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What just happened to education in Thailand?

School kids in a rural school.

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Something big happened to the Thai education system this week. Today's editorial provides historical context to help you understand the change.


What just happened to education in Thailand?

Something big happened to the Thai education system this week

However, it is rather difficult understanding exactly what happened and the impact it might have.

A non-descript article on the changes published on Tuesday is now the most read news article on the Bangkok Post website with 57,413 page views as of 12:39 25/03/2016 (see Regional education authority restructured here).   

Today's editorial in the Bangkok Post explains what happened and provides much-needed background information and some historical context to help understand the change.


Educational disrepair


Thailand's education system needs drastic reform which demands nothing less than decentralisation. Yet the system is gearing up for even more top-down control and worsening education disparity.

On Monday, the military regime used the special powers under Section 44 of the interim charter to change the recruitment and chain of command of the public education system back to the old top-down hierarchy of yesteryear.


Before the 1997 charter, the structure of the regional education administration corresponded to that of the Interior Ministry. District, provincial and regional education bosses were appointed by the education permanent secretary. In the provinces, they reported to the governors although governors complained they were often ignored.

This centralised system, dictated by security concerns, was blamed for the poor quality of education. Subsequent pressure for reform resulted in a more decentralised structure which allowed education regions under the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) to recruit their personnel and administer local schools.


The new system fails to deliver. Teachers remain paralysed by excruciating paperwork dictated by central authorities. Regional offices have transpired into another top-down body. Teacher training and innovative classroom teaching are ignored. Local schools cannot initiate change or even hire their teachers. Rote - learning continues. The disparity is aggravating because rural students cannot compete with their urban peers.

To fix the problems, the current education administration needs to be truly decentralised to empower schools and local communities. Schools should be able to run more independently so they can meet local diversity and demands. More importantly, schools must help students find their interests and fulfil their differing potential instead of trying to fit the rigid mould set by Bangkok.


Instead, the government has turned back the clock by reinstating the old hierarchy in the education system that was debunked two decades ago.

The government insisted the change will improve efficiency, policy integration, and make the education system more responsive to national goals. It will not. Old-style centralisation will make the problems worse, not better.


And if the Charter Drafting Committee (CDC) has its way, the situation will be even more grim. At present, all children are entitled to 12 years of free education until high school. The drafters want to cut it down to nine. This means that students would get free education up to only Mathayom 3.

Confronted with fierce criticism, the drafters argued the 12 years of free education remains, but that it would start from pre-school instead. They also argued that the current system gears students too much towards university education, resulting in a glut of poor-quality university graduates when the country needs skilled technicians. Cutting free education to Mathayom 3 would help reverse this trend, they said. It won't. Instead education disparity will get worse.


At present, local governments and communities have largely taken care of pre-school development. Moreover, more support for pre-school children should not come at the cost of underprivileged students in middle schools.

There is already a high rate of drop-outs among rural students. If state support is cut, even those who can continue to high school will have to quit. Most cannot afford a more expensive vocational education. Social problems from drop-outs will surely rise.

The Section 44 order cannot be reversed until the next government is in power. But the CDC can still change its stance to support free education until Mathayom 6. If not, they will be remembered for an ill-conceived policy that punishes the poor and worsens social inequality.


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adj (noun): connected with soldiers or the armed forces - ในทางทหาร,เกี่ยวกับทหาร

administer : to be responsible for managing a company, organization, or institution - บริหารงาน, จัดการ, ดำเนินการ

administration : the government of a country - รัฐบาล

afford : to have enough money to be able to pay for something - มีเงิน/ทุนพอ

aggravating (adj): making someone irritated, upset or angy - ทำให้รำคาญ, ทำให้โกรธ

allow : to let somebody/something do something; to let something happen or be done - อนุญาต, ยอมรับ

argue (verb): to give a reason or reasons why you support or oppose an idea or suggestion - ให้เหตุผล

at present (adv): now...., currently .... - ในปัจจุบัน

authority (noun): a person or government agency who has the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ

background : information about some person or subject that helps you better understand them and understand current events - ประวัติ

blame : to say or think that someone or something did something wrong or is responsible for something bad happening - ตำหนิ

body : a group of people who work or act together, often for an official purpose, or who are connected in some other way - กลุ่มคน, นิติบุคคล

centralisation : a system in which things are controlled from the center - ไตยรวมศูนย์

centralised (adj.): controlled from the center - ไตยรวมศูนย์

charter : a constitution - รัฐธรรมนูญ

charter : constitution - รัฐธรรมนูญ

committee : a group of people who are chosen, usually by a larger group, to make decisions or to deal with a particular subject - คณะกรรมการ

community : the people living in one particular area - ชุมชน

compete : to try to be more successful or better than somebody else who is trying to do the same as you - แข่งขัน

concern : a worry - ความกังวล

confront : to face, meet or deal with a difficult person, group or situation - เผชิญหน้า

context (noun): the situation in which something happens and that helps you to understand it - บริบท (คำหรือข้อความแวดล้อมที่ช่วยให้เข้าใจความหมาย

control : To exercise restraining or governing influence over; to check; to counteract; to restrain; to regulate; to govern; to overpower - จัดการ, ควบคุม

criticism : comments that show that you think something is wrong or bad - การวิจารณ์

current : of the present time - ปัจจุบัน

debunk : to show that an idea, a belief, etc. is false; to show that something is not as good as people think it is - แสดงให้เห็นว่าความคิดหรือความเชื่อนั้นผิด, หักล้างความคิด

decades : periods of ten years - เป็นสิบๆปี

decentralisation : the process of moving the control of an organisation or government from a single place to several smaller ones - การกระจายอำนาจ

decentralised : when the control of an organisation or government from a single place to several smaller ones - การกระจายอำนาจ

demand : to require something, e.g., a lot of skill, patience, effort, etc. - ต้องการ (ความสามารถและความอดทนความพยายาม)

development : the gradual growth of something so that it becomes more advanced, stronger, etc - การพัฒนา

dictate : to influence or control how something is done - ควบคุม บงการ

dictate : to tell someone exactly what to do and how to behave - บงการ สั่งการ

disparity (adj): a difference between things, especially reflecting something negative or unfair - ความไม่เหมือนกัน, ความต่าง,ความไม่เสมอกัน

disrepair (noun): not having been taken care of; broken or in bad condition - ความชำรุดทรุดโทรม, การขาดการซ่อมแซม

diversity : including many different types of things or people - ความหลากหลาย

draft : to write a document, plan, etc. that may be changed before it is finally accepted - ร่าง

drafter : a person or group who write a document for consideration, but which not yet in its final form - ผู้บร่าง

drastic : having a very big effect - มีผลกระทบอย่างใหญ่หลวง

drop-out (noun): a student who leaves or quits school before they finish and graduate - นักเรียนที่ถอนการเรียนวิชาใดวิชาหนึ่ง,ผู้ที่เลิกเรียนเมื่อครบอายุ,การถอนออกกลางคัน,ผู้ที่ออกจากโรงเรียนกลางคัน

editorial : a newspaper article in which the editor gives their opinion on an issue in the news - บทบรรณาธิการ

efficiency : the ability to work well and produce good results by using the available time, money, supplies etc in the most effective way - ความมีประสิทธิภาพ

empower : to give someone the legal power to do something - ทำให้มีอำนาจ

entitled : having the right to have or do something - มีสิทธิโดยชอบ

exactly : precisely - อย่างเที่ยงตรง,อย่างถูกต้อง,อย่างแม่นยำ,อย่างแน่นอน,อย่างละเอียด

excruciating : causing extreme pain or difficulty - เจ็บปวดมาก (ทางร่ายกายหรือจิตใจ)

fails to deliver : did not do what was expected; did not produce; did not achieve its goals -

fierce : very strong - รุนแรง, ดุเดือด

fix (verb): to repair, make something broken work again - ซ่อม

fulfill : to achieve something that you wanted to do, or to get something that you hoped for - สำเร็จ

gearing up : to prepare yourself, or to prepare something for an activity or event - เตรียม (บางสิ่งเช่น เครื่องจักร) ให้พร้อมสำหรับ

glut (noun): over-supply, when there is too much supply of a good on the market, the people who want to buy the good (demand) is much less than the amount of good available to buy in the market (supply) - ปริมาณมากเกินต้องการ, จำนวนเหลือเฟือ

grim : unpleasant and making you feel upset and worried - ที่โหดร้าย

hierarchy : a system, especially in a society or an organization, in which people are organized into different levels of importance from highest to lowest - การจัดระบบตามลำดับขั้น

high school (noun): a school for children between 14 and 18 in the US and between 11 and 18 in the UK - โรงเรียนมัธยมปลาย, โรงเรียนมัธยมศึกษาตอนปลาย, โรงเรียนเตรียมอุดมศึกษา

hire : to pay someone to work for you - จ้าง

historical : about history; about events that really happened in the past - เกี่ยวข้องกับการศึกษาประวัติศาสตร์

ignore : to fail to pay attention to; to pretend that you have not noticed or do not know about something - เพิกเฉย

ill-conceived : not carefully planned or thought out before doing -

impact (noun): an effect or influence - ผลกระทบ

in power : the people or political party that controls a government -

independently : without help from others - พึ่งตนเอง

inequality : a situation in which people are not equal because some groups have more opportunities, power, money etc than others - ความไม่เสมอภาค

initiate : to make something start - ริเริ่ม

innovative : using new methods or ideas - เกี่ยวกับการปรับปรุงใหม่, ที่เต็มไปด้วยจิตใจปฏิรูปใหม่

insist : to keep saying very firmly that something is true - ยืนกราน ยืนยัน

integration : the process of combining with others to create a single unit or system - การรวมเข้าด้วยกัน, การผสมผสาน

interim : temporary and intended to be used or accepted until something permanent exists - ชั่วคราว

largely (adverb): mostly -

local : in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about - ท้องถิ่น

mould : a particular style showing the characteristics, attitudes or behaviour that are typical of somebody/something - ลักษณะเฉพาะ

national (adjective): for the whole country - แห่งชาติ, ของชาติ

non-descript : not especially interesting; lacking distinctive or interesting features or characteristics -

Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) (noun): a Thai government agency, founded in 2003. Its responsibilities include the management of education from primary school until high school - สำนักงานคณะกรรมการการศึกษาขั้นพื้นฐาน

order (noun): something that somebody is told to do by somebody in authority - คำสั่ง

paperwork : all the reports, forms and documents needed to do some task at work or for the government or the bank, etc - งานหนังสือ (ปฏิบัติการสำนักงาน)

paralyse : to cause to be unable to move or function - ทำให้เป็นอัมพาต

peers : people who are the same age or have the same social position or the same abilities as other people in a group - เพื่อน

personnel : the people who are employed in a company, organization or one of the armed forces - บุคลากร, เจ้าหน้าที่, พนักงาน

policy (noun): a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group - นโยบาย

potential : what is possible - ความเป็นไปได้

power : ability to control and influence people and events - ที่มีอิทธิพล

pressure : to try to make someone do something by forcing, threatening, or persuading them in a determined way - กดดัน

provide : to give someone/ something that they want or need - จัดหาให้, จัดเตรียมไว้ให้

public (adj): belonging to the government -

publish : to make something available to the public through books, magazines, the Internet, etc. - เผยแพร่, จัดพิมพ์

punish : to make somebody suffer because they have broken the law or done something wrong - ทำโทษ

quality : the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it; how good or bad something is - คุณภาพ

rather : somewhat; partly but not completely - บ้าง, บางส่วน

recruit : to get someone to work in a company or join an organisation - จ้างงาน

recruitment : the process of finding people to work for a company or become a new member of an organisation - การสรรหาใหม่

reform : a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair - การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป

regime : a government that controls a country, especially in a strict or unfair way - รัฐบาลที่ขึ้นมาปกครองโดยการยึดอำนาจ

region : a large area of land or space, usually without exact limits or borders - ภูมิภาค, ขอบเขต, แถบ, บริเวณ

regional : of or relating to a region - เกี่ยวกับภูมิภาค

reinstate : to cause something to exist again - นำกลับมาใช้อีก

remain (verb): to stay in the same place; to not leave - ยังอยู่, พักอยู่, รออยู่

remain : to still be present after the other parts have been removed, used, etc; to continue to exist - ยังเหลืออยู่

responsive : reacting with interest or enthusiasm; reacting quickly and in a positive way - ซึ่งตอบสนอง

reverse : (of a decision) to change - เปลี่ยนแปลง

rigid : not able to be changed, bent, moved, or persuaded; stiff or fixed - ความแข็งแกร่ง, ตายตัว

rote : memorizing things by repeating them over and over, without really thinking or practicing problem solving skills - การท่องจำอย่างเดียว,

rural : connected with the countryside outside big towns and cities  - ในชนบท, บ้านนอก

security : the activities involved in protecting a country, building or person against attack, danger, etc - ระบบป้องกันภัย

skilled : having enough ability, experience and knowledge to be able to do something well - มีทักษะ,

social (adjective): related to society, to people and the way they are connected to each other and interact with each other - เกี่ยวกับสังคม

stance : an attitude or view about an issue that you state clearly; position - จุดยืน

state : government - รัฐบาล

structure : the way in which the parts of something are connected together, arranged or organised - โครงสร้าง

subsequent : happening or coming after something else - ซึ่งตามมา

support : to give help, encouragement or sympathy to somebody - สนับสนุน, เป็นกำลังใจ

technicians (noun): people whose jobs are keeping particular types of equipment or machinery in good condition - เจ้าหน้าที่เทคนิค, ช่าง

top-down : starting from or involving the people who have higher positions in an organisation -

training (noun): teaching people how to do a certain job or activity - การฝึกอบรม, การฝึก, การอบรม

transpire : to happen - เกิดขึ้น

truly (adv): in the most complete, correct, or exact way - อย่างแท้จริง

turned back the clock : go back do doing what was done in the past; return to the old way of doing things -

university (noun): a school where students study for BA, MA, MS and PhD degrees and where research is done - มหาวิทยาลัย

urban : of or in a city or town - ในเมือง

vocational : teaching the skills necessary for particular jobs - การสอนวิชาชีพ การสอนอาชีวศึกษา

worsen (verb): to get worse, to make worse - เลวลง, แย่ลง, ทรุดลง

yesteryear : of the past -


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