Educating Young Technicians for Tomorrow’s Workplace

Concentrated faces and occasional bursts of laughter fill Ms. Silarat Ongsirichaisakulat’s Active Physics science class at Chachoengsao Technical College. When each member of a team runs a process successfully, cheers erupt from the students.

Ms. Silarat eagerly shared her outlook on education with the Enjoy Science team: “If you set up the classroom for hands-on learning, students will be happy to learn.”

As a Master Teacher of the Active Physics curriculum with the task of training more than 150 teachers from technical and vocational schools over three years, Ms. Silarat urges teachers across the country to bring hands-on activities into the classroom to prepare students for the 21st century workplace. Most recently, at the TVET 4.0 Conference organized by the Chevron Enjoy Science Project, she was one of three Active Physics Master Teachers to share novel pedagogical practices with an audience of nearly 100 peer science educators.

Workers from technical and vocational fields are positioned at a critical juncture in Thailand’s shifting economy, says Ms. Silarat. As public and private sectors grow in demand for technicians with collaborative problem solving skills, Ms. Silarat has redesigned her classroom using curriculum designed by leading science educators from the USA to prepare students for real-world challenges.

Ms. Silarat points out that it is difficult to engage all students at once in lecture-based classes, with quick learners itching to exhibit their knowledge and slower learners tending to disengage. Group projects, on the other hand, give all students the opportunity to grow together as creative thinkers and problem solvers.

Ms. Silarat explains that students in her classes are eager to explain concepts to each other. Some exhibit strong leadership skills, jumping at the opportunity to execute their ideas and influence their peers. Meanwhile, their fellow students absorb understanding through hands-on tasks as they are encouraged to digest the data and co-develop creative solutions along with the team.

Ms. Silarat has also found that project-based work develops students into goal-based learners. If students are taught to understand the holistic process and objectives, Ms. Silarat says, “they continually search for room for refinement, identifying inefficiencies and iterating toward improvement. In the workplace, a keen eye for honing processes is a highly desirable trait to any employer”.

In addition to problem solving and collaboration, Ms. Silarat teaches that discipline, language and cultural skills are important for the future labor market. She shares with her students the Japanese concept of “5S”— “sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain” — a system for organizing spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively and safely. Ms. Silarat also emphasizes the importance of English fluency and understanding how to work in a cross-cultural environment as Thailand’s economy becomes increasingly globalized.

Ms. Silarat is grateful for the opportunity through the Chevron Enjoy Science Project to share the Active Physics curriculum not only with her students, but with hundreds of other educators from regions across the country, amplifying her impact in a movement that will foster the generation of future technicians for Thailand’s Industry 4.0. She muses, smiling widely, “It would be amazing if our young students grow up to raise Thailand to the level of a leading industrialized nation in the future.”

Kenan Asia

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