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Students deserve both quality and depth

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In a recent Bangkok Post article, Dr Somwung Pitiyanuwat, who has just left the Office for National Standards and Quality Assessment (Onesqa) to assist the Office of Higher Education in a new role, stated that he was looking for the country's best teaching institutions to conduct specialist teacher training. 

That brings us to a new initiative that will see 30,000 scholarships on offer for students to study education. The government is aiming to kick-start our teacher training to make our education sector something to be proud of. It's about time.

Not up to standards

Many years ago, the teaching profession was highly regarded. Only the top in their class would go into teaching. Now, unfortunately, it is the opposite. Teaching and a government job for life have become an easy way to safeguard a family's future security.

My main concerns are for the teacher-training organisations that are not chosen for this initiative. Some of these will no doubt be doing a great job, but they are not the tops in their field. However, by Dr Somwung's own admission, although there are enough teacher graduates around, they "lack the required standards to teach", indicating that substandard teaching facilities are producing substandard graduates.

It is my hope that, while the government is looking to invest in new specialist teacher training institutions, Onesqa continues its outstanding work and bring those organisations that are below par into line.

The other side of the coin is that we have recognised that the Faculty of Education at Chulalongkorn University has 80 percent of their graduates going into careers other than teaching. In a classic two-way pincer movement, couldn't we entice some of that 80 percent to stay and be teachers, as well as increase the quality of our graduate teaching centres?

Positive initiatives

During his interview, Dr Somwung also focused on the amount of time students should spend at university to obtain their education degree. He suggests at least six years, which is something I have thought about for some time.

If we are to turn the clock back and make the teaching profession something to be proud of, we need to raise the bar and then reward our graduates accordingly.

By extending the development of our education graduates and making sure that their learning experience gives them the tools to do their job well, it would not be unreasonable to expect that salaries and benefits would be increased to reflect the professionalism that has been attained. Add to this a belief in, and a commitment to, lifelong learning and we could have professionals to be really proud of.

The difference between teacher trainers and university teachers was highlighted by Dr Somwung to good effect, just as he did with regard to specific teacher licences for discrete academic levels. In addition, he spoke about the "4 + 1" scheme and further research into Thai students' learning styles, among other topics.

These and other initiatives that were discussed could turn the tide. However, as all previous initiatives have shown, it is the implementation that is difficult. I look forward to seeing which education establishments are chosen to take part in our new teacher-training initiative as well as seeing those that are presently not up to the proper standards achieving their full potential.

Steve Graham is an English-language teacher at the Language Centre, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. You may discuss matters related to this article, by sending your comments to 'In My Opinion' at

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