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06BANGKOK4881 EDUCATION REFORM OR NOT

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“74297”,”8/10/2006 3:26″,”06BANGKOK4881″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED”,””,”VZCZCXRO6361

RR RUEHCHI

DE RUEHBK #4881/01 2220326

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 100326Z AUG 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0835

INFO RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 2272″,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 004881

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958, AS AMENDED: N/A

TAGS: ECON, SCUL, BEXP, TH

SUBJECT: EDUCATION REFORM OR NOT

 

Education

 

1. Summary. Most employers and academics consider the Thai

education system inadequate in providing a workforce for the

country\’s economic needs. Standardized test scores are dropping,

students are not developing critical thinking skills, and they are

seen as entering the workforce unprepared. This is one of two cables

looking at these issues. The Ministry of Education enacted a 15-year

education reform package to address these problems in 1999 but the

program is thus far unsuccessful, largely due to a lack of funding,

an absence of clear direction from the top, and little demand for

improved educational quality from the population. End Summary.

 

Basics of Education System

 

2. The formal education system in Thailand is divided into two

levels: basic education and higher education. Basic education

consists of six years of primary education, three years of lower

secondary education and three years of upper secondary education.

Higher education is provided by colleges and universities and is

divided into two levels: associate degrees and degree levels. An

associate degree, or diploma level, is the equivalent of a four year

undergraduate program in the States. The degree level of higher

education is a specialized field, such as doctors and engineers, and

is an additional year or two depending on the area of study. In

some professions, additional qualifications are required to practice

professionally. Masters and Doctorate degrees can be acquired after

receiving a bachelor\’s degree, similar to the U.S. system.

 

3. Vocational education and teacher training is also available.

Vocational education is offered at the primary, secondary, and

higher education levels. Formal technical and vocational education

is conducted at three levels. The upper secondary level leads to a

lower certificate of vocational education; the post-secondary level

leads to an associate\’s degree in vocational education, and at the

university level, which leads to a degree. Teacher training is

offered at the college level and requires an extra two years to

complete.

 

Problems with the System

 

4. The Thai education system is seen by many American Chamber of

Commerce member companies as inadequately educating students in two

important areas: English and critical thinking. Science, math, and

Thai language skills have also recently been dropping to levels

below international standards and lower than its neighbors.

Standardized national tests administered by the Ministry of

Education show that these scores in Thailand are dropping, with

neighboring Malaysia, and even Laos, faring better in English, math,

and science. Traditionally, schools focus on memorization and

classrooms are not interactive. Students subsequently learn to

listen, memorize, and repeat information verbatim onto a test. This

produces a student population lacking innovation, creativity, and

critical thinking skills.

 

5. Thailand\’s distinct hierarchical and class conscious culture

provides little incentive to be innovative, according to the Dean of

Public Administration at NIDA University. College degrees are in

part an issue of social class, not education. A person with a

college degree is considered a higher class than those without one,

regardless of their thinking ability or actual knowledge gained.

Many college students do not care about how or what they learn, as

long as they do just enough to acquire a degree.

 

6. It is widely considered among the academic community that

teachers in basic education are quickly becoming an educational

liability. Poor salary and declining social class status are the

main factors in deterring would-be high quality teachers. There are

few incentives to become a teacher and the brightest students choose

other professions. Consequently, much of the teacher workforce

consists of average quality graduates at best. There are also no

incentives for teachers to undertake continuing education or

training and, subsequently, few do. To make up for the poor teaching

and in order to do better on the standardized college admissions

exam, students that can afford to do so take private classes after

school hours.

 

7. The leading universities have very difficult entrance

examinations. Thus, only the top students are accepted and this

attracts the best professors. Only about 23% of professors have

doctorate degrees and they are subsequently clustered together in

only a few of the nation\’s universities. The rest of the students

end up attending other institutions that aren\’t as high quality.

 

Education Reform

 

8. The Ministry of Education is aware of these issues and is acting

on it according to the National Education Act of 1999, which stems

from the 1997 Constitution. The reform is outlined in the National

Education Plan, which covers the period 2002 – 2016. Many academics

believe that the National Education Plan is a good blueprint for

successful reform. According to the Ministry of Education, it

focuses on 3 broad objectives. First, balanced human development,

 

BANGKOK 00004881 002 OF 003

 

Second, building a society of morality, wisdom, and learning.

Third, development of a social environment. Through these

objectives, it is hoped that the National Education Plan will 1)

lead to a knowledge-based economy and society, 2) promote continuous

learning, and 3) involve all segments of society in designing and

decision-making concerning public activities. The Ministry of

Education is currently trying to implement these changes by

reforming the curriculum, basic education learning process, and

admission processes.

 

9. The curriculum for basic and higher levels of education is set

to accommodate each individual\’s age and potential. The basic

education curriculum is broken up into the national level and the

institutional level. There is an emphasis on Thai identity and

promoting good citizenship on the national level. Basic education

covers 12 years and includes eight groups of subjects: Thai

Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, Religion and

Culture, Health and Physical Education, Art, Career and

Technology-Related Education, and Foreign Language. A new

nationwide teacher training program for various levels of teacher

personnel has also been organized. At the institutional level,

educational institutions are required to develop a curriculum that

\”benefits the community and society.\”

 

10. The learning process is supposed to focus on the individual

student and the top priority is self-development. There are six

steps to the basic education level: 1) teachers are encouraged to

develop their own teaching materials, 2) teacher training about

individual learning, 3)revising standards for disabled students, 4)

\”Learning Paths of Thai People\” project that promotes learning

methods, 5) \”Education Improvement Model,\” which incorporates

teachers and learning technologies, and 6) strengthening the

capacity of the Royal Thai Government to carry out education

reform.

 

11. Standardized tests will be given in grades 3, 6, and 9 to see

if the students qualify for gifted programs, and these gifted

students can attend anywhere they want although there will be no

government stipend for them. The higher education admissions

process will now include the student\’s GPA, class rank, and entrance

examination score. Previously, the entrance examination score was

the only criteria.

 

Sounds good, but…

 

12. So far, the Ministry of Education has succeeded only in

expanding educational opportunity as the quantity of students

increase. Caretaker PM Thaksin successfully expanded the mandatory

education requirement from 9 to 12 years and increased the quantity

of students, but the government has not provided anything else,

including additional classrooms, teachers, or materials.

 

13. The Secretary General of the National Economic and Social

Development Board told us that rural people feel that education

should be free and are not willing to pay more than they already due

for things like school uniforms. The Thaksin government had tried to

implement a plan to decentralize responsibility for education,

making each province responsible for its own education results,

including how education funds should be apportioned. Teachers

demonstrated against this change, officially because they argued

that provincial governments do not have the necessary expertise to

take charge of education. However, the unofficial reason is that the

status of a person who is a provincial employee is lower than that

of someone with a national-level position. The decentralization plan

has since been shelved.

 

14. According to the Office of National Education Standards Quality

Assessment (ONESQA) Director, the National Education Plan faces a

severe shortage of funding that prevents educational institutions

from achieving these goals. The Democratic Party of Thailand

controlled political power and supported the National Education Act

in 1999. However, when the Thai Rak Thai party took control in

2001, the Director claims that \”education became a forgotten issue\”

and the National Education Plan did not receive enough funding to

properly implement. The result is an increase in the number of

students without a parallel increase in quality. The teacher

problem continues and rural schools are not upgrading their

facilities.

 

15. Comment: The Thai\’s are well aware of the shortcomings of

their education system, but reform seems to focus more on buzzwords

than on measurable outcomes. There is also the question of education

reform as a priority for the government and the society at large.

Since the beginning of the Constitutional Monarchy in 1932, there

have been two educational reforms – in 1977 and this one – both of

which were surrounded by similar social environments: political

instability and an emphasis on economic advancement over other

priorities. Academics tell us that the recent government has so far

focused on tangible economic goals, such as building infrastructure,

rather than the long-term development of human resources. And that

although the education reform looks good on paper, it has yet to

bear any fruit or be close to fully implemented.

 

BANGKOK 00004881 003 OF 003

 

16. Comment: It is doubtful that additional effort will be put into

education reform in the near future despite near-universal agreement

that more needs to be done in order for Thailand to compete in an

increasingly globalized world. Thai\’s are aware of the situation

and the problems that it causes, but it is not seen as an immediate

priority, especially in rural areas where most Thais still live.

Education reform talks have been an issue for much longer than the

current political instability, and the only result from the

extensive agenda is an increase in student numbers. With the

political crisis continuing to unfold, education reform is far down

the priority ladder, regardless of what party eventually takes

power.

 

Arvizu

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:14 am

Posted in Unclassified

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