Education system failing

Education system failing

A small news item that went viral last week was about the shocking resignation of a young female teacher teaching at an elementary school in Nakhon Sawan province. Her reasons for leaving the career she had devoted her life to reflect not only the predicament state teachers are facing, but the fundamental root problem of the deteriorating quality of Thai education.

The issue became controversial after the teacher, Kanokwan Boontansen, last week posted on Facebook about submitting her resignation, for which she gave two reasons for.

The first was about too much paperwork she had to prepare. She said the paperwork wasted time and money and had nothing to do with teaching.

The second reason was regarding the online teaching adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ms Kanokwan said she found online learning required cooperation and readiness from students and parents -- something that was rarely achieved. She felt she was unable to achieve her teaching objectives and that it was not worth taxpayers' money.

The reasons behind the resignation of the young teacher, despite being described by the Ministry of Education as personal issue, reflect a chronic problem undermining Thai educational standards. It is not the first time that state teachers have raised their voices about both issues.

It does mean that governments -- in the past, and the current one -- have not acknowledged the problem. The government over the past seven years has merely scratched the surface of reform.

The proportion allotted to the country's education budget is among the highest in the world. A large share of the budget has been allocated to promote teachers' well-being with the assumption and hope that good salaries and welfare will reward teachers and therefore improve education standards.

Unfortunately, that assumption has failed. Thai teachers are among the top borrowers with cumulative debts of over 1.4 trillion baht while the quality of education has barely improved based on several assessments and rankings of Thai students' proficiency over the past few years.

One of the hidden problems is that teachers have been demoralised by the patronage system in which their performance is assessed based on paperwork they submit rather than their students' academic proficiency.

In order to get promoted, teachers typically have to show academic work to prove their abilities. And many teachers even hire others to do this academic work for them.

In May, the Office of the Teacher Civil Service and Educational Personnel Commission changed teacher assessment procedure from a paper-based format to a so-called "digital performance appraisal". The new digital platform is meant to save teachers time by permitting them to submit their academic work and video clips online.

The effort is a good start. Nevertheless, real education reform will just be a pipe dream unless the performances and promotions of teachers are judged based on the quality of their teaching skills and of their students' education. The current system is not designed to encourage teachers to care. Why should they care when promotion is based on academic work, and not on their students?

As long as the government lacks seriousness in changing the teacher appraisal process to be student-centric, the country's education quality will never improve.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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