Clarifying sufficiency economy through education
Dr Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya's keynote address introduced a new program that will integrate His Majesty the King's Sufficiency Economy Philosophy into the curriculum of our schools
Story by WEENA NOPPAKUNTHONG
In 2005, a competition was held to find outstanding teaching aids to explain and to find practical applications for His Majesty the King's Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (``philosophy'').
The competition - sponsored by Onesqa and the Sufficiency Economy Movement (SEM) subcommittee - confirmed that most people, particularly those from the education sector, still lacked a complete understanding of the philosophy, and presumed it can only be applied to agriculture.
Although the philosophy had been included in the basic education curriculum, educators had limited teaching resources and failed to create appropriate lesson plans. This problem was urgently addressed when the Education Ministry and the SEM gathered more than 130 administrators and teachers, who were experts on the philosophy, to draft a sufficiency economy curriculum. The draft defines what should be taught for each basic education grade, as well as for vocational education and education outside the formal schooling system. Six e-books have been published and the curriculum will be implemented for the 2008 academic year.
Dr Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, PhD in economics, has spent much of his working experience as an economics educator before his career shift to key government posts in the Industry Ministry.
For 20 years, Dr Chirayu has been entrusted as the director-general of the Crown Property Bureau and the grand chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau. His active role as the chairman of SEM also earned him the reputation and credibility to address many teachers at the conference about sufficiency economy.
Dr Chirayu articulately set out the framework as to how sufficiency economy should be integrated into various school grades.
Putting the philosophy into teaching
``Teachers now have a curriculum that will guide them on what and how to teach sufficiency economy,'' says Dr Chirayu, adding that the e-books show how study units can integrate sufficiency economy into the social sciences.
For Prathom 1-3 (Grades 1-3), students practice the philosophy, starting with their personal lives and their relationships with their family. Students are taught to save money and to be frugal when spending money. Students are also taught how to share and how to help others.
In Prathom 4-6 (Grades 4-6), students practice the philosophy in a larger social circle, involving the family, their school and nearby community. Students should know their family's spending customs and learn how to use the school's resources efficiently.
Mathayom 1-3 (Grades 7-9) students are taught to use the philosophy to improve the social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects of their community.
Finally, Mathayom 4-6 (Grades 10-12) students are taught to apply the philosophy at the national level. Students are taught, for example, about developing the country with the sufficiency economy philosophy in mind, says Dr Chirayu.
Developing the value
In order to instill the values of the philosophy in students, Chirayu says instructional training must start at a young age and continue throughout each level of a young person's education, and beyond.
Chirayu also says that people from every level of society, such as people from the political, business and entertainment fields, should set good examples for children by incorporating the philosophy into their own lives.
The new curriculum will first be used in 80 schools, before expanding to 800 schools in 2008, and eventually to all schools by 2011.
By teaching children the philosophy early and continually, Onesqa and SEM hope to create a greater understanding of His Majesty's message and to promote the values of the philosophy throughout the education sector.
Law to boost vocational skills
Education and Skills bill to shape youth for a modern workforce
Story by CHOLCHAYA SUWANPANMANI
Assessment is a vehicle for improving education in an incredibly complex leaning and teaching process. Today's students require skills beyond math and science. They need to also learn how to apply their knowledge to work and life after graduation.
Learning entails not only the acquisition of knowledge, but also how to apply it effectively. In addition, a proper education includes instilling personal and moral values. The Onesqa conference addressed methods to improve vocational education to achieve a modern workforce.
As a representative from Petroleum Institute of Thailand, Bhundit Pattaweekongkha complained of the lack of preparedness among graduates entering today's workforce. ``Many starters in the petroleum industry are not equipped with language and leadership skills,'' Bhundit says.
Some graduates report to work unable to speak English or any other foreign languages. ``They feel intimidated and lose confidence'' when dealing with foreigners, Bhundit explains.
``Many Thai workers earn lower wages abroad than others from developing countries because they can't communicate or negotiate with employers.'' To eradicate the problems, Bhundit suggests students learn how to think analytically and to think outside the box. ``[Thinking outside the box] requires a new perspectives and lots of creativity. It is the ability to think differently with an open mind while respecting another's opinion,'' Bhundit explains.
In addition to the lack of language and leadership skills, recent graduates suffer from mismatched skills. This results when students have no experience in a particular field or switch fields too suddenly after graduation. Bhundit observes that these factors lead to poorly matched job skills for a particular job and employees that are overly qualified for their job level.
Panit Jitjang of the Department of Labor says, ``Fifty-five percent of the employers hire students with higher qualifications than are required to do the job,'' adding that a new bill will be drafted in mid-2008 to solve the problem. The Education and Skills bill will make education or training compulsory for all youth. ``The law will penalize companies who employ kids without the proper training,'' and ``the onus will be on students to take training courses or obtain an internship.''
``The current proposal is for 15- to 20-year-old students (Por Wor Chor and Por Wor Sor) to get proper training in their chosen field. They will have a skills certificate with a list of qualification levels. If they work without this certificate, they will be subject to a penalty,'' Panit adds.
Illiteracy is also an issue that affects the supply and demand of labor. Since the rate of illiteracy is rising among Thai youth, Dr Sawat Udompot, who is responsible for external vocational education assessment for Onesqa, suggests a new vocational education plan is needed to fight the problem.
Dr Sawat says, ``Tertiary education should be increased from six to nine years, as six years is too short. At ages 15 to 16, students should be allowed to test and prepare for the field they wish to study. They should take more general studies like math, English and science classes. At the same time, they can choose elective courses in the field they wish to pursue.''
``Look at education in the US, for example. American students don't need to choose their study fields until their college years. Students can ascertain whether the field is right for them. It allows them to learn and master skills,'' Dr Sawat explains.
A dual system is being considered that may be integrated into the vocational education plan. The dual system consists of 80 percent theoretical coursework and 20 percent apprenticeship. Students are encouraged to get a job in their junior or senior year, so they have opportunities to practice skills in the real world.
In addition to a pragmatic vocational education plan, Dr Sawat suggests that an emphasis be placed on specialized courses for some fields. Students should be competent as well as well rounded.
``Challenges in today's job market require students to possess multiple skills. They should have them all - language, computer, management and leadership skills, as well as a sound foundation in morals and ethics. Honesty, responsibility, loyalty, and commitment are equally important,'' Dr Sawat points out.
Dr Bunleng Sonnin, an education specialist, addresses another vocational education plan. He says students should be given opportunities to nourish and master their strengths.
``In one institution, students come from different parts of the country. The students who have advanced skills in math, science and English should continue to study those courses. If they wish to take specialized courses, they can do so as electives. Students should also be allowed to transfer credits to college,'' says Dr Bunleng.
Students should participate in a work-study program, says Dr Bunleng. ``Employers face labor difficulties because many young learners don't know how to do the job. Or employers are not utilizing people's skills to the maximum,'' he says.
Skilled workers are required to hold a bachelor's degree in the petrochemical industry, whereas in other developed countries such as Germany, workers need to hold only a high school diploma to operate an automatic machine, explains Dr Bunleng.
Dr Bunleng also suggests raising teaching standards among vocational education institutions. He encourages schools to start a student center for teaching and learning development.
Focus on higher education
Experts share their views on how to improve the quality of education
Story by WEENA NOPPAKUNTHONG
Do students feel teachers offer quality education? Check. Are students the center of learning? Check. Are graduates obtaining jobs in their field of study? Check.
Every five years, trained personnel from the Onesqa will ask similar questions as they evaluate the quality of each school, including universities, colleges and institutes.
As higher education was among the key topics at the conference, three speakers from Onesqa, the education sector and the business sector share their opinions about improving the country's higher education.
Tackle problem from the start
Dr Anumongkol Sirivedhin, Dhurakij Bundhit University president, is most concerned about the acceptance of students with substandard qualifications at the higher education levels, saying this practice lowers the overall quality of education and the institutions.
He said the root of students having substandard qualifications comes from a lack control of quality education in primary and secondary schools, as he pointed out a number of high school students are allowed to graduate, despite their substandard skills.
Many teachers and administrators of primary and secondary schools remain reluctant to fail students, causing them to repeat a grade, says Dr Anumongkol.
This because they are afraid that such actions will affect the students psychologically. But passing a student to a higher grade that they are not prepared for lowers the standard of each grade, he says.
Instead, Dr Anumongkol recommends that education should be organized according to the abilities of the learners. If a student fails a single subject, she or he should be required to repeat that subject only, and not be made to repeat the entire grade level.
In all subjects that the student passes, the student should be allowed to advance. Similarly, if a student is exceptional in mathematics, she or he should be allowed to take advanced math courses with students from a higher grade.
Too many empty seats
There are currently more seats than students at higher education institutes, says Dr Anumongkol. As such, universities are competing to attract and keep enrollees, even if that means that universities are lowering their standards of admission and academic achievement to keep student numbers up, he says.
Some universities that suffer from insufficient enrollment, reduce expenses by hiring less qualified professors.
Dr Somwung Pittiyanuwat, Onesqa director, also agrees that the pressing concern is that Thailand lacks an adequate number of highly qualified teachers. He said in the past a teaching career was a dream profession for many high academic achievers, but not now.
Dr Somwung says that the quality of education is very important, otherwise anyone could easily get a master's or doctorate degree. ``The people who can control the quality of higher education are the teachers, who can choose to neglect or preserve it,'' says Dr Somwung.
Link to the workforce
Representing the private sector, Taweesuk Mudnou, organization development director of Navakij Insurance Co, urges higher education institutes to offer career guidance to students and to collaborate with the employment sector.
He suggests that universities counsel students on suitable career choices. Students can choose to become an employee, self-employed, an entrepreneur or an investor.
For those who choose to become employees, he also recommends that universities should offer special courses to develop students' technical skills and should award certificates that guarantee those skills after rigorous training and study.
This would give students the experience and qualifications they need to get a job.
He urges the private sector to work with universities to show them the available career paths, so that students can choose and be confident with their decision, says Taweesuk.
Areas for improvement
Based on the seven standards that Onesqa uses to evaluate higher education institutes, Dr Somwung says there still needs to be more improvement and they need to produce more academic research and scholarly publishing.
Onesqa would assess the quality of the graduates, for example, based on the percentage of graduates who have obtained a job within one year of graduation and have satisfied their employers with their work performance.
In general, however, Dr Somwung says most higher education institutes are performing well in terms of providing academic services, such as being a guest speaker at a seminar, and in preserving the country's arts and cultures within their institutes.
Partnership for Quality
NZ's assessment specialists applaud their collaborations with Onesqa
Story by KEN MAY
What does Thailand - with its 65 million citizens and 67 percent rural population - share with New Zealand, a small country with only 4.1 million people of mostly European origin and an 88 percent urban population? The answer is both countries are working together to achieve quality education through carefully crafted standards and assessments methodologies.
New Zealand set up an organizational framework to regulate, measure and achieve national standards of quality in education with a major education act in 1989, which was later expanded to include industry training legislation. The goal was to create a transparent process for schools to be consistently evaluated while self-enhancing their growth to local and international levels. Simply put, this legislation cleared a path for education institutes, government offices and the local populace to work together for better education.
New Zealand has worked with Onesqa from its inception. When Thailand drafted its National Education Act in 1999, which mandated setting up national education standards, New Zealand became an ally in assessments. And when Onesqa finally became operational in 2000, New Zealand was a friend indeed.
The Kiwi way
New Zealand Quality Assurance (NZQA) was created to monitor over 2,700 schools and promote national guidelines in its education system for the benefit of 740,000 students. NZQA is considered a sister organization to Onesqa, and both institutes assess the activities and processes of education providers for quality assurance.
NZQA also supports the development and review of academic qualifications, which involves evaluating the overseas qualifications of people wanting to live and study in New Zealand.
The reforms took a participatory approach. Parents elect a board of trustees at each school, which becomes responsible for the management of finances, personnel and curricula development. NZQA chief executive Dr Karen Poutasi says, ``Schools must own the process if quality is to be improved.'' She feels that education reforms should focus on the grass roots level and views NZQA's governmental role more like helpful doctors checking the pulse of education.
The Education Review Office (ERO) carries out evaluations. New Zealand has 150 trained and qualified review officers, spread across 10 local offices, to conduct reviews in three-year-cycles. The way it works is that schools are first notified in advance. ERO will initiate discussion and provide them with written guidelines. Eventually, a group of two to six review officers visit the school to collect evidence and synthesize findings into a report after much discussion. The review is then given to the school, which has an opportunity to contest the findings and to set targets as future goals. Afterward, a confirmed report is presented publicly in a transparent manner.
ERO reports about individual schools, national aggregates, and other education-based studies are easily available online for parents or students.
Frances Salt, ERO national manager of reporting services believes, ``Schools need to be confident that this will help and not worry so much about judgment.'' She points out the reviews are amicable arrangements with schools.
The ERO carries out 900 school evaluations per year, as well as 1,200 reviews of early childhood education providers.
In the past 18 years, a total of five schools have been closed. Salt points out that this action is not done after only one poor review. ``We try to give schools as much help as possible,'' she says, ``our incentive is not to punish schools, but rather to encourage improvements.''
For New Zealand's eight universities, the evaluation process is slightly different. Since 1993, reviews have been carried out by an organization that is independent of governmental influence - New Zealand Universities Academic Audit Unit (NZUAAU). Nevertheless, the approach is the same in that evaluations are considered a partnership that enables universities to enhance quality.
The school has ownership of the process and selects its own goals. Director John Jennings believes that ``schools are essential to community empowerment,'' so he prefers to celebrate the strengths of a school rather than dwell on its weaknesses.
Can NZ's system be applied in Thailand?
New Zealand's efforts toward national standards and quality education are commendable, but the question remains if its system will work in Thailand.
After all, Thailand has a much larger population with less financial resources to be spread around for proper assessment of schools. It has a different culture and tradition of education.
There could be lapses as review officers are trained to provide services for an abundance of Thai schools, and these institutes may be concerned about ``losing face'' once reviews are made public.
The ground level involvement from parents to an elected board of trustees also presents some cultural difficulties. However, Poutasi points out that, despite Thailand's size and culture, basic quality assessment principles work the same in both countries. Schools set their own targets and goals. ``We have to support and work with people if we want change,'' she said.
Salt observes, ``Since New Zealand is small, we can change reasonably quickly,'' but also acknowledges Thailand's love of its children as a strength, ``If the focus is not on the child or the learner, you forget what education is all about.''
Thailand's concept of a sufficiency economy will also play a key role in improving education. A solid supporter of the philosophy, Jennings notes, ``Knowledge is fundamentally important, because knowledge and learning lead to a nation's quality.''
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Last modified: November 19, 2007