago to connect training and education bodies locally and across Asean, using Singapore as the benchmark. Unfortunately, such Asean-wide cooperation remains wishful thinking in Thailand, where even local interconnection appears to be an illusion.

The failure to connect can be blamed partly on Thailand’s governance failure, which has seen 17 different Education ministers in only the past 21 years. 

It seems obvious we should be seeking collaboration with Asean partners who are struggling with similar problems – in education and other sectors. Yet this is rarely done. A recent exception was the news that Thailand is adopting some of Japan’s road safety measures in an attempt to cut its horrific rate of 66 road users killed per day (WHO figures). Japan offers a benchmark because its roads are among the world’s safest.   

Meanwhile the education benchmark offered by Singapore has lessons on the latest hot topic: school uniforms. Do they advance equality or stifle individual rights?

Singapore has been researching this aspect for a long time, which has led to measures that uphold a strict uniform policy to combat social divisions.

More significant is the huge pool of information on Singapore education’s stunningly successful switch from a rote-learning system to the “Four Cs” era (Creativity, Critical thinking, Communication and Collaboration). 

Thai and foreign experts warn of a very different situation here: No critical thinking, no Thailand 4.0, a low-skilled workforce, and no exit from the middle-income trap. 

Thailand has no shortage of information on the positive aspects of the 4Cs, but most Thai research is done in the “elite” circles of universities and private and international schools – and never seems to trickle down to the Education Ministry and public schools. 

With all respect, urgent action is needed to remedy Thailand’s dire education situation. Here, Minister Jareonsettasin Teerakiat is wrong. Singapore demonstrates that we CAN phase out rote-learning right now by starting with the Four Cs at the pre-school level and instilling a patchwork of Four Cs at higher levels.

Dirk Sumter

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