“I’ve realized that my science lessons must be student-centered, rather than teacher-centered,” said Mr. Watchara Dachoponchai, shortly after finishing a master teacher workshop held by Kenan Foundation Asia in early November as part of the Thai Teachers TryScience project. A science teacher at Matthayompuranawas School in Bangkok, Mr. Dachoponchai has just completed a two-day workshop that equipped him with four hands-on science lessons and a new understanding of how to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.
The Thai Teachers TryScience project is a five-month, pilot project that is introducing STEM-related, technology-based education resources to the Thai education system. With Thai education ranked 8th among the 10 ASEAN group members by the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013, the country may be at a significant disadvantage once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integrates, allowing for a freer flow of skilled labor within ASEAN.
A lack of quality STEM education, as well as career technical education (CTE), has resulted in low science and math test scores nationwide, which are pushing students out of skilled, STEM-related careers. This shortage of skilled STEM graduates hurts private sector development and further limits opportunities for Thailand’s future students. Though the current and previous Thai governments have made education reform a major focus area, it remains difficult to gain buy-in from local schools to try new teaching pedagogies, as they are generally focused on student achievement tests.
Designed to address these issues head on, the Thai Teachers TryScience project works by building the capacity of master teachers to deliver training on TryScience teaching modules and then rolling-out professional development training to over 200 middle school teachers in Bangkok and Samut Prakarn. These TryScience lessons, localized for Thailand by Kenan’s education experts, were designed to spark students’ interest in STEM and give them a real-world understanding of scientific concepts.
As Mr. Dachoponchai puts it, “I’ve gained the classroom management and interactive teaching techniques needed to interest my students.” These new skills were on full display at a recent two-day workshop in Bangkok, where Mr. Dachoponchai joined 14 other master teachers to train 240 local science teachers. “It’s amazing to share these teaching lessons and concepts with other teachers,” he said. “I hope to inspire them to apply these interactive, hands-on learning in their own classrooms.”
Now back with his school in Bangkok, Mr. Dachoponchai has continued to look for ways to improve his science lessons. “Since working with the project, I’m constantly looking for new classroom management techniques and new lessons in order to be more effective in the classroom,” he said. The Thai Teachers TryScience project will wrap up activities in January 2016, after which the project will be assessed on the potential for a larger scale roll-out.