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Universities must spearhead the shift to ‘Thailand 4.0’  

Feb 28. 2017
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By Nophakhun Limsamarnphun
The Nation

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To successfully implement the national modernisation programme dubbed Thailand 4.0, the government needs to work closely with the private sector as well as educational institutes, since human resources are crucial to success.

One trailblazer in this effort is the College of Innovative Business and Accountancy (Ciba) at Dhurakij Pundit University. The four-decade-old university has reorganised its courses for bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees to fit the paradigm shift demanded by the ambitious Thailand 4.0 programme.

Dr Pattanant Petchchedchoo, dean of Ciba, notes that technology and innovation exemplified by the likes of Uber, Airbnb and Google Pay are key components of the 4.0 programme.

 The tech revolution is making inroads even in the mundane sector of accounting, where artificial intelligence software such as Optical Character Recognition is set to take over routine bookkeeping tasks like the scanning of receipts and financial and tax documents for accounting purposes. 

Right now we still need humans to verify such important documents, but in the next five years flesh and blood will be overtaken by smarter and more fool-proof machines. Human bookkeepers will become obsolete.

Yet, the job prospects will remain bright for accountants-turned data analysts, along with business partners who play an integral role in internal control and legal compliance.

In other words, bookkeeping will die as a profession but there will still be demand for accountants who can add value to businesses.

In financial services, the role of AI is even more advanced and obvious – exemplified by the rise of so-called financial technology, or fintech, companies around the world.

In retail, the most notable example is Amazon Go, a new generation of automated supermarkets where human cashiers are not required.

All these emerging trends point to a future requiring today’s college students to prepare for a new generation of jobs driven by digital and other technology.

Hence, Ciba has overhauled all its business and related programmes to meet these trends.

The result is a raft of courses focusing on digital marketing, finance/fintech, economics/business analytics, business management/entrepreneurship, innovative logistics, international business and human resources 4.0, among others.

Dhurakij Pundit University has also attracted several hundred foreign students from over 15 countries, including China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and some European nations, to its Bangkok campus.

This will help internationalise the campus’s environment, to the benefit of both Thai and foreign students.

To achieve the goals of Thailand 4.0, Thai universities also need to overhaul their teaching methods so that they focus on project-based learning, not just offering classes and exams by which students build their credits score.

In fact, project-based learning should be the only thing on the curriculum for all first-year students. At Ciba, for example, students are encouraged to team up to create inventions relevant to their study, with credits available in return. Those on the innovative logistics course may consider building a drone for transporting goods. Those in the digital marketing class have the option of using augmented or virtual reality software in their projects.

 Such educational efforts point the way forward. Our new generation of college graduates needs hands-on experience and know-how if they and Thailand are to succeed in a world in the grip of a tech revolution.

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