Renowned education expert Professor Rattana Lao notes that Thai universities were developed from foreign templates. Thailand originally chose UK models of higher education to train Thais for the civil service, rather than the German model which produces researchers and emphasises innovation. Rattana speculates this could be an underlying reason for Thailand’s poor performance in the Global University Ranking, whose criteria are based on the number of research reports, citations, referrals, patents, etc.
Thai education’s traditional reliance on rote-learning prioritises the memorising of facts. At the same time it tends to discourage the critical thinking and innovation that is necessary for a country to progress in our fast-changing digital era.
Teachers are the potential game-changers here, since they are responsible for how our children are taught. And the announcement of new four-year teacher training courses from next year offered hope that teaching methods will now place more emphasis on critical thinking among students. However, that critical thinking appears to be lacking in the design process for the new courses, which is a worrying sign. The crucial questions Thai education authorities need to ask are: WHAT are others doing, HOW are they doing it, and WHY. These are the questions that broaden your view from the tunnel vision of teacher training (“it must last five years, be based on rote-learning, keeping discipline, etc) and help you to explore alternative training tracks that emphasise creativity and resourcefulness for both teachers and students.
A strong education system must incorporate a two-way process of questioning, inspiration and challenge between students and educators. Yet this style of interaction is lacking from the start in Thai public education, which prevents the country from climbing the Global University Rankings and producing the skilled and innovative workforce needed to prosper.
Our neighbours are already one step ahead of us. Vietnam has just launched its first smartphone, while South Korea is now adopting 5G Internet. Good research and development is mandatory.