Teenager’s take on how to reform Thai education

Wherever you go you will see loopholes and shortcomings from educational institutions across the globe. As the saying goes, nobody is perfect. And as a teacher in Thailand for the last five years or so, I’ve seen some being implemented here in the Kingdom that I truly detest. One in particular is the “no fail” policy. When you fail a student who got so many absences and low scores in quizzes and exams say in English 1, don’t be surprised seeing him in your English 2 class. 

My wife, during her first year at a school somewhere in Isaarn, rewrite the grading sheet with everyone getting a passing grade because her boss said so. If not, she will be responsible for the bad image it will create for the school. That’s how it goes here and she has since learned how to play the game.

Netiwit

The students also have this “Go ahead and babble but we don’t care” type of attitude when you teach. Their facial expression can be interpreted as a sign of boredom or probably lack of understanding with regards to their English skills. One thing’s for sure, after your talk you won’t get any question or reaction from the topic you’ve just discussed even in the form of writing. They don’t challenge the person standing in front of them. Whatever the teacher says, they believe. They don’t probe. They don’t question. And you know what, that facial expression annoys me big time. Lol.


If you think the Thai people especially the students themselves are happy with the system of education here, then you are wrong. Here’s a conversation excerpt of the 16 year-old Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, co-founder and secretary general of the Thai Students Educational Revolution Alliance (TERA), a network of some 30 young activists seeking to reform the education system and ease the strict regulations among other things with The Sunday Nation’s Pravit Rojanaphruk.

Q : Why do you find education in Thailand so problematic?

It is problematic because the system does not allow students to challenge teachers. When I pose questions, I end up being branded as a problematic youth. 

Q : What are the other major problems?

The lack of welfare for both teachers and students, power centralised in the hands of teachers and school administrators, overcrowded classrooms to name a few.

Q : Why do most other students not seem to have any problems with the system?

Many of them don’t recognise this as a problem, though I think they are somewhat aware. They don’t study [these issues] deeply enough or prefer to simply tolerate it. 

Q : Several people who have seen you on television say you’re aggressive, brash even. 

I’m surprised that I appear aggressive, but that’s how I’ve always been. I am blunt and rarely prepare notes, like when I called for the abolition of Thai traditions. 

Q : Can you elaborate on your call regarding Thai traditions?

Abolishing traditions may sound a bit extreme, but I was referring to some aspects that are not useful or irrational. For instance, we’ve been told to stand in respect of the national flag because it’s true “Thai-ness” and people are barred from questioning this practice. It is things like this that turn the Thai culture into something bad, so I propose ending [such practice].

Q : Is the media paying so much attention to you because other students are quiet?

I want more students to wake up and recognise these problems. We are dominated by a greed-based economy. Students are taught to become bosses. They should question that. Parents should not teach their children to become robots. 

Q : How would you assess your generation?

On the positive side, we have easy access to open technology. This may broaden our thinking and enable us to learn about our rights and liberty. But we have also become too individualistic and atomised so we cannot forge social change. We have also become more money oriented.

Q : How problematic is the Thai notion of old people being the wisest? 

Students are most affected by this… The belief that older people are always correct turns them into something sacred. 

Q : What are your views on the Pheu Thai government’s education policy?

I don’t think they take things seriously. They don’t go to the ground level to look at things. I never expect anything from this administration or any other administration – be it under [Prime Minister] Yingluck [Shinawatra] or [opposition leader] Abhisit [Vejjajiva]. 

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