By CHULARAT SAENGPASSA
THAILAND’S education system will face additional challenges in 2018, including a requirement that graduates have a “growth” mindset and well-rounded skills. Teachers are also having to adjust themselves to new roles as their monopoly as the key source of knowledge lessens.
Education expert Athapol Anunthavorasakul said Thailand shared the belief with the rest of the world that the integration of technology into everyday life was central to the lifestyles of young people.
Because of this, “the old way of having teachers just passing on knowledge no longer works”, said the director of the Research & Development Centre on Education for Sustainable Development at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education.
“Youths now require different skills, such as data verification, data selection for sharing, data production discretion and thinking skills. They will face more risks [in the current era] and must know how to make plans,” said Athapol in an exclusive interview with The Nation.
With rapid-fire changes affecting the economy, people can no longer rely on being a good employee for a business operator, but instead the “must have entrepreneurial skills too”, he said. And that requires changes to education to prepare the student.
With different ways of thinking and new skill sets required, teaching methods and education management must also change, he said.
The new “self-directed learning” approach challenges students in Thailand, and throughout the world, to take responsibility and be accountable for learning by doing their own research and analysing data while also managing their own learning schedules, he said.
Among challenges for teachers and educators will be developing “executive” functioning in students to allow them to be their own masters by planning, organising, memorising, time managing and making sure tasks get done, he said. The importance of autonomous learning would become prominent in coming years, he said.
Teachers meanwhile would take on primary roles as the support the individual students’ learning. Already, technological advancement has ended the centuries-old teacher monopoly on knowledge, and even younger children are fast learning how to digitally access information from sources, Athapol said.
A Thai Education 4.0 agenda is already being implemented, though it has not gone smoothly. It would require students to produce innovations, think like entrepreneurs and have associated skills, discover knowledge on their own, work well with others and formulate plans. To create such qualities, a different kind of learning environment is required, one where teachers serve as supporters to the students’ learning. That in turn requires training teachers for their new role in addition to developing their own techno-savvy skill sets.
The trend poses a challenge to the Education Ministry and the government as policy makers. Policy makers, along with those then executing the policies, must come to the same understanding to have a successful shift to new approaches in the classroom. In the past, teachers were still on the receiving end of instruction while schools had very limited independence in arranging study programmes that suited children’s potential, according to Athapol.
Recently introduced changes faced confusion, including the establishment of a provincial education committee. That raised the question about who has the authority and whether schools would in practice end up having to take yet more orders “from two masters” and so become even less independent. Athapol said the past two years saw the introduction of new policies contradicting and obstructing implementation of the new education agenda, and that has put a freeze on a more creative approach in the classroom.
Athapol welcomed the more positive changes, such as the government’s promotion of the professional learning community (PLC), which is a method to foster collaborative learning among teachers who form working groups for practice-based professional learning. “It’s good for schools to use PLC, as teachers can learn together about the job and what problems they encountered in classes,” he said.
As students have grown up along with Internet communication technologies (ICT), teachers must ensure that the ICT skills are put to useful and constructive application, including respectful interactions that develop respect for themselves and each other when interacting online, Athapol urged.
Other education trends include a focus on literacy and competency. A competency-based curriculum is emerging, along with teacher management based on competency and skills.
As learning can now take place anywhere and not just in schools, Thailand can learn from the success stories in other countries of providing supplementary lessons at home. Athapol said the Education Ministry must look beyond the classroom and have teachers provide knowledge as well as inspire students to learn.
“We often talk about passion, positive thinking and the growth mindset” – in which people have a voracious appetite for learning and constantly seek out additional input that increases their knowledge and constructive actions. “All these things must be instilled for students via the classroom, the school and outside, as well as through more useful school activities that are more focused and have closer ties to real life. For example, children in rural communities can have school activities focusing on agriculture so they can aid their parents,” he said.
Athapol said the new generation must have more skills, including ICT, and know about their own competencies and aptitude as well as their weakness. They need all of that because they will face fast and fierce competition in the working world.
“The kind of work that would be ‘dead’ is probably newspapers which had problems in recent years and bookstores, which would be affected due to the drop in printed media. Many have now shifted to produce online content, but that also faces uncertainty in the next five years,” he said.
Students needed to accumulate skills and competencies, embrace and adapt to changes, and be ready to step beyond a comfort zone, he said, and education and teachers must help them. “Teachers must adjust. If they do not yet realise this, the Education Ministry and state mechanisms must help them change.”