Sunday, February 23, 2020

When will rote-learning be history in Thailand?

Feb 11. 2019
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Re: “New guide drawn up for teacher-education programme”, The Nation, January 24.

The Nation has published several articles on education recently, yet most of them ignored the impact of the Thai rote-learning system. Rote-learning is eschewed by Finland’s education system, the global example. 

The articles advocated changing mindsets, introducing lifelong learning, etc, to encourage questioning and vibrant interaction between students and teachers. None of this will sprout in a rote-learning environment, the present nucleus of our education system. Indeed the Thailand 4.0 innovation-led economy will require the replacement of rote-learning by the 4Cs method – Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Reflection – which will bring a profound and necessary change in teacher-student and worker-boss/manager relations. It will hopefully give rise to a classroom culture of intense questioning, and similar “collaborative questioning sessions” in the workplace. Respect and knowledge should be balanced, but the former must not prevent people from presenting creative and innovative ideas. 

Students and teachers, workers and bosses/managers will have to adapt to this new situation, interacting to absorb, present, defend and explain their ideas and arguments in an environment freed of obstacles to the 4Cs. Arguments that protect existing networks – for example the teaching profession, from moves to allow unlicensed professionals to teach in the classroom – should be heard. But the “complainers” should be made to understand that our workforce currently has a skill level of “Thailand 0.4”, with improvements needed urgently if Thailand is to achieve a 4.0 environment.

Cutting the teacher training programme from five to four years was the right move, but we should also consider ending the training of Thailand 3.0  “rote-learning teachers”. We must now deliver 21st-century teachers, including pre-school staff who are guardians of children in the crucial early learning stage up till five years old. A 21st-century teacher must be able to admit, “I don’t know, but I will get back to you.” 

Thailand desperately needs an education system geared to the new social and economic era it is now entering, an era embodied by the Eastern and Southern Economic Corridor projects.

Dirk Sumter

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