Back to the blackboard
In Thailand, while strong efforts have been made by the science and technology sector to transform research and development projects into reality, we have seen very little progress in the field of education, where plenty of studies are conducted each and every year.
Even though education is extremely important as it is the primary foundation of other sectors and instrumental in the development of the country, the Ministry of Education has never been categorised as an "A" grade ministry for any cabinet reshuffles. To be fair, education is a matter of long-term human resource development and improvement, so it takes time to see results. In the big picture, the ministry is considered one of the bureaus where effective improvement has been witnessed, especially when compared to other ministries. But I think if children are happy to go to school, then that's the first step of achieving successful education.
In reality, although Thai children's daily schedules are packed with serious learning, the overall quality of education has not improved that much. The number of hours the children spend in class is not a primary factor to revolutionise the country's education as more numbers of students still flock to tutorial schools.
Last year, a colleague of mine told me that all the students in her teenage daughter's class failed a maths examination, so her daughter took an extra maths class at a tutorial school, and later became the only student who passed the final examination. What has happened to standard schooling? Is all this the students' fault? I think the school principal and that maths teacher should seriously take this issue into consideration.
That incident reminds me of the educational system in Finland. People there do not have national achievement testing, school rankings or school inspections. Schools and teachers decide how to assess themselves and their students. They do not have student streaming, but use different kinds of mixed ability groups to support students. Rather than competition, standardisation, test-based accountability or school choice, Finland relies on collaboration, customisation and trust-based responsibility.
A number of academics and personnel in Thailand's education sector have gone abroad to undergo training in recognised foreign educational institutes. It would be more than worth the expense of the trips if they could return with some of these promising approaches so that they be implemented in the country.
Just recently I learned that the Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University had conducted research on "School as Learning Community". This project, carried out in collaboration with the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec), aims to develop teachers' competency, spirit and ideology and develop the coaching and mentoring relationship among school administrators, teachers and supervisors.
Dr Siripaarn Suwanmonkha, lecturer at the Department of Educational Research and Psychology Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Education, explained that the Faculty has studied and applied the Japanese approach of "Lesson Study for Learning Community" which is geared towards providing opportunities with optimal quality for every student to learn, along with opportunities for every teacher to grow as a professional. It also provides opportunities for the local citizens and parents to participate in endorsing and supporting the reform in order to support pupils' growth.
Anyone should be regarded as a "protagonist" at schools, regardless of their background. Lesson study for this learning community aims to incorporate all types of students in order to improve their well-being and level inequality. Learning is not a cheap activity based on cheap tasks, students should be engaged in something of value.
Chulalongkorn University has conducted the "School as Learning Community" project in 44 learning communities in four educational area networks, covering primary schools in Rayong, Trat, Lop Buri, and Surat Thani provinces. The project has been operating for three consecutive years and it was found to create small and simple, yet significant changes in classroom quality and student learning quality in schools where the approach was implemented.
These are just some small parts of schools that are growing in terms of classroom quality and student learning quality.
But, if the people at the Education Ministry are serious and sincere in solving the problems of the education system in the county, we will see the realisation of many good research projects in the real world.
I am optimistic that there very well may be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
Writer for the Life section
Sasiwimon Boonruang is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.