The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the result of PISA 2015 which assessed the knowledge and skills in sciences, mathematics, and reading. Singapore ranks top, followed by Japan, Estonia, Taiwan and Finland.
Although we have seen many success stories of Thai students in international academic competitions, these students are mostly from large schools which have developed educational readiness systematically, unlike almost all of the other schools which are poorly equipped, resulting in an education growth concentration problem. This can clearly be seen from the results of the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), with Singapore ranking 1st and Thailand 55th from 72 countries. This is now a hot issue in Thailand. Many educational institutions agree that Thai society has a high level of education inequality. Moreover, the curricula fails to be applied to Thai students’ everyday lives.
Thailand ranked 54th for mathematics and science, and 57th for reading. On overall performance, Thailand ranked 55th from 72 countries. The ranking and score dropped from the last assessment in 2012 in all subjects. 273 Thai schools participated in PISA for this round; some of them were prepared, while others were ill-equipped. Although the prepared schools scored as highly as top ranking schools in science, mathematics and reading, the majority of schools scored poorly, resulting in an average low score. This clearly demonstrates the problem of education inequality in Thailand. The Chevron Enjoy Science Project, managed by Kenan Foundation Asia, recognizes the severity of this problem. To address the issue, they distribute educational material to schools (especially low advantaged schools in rural areas) across Thailand and help in managing essential teacher and personnel resources, such as:
- Proper curriculum that include media, materials and equipment for science and mathematics.
- Quality professional development for teachers and school leaders.
The Chevron Enjoy Science project training pedagogies originate from the United States, which has been developing an integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education model for over 20 years, and is currently the world leader in developing inquiry-based STEM Education. Key to the success of this integrated pedagogy is the emphases placed on ensuring subjects are relatable to students’ everyday lives, and the promotion of project-based learning. After careful research Enjoy Science has partnered with two outstanding US organizations for the roll-out of STEM curriculums in Thailand, which includes the curriculum of the Science and Technology Concepts (STC) from Columbia University for general education schools, and It’s About Time (IAT) from University of Massachusetts for vocational education schools. Both curricula are highly flexible and have been adapted for use in Thailand by Kenan education experts. At the same time, the project has organized regular workshops to increase the capacity of teachers in curriculum planning and managing learning for students effectively, and distributed STEM learning kits for the STC and IAT curricula to teachers and students.
To date, over 2,000 teachers, more than 500 school leaders, and close to 70,000 students have directly benefited from these critical activities. With just over three years remaining on the project, it is hoped that students going through the program will be far more successful for the next PISA round, and that Thai students are well prepared for STEM related jobs.