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National education plan needs new implementation approach

Mar 21. 2016
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By Chularat Saengpassa
[email protected]

THE OFFICE of the Education Council (OEC) yesterday unveiled the country’s new national educational plan.
The plan, the OEC hopes, will lay down a sound direction for Thailand’s educational development over the next 15 years. But the problem is, even if the OEC comes up with a really good plan, there is no guarantee that it will be implemented in full. 
OEC secretary-general Dr Kamol Rodklai himself reckons that relevant authorities have in the past usually implemented an average of only 15 per cent of previous educational plans. 
That percentage is quite depressing, as Thailand has been developing new educational plans for implementation since 1932.
In practice, these plans should have been constantly improving the country’s educational services over the past several decades – if all relevant parties had seriously embraced them.
Does the failure to seriously implement plans contribute to the country’s poor quality of education today? 
For his part, Kamol believes that there is a link between the failure of implementation and the failure in our schools. 
In his opinion, all relevant parties should be implementing at least 80 per cent of any given plan in order to improve the quality of education significantly. 
In recent decades, Thai schools, Thai students and Thai teachers have all been widely criticised for their less-than-impressive performance. Mathayom 6 students, on average, barely score 50 per cent in national educational tests. 
Kamol described the 12th national educational plan, which the OEC is still in the process of the refining, as the “new educational charter for Thailand”. 
If everyone were to comply with this charter, Kamol said, Thai graduates over the next 15 years would acquire the skills that will help them to do well in the 21st century. 
“We aim to equip students with skills that will ensure they adjust well to changing technologies, the economy and social conditions,” he said.
After an ad hoc committee of the OEC completed drafting the new national educational plan, the OEC presented it at a public forum yesterday to start gathering opinions from relevant parties. 
Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong also showed up at the event to endorse the importance of the new national educational plan. 
“It’s as important as the constitution because this plan is going to lay down the foundation for the country between 2016 and 2031,” Prajin said. 
Before the plan is implemented, the OEC will hold public forums in all four regions of Thailand to gather opinions from all sides. 
“We will listen to opinions and pay attention to recommendations,” Kamol said. “We aim to improve the plan even further for the benefit of all.” 
Education Minister General Dapong Ratanasuwan said yesterday that he was also aware that too many educational plans had been ignored in the past. 
Therefore, he said, he hoped relevant authorities would perform better to ensure that this new education plan would be implemented.
Let’s hope that Dapong can actually achieve his goal in terms of implementation – failing that goal would mean that a national educational plan is nothing more than a pile of paper. 
No matter how hard-working the plan’s drafters are, they will have no impact on improving the national education system unless there is a real will to implement the plan’s provisions.
Perhaps Thailand’s new education plan should be implemented in three stages, the way that Malaysia’s national educational plan has been phased in. At each stage, Malaysia identifies clear goals, which means that at the end of each phase, if goals have not been achieved, relevant agencies can review their performance and be held accountable for failures.
The drafters of this educational plan, and future plans as well, must realise that they need to address basic, essential issues at once. It is one thing to say that the educational system should equip Thais with 21st-century skills, but that promise means nothing if millions will still fail a basic literacy test.

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