Saturday, October 19, 2019

Look at the big picture of Thai education – disaster is looming 

Jan 30. 2018
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Re: “To boost failing Thai education, give foreign teachers proper contracts” and “Imminent shake-up of Thai higher education is inevitable”, December 15 and January 4.

It is obvious that education is the main lifeline to pull Thailand out of its middle-income quicksand – and the more people hauling on that rope, the better. Letter-writer John Morales pointed out that giving foreign teachers proper contracts would be a big help. But  neither foreign teachers nor their Thai colleagues responded, which reflects perhaps a more general “business as usual” apathy about Thai education among stakeholders.

Then, earlier this month, Suthichai Yoon used his Thai Talk column to ask whether college students are being taught to think independently. More importantly, asked Suthichai, can their teachers/instructors think independently? He then cited Bangkok University president Petch Osathanugrah, who emphasised that without genuine and thorough reform, we are headed towards major disaster. Again, I expected comments in response to the warnings delivered by Suthichai and Petch – but none came. 

Eager for an answer that would explain the apathy, I came across the following TED video, “Creative thinking – how to get out of the box and generate ideas”. The speaker explains the feeling of fear involved in getting out of the (safe) box and exploring an unknown “outer world”. Typically, we are only jolted out of this safe space when we feel a direct personal threat against our status quo. Individual warnings about the appalling state of Thai education fail to jolt us because we don’t see the bigger picture that threatens all of us. That  threat is the failure to make the leap to the fourth industrial revolution of a digital economy. All stakeholders in education have a role to play in making the leap to Thailand 4.0, while the whole country will suffer if we fall short. That is why the unacceptable working conditions of our foreign teachers, and the doubts over the “thinking capabilities” of college students and teachers should be ringing alarm bells and forcing all of us to “think outside the box”. 

Dirk Sumter

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