World Bank urges education reform
Lack of action limits Thai growth potential
Education reform is needed to put Thailand back on track towards its potential growth and becoming a high-income country, says the World Bank.
Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank's country director for Southeast Asia, said the current government has been active in tackling obstacles to doing business in Thailand, but while plenty of discussion has occurred regarding reform of the education system, concrete policies haven't emerged.
"Implementation has yet to begin, and this is something I want to highlight as it is critically important to do to improve the skills of young people," Mr Zachau said.
He said key reforms of the education system include changes in curriculum and an integration of schools to ensure qualified teachers in each school.
"From our experience, no country has advanced to high-income status without investing hugely, and Thailand will have to do the same in its education system," Mr Zachau said.
"Thailand already invests a lot in education, but it is important to invest it in the right way, the right place and on the right group, which are those children living outside of Bangkok."
He said education reform is the most urgent area that requires action in the World Bank's latest report, "Getting Back on Track: Reviving Growth and Securing Prosperity for All".
The report said with the current level of economic growth, it will take two more decades for Thailand to achieve high-income status.
Some 7 million Thais live in poverty while another 7 million are vulnerable to falling back into poverty if they are exposed to shocks, the report said.
"Thailand is not on track to grow at a much faster rate than it is presently growing," Mr Zachau said.
The report suggests three areas of development: creating more and better jobs, providing more targeted support for the bottom 40% of the population, and making growth greener and more resilient.
Lars Sondergaard, the World Bank's programme leader for human development and poverty and the lead author of the report, said to create more jobs, the government should boost investment in infrastructure, increase competition through free trade agreements and deregulation and increase the private sector's competitiveness through greater technology absorption and innovation.
For the bottom 40% of the population, the government should improve overall education and skills, boost agricultural productivity, and provide social protection and a safety net, he said.
"In the past Thailand was successful at reducing poverty, partly because of the trend of increasing crop prices in the 2000s, but now most analysts expect crop prices to stay flat," Mr Sondergaard said.
Better management of natural resources, reducing vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, and promoting energy efficiency and clean energy are methods to make growth greener and more resilient, he said.