The alarming shortage of skilled personnel needed to make the much-vaunted leap to Thailand 4.0 lends new urgency to the debate on unlicensed teachers and assistants.
I agree that admitting professionals without teaching experience into the educational playground can prove hazardous. On the other hand, the energy triggered by the 4.0 panic could be used in a better way, namely for a collaboration among stakeholders nationwide to fine-tune Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin’s plan for unlicensed teachers.
Licensed teachers and education experts are opposed to that plan. But caving in to that opposition would ignore the fact that the longstanding 5-year teacher-training programme has not produced improvement in PISA and O-Net results. The rising desperation to escape the middle income trap should instead force us to close ranks and collaborate to make the leap to Thailand 4.0. That leap is impossible right now due to a shortage of teachers with the relevant expertise.
In cutting the teacher-training programme to four years from 2019, Thailand has made a step in the right direction.
The four-year course used in the Netherlands, for example, encourages professionals from other industries to join teacher training, which lessens the skills shortage. The Dutch also offer a lateral-entry (LET) programme for professionals who want to switch to teaching. Experts in their field can make the transition to the classroom after just five short weeks of LET training. Underlining its importance, the LET budget has just been boosted by 4 million euros.
Those who graduate without a teaching degree, meanwhile, can still enrol on the Dutch teacher-training programme by passing an admittance test.
If Thailand really wants to transition to a 4.0 economy, it should follow proven examples of educational excellence such as the one provided by the Dutch.