A renowned academic has called for education reform after Thai students scored poorly in maths, reading and science in the latest worldwide Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) ratings.
In the most recent 2022 assessment by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 15-year-old Thai students scored 394 in maths (down from 419 in the 2018 assessment), 409 in science (down from 426) and 379 in reading (down from 393).
The assessment covered 81 countries and economies and Thai students ranked 58th for maths and science and 64th for reading.
Pisa assesses the knowledge and skills of 15-year-old students in mathematics, reading and science and how well students can solve complex problems, think critically and communicate effectively.
This gives insights into how well education systems are preparing students for real life challenges and future success.
Thailand participated for the first time in Pisa in 2001.
The Pisa 2022 survey focused on mathematics, with reading and science as minor areas and creative thinking as the innovative area of assessment.
Pisa 2022 also included an assessment of young people's financial literacy, which was optional for countries and economies.
Results for mathematics, reading and science were released on Tuesday and the results for creative thinking and financial literacy will be released in 2024.
Some 690,000 students took the assessment in 2022, representing about 29 million 15-year-olds in the schools of the 81 participating countries and economies.
In Thailand, 8,495 students in 279 schools, completed the assessment in mathematics, reading or science, representing about 604,600 15-year-old students (an estimated 75% of the total population of 15-year-olds).
Sompong Jitradab, an education scholar and specialist at the Equitable Education Fund (EEF), told the Bangkok Post that the poor performance of Thai students in the latest Pisa assessment shows the education system is plagued with problems and is outdated.
"Currently, an emphasis is put mainly on rote learning with the primary aim of taking exams and furthering one's education, while Pisa assesses students' analytical skills and practical applications of knowledge in everyday life," Mr Sompong said.
Mr Sompong said malnutrition and online game addictions among Thai students also have an adverse impact on their learning.
"We need to reform the learning curriculum by promoting hands-on learning and the ability to apply knowledge to solve problems, analytical and planning skills -- a major feature of active learning," he said.
"If Thai education is allowed to continue like this, student's performance will fall into a further downward spiral," said Mr Sompong, a former lecturer at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of education.
Education Minister Pol Gen Permpoon Chidchob on Wednesday admitted Thai students had performed poorly in the latest Pisa assessment.
"The Pisa results can be expected. Several factors, such as the Covid-19 outbreak, also had bearings on the performance. But we have to accept the assessment.
"Nonetheless, Thailand is not the only country with poor performance. Other countries also faced the challenge of providing education in the face of the pandemic," he said.
Pol Gen Permpoon said the Education Ministry will now have to devise measures to address the issue of students' poor performance with a panel to be set up to find solutions, and the help of the Education Council, the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology, and the Office of the Basic Education Commission.
"The government and the Education Ministry will solve the problem as quickly as possible to achieve tangible results.
"In the 2025 assessment, Thai student's rankings must improve. If not, I will take responsibility," he said.
Move Forward Party list MP Parit Wacharasindhu said the performance of the education system had declined over the past 10-20 years and the assessment results should make people realise that the education system is now at a critical level.