Thai education needs 'long-term vision'
Lecturer says sector lacks continuity
Thailand needs a long-term vision for its education system that has continuity and avoids unnecessary changes in direction when a new government takes office, an education expert has said.
Athapol Anunthavorasakul, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Education, said Thailand must start developing a long-term view of how to prepare its young generations with the skills they will need.
Meanwhile, secretary-general of the Education Council Chaipreuk Sereerak said the future policies will have to be in line with the Education Ministry's "20-year Education Strategic Plan" recently approved by the cabinet.
Any policy by future governments will have to follow this framework to allow continuity, he said.
Mr Athapol blamed discontinuity in the country's education policies of holding back the education system, with Thailand having had 21 education ministers in the last 18 years.
"This means each of the ministers has had an average of only nine months at the helm of the Education Ministry. As soon as a new education minister is appointed, they are always more interested in their own initiatives -- not the ones introduced by their predecessors," he said.
Mr Athapol proposed a long-term Education Policy Board be set up, comprised of all stakeholders, and it should be free from politics.
The Chulalongkorn lecturer also complained many of Thailand's education policies in the past were not evidence-based policies because they were introduced based simply on policy-makers' experiences and personal beliefs.
Mr Athapol said Thailand also lacks a systematic process to evaluate and refine new policies and programmes once they are implemented.
Therefore, the country needs to increase investment in its data and information system, set higher standards for data collection and usage and set protocols for sharing and reporting information, he said.
Mr Chaipreuk said the Education Ministry's 20-year Education Strategic Plan is in line with the government's 20-year national strategy.
He said all policies launched by the ministry must seek to enhance and develop the potential of human capital; ensure justice and reduce social disparities; and strengthen the economy and enhance competitiveness on a sustainable basis.
They should also promote green growth for sustainable development; bring about stability for national development toward prosperity and sustainability; and enhance the efficiency of public sector management and promote good governance.
"It is crucial for Thailand to have a clear direction for long-term education development, especially at a time when the country is entering the fourth industrial revolution, known as Thailand 4.0," Mr Chaipreuk said.
He said under the plan the ministry has set up both short-term and long-term goals for reforming the education system, and it aims to outline how to prepare in many aspects, such as skills development and funding, to achieve the goals.
"The short-term goals, for example, include improving Thailand's performance in the IMD [International Institute for Management Development] World Competitiveness Rankings by two spots from the last survey; raising average O-Net scores tested nationwide in every subject to above 50%; increasing the proportion of working-age adults with at least lower secondary education to 55.75%; and providing high-speed internet access to 90% of schools nationwide," Mr Chaipreuk said.
Meanwhile, the long-term targets, for instance, include reducing disparities between students in well-known schools and students in rural areas, improving equality in educational resource allocation, raising R&D spending in universities and increasing the ratio of vocational students to general students from the current proportion of 38:62 to 60:40 over the next 20 years, he added.
He said there will be emphasis on a dual education system, which combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education.
However, he admitted that future governments still have the right to abolish old policies from previous governments and create their own policies, so there is a possibility chop-and-change policies may still be seen.
"At least, any change in policies in the future will need to be in line with the 20-year education strategic plan. So I think the situation will be better in terms of continuity," he said.