Last month Thailand-based teacher John Morales unleashed a primal scream on this page, but it seems to have gone unnoticed by readers. His anguish was caused by “routine discrimination in Thai schools against foreign teachers” which is likely contributing to Thailand’s appalling performance in the international PISA tests.
When I first arrived in Thailand, newspapers often carried reports and analysis on education, but that coverage has now dropped to an alarmingly low level for an issue of such national importance.
Perhaps we have become blasé in the past few years and slipped back into the old rote-learning rut. Education seems to be falling off the radar of national debate, with occasional distress calls like Mr Morales’ going ignored.
And yet the need for change is urgent. To achieve the transition to a “4.0” digital economy, Thailand needs dedicated and competent teachers of English and other STEM subjects. The Education Ministry is doing its utmost to meet the requirements for this transition, including English skills, but it is battling against huge inertia in both the bureaucracy and teaching. The interests of students come first – but this has been forgotten in much of the Thai education system. Education is done with passion, or not at all.
The need to equip students with a new set of skills for the digital world was also made by Chula academic Athapol Anunthavorasakul (“National education at turning point”, The Nation, January 1). His prescription for improvement echoed the core changes suggested by fellow education expert Professor Prathoomporn Vajarasthira back in 2009, but these keys to development are seemingly impossible to realise within today’s Thailand 4.0 timeline.
A big part of the problem is the children left behind by the exodus of parents from rural areas to cities in search of work. The money the latter send back is vital to the survival of families, but this neglected “skipped-generation” of children must be pulled aboard the “4.0” education bandwagon, or else Thailand’s dream of digital transition won’t be realised.