UN Common Country Assessment


Chapter 3 : Education



Relevance of the Education System

Quality of Education Personnel

Management of Education and the Role of Decentralization

Access to Education

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Education has been perceived as a fundamentally essential component for national development. In Thailand, since the reign of King Rama the fifth, education has become the major driving force for the country's development and modernisation. By nature, education brings about long term effect, particularly its impact on human resources development. The contribution of education is not only on personal capacity building and national development; it also has an impact on socio-economic and political progress.

The influence of education, directly or indirectly, is actually enormous. That is, if the education system is properly designed to reinforce other areas of development, the impact can be significant. On the contrary, if the education system cannot adequately support other sectors, it could lead to delay in the progress of other areas of development as well. During normal circumstances, education has been paid little attention in spite of the fact that people accept the importance of education. At this time of economic crisis, the issue of education has gained considerable attention again. In fact, there is a need to critically examine our education system if it has to really play a crucial role in supporting other areas of development.

The current economic crisis has led to a close scrutiny at the education system. There are several critical areas in education that need to be revisited if the education system is to play a crucial in personal, community and national development. Firstly, the system must reassure all citizens, regardless of their races, living areas, physical or mental disabilities or socio-economic status, that they have equal access to education. It should be provided free of charge up to upper secondary education. However, there is a large number of people who still cannot have access to basic education.

Secondly, the education system or what is taught in school has to be in accordance with the needs of the society and the labour market. Without relevance between education and the world of work, education can not be useful. Another area relates to the methodology of teaching. While critical thinking and self-reliance are emphasised, teachers need to be regularly trained with new techniques and information technology. The involvement of the community in education management is another issue that cannot be overlooked if the education system is to be responsive to the community needs.

Another area which has become a weak aspect in the education system is the lack of an effective system of monitoring. When specific information or data in education are needed, there is hardly any Division to provide accurate and up to date data. Therefore, there is a need to review the reporting system and/or education management information system so that it can be really useful for decision-makers or stakeholders in the planning of educational interventions for the benefit of the people in the country.

Relevance of the Education System


One of the key issues being discussed in the education milieu is the appropriateness of the whole education system. In brief, whether there is any relevance between what is learnt in school on the one hand and what is actually required for life in the outside world on the other. At the time of economic boom in Thailand and especially since the 1980's, the problem of unemployment was less critical and the system could absorb the vast majority of new school graduates into the system. At that time, most graduates could find jobs in their chosen areas of study or some other close area. After the economic crisis in mid 1997, large numbers of workers have been laid-off. Finding a job has become a serious problem, even for graduates at the tertiary level. Thus, the issue of a relationship between education and employment has now gained greater attention.

Data and Analysis.

The problem of a lack of fit between education and the needs of the private sector, or the requirements of real-life, stems from several factors. One of the critical areas is that the education system itself is quite rigid and hard to change. It can take up to a decade to make changes to the school curriculum. Theoretically, the curriculum should be revised or modified periodically, preferably every 3-5 years, so that the education system can catch up with the changes in the society.

In addition, the methodology for the transmission of knowledge in Thailand tends to support rote learning instead of problem-solving and critical thinking. Students become passive recipients of knowledge transmitted to them by the teachers rather than being actively involved in the learning process. When they graduate and start working in the private sector, they often find that they have to learn many new approaches and ways of doing things they had not previously learned from school. In most cases, they have to be re-trained when they start working in private companies. Perhaps schools do not understand the needs of the industrial sector, or they continue to teach their students in their own ways without exploring the needs and trends of the outside world.

At the level of vocational and tertiary education, students are often taught with the attitude to look for a job opportunity by being an employee in business or an industrial company rather than to think of ways to generate their own jobs. If they cannot find a job as an employee, very few will ever think of setting up their own business based on their area of specialisation. In fact, many graduates end up working in a job unrelated to their areas of study. All these factors have contributed to a lack of congruence between education and the real life world of work.

With reference to the current crisis which has resulted in more than 1.5 million people becoming unemployed (some sources claim 3 million), finding a job has become even more difficult and many new graduates will not be able to find jobs. It will be impossible for the private sector to absorb all the new graduates being produced every year unless they have skills relevant to very specific needs. It has been estimated that it will to be three or more years for Thailand to recover from the present economic crisis. Therefore, the education system needs to be adjusted to the needs of the present situation. The areas of education offered have to be based on the actual needs of the market. At the same time, the education system, particularly at high school and tertiary levels, has to equip graduates with the attitudes and skills that will foster a spirit of self-reliance and independence. Such attitudes will produce graduates more responsive to the needs of the private sector on the one hand and more likely to promote the establishment of small business enterprises on the other. Therefore, the revision of the education system to make it more responsive and relevant to the needs of the changing society is essential at the present time.

Data Quality and Needs

Although the case has been made that the current education system is unresponsive to the needs of the private sector, specific data are required to demonstrate conclusively that this is indeed the case. First, to what extent can upper-secondary and vocational or college graduates actually find jobs in their areas of study. If the data from 1990 to the present were available, the comparison would provide a clearer picture of the employment situation and the trend over a decade. Second, little information is available on the actual human resource needs of the industrial and business sectors. If the crisis does not mitigate within the very near future, then, what areas of education should be promoted? Third, if the education curricula at each level are to be revised, what areas should be stressed or included in the revisions. An understanding of both the demand and the supply sides will make it possible for the education system to better serve the community as well as to make it more relevant to the needs of the society.

Quality of Education Personnel


The issue of "quality of education" is normally the next stage to be taken into account after achieving some degree of universal primary education. Having a good quality of education implies having a high quality of human resources coming out from the education system. Quality of education is affected by several factors, such as the proportion of budget allocated to the education sector, the curriculum, teaching and learning materials, the qualifications of the teachers, the ratio of teachers to students, teaching methodologies, and the opportunities for in-service training of teachers. To improve the quality of education, therefore, involves several areas.

One of the key areas to improve the quality of education is to improve the key actors in the education system, particularly teachers who are the key players in the classroom. The qualification and the performance of the teachers clearly have critical influences on the learning outcome of the students. Therefore, the central focus of the issue of the quality of education inevitably involves improving the quality of the teaching personnel.

Data and Analysis

Currently, there are more than 600,000 thousand persons working in the teaching profession. These teachers, by and large, have relatively high academic qualifications. About three quarters and just over half of public and private school teachers respectively possess bachelor degrees, and about 4.5 per cent possess a masters' degree or higher. However, this high number of teachers with high qualification does not seem to be congruent with the quality of education.

There are several factors that affect the quality of the teachers. In the past, teachers were highly respected by general public. Nowadays, this respect has declined because teachers have to struggle to earn a living. Many of them cannot live or perform according their status or the expectation of the society. In spite of their high qualifications, teachers in Thailand are poorly paid, compared to some other countries like Malaysia. The starting salary of a teacher with a first degree is only a little more than one hundred dollars a month. The starting salary of a teacher in the Government sector with a Ph.D. is less than $250 a month. A bright student today would rather choose to study an area other than teaching, leaving less able students to go into education. Therefore, the education system cannot attract the high calibre persons necessary to bring about a truly radical restructuring of the education system. All these factors have contributed to the low quality of the teaching personnel.

In addition, the opportunity for professional development is minimal. In 1997, Thailand spent about 22.3 per cent of its recurrent national expenditure on education. This proportion might seem to be sufficient. However, about three quarters of the budget was spent on salaries of teaching personnel and administrators. More than ten per cent was spent on maintenance and day-to-day activities, resulting in only a little more than ten per cent of the budget allocated to the area of improvement in the quality of education. The lack of opportunities for adequate professional training, and the limited budget for personnel development have affected the quality of the teaching personnel and the quality of education.

It may not come as a surprise to find out that there are a large number of teachers who had received no additional training during the previous five years. A number of teachers still utilise the traditional "chalk and talk" mode of teaching, placing emphasis on rote learning rather than problem-oriented critical thinking. Another factor contributing to the continuation of traditional methods of teaching is that the training curriculum for teachers has hardly changed. While the professors in the teacher training institutions might encourage their students to adopt new teaching methods, these same instructors often use traditional techniques to preach their ideas.

Since the quality of education is based largely upon the quality of the teaching personnel, the improvement of the teaching profession in Thailand is indeed a critical issue. All possible means need to be taken in order to draw high calibre scholars into the teaching profession, while at the same time ensuring that those first class teachers already in the system remain. In addition, regular in-service training for teachers has to be regularly conducted so that teaching professionals can catch up with new developments in the teaching milieu and the advancements in information technology.

Data Quality and Needs

Although it has been recognised that the critical issue in the quality of education lies in the quality of the teaching personnel, little data concerning in-service training of teaching personnel have been collected. For example, how often does an average teacher at primary, secondary, or tertiary levels have opportunity to receive in-service training, or what is the exact budget allocated for training of the teaching personnel at each level? These data will be very useful in the planning or organisation of in-service training for teachers so that they can catch up with modern approaches of teaching.

Management of Education and the Role of Decentralization


Following the Eighth Five-Year National Development Plan, the Eighth National Education Development Plan, and the draft Education Act, the issue of decentralisation emerged as one of the major areas that will be promoted by the Government. A few years prior to these developments, the Ministry of Education had initiated a project for educational decentralisation as a part of Education Reform. There was also a pilot project called "Basic Education and Occupational Training" seeking strategic measures for decentralisation in the education system. However, the actual management of education is still highly centralised since the decision making power is mostly in the hands of the authorities in the Central Office. While some schools do not have adequate teachers to teach students, a large number of teaching staff have been assigned to work in non-teaching areas. The disproportionate allocation of human resource deployment has resulted in a lack of teaching personnel in some areas but an oversupply in others, and particularly in Provincial and Central Offices.

In terms of community participation, people are barely involved in the school activities despite the fact that there have been School Committees for years, and the principles of community participation have frequently been stressed.

Data and Analysis

Currently, both the Ministry of Education and the Office of the National Education Commission have initiated several activities relevant to decentralisation in education. Decentralisation committees have been set up to examine the most feasible and suitable strategies for the Thai education system. About 4 years ago, a so-called "Human Resource Development" Project was set up to explore measures for the decentralisation of activities from central offices down to the school level. In 1995, four groups of about a hundred officials in the Ministry of Education from central and district levels involved in the project were sent to the United States, Australia and New Zealand to learn about the decentralisation process in those countries. Upon coming back from these study tours ideas of decentralisation have been tried in several schools in 13 provinces. However, the implementation of the concept has not yet gone beyond the experimental level.

Among different departments within the Ministry of Education, the process of decision-making and the degree of decentralisation as authorised by the Central office are still quite different. While the Office of National Primary Education Office has authorised some degree of power to the Director at the Provincial Primary Education Office, other department heads have authorised minimal decision-making power to the provincial level.

Currently, UNESCO is conducting an Education Management and Financing Study with the financial support from ADB in order to propose policy recommendations to the Government and concerned agencies in the education system. One of the issues deals directly with the management of education and decentralisation. Since decentralisation requires a high degree of co-operation among several departments, it is essential that the departments involved work closely together so that the process of implementation will be in the same direction. There is, however, a high degree of autonomy in the 14 departments within the Ministry of Education which has obstructed close collaboration among the Departments.

The concept of "community participation" in school management and activities has not gone much beyond the level of rhetoric. There are, at least, two key factors relevant to the translation of concept into practice. First, the schools must be willing to give much more power to the community to be involved in the management of school activities. Second, there is a need to build up the capacity of the community organisations and the people so that they can actively be involved in school activities. If the notion of community participation is to be promoted seriously, both have to be done simultaneously.

In terms of personnel management, a re-deployment of teaching personnel is indispensable since many schools still do not have adequate numbers of teaching staff; whereas Provincial and Central Offices are overstaffed.

Data quality and needs

Data concerning decentralisation and the delegation of authority and decision-making powers may be hard to obtain quantitatively. However, having access to, or possessing an understanding of, the rules and regulations concerning the allocation of decision-making powers to the provincial and district levels can be helpful in analysing this aspect. Other essential information concerns the actual number of teaching personnel who are actually performing their duties compared with those who have been assigned to do secretarial support tasks. Data on the proportion of teaching as opposed to non-teaching staff can also be helpful in understanding the management of education personnel..

Access to Education


Thailand has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Therefore, it is bound to ensure universal access to basic education for all Thai children. However, although Thailand has been quite successful in education provision (with a primary school enrolment of over ninety per cent), there are still a few groups of children who have no access to primary education, for example, children of minorities (such as hill tribes), migrant children, and children of the rural/urban poor. Only some of them have access to education. Thailand has given importance to these groups, setting them as targets for development in the Eighth National Economic and Social Development Plan. Coupled to this, the new Constitution (1997) stresses that all children have the right to twelve-years of basic education, as discussed in the previous issues.

Data and Analysis:

Presently there has been no separate system for monitoring the situation of these groups of children. Thus, little is known of their access to education. However, it is very well accepted that only small numbers of them have access to basic education when compared with their contemporaries. The Tribal Health Survey in 1997, for example, found that only about two-thirds of tribal children aged 6-12 years old were studying in primary schools and that just under half of 14-15 year old tribal children were able to speak Thai.

Beyond having no access to education, some of these children are even more unlucky and slip out of a normal stream of life to becoming children in need of special protection such as street children, child labour and child prostitutes.

Thailand has made numerous efforts to find solutions for these children. For example, nonformal education centres were established to provide education to tribal children as well as adults. Presently, more tribal children are able to attend ordinary schools. In urban areas where street children are to be found, street teachers were trained to help street children to go back to their families and to attend schools like other children. The Nonformal Education Department has reached out to out-of-school children including working children in both rural and urban communities to provide basic and vocational education for them.

However, further effort is still needed to ensure that all of these students have access to education. The government needs to strengthen its commitment to helping these children and to invest more in their education. Assistance is also needed particularly for the poorest families to ensure that they will not take their poverty as an excuse for not sending these children to school. Unless Thailand is able to ensure the education rights of these children, it will not be able to step up to becoming a 'developed country'. The more children who attend school, the greater the chance of the country having quality citizens for national development. And Thailand is now ready to make this commitment with the new Constitution paving the way for this important task.

Data Quality and Needs:

As mentioned, there are no systems for monitoring the situation of disadvantaged children in Thailand. Except for the aforementioned Tribal Health Survey, almost no study has been conducted to collect information about the educational situation of marginal children. To ensure universal access to basic education, Thailand needs to establish systems to monitor the educational status of these children.

Indicators for chapter 3

I. For which data exist:

II. For which data do not yet exist:

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Dated: 26Jan1999