Skills crisis like no other

Skills crisis like no other

Thailand has so many challenges and problems concerning politics, corruption and the environment.

Yet the toughest and the most challenging structural problem that can make or break the country's future is the workforce's severe skill crisis. To tackle this, changes across the spectrum must be made, especially at the leadership level of two key government ministries.

The serious skill crisis in the country's workforce grabbed the national headlines with the release of a recent World Bank report.

The report by the Equity Education Fund (EEF) and World Bank, Fostering Foundational Skills in Thailand: From a Skills Crisis to a Learning Society, reveals a severe skills crisis in Thailand, where a significant number of youth and adults lack essential reading literacy, digital, and socio-emotional skills.

Shockingly, 64.7% of those sampled fell below the threshold levels of foundational reading literacy, not to mention English capability. That means they cannot comprehend or make sense of content or instructions or process any knowledge.

The revelation underscores a fundamental shortcoming that extends far beyond the confines of education, permeating every facet of society. Moreover, the crisis extends beyond mere literacy. Our workforce also lags behind in digital literacy, competency, and socio-emotional abilities.

With 74.1% struggling with basic digital skills and 30.3% lacking essential socio-emotional skills, the capability for human interaction in the workforce or anywhere else would seem limited.

The economic effects of this skills gap are profound, amounting to a loss of 20.1% of GDP in 2022. This significant setback highlights the urgent need to address this issue with unwavering resolve. Yet despite the government's commitment to tackling the skills deficit, tangible progress remains elusive.

In addition to the skills crisis, the educational capabilities of Thais consistently lag behind, as evidenced by numerous international tests and evaluations that frequently make headlines in the media.

The crux of the matter is the systemic failures plaguing the education sector. The Education Ministry and the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation, the two ministries which are supoosed to improve national education, have fallen victim to political patronage rather than prioritising a merit-based system.

Six months after the government took office, it is sufficient to say that both ministries rarely make meaningful policy changes. Such inertia within two ministries so crucial to the future of the country has cast doubt on whether the Srettha government is sincere about boosting the country's competitiveness -- or merely focusing on globetrotting and running salesman's roadshows. How can investors put money into a country with such questionable workforce skills?

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin faces a crucial moment where decisive action is necessary. The impending cabinet reshuffle presents an opportune moment to prioritise meritocracy over political expediency, appointing competent leadership to helm both critical ministries.

He must keep in mind a long-term vision for the country, focusing on bringing in capable, visionary leadership to address the crisis in education and skills, rather than allowing political patronage to drive the agenda.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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