Most of our planet is covered in water. However, we can only drink 2.5 percent of it. Some educational commentators suggest that this could be a metaphor for our education budget from the government.
Ironically, a Bangkok Post article on March 31 by Sawai Boonma [headlined Thailand has a shortage of brain power, not water]explained that there wasn't a shortage of water in Thailand, only a shortage of brain power.
Same same, not different
Sawai's article was about water conservation and asked why provinces in countries like India had less rainfall and yet coped better with drought. I couldn't help but draw a comparison with water conservation and the Thai education system in that the money is there but it seems that it is not spent wisely.
With cooperation, a technique called rain harvesting can be used to save water. It involves many landowners collaborating to dig a large number of ponds on their land. For some reason, this doesn't happen in Thailand, and there certainly does not seem to be much cooperation between universities, or even among faculties, come to think of it.
So many economies of scale would come into force if there were more collaborative projects between universities, faculties and schools. The money saved could be invested in more education materials and infrastructure, thus easing the burden on our already overworked and underpaid teachers.
The sharing of resources and knowledge would result in a form of cross-pollination where all participants would benefit. Unfortunately, the competitive nature of human beings and the selfish way in which some educators hoard knowledge and resources for themselves without sharing result in a lack of cohesion and the failure of knowledge to cascade down to where it is needed most.
All is not lost
There are some educational establishments that buck the trend and see cooperation and collaboration as a way to move their institutions forward. I was recently at Khon Kaen University International College, and I was suitably impressed by comments made by the dean, Dr Yupin Techamanee.
According to Dr Yupin, the university sees the use of faculty staff working in one another's faculties as a matter of course. Faculties and programmes benefit from the teachers best suited and experienced to teach the relevant courses. I am sure that this practice does not detract from the competitive nature of individual faculties, and I believe that the students, teachers and universities will all benefit in the long term.
Moreover, if you add to this the chance to collaborate with other schools and universities, not just in Thailand, but overseas, it is obvious that with the blinkers off, there is much more to see and do with a little courage and conviction.
On the subject of courage and conviction, an article by Wichit Chantanusornsiri, headlined Kickback complaints surround new centre in the Feb 8 edition of the Bangkok Post, detailed complaints about kickbacks on a new multi-billion-baht centre in Phuket under the government's stimulus package.
It was reported that payments were demanded by state officials to the tune of 41 percent. Thammasat University was retained to design the centre for a fee of 100 million baht, and it refused to pay the outrageous amount of 41 million baht as tea money. That's a lot of tea by anyone's standards.
We read about corruption and graft all the time. However, very rarely have I seen an article where money was not paid. I commend Thammasat University for being honest in their endeavours, and I hope that other education institutions follow their lead in refusing to contribute to the 40 percent of budgets that are allegedly used to grease the wheels of our education industry.
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 education