Today, more than ever before, students must be able to think critically and dynamically apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to solve complex problems. Without developing key 21st century skills (such as critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork) and STEM education, Thai children are destined to sink in the fast-paced, Industry 4.0 era. Right now, Thailand has over 15,000 unfilled STEM technician positions, despite over 120,000 students graduating from vocational education programs last year. Put simply, our education system is not producing students with the needed technical and soft skills to fill in-demand jobs, that are critical to Thailand’s future development.
The solution to overcoming the challenges of the Industry 4.0 era is to empower kids like Nattakarn now with the skills to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow, click here to read Nattakarn’s story. This involves giving students opportunities to immerse themselves into projects and activities that compel them to develop 21st century skills and an innovative mindset. Central to this effort is focusing on the most important element of any education system: the teachers responsible for delivering education to students. No other component of the education system has a more direct relationship to student outcomes than teachers. Make no mistake, teachers who are motivated, know how to engage students, and understand how to utilize modern pedagogies will almost always outperform their peers in the classroom, as measured by levels of student engagement and student performance.
That is why Kenan is working with a wide range of international and Thai partners to deliver our 21st century education model to help students prepare for jobs that haven’t even been created yet, click here to read about Kenan’s partners. Our goal is to accelerate the changes taking place in education as the region moves from one of rote learning and memorization, to one using modern pedagogies and group, question-based learning. A key element of our work today is the application of a three part model for delivering a 21st century education that has proven essential to teacher success and earning government support: 1. Professional development for teachers and school leaders, 2. Provision of materials and resources to teachers and students, and 3. Alignment with the Thai curriculum.
Professional development refers to the range of activities around training teachers like Mr. Sunthan and principals, and providing on-going mentorship to help them learn, adjust, and grow in their ability to implement and support the roll-out of inquiry-based education and other modern pedagogies, click here to read Mr. Sunthan’s story. Too often, programs designed to develop teachers rely on a goal that emphasizes the number of teachers trained, rather than their ability to adapt what they are taught to their classroom. Resources that trained many teachers would be better used by re-directing them to provide on-going teacher mentorship to help a smaller number of teachers tackle the challenges they face in managing an inquiry-based classroom. As well, without the support of school leaders who understand what teachers are doing, these efforts will often be abandoned as principals insist on reverting back to the calm quiet of a rote classroom. As such, efforts that truly move the needle on improving teaching capabilities must focus on both the teacher and the principal, and provide on-going mentoring to help them along the way.
Provision of materials and resources
There is perhaps nothing more frustrating to a teacher than completing a training course, returning to their classroom, and lacking the resources to deliver their new lessons to their students. What good is training a teacher in how to deliver an exciting new physics experiment in about force and motion when they lack the materials needed for the students to recreate the experiment? Teachers need access to the necessary equipment, teacher’s manuals, lesson plans, and other resources in order to deliver what they have learned to their students. Without them, teachers, and students, will soon grow frustrated and revert back to a traditional rote learning model.
Alignment with the Thai curriculum
Another major hurdle to successful education programming is the need to align materials, such as lessons and modules, with the Thai curriculum, and ensure it addresses the local Thai context. Teachers today are incredibly busy and have precious little time to add new materials to their lesson plans. They are also required by the Ministry of Education to spend a certain amount of time covering key topics. As such, you cannot simply add more material to a teachers’ teaching load and expect them to implement it in the classroom. Rather, you must carefully match provided materials with specific areas of the Thai curriculum so that it enhances what they are required to teach students, without adding significant time to the lesson plan. Furthermore, if you operate like Kenan and bring in international quality curriculums, you must be sure that they are localized correctly.
Finally, the need to promote the importance and excitement of STEM careers and 21st century skills development to parents and students should not be overlooked. Today, parents are far more inclined to push their children to enter a general education track and learn social sciences rather than push for a STEM career, or a career in a technical field. Action must be taken to encourage students to help children enjoy science and math education, and inspire them to learn about STEM careers, while we must also convince parents that this is an excellent choice for their child. Events like STEM camps and contests, STEM caravans, career days, maker spaces, and other awareness events will help close the gap in moving students from a social science focus to a STEM focus, and support Thailand’s goal of increasing the number of vocational students to be 60% of all students (it was at only 32% in 2014).
By delivering these elements, Kenan and its corporate partners are ensuring that hundreds of thousands of students are not being left behind as the region undergoes its next stage of economic development.
Please contact us today to learn more about the many ways your company can support schools, teachers and students, such as sponsoring a STEM Camp, supporting teacher training, or helping to equip classrooms: [email protected]