Education reform: Share classroom best practice nationwide

Education reform: Share classroom best practice nationwide

The scores achieved by Thailand in the results of tje Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) announced last December proved why reform is necessary. (File photo)
The scores achieved by Thailand in the results of tje Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) announced last December proved why reform is necessary. (File photo)

Throw away failed top-down approaches, share classroom best practice nationwide & strive for continual improvement.


Education reform: Share classroom best practice nationwide

Supanutt Sasiwuttiwat & Chosita Salakham

Thailand is continually attempting to reform its educational system.

Educational reform is largely a top-down approach proceeding by overhauling the Ministry of Education or tweaking laws and regulations.

It was hoped that this would eventually improve learning outcomes in schools.

It hasn't.

Maybe it is the frequent changes in Education Ministers, after each cabinet reshuffle, that is at fault.

Each new minister replaces the previous one and starts from scratch with a new set of pet policies. This obviously makes it difficult to support any long-term reform.

Perhaps, the problem is the bureaucrats in the Education Ministry, far away from the actual grunt work of education, far away from the individual teachers and students working hard everyday in classrooms to learn. Perhaps these bureaucrats are just too far away from what is actually going on in education.

Some things, however, are for certain:

1. If you look around the world there are countries with successful education systems, Finland for example.

2. There is such a thing as evidence-based educational practice that has been proven to produce learning results, and...

3. There is also a frame of mind (mindset, work strategy) of "continual improvement" and persistence that is conducive to eventual success and learning. 

That is what this article is about.


Many Thai schools did not perform so well in the 2015 global PISA (Programme for International Students Assessments) educational system evaluations.

A few Thai schools, however, did perform well.

What is remarkable is that these are schools with students from rather poor families.

Normally, one would expect disadvantaged poor students to get lower scores

[If all 264 schools participating in the PISA testing are divied into five groups based on their students' socio-economic status. The top 10 schools of the poorest student group scored 461 points in science, above the national average score of 421.]

The best-performing Thai school in the poor group of Thai schools included in PISA is even on par with the average school in the member countries of the rich OECD countries which are more developed than Thailand!


One of these schools' key success factors could be their know-how in enhancing disadvantaged students' learning outcomes, as they are not endowed with more financial resources like the others.

One way to capture the benefits of what these schools do is to flip the current education reform approach over and turn it upside down. Do the exact opposite of what the bureaucrats do:

Rather than starting top-down from the Education Ministry, reform could start from the bottom-up from the classroom and students by: 

1. Improving classrooms and then,

2. Scaling up good practices nationwide to achieve system-wide change.

Successful educational programs from the US and Japan show that such an approach is possible.


The Knowledge is Power Programme (KIPP) in the US is a nationwide franchise-like network of charter schools, or privately managed public schools.

A full 87% of KIPP students are poor and eligible for free or subsidised lunches.

Research found that the students from KIPP schools learned faster in math by half a year than their similarly poor peers.

More importantly, the success has persisted as KIPP has expanded its network to 162 schools, enrolling around 8,000 students across 20 states.


One key success factor is the school's translation of good practices into five core principles ready to be learned.

For example, according to a data-driven teaching principle, teachers should frequently adjust their teaching practices by analysing students' learning outcomes from student assessments.

To ensure that its franchisees effectively use the five principles, KIPP designs a rigorous principal selection process, which currently selects only around 10% of the applicants.

The new principals have to go through one-year training and coaching before they can run and manage schools.


Another encouraging case from the US is the adoption of successful practices of high-quality privately-run charter schools by public schools.

Roland G Fryer, a researcher from Harvard University, attributed five key common practices to high-quality charter schools:

1. High expectations for students,

2. Instructional time extension,

3. Small group tutoring,

4. Data-driven instruction, and

5. Frequent teacher feedback.

These practices have been introduced to the 20 worst-performing public schools in a Houston school district in the US, whose students' math learning was five months slower than their peers. Early results show the learning gap was almost closed within one to two years.


Japan offers another interesting case. In Japan, almost all primary schools adopt the "Lesson Study" or kaizen approach in the education sector.

Kaizen is a teacher-led approach in which a group of teachers work together to continuously improve educational practices and their students' learning and then share the proven solutions with others.

This approach is credited for transforming Japanese math teaching into successful problem-solving discussions. As a result, Japanese students have high math performance in almost every round of international tests.

In this approach:

1. Small groups of teachers collaborate to identify students' learning problems and develop their lesson plans to address them.

2. Teachers study educational research, teacher manuals, and other learning materials, and provide teaching according to the lesson plans.

3. Students' learning then is observed by the other teachers and educational experts.

4. All observations are later discussed to draw lessons learned from classrooms.

5. Afterwards, teachers convey the lessons to other schools and spread the practices across the education system.


To scale up good school practices in Thailand, we need to identify excellent schools, Thailand's hidden assets.

National student assessments should be revised to be more reliable like the PISA.

Assessment data can be used to identify effective teaching and learning methods. Good practices should then be turned into explicit knowledge to be used by other schools.


Rapid scaling up requires platforms, ranging from highly-organised ones such as KIPP franchises to less organised knowledge-sharing platforms among schools like what is demonstrated by the Japanese approach.

The platforms should help schools and teachers to internalise the shared knowledge.

The government and social partners should provide supports for building these platforms.

High-performing schools should be supported to help turn underperforming ones around and expand their franchisee-like subsidiaries.


The ultimate goal of our education system is to turn schools into learning organisations.

True education reform can be achieved only when teachers and schools continuously improve their learning and teaching methods.

To successfully reform our education system, maybe we need to "flip" the approach.

Supanutt Sasiwuttiwat is a senior researcher and Chosita Salakham is a researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI). Policy analyses from the TDRI appear in the Bangkok Post on alternate Wednesdays.

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  • according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
  • achieve: to succeed in doing something very good or difficult - บรรลุผลสำเร็จ
  • apparently: based only on what you have heard or think, not on what you are certain is true; seemingly - ตามที่ได้รู้มา
  • approach: a way of doing or dealing with something; a particular way of doing something or thinking about something - การจัดการกับปัญหา วิธีการทำให้ถึงจุดหมาย
  • assessment: the process of making a judgment or forming an opinion, after considering something or someone carefully - การประเมิณสถานการณ์
  • asset: a thing of value - สิ่งที่มีคุณค่า
  • at fault: to blame; to be responsible for something bad - เหตุขัดข้อง
  • attribute to: to believe that something is the result of a particular situation, event, or person’s actions - ถือว่าเป็นของ
  • average: an amount calculated by adding several amounts together, finding a total, and dividing the total by the number of amounts - เฉลี่ย, ค่าเฉลี่ย
  • based on (verb): information or facts used to make a story, calculation, judgement or decision - ตั้งอยู่บน,ยึดเป็นหลัก
  • bureaucrats: people who work in government departments - ข้าราชการ
  • cabinet: the group of government ministers who make and approve government policy - คณะรัฐมนตรี
  • cabinet reshuffle: changing one or more members of the cabinet - การปรับคณะรัฐมนตรี
  • certain: sure - แน่ใจ, แน่นอน
  • charter school: a privately managed school -
  • clueless (adj): having no knowledge of something, or of things in general - ไม่รู้อะไรบ้างเลย
  • collaborate: to work together with someone else - ร่วมมือ
  • common: ordinary; not unusual or special - ที่เกิดขึ้นทุกวัน, ธรรมดา
  • conducive: creating a situation that helps something to happen - ที่นำไปสู่, ที่ทำให้เกิดขึ้น
  • continual (adj): continuing without interruption; continuous - ต่อเนื่อง
  • continually (adverb): in a way that continues without interruption - อย่างต่อเนื่อง
  • continuously: happening or existing for a period of time without interruption - ซึ่งติดต่อกัน, ซึ่งต่อเนื่องกัน
  • convey: to communicate something; to express a thought, feeling or idea so that it is understood by other people - สื่อไปถึง, สื่อสาร
  • core: the most important or most basic part of something - ที่สำคัญที่สุด
  • credit: to believe or say that somebody/something is responsible for doing something, especially something good - ให้เกียรติ, ยกย่อง, ให้เครดิต
  • data: facts or information, especially when examined and used to find out things or to make decisions - ข้อมูล, ตัวเลข, สถิติ
  • data-driven (adj): based on data; based on information, especially numbers -
  • develop (verb): to gradually grow and improve something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger and successful - พัฒนา
  • disadvantaged: not having the things, such as education, or enough money, that people need in order to succeed in life - ด้อยโอกาส, ผู้เสียเปรียบในสังคม
  • eligible: allowed by rules or laws to do something or to receive something - มีสิทธิ
  • encouraging: creating hope; positive; indicating something good is likely to happen - ทําให้ใจมีกําลังขึ้น, ชูใจ
  • endow with: to give a particular quality to something - บริจาคให้กับ
  • enhance: to improve the quality, amount or strength of something - ปรับปรุง, ทำให้ดีขึ้น
  • enroll (verb): to put someone onto the official list of members of a course or college - ลงทะเบียน
  • ensure: to make certain that something happens or is done - ให้การยืนยัน, รับรอง, ให้ความมั่นใจ
  • evaluation: the process of thinking carefully about something before making a judgment about its value, importance, or quality - การประเมินผล
  • eventual: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด
  • eventually: at the end of a period of time or at the end of a process - ในที่สุด
  • evidence: facts, signs or objects that make you believe that something is true - หลักฐาน,ข้อแสดง
  • exact (adj.): done, made, or described in a very thorough way, with all the details correct - ถูกต้องแม่นยำ
  • expand: to make or become larger (noun form: expansion) - ทำให้กว้าง, ทำให้ขยาย
  • expect (verb): to think or believe that something will happen or that somebody will do something - คาด, คาดว่า, คาดการณ์
  • expectations: the belief that something will happen - สิ่งที่คาด คิดว่าจะเกิดขึ้นในอนาคต
  • expert: someone who has a particular skill or who knows a lot about a particular subject - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญ
  • explicit: clearly, done or written in a way that is clear and easy to understand - อย่างชัดเจน, อย่างแน่ชัด
  • extension: making a period of time longer - การขยายออกไป
  • factor: a fact or situation which influences the result of something - ปัจจัย
  • feedback: advice, criticism or information about how good or useful something or somebody's work is - ผลสะท้อนกลับ,การตอบกลับ
  • financial: involving money - เกี่ยวกับเงิน, ทางการเงิน
  • frame of mind: the mood that someone is in, which influences their attitudes or feelings - อารมณ์, สภาพของจิตใจขณะนั้น
  • franchise: a formal agreement for someone to sell a company’s products or services in a particular place - การขายระบบแฟรนไชนส์ คือมีสาขาของร้านค้า เช่น 7-eleven
  • frequent: happening often - เกิดขึ้นบ่อย
  • global: throughout the world - ทั่วโลก
  • goal: aim; purpose - เป้าหมาย จุดมุ่งหมาย
  • grunt: a low level soldier in the military who actually does the dirty work of war, fighting in battles -
  • identify: to specify who someone is - ระบุชื่อ
  • improve: to make better - ทำให้ดีขึ้น
  • improvement: when something gets better or when you make it better - การปรับปรุง, การทำให้ดีขึ้น
  • instruction: teaching, education - การสอน
  • instructional: for teaching -
  • introduce (verb): to make somebody learn about something or do something for the first time - แนะนำ, แนะนำให้รู้จักกับ
  • key: most important - ที่สำคัญ
  • know-how: knowledge; knowing how to do something - ความรู้และทักษะ; ความรู้หรือวิธีการ
  • knowledge (noun): all the facts that people know about a subject (example: medical knowledge) - ความรู้
  • largely (adverb): mostly -
  • leverage: to get as much advantage or profit as possible from something that you have - หาประโยชน์, ใช้กำลังหรือมีอิทธิต่อ
  • manual: an instruction book; a textbook - คู่มือ
  • material: information or ideas used in books, songs, etc - ข้อมูล, เนื้อหา, ใจความ, สาระ
  • mindset: a way of thinking about things - ความเชื่อที่ผลต่อพฤติกรรม
  • ministry: a government department that has a particular area of responsibility - กระทรวง
  • national (adjective): for the whole country - แห่งชาติ, ของชาติ
  • nationwide: throughout a whole country - ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
  • network: a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. - เครือข่าย
  • normally: usually; in normal circumstances - โดยปกติ, ตามปกติ
  • observation: the process of watching someone or something carefully, in order to find something out - การสังเกต
  • observe: to watch or study someone or something with care - สังเกตการณ์
  • obviously: clearly - เห็นได้ชัด, อย่างชัดแจ้ง
  • on par with: equal to -
  • opposite: a person or thing that is as different as possible from somebody/something else - ตรงกันข้าม
  • outcome: a result - ผล
  • overhaul: to improve something so that every part of it works properly - ปรับปรุงใหม่
  • participating: taking part in something - เข้าร่วม
  • perform (verb): to do what is required - ปฏิบัติหน้าที่
  • performance (noun): how well someone does some task or activity; how well they achieve their goals - การปฏิบัติงาน, การทำให้บรรลุผลสำเร็จ
  • persist: to continue - ยืดเยื้อต่อไป
  • persistence: continuing to do or say something in a determined way - ยืนกราน
  • pet (adj): something that a person loves very much; their favourite - ของโปรด
  • platform (noun): a type of media or way of distributing information , e.g., websites, newspapers, magazines, video, etc. -
  • practice: a way of doing something - การปฏิบัติ
  • primary school: a school for young children usually between the ages of 5/6 and 11 - โรงเรียนประถมศึกษา
  • principal: the person who is in charge of a school, college or a university - ผู้อำนวยการ,ครูใหญ่,อธิการบดี
  • principle: a basic belief, theory, or rule that has a major influence on the way in which something is done; a moral rule or standard of good behavior - กฎ, ข้อปฏิบัติ, หลักปฏิบัติ
  • proceed: to carry out an activity - ดำเนินการ
  • proven: when facts, evidence, etc. show that something is true - พิสูจน์
  • rather: somewhat; partly but not completely - บ้าง, บางส่วน
  • reform: a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair - การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป
  • regulation: an official rule that controls the way that things are done - กฎระเบียบ
  • remarkable: unusual or special and therefore surprising and worth mentioning - ไม่ธรรมดา
  • replace: to change from one thing to another - แทน
  • researcher: a person who carriers out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย
  • resources: things such as money, workers and equipment that can be used to help achieve something - ทรัพยากร
  • results (noun): what you get in the end when activity is completed (test results, research results, etc) - ผล
  • rigorous: done carefully and with a lot of attention to detail - อย่างเข้มงวด, อย่างเคร่งครัด
  • round: one of a series of events, activities, etc. - รอบ
  • scale up (verb): to make larger; to ramp up; to escalate - ยกระดับ
  • score (verb): get points or score that shows how good it is - ทำแต้ม, ทำคะแนน (ในการแข่งขัน)
  • share: to have or use something at the same time as someone else - ใช้ร่วมกัน
  • similarly: in the same way or nearly the same way -
  • socio-economic: related to a person's position in society the economy, and how much they make -
  • solution: a way of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation - วิธีแก้ปัญหา
  • starts from scratch: starts from nothing; starts from the very beginning -
  • status: social position - สถานะทางสังคม
  • strategy: a plan or method for achieving something, especially over a long period of time - ยุทธวิธี, แผนการ  
  • subsidiary: (of a business company) owned or controlled by another company - บริษัทในเครือ
  • subsidised: paid part of the cost of something - ให้ความช่วยเหลือด้านการเงิน
  • success (noun): achieving the goals you wanted to achieve or made a lot of money - มีผลสำเร็จ, ประสบผลสำเร็จ, ประสบชัยชนะ
  • top-down: starting from or involving the people who have higher positions in an organisation -
  • transform: to change from one form into another - เปลี่ยนไปสู่อีกสิ่งหนึ่ง
  • translation (noun): words that have been changed from one language to another; the process of changing something that is written or spoken into another language - การแปล, การแปลเอกสาร การแปลโดยทั่วไป
  • tutor (verb): to teach and help students with their school work in an informal way - สอนพิเศษ, กวดวิชา
  • tweak: a slight change that you make to a machine, system, story, etc. to improve it - การปรับเปลี่ยนเล็กน้อย
  • ultimate: final, after a series of things have happened - ท้ายที่สุด, ตอนสุดท้าย, ในที่สุด
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