PARIS: In this digital era, students should be spending far fewer years in school and university and more time gaining real experience, so they can re-skill themselves and keep up with the pace of technological development, Thailand's richest man Dhanin Chearavanont said.
In an exclusive interview with the Bangkok Post in Paris, where he was invited to speak at the Forum for World Education, the senior chairman of Charoen Pokphand Group said the time Thai students spend in school and university should be shortened.
He also believes that students should be able to leave university and enter the job market by the age of 18. Normally, young Thais enter employment beyond the age of 20.
"In my opinion, the number of years students spend in primary school should be cut from six to four years, while no more than two years should be spent at higher levels so students can graduate and start working by the time they are 18," the tycoon said.
Mr Dhanin explained that nowadays, students don't need to learn facts by rote, as they have all the information at their fingertips through the internet.
Also, he said, machine learning and artificial intelligence can process the information, memorise and calculate faster and far better than humans.
"So, there is no reason to continue using the same old methods that most schools and universities are employing," he said.
Instead, Mr Dhanin said, schools and universities should make their students ready for the job market by allowing them to learn from real-world problems and challenges.
"The best university is society. A classroom cannot instil wisdom. Wisdom can only be learned through real-life problems.
In the classroom, you only get secondhand knowledge, while life is all about experience," he said.
Mr Dhanin also slammed Thailand's current education system, saying it is still producing a workforce that is skilled for the previous era. He pointed out many schools and universities are still using outdated teaching methods and curricula, while the world has moved on and the business landscape has evolved since that time.
"Our education system has created a workforce that has not been able to match the jobs available. Students are not armed with the right skills to meet the demands of the labour market. If we cannot fix this problem, it will get out of hand in the future," he warned.
Mr Dhanin said the purpose of education is to prepare students for life, so institutions should produce people who can continue boosting their skills and adopt new ones, not just graduates with a specific skill for a specific job.
"I, myself, learn something new every day. People should embrace new technologies and innovations, not fear them.
"We have to give our children unique knowledge, so machines can never catch up with us -- knowledge like values, belief, independence of thought, teamwork, caring for others, etc," he said.
Mr Dhanin said the first step in revamping Thailand's education sector will be to invest in teachers.
"There is no nobler profession and teachers are the backbone of the education system. We must ensure that we attract the best and brightest minds to the teaching profession, and to do that, we need to pay them well and make teaching respected and revered, and a profession they can aspire to," he added.