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East meets west Print E-mail


Reading the International Schools and Universities Guide that was free with the Bangkok Post, we are reliably informed that the better your English, the better your prospects and pay. I was also reminded by a reader recently that the best way forward for Thailand’s education policy is to mix the best of both east and west.



English language proficiency has become one of the major factors in the recruitment prospects and remuneration packages at all levels of the workforce. If the international schools and universities are advertising this in their promotional publicity, then why are the rest of Thailand’s educational establishments so far behind? I am particularly concerned with those students that are not able to go to the top universities in Thailand.


Whilst our Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of studying overseas during a speech for the “Education UK Exhibition 2009,” I could not help but think that it will be a long time before families from other countries will pack off their children to study in Asia’s educational hub, namely “Thailand.”


Even though the Prime Minister did not particularly like the English food (let’s be truthful, who does?), he did make a point that echoed what my concerned reader stated to me, by stressing that each system has its own strengths and weaknesses.


Traditional Thai values are a cornerstone of Thai society and if we were to integrate the educational standards and practices from the west with the Thai moral and cultural code, students will still be able to behave as good citizens according to Thai laws, culture and traditions, in order to live peacefully with other people in the national and international community.


By being able to relate the history, culture and traditional wisdom of Thailand to the outside world and its educational practises, students will still be able to feel proud to maintain the national identity of Thailand.


In my opinion, we have to meet somewhere in the middle. Parents, teachers and students need to be more responsible; however, Thailand’s centralised governmental policy needs to lead the way in helping all those concerned to do the right thing and make them accountable for their actions. Students need to achieve real grades, teachers need to have a realistic salary and parents must take more responsibility for their children.


Last month, Abhisit Vejjajiva was commenting on the ineffectual screening of the university admission system and he said that exams should place importance on the thinking and analytical abilities of students and if exams rewarded students who could think and analyse, basic education at schools would change to emphasise those abilities in students.


I urge the Prime Minister to not wait for universities to amend their admission criteria and to focus his attention on basic education and the need for the transition from a teacher centred, rote learning methodology to a more student centred communicative one that allows students to express themselves freely and to solve problems and think critically.


Mixing this with traditional Thai morals and values would give this country the blend needed to become a driving educational force in the region and may well end up with families from abroad deciding to send their children to Thailand to study in the future.


East meets west


A demonstration of how east meets west. Children from Croston House Children’s Home, Lamphun district exchange ideas with Sam and Chelsea Graham on a recent visit.
(Unedited article published in the Bangkok Post 31st March 2009)

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