Thai stu­dents still lag be­hind

The abil­ity to learn, an­a­lyse and think crit­i­cally is sadly lack­ing in Thai­land, writes Dum­rongkiat Mala

Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL - PAWAT LAOPAISARN­TAKSIN

The ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Thai­land has failed to equip its stu­dents with cru­cial skills for the 21st cen­tury job mar­ket such as crit­i­cal think­ing, prob­lem-solv­ing and for­eign lan­guage pro­fi­ciency due to its ed­u­ca­tional cul­ture, ac­cord­ing to Crimson Ed­u­ca­tion Thai­land, a con­sult­ing com­pany that helps Thai stu­dents win en­try to the world’s elite uni­ver­si­ties.

Sujaree Xu, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Crimson Ed­u­ca­tion Thai­land, crit­i­cised the out­dated cur­ricu­lum and ed­u­ca­tional cul­ture in Thai­land, say­ing they do not fo­cus on the de­vel­op­ment of soft skills, such as ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties and pro­mo­tion of in­de­pen­dence.

Ms Sujaree said rad­i­cal change is needed in how Thai stu­dents are ed­u­cated, which means tack­ling the root of the prob­lem in Thai ed­u­ca­tion — the so­cial norms of Thai cul­ture.

“The ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem tends to fo­cus heav­ily on con­tent and not nec­es­sar­ily the thought process, so true un­der­stand­ing is of­ten not present,” Ms Sujaree said. “Thai ed­u­ca­tion does not en­cour­age crit­i­cal think­ing or in­quis­i­tive learn­ing so stu­dents strug­gle to ap­ply knowl­edge or un­der­stand­ing at a fun­da­men­tal level.”

Con­se­quently, Thai stu­dents are of­ten ill-equipped to en­ter de­bates or think an­a­lyt­i­cally when com­pet­ing on the global stage, as Thai stu­dents are rarely en­cour­aged to have their own free thought or question what they have been told.

“So, Thai stu­dents need to ac­cept learn­ing as an ac­qui­si­tion of skills, or rather an abil­ity to learn, an­a­lyse and think crit­i­cally, rather than see learn­ing as merely data or con­tent ac­qui­si­tion,” Ms Sujaree said.

As a re­sult, Ms Sujaree said Thai par­ents increasing­ly un­der­stand that if they want their chil­dren to be able to com­pete in work­force’s in other coun­tries, they might need to send their kids to study in in­ter­na­tional pro­grammes, in­ter­na­tional uni­ver­si­ties in Thai­land or even over­seas uni­ver­si­ties as for­eign de­grees re­main an ex­cel­lent call­ing card with em­ploy­ers.

How­ever, as only 10 Thai uni­ver­si­ties made it to the Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion top 300 Asia Univer­sity Rank­ings this year, and six out of the uni­ver­si­ties’ rank­ings slipped from last year, Crimson ex­pects that more af­flu­ent Thai par­ents will seek over­seas ed­u­ca­tion for their chil­dren to equip them with abil­i­ties to work on the re­gional and global stage.

“As an ed­u­ca­tion con­sult­ing com­pany, we’ve seen po­ten­tial and op­por­tu­ni­ties to grow in the Thai mar­ket. More par­ents want their chil­dren to study abroad be­cause studying abroad is likely to en­hance their fu­ture job prospects,” Ms Sujaree said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry, Thai­land sends 6,000 and 8,500 stu­dents to study at higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in the UK and US each year, re­spec­tively.

Ms Sujaree said the com­pe­ti­tion among ed­u­ca­tion con­sult­ing companies in Thai­land is likely to be­come fiercer. How­ever, she did not think it will af­fect her com­pany as Crimson only fo­cuses on help­ing stu­dents to be accepted into the world’s most pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tions and Ivy League uni­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing Har­vard, Yale, Stan­ford and Oxbridge.

“Last year, there were 15 stu­dents re­ceiv­ing ad­vice from us,” she said. “Two of them have just been accepted into their first-choice uni­ver­si­ties dur­ing the 2016/17 ad­mis­sions cy­cle. One has been accepted into both the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Technology (MIT) and the Ivy League Brown Univer­sity, while the other has been accepted into all five of the UK uni­ver­si­ties he ap­plied for, in­clud­ing UCL, King’s Col­lege and War­wick Univer­sity.”

Ms Sujaree said Crimson ex­pects to get 20 to 30 stu­dents more this year, but aims to keep the num­ber of stu­dents be­low 50 to con­trol the qual­ity of ser­vice and en­sure it has enough time to re­ally take care of each stu­dent. “For next year, we aim to grow by 50%, so Crimson is fo­cus­ing on con­tin­u­ing to en­sure staff are trained to the high­est level, and that we have ex­perts in the spe­cific fields to help Thai stu­dents with their par­tic­u­lar needs. Crimson has six lo­cal ex­perts and aims to get two more next year,” she said.

Studying abroad is likely to en­hance their fu­ture job prospects. SUJAREE XU MAN­AG­ING DI­REC­TOR OF CRIMSON ED­U­CA­TION THAI­LAND

A stu­dent checks the de­tails of a school in Aus­tralia at the Bangkok Post Ca­reer-Ed­u­ca­tion Expo.

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