One of the things I like best about my job is getting to speak with a wide range of stakeholders, from Managing Directors, to Ministers, to teachers, about the pressing need for education reform here in Thailand that successfully builds 21st century skills and prepares students for the demands of tomorrow’s workforce.
Unfortunately, a common thread through many of those conversations is a number of sticky myths about the nature of Thai education. Here are the top five I have heard and the facts to correct the myths.
5. Myth. The Thai government does not spend much money on public education.
Fact. The Thai government spends an astounding 4 percent of GDP, roughly 20 percent of the government budget, on education, one of the highest in the world. How these funds are spent is another issue.
4. Myth. The Thai government does not want to improve education because they want an ignorant population.
Fact. The Thai government has made improving education, especially in the areas of science and math and workforce development, a critical national priority under the Thailand 4.0 agenda. An important part of this effort is seeking to improve learning to build “Smart Students” who can use their soft skills to apply what they have learned to real-world situations.
3. Myth. The government has privatized teacher training and provides funds for teachers to receive adequate teacher professional development.
Fact. Thailand’s system for teacher training is outdated and complex. Some training is provided directly by the Ministry of Education, some is funded through company CSR programs, while teachers also have a small budget of 10,000 THB to cover training provided by registered trainers. Despite this system, many teachers do not receive adequate professional development, few receive critical mentoring, and most lack opportunities to update their subject matter knowledge, especially science teachers.
2. Myth. Vocational Teaches are the worst teachers in Thailand.
Fact. Teachers in the vocational system here in Thailand are every bit as dedicated as their general education counterparts. Unfortunately, the vocational system is underfunded, under-equipped and lacks opportunities for teacher training. In our surveys, the typical vocational teacher has not received any training or other professional development in over five years.
1. Myth. Corporate funding for education cannot improve education outcomes, so it is better to donate tablets and provide scholarships.
Fact. Corporate-funded education reform is possible, but it takes dedicated resources and experts that know how to direct them correctly within the complex rules of the education system. Any project which does not fully understand the Thai educational context and how to embed education work into the Thai system will fail. Kenan’s work on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education has clearly proven that you can build teacher capability, improve student math and science outcomes, and have a direct impact on improving education, when education reform is done correctly.
John DaSilva is Kenan's Director of Partnerships and Communications
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