The Ministry of Education's recent announcement of new criteria for teachers' Vidhayathana - trans-academic standing and competency assessment - is a good sign.
The Office of the Teacher Civil Service and Educational Personnel Commission approved the new criteria and methods governing teachers’ application for Vidhayathana’s “special expertise” and “specialist teacher” titles, with students’ academic achievement easily the most important factor.
From past experience, one must admit that the Vidhayathana assessments didn’t help students, as the more expertise and specialist teachers there were the poorer the students’ results seemed to get. This is despite the fact that Vidhayathana’s real objective – as part of the second round of education reform – is to promote teacher development.
The new criteria needed before someone is granted a special expertise or specialist teacher title is as follows:
– The assessment focuses on the results a teacher as delivered in terms of their students’ performances;
– A teacher must be able to elevate the quality of education concretely;
– The assessment is conducted in a classroom environment, which will help stop teachers abandoning classes;
– Prior to the application for a Vidhayathana assessment, a teacher must pass an examination and have their experience assessed by their affiliated civil service agency;
It’s good to see the new criteria giving more weight to students’ academic achievements. In fact, that element is now 80 per cent of the assessment, and comprises various components like the Ordinary National Education Test (ONET) scores, the central examination scores, and a student’s public consciousness, while the remaining 20 per cent is based on the output and quality of a teacher’s work. Those teaching at rural schools, or teachers with overwhelming teaching burdens, or those teaching at schools suffering a teacher shortages will get extra points in this part.
The consideration of ONET scores will be done at a school and national level. The assessment also aims to compare students’ academic improvement, meaning students in rural schools or small schools, who generally get lower scores, could still have some leverage.
For the Vidhayathana criteria for school administrators, a student’s academic achievement counts for 50 per cent of the assessment, with general administration and community participation 30 per cent and teacher/human resource development and ethics 20 per cent.
Above all, the new assessment will ensure teachers don’t abandon classes or hire someone else to do their work for submission.
Getting more money by achieving special expertise or specialist teacher status serves as an incentive. In the past, teachers spent a lot of time working on papers to apply for a special expertise or specialist teacher title. The extra money makes life easier, and thus many teachers did anything and everything in pursuit of this goal.
The special expertise title has two levels. Kru chamnankan comes with Bt3,500 extra pay and kru chamnankan piset comes with Bt12,000 extra. If a teacher’s remaining civil service term is 20-30 years, the extra Bt12,000 a month until retirement would be very handy.
“The extra Bt12,000 a month times 20 remaining years in service means Bt2.88 million extra, while the amount times 30 remaining years equals Bt4.32 million,” a teacher explained.
The old assessments for kru chamnankan and kru chamnankan piset weren’t too difficult although many teachers still failed. The specialist teacher promotion for the kru chiewchan and kru chiewchan piset levels required a high-standard thesis being written, resulting in widespread cheating.
Many people reportedly make a living writing academic projects for others, while some exam paper-checking committee members resorted to extorting aspiring teachers for money. Teachers who were promoted via cheating did not gain the necessary knowledge. It was these negative factors that led the Ministry of Education to implement the change.
Thai education problems don’t stem from a lack of budget because the annual budget for education rises each year, and teachers’ salaries have also been increasing, Thailand Development Research Institute president Somkiat Tangkitvanich said, during a 2011 seminar on education reform in Bangkok.
Somkiat said the problems stemmed from the education system, with no one held accountable for poor results and, as such, no one bothered solving the problems.
He said the system had a “long line of accountability”, meaning there were so many groups involved – including parents, politicians, civil servants, schools and teachers – no one party took full responsibility for education’s ills.
“It has been proven in other countries that if the education system has clear accountability, it would boost the students’ academic achievement,” he said.
Somkiat urged the Education Ministry to link the Vidhayathana assessment with students’ academic performance.
If the change proceeds unabated, people can hope to see better teacher and student development finally materialise. We will see more teachers seriously devoted to their pupils’ education, as they should be.