Maths lags in innovation race

Maths lags in innovation race

Vietnam beats Thais in global survey

Vietnam beats Thais in global survey. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Vietnam beats Thais in global survey. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The government should put more effort into improving children's mathematics skills to handle changes in the current world, an academic said, amid signs that the country is lagging regional competitors in innovation development.

While science and mathematics are keys to innovation, there is big room for improvement among Thais in their maths skills, and that work must start at an early age, Suchatvee Suwansawat, president of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) and president of Council of University Presidents of Thailand, said.

"To survive in these times, all organisations have to change and adapt. Heads of country, universities, faculties and so forth have realised we need to move and change. But like a person who sleeps for a long time, you can't just say 'Get up and exercise'. Your legs do not want to move," he said.

While good schools tend to be top of their game, tackling the disparity gap is another challenge. Information technologies can be exploited to give students in remote areas better access to education.

Prof Suchatvee was speaking in reaction to the World Intellectual Property Organisation's (WIPO) 2019 Global Innovation Index (GII)'s ranking released recently. According to the GII overall ranking, Vietnam outpaces Thailand in terms of innovation development.

The index gauges levels of innovation in 126 economies across a host of criteria ranging from business sophistication to levels of education spending and creative output. Overall, Switzerland topped the 2019 ranking with a score of 67.24 out of 100, followed by Sweden and the US.

In Asia, Singapore that came eighth in the ranking led the way with a score of 58.37, while Vietnam came 42nd and Thailand 43rd.

Pun-Arj Chairatana, executive director of the National Innovation Agency (Public Organisation) said Thailand is actually more competitive than Vietnam in many ways. However, when relative improvements are taken into account, Vietnam's ranking unsurprisingly outpaced Thailand.

Thailand is ranked 4th among the "2nd Tier" which is the upper middle-income group of countries while Vietnam is in Tier 3, an emerging economy, he said.

So-called "data cleansing" would better reflect more accurate information, he said, stressing the importance of data-driven innovation. In some indexes, Thailand received zero points because there was no information acquired by the WIPO, he said.

The next step is to look into barriers to innovation. Among those weaknesses are ICT infrastructure, such as 3G, and ecological sustainability. "I accept we are moving slowly on this. Luckily, public companies are required to report their conduct according to the Sustainable Development Goals. Big companies are aware of this. The green economy is an emerging trend so I believe we will see a clear improvement in 3-4 years," he said.

In the WIPO's 2018 ranking, Thailand came 44th while Vietnam came 45th, which means Thailand moved up one spot this year as Vietnam jumped three spots to 42nd.

When compared with its place in the 2016 ranking, Vietnam has so far jumped 17 places.

Under political climate, Thailand received a higher score of 60.6 while Vietnam got 58.6. Under the business environment criteria, Vietnam received a score of 59.9 while Thailand received 52. Under education, Vietnam won a better score of 61.2 and Thailand 40.6.

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