Education policy and the Thai election
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Education policy and the Thai election

Ambika of Reuters has an interesting analytical piece about educational policy and the Thai election. Some key excerpts:

Critics say that without an overhaul to bring the system into the 21st century, Thailand will lose out in the race with Asian rivals for foreign investment.

While Taiwan, Singapore, China and India have poured billions of dollars into developing world-class university education, English-language instruction and high-value skills, Thailand has moved little beyond a decades-old system that aims mostly to preserve national identity.

But experts say money is not the problem.

“The mindset is from the nation-building and Cold War period to produce obedient and nationalistic citizens, which does not fit the 21st-century needs,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University. “It is hierarchical, top-down, with a systematic lack of critical thinking.”

Thailand is already among the world’s top education spenders relative to its size, allocating roughly 20 percent of its annual budget to education, according to the central bank.

The country spent the equivalent of 4 percent of GDP on education in 2009, above Singapore’s 3.1 percent, according to the Swiss-based Institute of Management Development (IMD), but Singapore ranks 13th in education performance and Thailand 47th.

Literacy has been consistently high since the 1970s and was 94 percent in 2010.

But while about 71 percent of students go on to secondary school in the country of 67 million people, just 18 percent finish college, according to Direk Patmasiriwat, a researcher at Thailand Development Research Institute, a think tank.

One result: Thailand produces a workforce with some of the world’s weakest English-language skills. The IMD ranks Thailand 54th of 56 countries globally for English proficiency, the second-lowest in Asia. Singapore was third and Malaysia 28th.

BP: The above excerpts don’t do the piece justice and it is well worth reading in its entirety including some details of education policy and the election policy. Is there any hope for the education system in Thailand? It does not seem to be a subject which is much discussed so far and well the bureaucracy is hardly encouraging reform to promote students to think differently…

One topic that is mentioned in the article is the difference between urban and rural schools. In the real world, two people do not have the same opportunities. There are a number of factors involved, including family priorities, wealth etc., which means that children do not get the same opportunities and this is just a fact of life. Compounding this is the fact that in many urban areas in Thailand the facilities and the resources received from the government at the schools are significantly better than those for rural schools. The inequality of opportunities where urban schools receive much greater resources than rural schools is a very serious issue.

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