Synthesis, Rethinking Thai Education: Paradoxes, Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Thailand’s unique and special context is described in ways which augurs well for Thailand’s educational future. Four major paradoxes are then identified, the major one being that despite Thailand spending a large percentage of its national budget on education, outcomes and results have been disappointing. Key trends (both successful and problematic) are then identified. Key positive ones are the rapid quantitative expansion of education, the massification of higher education, and Thai students being among the most happy in the world and some being among the most talented. Key problematic trends are synthesized in a tetrahedron: (1) quality issues at all levels, (2) serious inequalities and regional disparities, (3) management/leadership problems, and (4) educational finance issues and how funds are spent. Two major tensions related to improving education are then discussed, namely, the competing influence of global/international and local indigenous forces and the complex challenges of determining educational priorities. HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn stresses the importance of traditional holistic education. This chapter concludes with the presentation of alternative policy suggestions to rethink and improve Thai education. Among these suggestions are urgent policies to resolve the small school problem, to provide access to quality education for all, to reduce disparities and inequities at all levels of the system, to redesign teacher education, to improve teacher deployment practices, to produce a “new breed of teacher” and attract top talent to this profession, to increase community engagement with schools, to implement a more effective model of decentralization such as ABE, and to enhance effective R&D spending and related STEM education not only for the talented but for all. It is imperative that Thailand improve the quality of its educational system. If it does not, Thailand could be caught in a “middle-income trap” and surpassed by Asian neighbors on the rise such as Vietnam, India, and Myanmar (Burma).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEducation in the Asia-Pacific Region
PublisherSpringer Nature
Pages677-709
Number of pages33
DOIs
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameEducation in the Asia-Pacific Region
Volume42
ISSN (Print)1573-5397
ISSN (Electronic)2214-9791

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Policies related to educational change and reform need to be evidence-based, and, thus, there is a need for more policy-related applied research. The current pilot research on the area-based education (ABE) model being supported by the Thailand Research Fund is exactly the kind of research needed. There are two options in this area. The first option is to use existing mechanisms and institutions such as the Thailand Research Fund, the National Research Council, the Quality Learning Foundation, ONESQA, NIETS, The World Bank-Thailand unit, TDRI, and the OEC to carry out the needed research. The second option, involving more added expense, would be to create a new kind of education-oriented TDRI similar to the KEDI think tank in Korea which might be called the Thailand Educational Policy Research Institute (TEPRI). The Thais should study the KEDI model carefully, since Korea has had such outstanding educational success (Adams and Gottlieb 2018; Ripley 2013). One way to implement this idea would be to transform the OEC into a public organization (to ensure independence but also needed funding) functioning like an educational TDRI. With this kind of status, the new organization could recruit the “best and brightest” researchers to take on complex and challenging educational policy issues. Whichever option is chosen, rigorous applied educational policy research is needed to guide the rethinking of Thai education and to foster critically needed quality improvements across the system (see Chaps. 19 and 20).

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