Can Thai Education jump to the 21st Century?

The Reform Policy
With neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea advancing forward into the 21st Century, where does that leave Thailand?  A report from the Bangkok post shows the O-Net (Ordinary National Education Test) results, “in which the average score in eight out of nine subjects was below 50%, all highlight educational stagnation while neighbouring countries advance” (Maxwell & Kamnansilpa, Declare education in a state of emergency, 2016).
In an attempt to re-align all levels of education from pre-primary up to higher education, the Ministry of Education (MOE) Thailand states that their objective is to “de-centralize the present centralized system of higher education…in order to make teaching effective and pupil-centred” (Ministry Of Eduction, 1992).  The Ministry wanted to move away from the memorization technique based on repetition called rote learning which means the material will be lost.
In Thailand’s Education Act of 1999 under section 22 it states “Education shall be based on the principle that all learners are capable of learning and self-development”.  It continues on the claim that the teaching process should “aim at enabling learners to develop themselves at their own pace and to the best of their potentiality” (OEC, 2008).  It became an act in 1999 due to the economic crisis in 1997, the MOE needed to prepare the citizens for new challenges with globalization and set up students with the skills to thrive in the 21st century.

Student-centred learning (SCL)
In 2000, the National Education Commission (NEC) declared “learning by rote will next year be eliminated from all primary and secondary schools [in 2001] and will be replaced with student-centred learning” (Maxwell, 2014).  The NEC further claimed that any teachers that are unable to adapt “would be sent for intensive training” (Maxwell, 2014).
Although, the policies have positive intentions with the attempts on removing rote learning to something more innovative like student-centred learning, the problems lie with poor applications “rethinking policies and trying to come up with better ones is a good start, but without effective implementation it won’t lead anywhere” (The Nation, 2016).
With Thai teachers and foreign teachers not having previous training or experience in SCL, it became difficult to expect all teachers to adopt this new policy and approach.  Stanley (2013) states that this lackadaisical direction creates “unmotivated teachers [that] produce unmotivated students”.

Changing times?
Since May 2014, Thailand has been under a Military coup d’état and as a result any education reforms or policies created have either been stalled or are under “work in progress”.  Therefore, teachers are struggling to change or develop and apply new innovative approaches.
Regardless of the military coup d’état, “international connections continue to be made between Thailand and other countries” (ICEF Monitor, 2015), such as Southeast Asian Ministries of Education Organization (SEAMEO), the passage to ASEAN (P2A) and the ASEAN University Network (AUN).
With reports from the UNESCO stating that “The Thai higher education system is facing a crisis.  A large proportion of university graduates are not sufficiently competent in their fields” (ICEF Monitor, 2015).
With these international connections, there are opportunities to improve and reform Thai education.  Will they be more successful at implementing changes?
From my personal experiences having taught ESL in Thailand since 2012, I know first-hand just how long policies like these will need to take effect.  Thailand’s “mai pen rai” (never mind) attitude is admittedly admirable for a philosophical perspective on life, but when it comes to corporate structure and growth it will always hold us back from other competing countries.



Ministry Of Eduction. (1992, June 28th). Retrieved from

The Nation. (2016, August 22). Retrieved from The Nation, Thailand’s Independent Newspaper:

ICEF Monitor. (2015, January 20). Retrieved August 23, 2016, from

Maxwell, D. (2014, October 17). Asian Correspondent. Retrieved August 22, 2016, from Asian Corresponndent:

Maxwell, D., & Kamnansilpa, P. (2016, January 3). Declare education in a state of emergency. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from Bangkok Post:

OEC. (2008). Education in Thailand. Bangkok: Office of the Education Council.




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