Colleges need 14,000 tutors, Ovec warns
Specialists required as tech courses boom
The Office of the Vocational Education Commission (Ovec) has asked Education Minister Dapong Ratanasuwan to approve its plan to hire 14,000 more teachers to overcome the teacher shortage in 425 state-run vocational schools nationwide.
Ovec's secretary-general Chaipreuk Sereerak says many vocational colleges face severe teacher shortages in various subjects due to the dramatic increase in student enrolments.
"Most of them are struggling with shortages of teachers in subject areas like automotive engineering, electrical engineering and electronics, automation, welding and construction, which require specialised and experienced teachers," Mr Chaipreuk said.
At present, there are around 675,000 students enrolled in 425 state-run vocational schools and the number would be over one million if it included students in 461 private vocational schools nationwide.
"More than 300,000 students signed up for vocational courses last year, which is an increase of 26% from 2014," he said.
Mr Chaipreuk said the growing number of vocational students stemmed from the government's policy on vocational education which aims to produce more skilled workers to catch up with the surging demand in the industrial sector.
"The image of technical education in Thailand has improved because the government's policy is helping vocational courses gain more popularity," he said.
"Many students realise that they can have bright job prospects by pursuing degrees in vocational courses because the demand for highly-skilled labourers in the job market is high. So, many students choose to enroll in vocational schools instead of general schools," Mr Chaipreuk said.
This has shifted the vocational to general education ratio from 39:61 students in 2014 to 42:58 last year, which was the highest level in nine years, he added.
"You can see that the number of vocational students is going up quickly, but the number of teachers still remains at around 25,000, which is lower than the 1:20 ratio between teachers and students that Thailand applies now," he said.
Moreover, the situation might get worse as more than 10,000 vocational teachers head towards retirement age by the end of the year, resulting in an abrupt shortage of vocational teachers, he said.
Mr Chaipreuk said the problem needs to be addressed urgently as Ovec has set a long-term goal to bring the number of vocational students on par with the number in academic schools by the end of this year, and eventually get the vocation to general education enrolment ratio to 60:40 by 2018.
"If the teacher shortage is not fixed urgently and properly, it could become a chronic problem which sets back the education system," he said.
Apart from hiring more teachers, Mr Chaipreuk said more money needs to be set aside for technical training equipment.
Mr Chaipreuk said Ovec has fled its requests with the education minister and is waiting for a response.