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‘Categorising all schools would help’

Mar 28. 2016
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Remote schools need more govt aid: researcher.
A SENIOR researcher has recommended dividing schools across the country into various groups based on their performance – as the first step for the country’s educational overhaul.
Pornpilai Lertvicha, who works for the Thailand Research Fund, told a seminar that only after the categorisation of schools is completed, can relevant parties see clearly what needs to be done.
“Not all schools need the same budget. Not all schools need the same approach,” she explained. 
She expressed her recommendations during her lecture on the “Insights into successful educational reforms in foreign nations for the delivery of Thailand’s educational reform” at a recent seminar at the Thammasat University. 
Pornpilai said, for example, Triam Udom Suksa School and the Suan Kularb Wittayalai School, could be in the same category because they had been well equipped. She said these schools definitely would be in a different category than those for schools in border provinces, where shortages of teaching materials and facilities were evident. 
Pornpilai said that with proper categorisation officials would know they should allocate more resources to needy schools and should prepare more advanced development for already good performers. 
Pornpilai pointed out that in China, the first phase of its educational reform focused on literacy, while the second phase involved the development of thinking schools. 
“For border schools here in Thailand, they will need support to achieve the literary goals. But for schools like the Triam Udom Suksa and Sukularb Wittayalai, they can start to focus on transforming themselves into thinking schools,” she said. 
The researcher explained that Singapore, Shianghai 's China and Finland - which have successfully categorised their educational services – all had two phases for their schools.
The first phase involved getting the magic right. In other words, relevant parties focus on delivering the right tools and the right textbooks to teachers and schools. With great resources, teachers and schools should be able to do well enough to give literacy to all their students. 
The second phase pursued the theme of “Drive to Excellence”. During this phase, schools and teachers are encouraged to work independently and demonstrate the ability to figure out themselves which of the available methods help their students achieve learning success. 
Pornpilai said although successful countries had undergone two such phases, it was not necessary that other countries, including Thailand, need follow exactly the same steps. 
“It’s possible that some schools go ahead to the second phase because they are already for that stage. There’s no need to repeat the first phase,” she said, “But for other schools, let’s arrange them, these two phases.” 
According to Pornpilai, about 500,000 students in Thailand – not just 200,000 – are illiterate. 
“The system is apparently failing,” she said. 
She insisted that she did not exaggerate the problem because she had seen with her own eyes how small schools in remote areas were struggling in the educational system. 
“At many small schools, there are not enough teachers for all classrooms,” she pointed out. 
Pornpilai said after relevant authorities recognised the real problems and categorised the schools, they could apply the successful methods used by other countries. 
Singapore, for example, has hired a leading textbook manufacturer from Britain to produce textbooks in three key subjects for its students. The first set of textbooks focuses on easy-to-understand content. The second set aims at promoting analytical thinking. 
“Between 1990 and 2001, Singapore’s educational reform had relied on tools,” Pornpilai said. 
After 2004, she said improvements on the educational front had allowed Singapore to pursue the theme of “Teach Less, Learn More” to encourage Singapore students to learn in freer, more creative settings.
Shanghai in China, meanwhile, had a serious overhaul of its educational sector between 1980 and 2008. In that period, it had divided its schools into various categories. Schools in disadvantaged areas had received bigger budget. Many schools that failed to improve were closed down. Some other schools were merged. The schools that survived had seriously pursued improvement. The best schools had also taken up the mission of enhancing less-developed schools. 
“During that period, teachers between urban and rural schools had also changed zones, allowing the exchange of experiences and knowledge,” Pornpilai said. 
She said after 2008, schools in China’s Shanghai had moved into the more advanced development stages. 
“They have headed from basic curriculum to enriched curriculum and then to enquiry-based curriculum,” she said.
Pornpilai said the Chinese government had provided a web-based platform for teachers to access useful resources. With such support, they should have more time to deliver increasingly better classes, she added. 
Meanwhile, Finland, she said, focused on attracting the brightest minds to the teaching profession and to make available good textbooks. 
“Thailand must look at them and apply [the lessons],” she said. 

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