Re: "Thai education reform is top priority", (Opinion, Oct 9).
I was an educator in the best secondary schools of America, Thailand and Korea for 25 years. Thai students do not inherently pursue learning, because "Thainess" has not instilled intellectual motivation in them. Those at the top of the Thai hierarchy want cheap labour, not critical thinkers.
The academic is right, "rote learning in primary and secondary schools has been designed to prop up a socio-political hierarchy of power and authority". And, extinguish curiosity in Thai people. Those in power are too ignorant and greedy to implement what the world knows -- a high tide lifts all boats.
It's thinking time
The relatively low performance of Thai students in Pisa and Onet tests is obvious evidence of need for education reform as well as where to start reform. Pisa says unequivocally that it does not test students' knowledge but students' use of knowledge, and Onet subsequently follows, but not Thai education in general. The use of knowledge requires students to think (solving problems), so students should be taught accordingly.
The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation could lend a helping hand by announcing that starting in 2022, giving students and schools as well as the ministry a year to make appropriate preparation, the university entrance examination would test students' use of knowledge. This would be a strong stimulus to start the reform of teaching and learning in schools starting from the final year of secondary schools and eventually to primary schools.
A report on BBC said that humans who carry a Neanderthal gene from thousands of years ago have more chance of succumbing to the Covid-19 virus than those who don't. Western countries seem to have high numbers of their population with this gene and Asian countries having less. Could this be a factor in the low numbers of Thais reported being infected?
Once when I suggested to a group of veteran teachers that lecturing students about English grammar was probably not the best way to get Thai students to speak English, one teacher gasped -- "But what if they ask questions?" as if this was probably the worst thing that a student could do in her classroom.
Since then, I have often wondered if this isn't the reason why so many teachers cling to the authoritarian, teacher-centred, lecture approach to teaching -- because students might ask questions -- and they are afraid of being seen as human (not all powerful) because they might not know all the answers.
Keith Barlow in his Oct 9 letter, puts forward a sensible suggestion for increasing the number of visitors to Thailand. Meanwhile, Michael Setter tells us "The government has not informed us accurately...." while at the same time making completely unsubstantiated statements regarding "death for the poor, malnutrition, unemployment, infant mortality". He then goes on to tell us that "If there had been adequate testing we would now be seeing the upward trend already". Does anyone actually deal in facts these days or has the whole world become a "Twittersphere".
Fully opening the country will result in a rapid increase in Covid-19. We only have to look at Europe and the way they opened up to see what will happen here. Many parts of Europe are now entering a second lockdown. The general consensus among the medical profession is that herd immunity might be obtained if half the population is infected. If you read medical journals the figure for other coronavirus infections is a 74% infection rate to obtain herd immunity. Assuming a death rate of 1.4% that's 450,000 to 670,000 dead people before we can all breath a sigh of relief!
All the evidence from countries around the world demonstrates that you cannot have an open country and control Covid at the same time. There is a choice to be made, open up and deal with the infections and deaths, or close the doors and deal with the economic problems. Covid-19 is a no-win situation. The Thai government chose one option, does it make sense to now choose the other option so that we can have the worst of both worlds?
The middle ground
Re: "Medical chief backs reopening", (BP, Oct 8).
The medical chief notes the absurdity of destroying the entire economy to maintain a zero infection rate of Covid-19. I even question if lockdowns work. Look at India. It had the most severe lockdown in Asia and the most severe Covid-19 problem! Clearly there is a middle ground between ignoring the Covid-19 problem and going to the other extreme adopting "remedies" that are worse than the problem that the remedies are supposed to be solving. These policies are ruining the lives of millions of Thai people. Has it been worth it?
Elitist tax joke
What kind of elitist joke is the proposed scheme of a 30,000-baht tax break for only 6% of the population? The beneficiaries of the 7% VAT tax write-off are the people that socio-economically are not really hurting. They are not the ones that have lost their jobs and incomes, if they are still paying income tax!
This will not "jump start" the economy because this break applies to mostly standard consumerism that the elite already engage in. It will not apply to the street vendor, taxi driver, or family stores. Any meaningful solution has to a bottom-up approach. That is where the economic ruination is being felt the most!
For there to be a true economic stimulation, money should be given freely to the lower 90% to spend as they wish. This is how developed countries and democracies are handling the economic devastation from Covid. There is plenty of money in the government coffers for this if useless major military expenditures and questionable projects are tabled for a few years to get through these trying times.
Did anyone ever notice how many times the future tense word "will" appears in many stories involving the government, the National Anti-Corruption Commission, etc. Everything is a "we will arrest…". "We will investigate…." "We will take action…". We will…", but nothing is ever reported as actually doing something now, like "We are arresting…", or, "We are now investigating…" etc. By the time the "we will" investigations, arrests, etc. get underway, there could be a new generation of investigators and the culprits under investigation or subject to arrest will all be…dead!
Re: "VIP investors could skip quarantine", (BP, Oct 7).
George Orwell famously proclaimed in Animal Farm, "all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others". This adage of double standards popped into my mind when I read of plans to allow big-time investors to circumvent Covid-19 quarantine requirements applied to the "little people". Actually, I'm not strongly opposed to this loosening approach, but it does call attention to a second truism: "Life's not fair!"
The final curtain
In the past week, numerous cinema chains across the world have closed down -- another victim of the never-ending Covid-19. Now broken, the cinema experience may never be the same again. I recently saw a movie in the cinema. I was excited; even child-like in anticipation. However, this time things were different.
I was wearing a mask, not allowed to buy popcorn and two seats away from the nearest patron. Was I in the cinema or was I in some weird parallel universe where the cinema had become some form of prison.
Now, I know everything is done in the interests of safety. However, my ultimate distraction had now become some form of tribulation.
Download Netflix, I hear you say. It isn't the same. The digital platforms have helped us in our time of need, and they should be commended for filling our void, but they also present a huge challenge as the digital ecosystem becomes more pervasive.
We are in danger of a new couch potato culture where some form of digital device is in constant use by individuals. This lends itself to the sedentary lifestyle that is engulfing today's society.
The WHO has said that over 80% of adolescents are not physically active enough.
With Covid's end not seemingly close and technology becoming an integral aspect of people's lives, we need to find a happy balance so that we are in control of technology and not vice versa.
Taking a walk or a drive to your nearest cinema may not make a huge impact immediately but it can reduce your sedentary behaviours at home.
More importantly, it will likely give you feelings towards entertainment that can't easily be replicated within the confines of your room. Not to mention helping a huge industry, with its many employees, stay afloat.
Governments also have a role to play in helping safeguard the cinema industry. Hospitals, schools, corporations etc have all been given elements of protection and subsidy. However, industries deemed less "vital" have been marginalised.
The cinema industry includes various occupations from actors to directors, writers to cinematographers; all of whom need backing and aid during this trying time.
In addition, we should think about the traditional and cultural importance associated with cinemas within societies.
I leave you with this from Pedro Almodovar, the eminent Spanish filmmaker, who said it better than I ever could, "The screen should not be smaller than the chair on which you're sitting.
It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must feel small and humble in front of the image that is here to capture you … it's the capacity to be hypnotised by the big screen."
After the third puncture in the tyres of my car from nails in just two weeks, I am now convinced that Thai tyre companies are in cahoots to pay people to go around scattering nails on Thailand's roads.
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