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uman is the most valuable resource, especially child and youth. Although, in this era and the next one, the populations of this group may be decreasing, their burdens will be explicitly tougher. Therefore, there must be the precise mechanism for human resource development. The formal, non-formal or alternative education must be clear and qualified broadly with aims at learning for honest livelihood, and for living with the whole society whereas the child and youth’s competence must be developed to acquire the 21st century skills. But, in fact, Thailand’s educational system has been short of quality, and been isolated from the actual way of life and society. We rely on the rote learning approach from the primary to tertiary levels. The teaching approaches are out-of-date. The assessment for teachers and students are not suitable for the era. We do not have the problembased learning. The teachers have hardly played the role of facilitator to widen children’s learning in order to build our learning society. We have no development under precise goals. This book gives an analysis of Thailand’s educational system in both economic and social domains by several experts of the country. We actually hope that it benefits you all and will be used as a database for further strategic and educational planning, and for learning to improve our human resources.

Our thanks given to Dr. Suriyadeo Tripathi Director of the National Institute for Child and Family Development, Mahidol University


would like to extend an appreciation to Dr. Suvit Maesincee, Phra Maha Pongnarin Thitavamso, A. Pipob Thongchai, and A. Chatchawan Thongdeelert for their transfer of experience and time contribution for interviews. Although these persons may not be referred directly in this article, I would like to advise you that the interviews of every qualified expert mentioned above play a great role in the structural design and details of this article. Also, I would like to extend my gratitude to A. Wimontip Musikaphan and Khun Nanthanat Songsiri for their kindness in coordinating with the lecturers, and facilitating my writing of this article until it is finalized. My thanks must be given to Khun Suppanut Sasiwuttiwat and Khun Thitirat Thipsamritkul for their help for this article, and to other persons not mentioned here.

Bank Ngarmarunchot King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, Economist Author

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

CONTENTS I dreamed a dream in time gone by


Now life has killed the dream I dreamed...


How to rebuilding the dream for Thai education




The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children




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the beginning of June 2013, Dr. Suvit Maesincee had a discussion with me about education. In a part of that, Dr. Suvit emphasized that…talking about the educational system problems based on actual circumstances (Positive Education) was important and should be focused, but it’s not enough. That is, it concentrated on many small knots, and untied them respectively. But, at present, education had to be turned to another side, that is, the consideration of dream we wanted to be seen or the normative education, which would drive the overall education forward. I extremely agree with him. Thus, this article starts from the dream of education like the song, I Dreamed a Dream, in Les Misérables

“I dreamed a dream in time gone by When hope was high and life worth living.”


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

Did we dream about our ideal education? No. I do not ask any scholars or policy actors. I ask everyone who is reading this article. Keep your answer and I first present a dream of someone. He is Sir Ken Robinson. He talked in TED Talk, a well-known TV program, that, for him, the ideal education should serve learners in three aspects.


First, education should enable the children to develop various abilities, and it relies on the learners. Second, education should spark the children’s curiosity1 so that they desire to learn willingly. The successful education should release these abilities in children, not block them.


Third, education should promote the creativity and imagination, not destroy them.

1 Curiosity, care and beloved are words deriving from similar roots: curiositas, curiosus and carus. It is not surprising that motivating the learning curiosity could lead to love in learning and attention in learning.



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Robinson’s dream seems not strange. The dream of education by other important masterminds like Rabindranath Tagore or John Dewey may not be different. For Tagore, he presented that his ideal dream should not go against the nature. It means that it does not go against the nature of learners while the learners must have a good learning in the natural condition. For Dewey, he proposed his philosophy on experience and education. He presented that the traditional education focused on curriculums and practice based on the preceding culture, which ruined and destroyed the learners’ varieties. In contrast, he dreamed about the progressive education, which means the education focusing on the learners’ need while also supporting and liberating the teachers’ limitations.

In Thailand, a lot of Thai educators have identical talks to the English (Robinson), American (Dewey) or Indian (Tagore) educators coincidentally. For example, Chatchawan Thongdeelert, a guy struggling for the alternative education in Thailand, had a talk with me at the end of June 2013 that, for him, education should open the space for the enlargement of numerous skills, not narrow skills centralized and defined by the Ministry. This issue is fully relevant to Robinson’s lecture in 2006 in the title of “School is a Place of Destroying Creativity”. For Chatchawan and Robinson, the ideal education must liberate the learners while the learners have interactions to originate the learning


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

collectively. This dream may be stated in another form as the request for decentralizing the educational roles from state to school.

I, myself, have my dream about education. Apart

from others mentioned above, I dream that the education should be a kind of service to be reached by every child equitably. The education should free the children’s learning potential, and stimulate the learners’ curiosity so that they may have self-learning after the school age. Definitely, in general, if you graduate around 22 years old and you plan to die around 70 years old, you remain 70% of life time when no one teaches you, except yourself. The education should prepare everyone to either teach himself or teach others. However, the dreams of Robinson, Tagore, Dewey, Chatchawan, and I would become true or not in Thailand; it must consider the following facts.


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this regard, I may say that I’m not the expert. Anyway, I used to present several educational economics research papers. Each paper tried to study the present Thai circumstances, and it should be a milestone how far the dream and reality of Thai education are. I find out some principal issues you should know about the present Thai education.

Figure 1: Returns from educational investment classified by grade




Psacharopoulos & Patrinos (2004) as cited in Bank Ngarmaroonchote and Thiraparp Fukthong (2012)


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number of studies indicate consistently that a focus on small children’s development, especially kindergarten children, significantly results to their lifetime learning. The educational economists assess the returns from educational investment, and they found that the maximum returns are at the pre-school level, and such returns would gradually decrease when the children study in higher levels. These results are in the same direction to the returns to the public and to children (Figure 1).2 Therefore, in whatever point of view, the educational management, when compared, focusing on small


There is no return ratio of pre-school children, but several studies, e.g. Knudsen et al. (2006) or The White House (2013) all insist that the pre-school education is so important for child development.


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children is more important than old children. However, the government sector’s investment in Thai children’s education as classified by grade shows the adverse outcome.3 The kindergarten children receive the least budget per learner while such educational allocation is gradually higher and highest at the tertiary level. The slight emphasis on small children gives two major effects. For the first effect, the intellectual quotient (IQ) of small children will grow so slowly when they study at higher levels because their learning system has been slightly developed during childhood. The additional learning at the final stage becomes more difficult. The increased resources in old children rarely result to great educational outcome. I emphasize that the problem is not the low IQ of small children, but the slight shift of IQ rate. Eventually, after the primary school level, IQ no longer grows up (Figure 2). In other countries like Norway, at every year, the education helps increase the learners’ IQ for 3.7 points on average (Steven Reinberg, 2011). Moreover, for the second effect, this budget allocation for education ‘may’ lead to the educational gap because some children short of good learning opportunities since their childhood (small investment by state, and no more resources from their family) are greatly likely to leave school before the right time because they have no hope from the education.


From Thailand’s data in 2006, each kindergarten child is supported approximately Baht 13,000 while a university student is supported by the government around Baht 30,000. From my last data in 2009, Thailand’s basic education (kindergarten to secondary level) is subsidized around Baht 24,000 per child. This shows better tendency if compared with the data in 2006. However, this amount is so far from the investment at the university level at Baht 34,000 per student (See more information at Bank Ngarmaroonchote and Thiraparb Fukthong, 2012). 15

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

Figure 2: Intellectual Quotient (IQ) of Thai children classified by grade

Department of Mental Health (2011) as cited in Bank Ngarmaroonchote and Thiraparp Fukthong (2012)

If you cannot imagine, you may think of a farmer’s family renting the farm land in the northern or southern part.4 You study in a small school located outside the municipal area. This school consists of 3 teachers and 70 students (one out of three teachers is the school director; so there are only 2 class teachers for full teaching). You receive the education according to your circumstances. Although you may not pass the knowledge criteria, you will be lifted to higher classes, generation by generation. If we are one of these children, we must


According to the study done by Thiraparb Fukthong and I in 2012, we found that if a child’s family is the famer possessing no plot of land, that child would have fewer educational opportunities than other children whose parents worked in the professional areas (engineer, doctor, architect, etc.) and management for 4.5 years. In addition, the children whose families lived outside the municipal areas and in the northern or southern part spent lower studying period in school significantly if compared with the children living in the municipal areas and at the central part.


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decide on either continuing studies or leaving school to work for the family. Studying may be less clear and less useful than working for the minimum wage. This is a reason of dropping out. At present, about 45% of Thai children at the school age decide to resign before completing Muttayom 6 (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Dropping out of Thai children as classified by grade (% of total classmates studying at Prathom 1 (Grade 1)

Drop out ratio

Adapted from Ammar Siamwalla et al. (2012)


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second conclusion is derived from the research results in 2011 I collectively conducted with Dr. Somkiat Tangkitvanich and Khun Suppanut Sasiwuttiwat (in fact, most wisdom stated in this work mainly came from my two co-workers) regarding “Management and Financial System for Accountability in the Educational Management”. What we found in this work is that although Thailand has made huge investment in education if compared between the educational budget and total budget allocated by the state, it is deemed that Thailand has spent for education higher than several countries, e.g. Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and 18

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Vietnam. Adversely, the learning achievements of Thai children are worse or not close these countries. This sign tells us that spending some money to solve educational problems is not an exit, and does not give the good results as it should be.

Such work also indicates that one major problem making the budget expenditure useless to shift the educational quality is the teacher evaluation system that too much relies on the documentation. Here, I would like to explain something about this matter and you can judge it. The teachers in schools under the supervision of the Office of the Basic Education Commission are evaluated twice a year for the salary increase. In each evaluation, the teachers must prepare many documents to verify their work performance. The “Teacher Watch� research project surveyed the 19

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teachers and found that 83% of teachers answering the questionnaire spent 20% of working hours to prepare these documents. About 10% of teachers spent 50% of working time to prepare the evaluation documents. The lost working time means the loss of time used by teachers to design new and creative class activities. The evaluation criteria in these reports accounts for only 3.3% of scores related to the children’s academic achievements.

Phra Maha Pongnarin Thitivamso, an activist monk, talked about his working experience with many schools to persuade the children and teachers to do social activities. He found that the teachers working with him were disdained that they were stupid as they might hire any persons to prepare the documents for them instead of doing these activities by themselves. This fact makes us realize how the present evaluation process demolishes the teachers’ potential, and cut the tie between teachers and students. Definitely, if we can remember the dream of John Dewey, a major educator, we will find that this evaluation process adds limitations and burden to the teachers, which is absolutely against the Progressive Education principle proposed by Dewey.


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talking about teaching, many people may believe that “it is a profession earning little income or bears more difficult financial burden than other professions; therefore, the educational upgrading requests more salaries for teachers.� However, this talk may be right or wrong. I would like to invite you to consider and judge whether it is correct or not. According to World Salaries (2005) collecting the data on salaries of secondary school teachers from official documents and international organizations (e.g. International Labor Organization), it was found that, if internationally compared, Thai teachers achieved high purchasing power parity if compared with other developing countries 21

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

in the East Europe like Peru, Philippines, Czech, Mexico, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, etc.

But, it was still low if compared with other developed countries like American, England, Germany, Australia, South Korea, Norway, and Finland. Commonly, if compared with other countries, Thailand’s teachers earned the income at the moderate level, not low level. Nevertheless, to conclude that Thai teachers’ salary is free of problem may lead to a mistake. In fact, there are 3 main problems about teachers’ salary, which could be found when the teachers are divided into groups that will be further specified.

Figure 4: Lifetime income of teachers classified by teaching level (vertical axis is the income in Baht and the horizontal axis is the average age)

Source: Labor Survey, The National Statistical Office, 2010, as cited in Suppanut Sasiwuttiwat (2013) 22

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First of all, if using the data of the National Statistical Office to calculate the lifetime income of primary and secondary school teachers, and comparing them with the average income of Thai people, it was found that the primary school teachers earned lower income than the average income of general people at the beginning of their working life. But, these teachers’ income will be gradually increasing until it is close to the general people after the age of 40 years. The secondary school teachers earned lower income than other professions before the age of 40 years as well, but, after that, they earn higher income than other professions on average (Figure 4). When considering separately, we will have better understanding in the different problems between two groups of


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teachers, that is, the primary school teachers gained lower income than the average income of other people while the secondary school teachers had the problem of setting up too low “starting salary”.


is the problem about the inequality within groups of teacher. If we separate the teachers into two groups: teachers in government schools, and those in private schools. The result is that the teachers at the basic education level in government schools earn approximately Baht 24,000 per month. Meanwhile, the teachers in private schools earn the average income at Baht 12,000 per month.

To elaborate,

the income of these two groups is 5 different for one time. Solving teachers’ low salary by only increasing the salary for teachers in the government system could not reduce this gap, but it hammers the problem. Since 2001 up to now, the income of government school teachers and private school teachers have been gradually different. Furthermore, this great difference of income between government school teachers and private school teachers tremendously stirs the teachers’ need to move from the private sector to work in the government’s educational sector, which leads to the scandalous deceit in the teachers’ professional examination in 2013.6


Causes of different salary rate between government school teachers and private school teachers can be read at Somkiat Tangkitvanich, Suppanut Sasiwuttiwat, and Bank Ngarmaroonchote (2012)


This deceit, with reference to general news, is valued between USD 10,000 and USD 17,000 per one employment rate. If this amount is close to the fact, the recruitment of assistant teachers for 2,015 jobs from Year 2011-2012 will lead to the flow of crooked money about USD 34,255,000 (for the assistant teachers’ professional examination only). If further studying the work of Michael Tan (2007), we will find that the amount of crooked money for the job transfer, workplace transfer or children’s enrollment in schools is tremendous in Thai educational system in each year.


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before going to the next issue, let’s discuss about the increase of salary for teachers. Either high or low salary, this income could improve the teachers’ quality of life. However, this may not always or automatically relate to better quality of education. As discussed in the second educational problem, boosting the educational investment, especially to teachers, while the teachers bear responsibility for documents, not the quality of learners, is not directly correlated with the learners’ quality of education. Thinking about the teachers’ salary, in practice, could not be separated from the appropriate responsibility system. Except the misunderstanding about teachers’ income (may be judged as high or low without identifying any details) as partially mentioned above, it is misunderstanding that only intellectual teachers could be good teachers. We may hear a statement in the Thai society that the “present under-qualified education results from no intellectual persons desiring to continue studies to become teachers.” This understanding is a half-truth. We found many evidences talking about teachers differently. At the concept level, Ken Robinson had an interesting statement that a teacher is not only the doorman of contents, but he also grows the varieties and creativity in children. Rita Pierson said in TED Talk program on May 2013 that what the educators ignore to talk in the good educational management is the relationship between teachers and children. Good education is that the teacher is ready to contribute sufficient time for children. The teacher with full of perseverance and


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

abilities will challenge the learners’ prosperity and varieties. After reading the viewpoints of Robinson and Pierson, we may protest in our mind why we are wrong to seek for intellectual teachers. It is definite that getting the intellectual teachers is not wrong, but it may not be enough and not the single answer.

According to

the empirical data, Pumsaran Thongliemnak (2010) studied the correlation between qualifications of teachers and academic achievements of children. The results are so interesting. At the initial stage, this research reviewed the literature explaining about the correlation between teachers’ quality and children’s academic achievements. The result showed that the teachers’ experience greatly put influence on children’s development. The newgeneration teachers teaching for the first year usually had the frontier knowledge that could not be found in old teachers. In contrast, these new teachers were unable to promote the children’s learning like the teachers with 10-15 years of teaching experience.Besides, DarlingHammond (1999) found that the educational economists have tried to study the correlation between teachers’ intellectual quotient and children’s studying results since 1940s, but no explicit correlation was found.


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the teachers’ skill affecting the children’s development was the verbal skill. This information indicates that the general intelligence or knowledge of contents is not all the children want from their teachers, the experience and communications between teachers and children are essential as well.

Most literature mentioned above involved American cases; so Dr. Pumsaran sought for any empirical evidence in Thailand, and found that the teachers’ teaching experience significantly affected TIMSS test scores (1999). Regarding qualifications, it is more interesting because the teachers attaining the education below the bachelor degree (B.A.) or the master degree (M.A.) were more likely to help the learners get higher scores than those taught by B.A. teachers. The teachers attaining the bachelor degree in education could add higher exam scores for students than the teachers completing any specific studies (e.g. math, science); although the teachers completing the specific studies had to achieve higher examination scores. However, such information became less explicit in TIMSS examination (2007), which may reflect the inconsistent correlation mentioned above. But, at least, this mild sign indicates that the good educational management in Thailand should not only rely on the teachers’ intelligence, but also their teaching skills and experience.


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vocational policy emphasized by the political sector and responded by the civil service system is the increase of ratio of vocational students/graduates to students in general education at 50:50. Although this measure has been carried out along with other measures such as preparation of manpower plan, and improvement of the quality of vocational students, in practice, the policy of increasing the quantity of students seems to be the core policy.7

7 One proof is that, at the end of April 2013, the Vocational Education Commission sent a notice (ศธ. 0604/1938) to every vocational school to urge the enrolment of more students.


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The increasing quantity of students is not wrong, especially if considering the expansion of production and service sectors requiring more manpower from the vocational program in the future. But, the opposite fact is the state’s investment in vocational schools.

For better understanding,

I would like to give more explanation about some concept on this matter. If we view that the education means the production of quality children for the society, at the most basic level (assume that there is no problem of accountability system), the learners’ quality depends on8 the increase of two production factors; namely, investment for skill practice devices, and teachers in term of quality and quantity. The enrollment of more vocational students without increase of production factors (both investment and teachers) will enlarge the class, and add the number of students per teacher. A plenty of research results support that the quality of learners becomes less when the class is too big. The measure of increasing the students to reach 50% if compared with the general education extremely needs more number of teachers (what should be done more is the quality of teachers and the investment in devices).

8 Factors formulating the academic achievements may be divided into 3 parts: 1) learner factor, e.g. what type of social status they have, in what extent they have personal attributes in learning, etc.; 2) systematic and environmental factor, e.g. school environment, accountability system or government’s policy; and 3) school factor, comprising teaching and learning facilities together with the quantity and quality of teachers. Here, the third factor will be mentioned.


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children


in the past and in practice, the implementation was in the opposite direction because the budget per vocational student was less than the budget to the general education. The quantity of teachers has not yet been added to balance with the increasing number of students. At present, there are only 16,000 teachers filled in the position of government officers to take care of 900,000 students (Daily News, 11 March 2013). The proportion is 57 students per teacher, which is greatly higher than the proportion of the general education.9

To solve this problem, the vocational schools must engage another 8,000 teachers under the annual employment contract. This helps reduce the proportion of teachers to students, but it’s not enough. The estimated figure of the Vocational Education Commission indicates that to increase the number of vocational students to be equal to those in the general education without any effect to the class size, another 36,000 teachers must be added. At present, this matter has not yet been approved by the Council of Ministers.


At the primary school level, the proportion is 16 students per teacher, and at the secondary school level, the proportion is 22 students per teacher (World Bank, 2012 referred in Trading Economics, accessed 13 July 2013).


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According to the theories and actual situations, it

is not difficult to predict that urging the increasing quantity of students with no concerns about the increase of production factors to enhance good quality of learners will worsen the quality of vocational students in the future. Furthermore, the policy with a focus on the targeted proportion at 50:50 between the general education and the vocational education stresses the school management to be responsible for a wrong matter or accountable to quantity than quality.

For example, from January to February 2013, an

agency of the Ministry of Education proposed the Office of the Basic Education Commission, which governs the general education, to reduce the enrolled students in order to push them to study in the vocational schools more. This presents the wrong understanding because the decreased enrollment on the general education does not result to higher enrollment on the vocational education automatically. In addition, we may argue that although more students enroll on the vocational education, it’s because they “have no choice” or the students fail from studying in the general education. This proposal considers the number of students rather than the students’ actual needs (See Matichon, 11 January 2013; and Thairath, 27 February 2013; accessed 13 July 2013).


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mentioned above are some observations on Thailand’s present educational situation. This is to examine between the dreams of educators in the world and in Thailand and the actual picture. After the assessment, we may say that our dream is not only so different from what it seems. Like Anne Hathaway sings in the end of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ that the fact of educational life has killed the dream I dreamed as well:

“I had a dream my life would be, So different from this hell I’m living So different now from what it seemed, Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”


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the first chapter is a dream; the second chapter is the fact (as much as I know, and, certainly, it’s partial) of Thai education, which, in fact, wipes out the dream in the first chapter indifferently. Anyway, I believe that this chapter may rebuild the dream for Thai education by inviting you all to argue the alternatives and solutions, and show another facet of facts; the facts that many dreamers/ dream makers have never felt discouraged and tried to solve them persistently.


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April 2013, I wrote an article, entitled “Siam Intelligent Unit”, for Knowledge Network Institute. This article explains the work of Knudsen et al. (2006) who gathered certain research in 3 fields; namely, economics, biology: nervous system, and behavioral science. These scholars as well as James J. Heckman, Nobel Prize winner in economics, had a relevant conclusion that the pre-school education or kindergarten level is so important to the learning development. They presented a variety of data; for example, the 36

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intervention and help for underprivileged learners since their childhood, and monitoring the result by comparing with other children receiving no help. The result showed that the children receiving such help had better academic achievements and success than another group significantly.


the scholars in several areas have an identical opinion about the importance of education in small children, it seems difficult that their proposal to the government for more attention on small children’s education will be implemented by the government at least due to 2 reasons (pursuant to the Public Choices Theory). First, the investment in small children must wait for results so long. But, the investment in older children results to the economy or the image of political success more rapidly. The government’s term is 4 years only; so it is usually motivated to select the policies not waiting for results too long. Second, the small children, especially at the kindergarten level, are not eligible to exercise the political votes (at least by direct voting), but the secondary school up to university students have such. As a result, the political motivation to take care of old children’s education is higher.


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on February 2013, the US President, Obama, announced the educational policy during his second term that he would focus on small children.11 This is an important pace showing that the political sector desires to make investment for the nation’s future rather than a short-term political outcome (otherwise the American voters have a long vision; so they feel more satisfied with this government policy than another careless policy). Obama announced the one-and-all policy for children aged between 0-5 years (Early Education for All Americans), comprising

1) motivating all low and moderate-income families to take their children to study in high-quality preschools,

2) allocating the budget to support communities to expand the service to serve children from birth through age 3 for good and quality care, and

3) investment more than USD 1,500 million for voluntary home visiting programs enabling the professionals to provide advice on child development (The White House, 2013).

The response from the political sector, especially

the country playing a key economic and political role like America, sparks an idea that the focus on educational promotion for small children has not yet been in despair. However, this matter is still unclear

11 He said that, “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.” (Barack Obama, February 12, 2013).


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in Thailand. The persons interested in this are the administrators of public health authorities. Frequently, only certain minor issues are stressed, e.g. reading promotion, rather than the comprehensive view. One concept I got and it seemed most practical came from Dr. Kobsak Pootrakool around Year 2006-2007 when he was invited to give a lecture on the topic of “Human Capital Policy: Building a Competitive Workforce for 21st Century Thailand� in a dinner talk, and I was one present there. In one part, he talked about thin investment in small children if compared with old children. Dr. Kobsak also proposed that the most possible action was the gradual increase of budget while the budget for old children remained unchanged. In the long run, the actual budget value would be more transferred to small children. I hope that, for few years after that, I would discover better choices than this, but I have not seen them yet.


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ccountability system reform means the reform of relation for 5 factors: delegation, finance, performance, information, and enforceability so that the educational management is the relation between the state, school (teacher), and learner (guardian). The ultimate objective of this system is the learner’s good academic achievements (UNESCO, 2004). The World Bank proposes that this accountability system reform should be based on three important measures:


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Measure One: Decentralization to the school-based management. This measure emerges because if the educational management system is centralized by the Ministry of Education, the government will be aware of inferior quality of education slowly. Or, when the guardian or learner wants to communicate with the government to improve the education, the accountability route is long and bears high costs, which results to the slow adaptation of education. To have the same picture, imagine that we study in a school outside the municipal area. What will we do for some quality problems in school? We must go to file a petition to the Minister of Education in Bangkok or just go to the local educational area office located in that city. This excessive cost or obstacle blocks our travel, except in so serious cases. As a result, the problems are accumulated and the adaptation is limited. 41

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The reform by school-based management means the decentralized delegation from the government to school, resulting to the short route of accountability and higher enforceability, and to higher performance of school and teacher.

Measure Two: Informative accountability. A main belief of this measure is that the decentralized delegation makes the negotiation between school and parents to shift the educational quality more possible. But, this may not be sufficient so long as the parents do not know the actual school quality or potential. Thus, the school should disclose any necessary information for the parents’ decision on choosing the school or on complaining about the school quality appropriately. This proposal needs higher enforceability through higher information for higher performance eventually. In practice, the school information disclosed to the parents is in “Report Card”; you may get more information about it from the work of Dr. Somkiat Tangkitvanich et al. (2012).

Measure Three: Teacher evaluation by linking the career path and compensation a teacher will be receiving with the students’ academic achievements (e.g. standard test). As a result, the teacher needs not to waste time for many documents or other activities not focusing on learners (changing in delegation and finance). Consequently, the potential of teachers and learners would be fully encouraged and focused (focusing performance). Furthermore, the linkage between teacher’s progress and academic achievements may be considered 42

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from the “progress of standard test scores”. Therefore, the students weak in studies will be automatically more cared than the talented students because the talented students usually get high scores, and it is difficult to push their scores higher. Meanwhile, the weak students can achieve more progress. This may motivate the teacher to pay more attention to these weak students.


three measures must be undertaken all together, especially the decentralization and information disclosure or the formation of accountability system for academic achievements; otherwise such decentralization will become the arbitrary and aimless educational management. The research of Dilaga Lattapipat (2012) indicated that the decentralization to the school-based management with no accountability would push the academic achievements to the “lowest” level, that is, the learners would have lower academic achievements than the no-reform case. Currently, all these three measures are simultaneously driven, and Thailand Development Research Institution (TDRI) is the core academic actor. 43

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you read about the proposal on the formation of integrated accountability system (finance, decentralization, and information), especially the request for linking the teachers’ compensation with students’ academic achievements, you may, in one side, feel that it should be better than the current situation where the teachers must spend most time for documents, and it is highly likely that such written evidence may be dressed while, in fact, those documents cannot be linked with the teaching quality. In another side, you may feel if these new proposed measures are really good, whether they will ruin 44

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other values of teachers or result to the destruction of learning varieties or not. The second feeling is so important. And I think that this feeling is right because I and several persons monitoring the educational issues have concerns about this as well.


well-recognized scholars who are famous philosophers from Harvard University, Michael Sandel and Sir Ken Robinson (2006, 2013), had concerns about these measures substantially. Sandel (2012) indicated that the linkage between teachers’ compensation and students’ academic achievements may change or ruin some values in teachers from focusing on learners’ prosperous learning to teaching for higher income. Robinson emphasized on one issue that the education should be carried on to promote the creativity and varieties of learners. But, if requiring that the teachers must promote the knowledge filled in the “standard test” only as the learners’ knowledge based on the standard test directly results to the teachers’ income, this would destroy the children’s varieties and creativities. Robinson also stressed the hierarchical knowledge structure placing math and science on the top and put various kinds of art at the bottom.


writing this article, my friend, Thitirat Thipsamritkul, read a report on “Art for Art’s Sake? The Impact of Arts Education” prepared by OECD (2013), and she talked about one part of this report that although art is positive for other skills and for the emergence of innovations, it should be a main reason in supporting the art because, finally, art gets along with human civilization like math or science (or before). Art is also a space we use to consider beauty


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

and meaning of life. I think that this report reflects the necessity and actual circumstances of no-hierarchy knowledge. “Myth” or hierarchical culture subject to the demand of “market-capitalism” praises certain knowledge used to boost the economic growth only, and it has been presented until we understand that it is the nature or fact since the 19th Century; thus, this should be reviewed and corrected.


what should we do to retain the advantages of accountability system newly created while we do not wipe out the educational value or press the learners’ multiple intelligence? I propose 3 matters we should do together with the formation of integrated accountability system.


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First, there should a strong communication that the newly created accountability system must aim at children’s learning, not test scores. At the same time, we should emphasize that the accountability system is not only “incentivizing” like carrot and big stick to hit and shape the teachers to the way that the state considers that it’s appropriate. It should be a diagnosis tool to support and encourage the teachers or slightly-developed schools so that the government can mobilize more resources to help them.

Second, the government should set up the school’s time frame for learning to prevent the over-coaching for higher test scores.

Third, the formation of “alternative education” system in the Thai society should be opened or its hindrance or limitations should be reduced because, finally, although the government needs to emphasize on certain important and measurable skills like math, science, English, or other key characteristics, e.g. critical thinking or flexibility, the variety of learning route the learners or parents want to choose for their children should not be deterred.


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

When talking about the alternative education, I had chance to listen to opinions of two alternative educators of the Thai society; namely, Pipob Thongchai, and Chatchawan Thongdeelert. Both collectively emphasized on certain issues, e.g. decentralization of educational management, and increase of educational management varieties to respond to the growth of learners who have specific characteristics. Chatchawan pointed out that the alternative schools have been consistently grown up for 3 decades, and it may be said that they are ready to move forward as long as the government has not yet blocked them. For example, Chiang Mai is the central city of the northern region. Its home-schooling increases from 4-5 households in the past 5 years to be 50 households in 2013; this is a sharp growth.

Meanwhile, Pipob Thongchai had several advanced proposals. Hereby, only two interesting proposals are raised. The first one is that the government should take fewer roles in the educational management whereas the private sector should play more roles. The second proposal is the money transfer to school-age children in form of cash card (Pipob used “credit card”. But, from his explanation, it should be the cash card) to enable the children to buy the educational services they like.

If comparing with other international measures, Pipob’s first proposal is similar to the charter school or community school, whose 48

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management is changed from the state-managed school to the private or community-managed school (particularly when the government had no adequate potential to manage those schools as targeted). This may be a solution for small schools now. That is, at present, the Ministry of Education has a severe problem of educational management in remote areas because the number of students is so thin that the proportion of teacher to student is inappropriate for the efficient educational management (for instance, if setting 1 teacher per 20 students, but a school contains few students and only 4 teachers are assigned. These 4 teachers must teach for every level and every subject; so the education is inefficient).


this case, in 2013, the Ministry of Education tried to propose the school merger, but it was protested by several parties. However, if the state-managed schools are not merged, more teachers cannot be allocated due to limited budget. But, if nothing is done, the Thai society 49

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

will become the aging society in the future, and these schools will gradually hold fewer learners and teachers until the education cannot be managed in the end. One solution relying on the charter school measure and the formation of accountability system is that these small schools should have time to prove themselves whether they are capable of managing the education based on their own direction under existing resources, and of improving the learners’ academic achievements or not. If not, these schools should willingly walk into the alternative change that they will either merge with another neighboring school or become the charter or community school. In this regard, the government’s subsidy will be less, step by step, so that the private sector or community manages and sets up its own educational goals.


proposal on the educational decentralization from the state to the private sector or community in type of alternative education may not be the same to the decentralization from the central state/ bureaucratic system to the school-based management. We are talking about the role transfer from the state to the private sector or community. This theme must deal with the second issue proposed by Pipob, that is, budget allocation from learners via cash card. This measure is internationally called as the conditional cash transfer. Mostly, the condition is that this cash card must be used for education


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only, and given to poor families. But, any other conditions may be set, e.g. age or gender. In addition, the proposal for the direct cash transfer to the learners to purchase educational services may be identical to the proposal for the voucher-based educational management, which means that the voucher is given to each school-age child to purchase any educational services. When the school receives the voucher, it can be cashed from the government.


both the conditional cash transfer and voucher-based educational management are the measures of transferring the educational budget to the demand side or purchasers (demand side financing). It is expected that when the purchase power belongs to the purchasers; their negotiation power will be stronger, the completion for good educational management by school will be better, and the learners have more financial liberty to select their “learning”. In Pipob’s view, the demand side financing should not only be used by the state-managed education, but also the alternative education and other educational services outside school.

I think that the proposals of both persons are

interesting…not in term of possibility or correctness or fault. It is interesting because, as both said; they did not focus on “alternative school”. We must not misunderstand that the alternative education is the alternative school. Both of them talked about the system and structure. “Actual educational management is not either school or teaching and learning approach, but the educational management philosophy rebelling against the fixed standard pattern in the main stream, and seeking for other routes to respond to the learners’ nature seamlessly and endlessly.”


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

Either you or I will agree with the proposals of Pipob or Chatchawan or not, what described above is another side of power allows us to realize that the educational paradigm not relying on the main stream still exists, is steadily alert and ready to submit the proposals challenging the main educational management. If we attentively listen to and analyze these proposals, the alternative education, for some proposals, may be the solutions for the main-stream education.


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is definite that, from two proposals for educational reform, we recognize the teacher’ roles in the educational management. As long as the teachers’ quality of life is not good enough, the request for their time contribution for teaching may be difficult in practice as stated in Item 3 above. This section will mention 2 important issues. The first one is the solution of salary gap in groups of teacher (e.g. teacher in the private school and government school, primary school teacher, and secondary school teacher). The second issue is the measures to improve the teachers’ initial salaries they receive before the age of 40, which is quite low if compared with other professionals in the Thai society. The last issue is the mitigation of corruption in the Ministry of Education. 53

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

First Salary gap in groups of teacher. For the proposal for solving the double salary gap between teachers in government schools and private schools, the work conducted by Somkiat Tangkitvanich et al. (2012) pointed out that the original cause was the law prescribing that the government and private educational institutes shall be subsidized inequitably; the private ones shall be less subsidized. Meanwhile, the government requires that the private schools must not collect the school fee higher than the amount permitted. In this regard, the private schools get the low income whereas they are prohibited to earn more, especially through the school fee collection. One solution proposed by Dr. Somkiat was to change the subsidy structure so that the government and private schools get the equal financial support (especially what linked with the number of learners as it indirectly subsidized the learners) or, otherwise, the limitation on the school fee collection should be removed, and to pass the decision to the parents on the amount of school fee that is relevant to the school quality or appropriateness. Such decision would be better if the informative accountability was set up.


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The second issue is the gap between teachers’ salaries and other professionals’ average salaries in the Thai society. The possible initial proposal is to increase the teachers’ salaries, but the increasing rate will be lower up to the service length. Technically, this is to reduce the slope of lifetime income line for teachers. This measure shifts the teachers’ initial salaries whereas the government investment to engage the teachers for all their civil life remains the same. One additional advantage is that the high beginning salary for teachers attracts more people to teaching, especially when considering a fact that before earning higher income than other professionals, the secondary school teachers must work until they are at 40, which is a long period and disincentive. One special proposal for primary school teachers is that they should gain more stable income (to be studied more for the appropriate amount) because, according to the empirical data, these teachers gained lower lifetime income than the average income of other professions.


this salary increase should aim at balancing the baseline income to be equal to the average income of other professions only. This does not include other income added due to teaching abilities and boosting the learners’ academic achievements.


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

In addition,

For the third issue, the eradication of corruption

significantly helps reduce the teachers’ expenses. According to Michael Tan (2006), many activities in the Ministry of Education led to the corruption. If the corruption includes the school transfer for teachers recruited, it is estimated that the corruption value may reach Baht 500-1,000 per kilometer (distance from the old school to the new school a teacher wants to go to). The loan sharks with interest rate at 20-30% per annum for this transfer deem the heavy burden for teachers. If this problem is tackled, the low compensation for teachers will not be an excuse or hindrance in the educational management as earlier.


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fact, the encouragement for investment in vocational level was the hot argument during 1970s, and this ended by the World Bank’s conclusion that the investment in vocational level was neither worthwhile nor fruitful for the economic development like the investment in the childhood education so long as the vocational education system cannot attain 2 key conditions:


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children


produce the students, either quantity or attributes, relevantly to the demand of labor market.


the private sector does not have the proper cost sharing because, if considering the compensation from the vocational education management in some developing countries, e.g. Malaysia or Thailand, the World Bank reported that the private return from educational investment was around 20% of investment sum whereas the social return was at 12-25%. It is unfair that the government borne the cost solely. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the developing countries including Thailand did not pass these two conditions. Hence, the World Bank has gradually reduced the budget for vocational education over 30% from Year 1977-1988, and turned interest to the childhood education (World Bank, 1991).


Thailand now turns back to promote the vocational education. A big question is how much we concern about these global arguments. Definitely, as mentioned in the last chapter, we may have the same opinion that the increase of vocational students is the imperfect target. The measure of linking the qualifications of vocational graduates and the market demand is still unclear. Then, the government bears the main operating costs. But, what can we do more than mumbling these matters? I think we have and the proposals are not newly issued, but already initiated by the Ministry of Education but no support for serious working; it’s “Work Integrated Learning” (WIL). The main concept of WIL is the integration of studying and working together. Such integration offers several benefits:


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First benefit – If we consider the education and production separately or it is called Two Sector Growth Model, we will find that if there are more students in schools, the labors are in educational institutes. So, in the short period, the number of labors decreases or the labor cost is higher due to the labor shortage, resulting to a thin profit or slight economic growth in the short term. However, in the long term, when people are well-educated, they can create high productivity after completing the education, resulting to higher economic growth in the long run. In contrast, if many people leave school for work, the economy grows in the short term. But, in the long term, because there are few skilled labors and few graduates working for high productivity, the long-term economic growth will become low. In conclusion, the absolute separation between the educational sector and the production sector 59

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

trades off between short-term economic growth and long-term one. WIL teaching and learning approach links both educational sector and production sector together. When a learner studies in an educational institute, he simultaneously has the working experience. Thus, the labors are not fully drawn from the production sector; there is no trading off between the short-term and long-term economic growth as stated above.

Second benefit – WIL changes the teaching and learning approach to be relevant to the attributes required by the production sector because the school, learner, and enterprise recruiting the learner to work while studying will coordinate the information, and will revise their requirements at all time. This close coordination can mitigate the job-seeking difficulty after completing the education; meanwhile, the employers hold the complete information to consider the quality of job applicants they want. After that, the turnover rate will drop.

For the last benefit, as the government has a limited budget for educational investment, driving the learners to be involved in the actual working in the production sector will promptly add the capital for teaching and learning, but the government does not make additional investment. In the meantime, it seems that the private sector also shares the cost of vocational education management.


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The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children


above five proposals are not complete. Frankly, I, myself, have no abilities to present the hope and dream to solve the educational problems universally. When we talk about “education” and “learning”, it is too arrogant to say that we understand them comprehensively under one person’s wisdom. All mentioned here is an expression of opinions under “experimental” manner and by opening mind that everything may not be correct. But, at least, I think that this article, especially in the last chapter, presents the most important issue, that is, hope for education and persistence to continue our dream that we will have the good education eventually…

Before ending this article, I would like to tell you a conversation between Masanobu Fukuoka, author of “The One Straw Revolution” and Senator Rosana Tositrakul. Senator Rosana told me long time ago that, at one time, she took Fukuoka to get on the train. On the train, Fukuoka said to Senator Rosana that, “Rosana, not be afraid that we will not reach the destination so long as we get on the right train—sooner or later---we will arrive there.” I hope that this article helps us see the route of right train so that, on someday, we arrive at the destination that the quality of Thai education is universal. Thank for your reading and joining our journey.


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The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

REFERENCES Ammar Siamwalla, Dilaka Lathapipat, และ Somkiat Tangkitvanich. “การปฏิรูปการศึกษารอบใหม่ สู่การศึกษาที่มีคุณภาพอย่างทั่วถึง.” Revamping Thai Education System: Quality for All. Bangkok: Thailand Development Research Institute, 2011. Ashvin Ahuja, Thitima Chucherd, และ Kobsak Pootrakool. Human Capital Policy: Building a Competitive Workforce for 21st Century Thailand. Bangkok: Bank of Thailand, 2006. Bank Ngamarunchot. นโยบายส่งเสริมการศึกษา: รักษา-เพิ่มฐานเสียง หรือ พัฒนาคนอย่างยั่งยืน? 4 April 2013. policy/ (13 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). Bank Ngamarunchot, และ Tiraphap Fakthong. Educational Inequality (Thai language only). Bangkok: Siam, 2012. Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. Art for Art’s Sake? The Impact of Arts Education. OECD, 2013. Chatchawan Thongdeelert, สัมภาษณ์โดย Bank Ngamarunchot. Alternative Education in Thailand (June 2013). 64

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Daily News. ครูอัตราจ้างอาชีวะประท้วงวอนเปลี่ยนสถานะให้เป็นข้าราชการ. 11 March 2013. education/189884 (13 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). Dilaka Lathapipat. “ผลกระทบของการสร้างความรับผิดชอบทางการศึกษาต่อ สัมฤทธิผลของนักเรียนไทย.” Revamping Thai Education System: Quality for All. Bangkok: Thailand DEvelopment Research Institute, 2011. International Centre for Educators’ Learning Styles. “John Dewey’s Philosophy of Experience and Education .” ICELS. ม.ป.ป. option=com_content&view=article&id=53&Itemid=68 (9 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). Ken Robinson. “Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity.” TED. February 2006. robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html (9 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). —. Ken Robinson: How to escape education’s death valley. April 2013. education_s_death_valley.html (9 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง).


The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

Matichon. “ชัยพฤกษ์” พ้อสพฐ.ไม่ลดสายสามัญ เป็นเหตุรับนักเรียนอาชีวะไม่ ตามเป้า. 11 January 2013. (13 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). Michael Sandel. What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. Farrar, Straus and Giroux , 2012. Michael Tan. The Politics of the Decentralization of Basic Education in Thailand. Ph.D. Thesis, Leeds: University of Leeds: School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), 2007. Pipob Thongchai, สัมภาษณ์โดย Wimontip Musikaphan. Thai Education (July 2013). Pumsaran Tongliemnak. Three Essays on Teacher Labor Markets in Thailand. Ph.D. Thesis, Stanford University, 2010. Ritva Reinikka, และ Nathanael Smith. Public Expenditure Traking Surveys in Education. UNESCO, 2004. Somkiat Tangkitvanich, Supanutt Sasiwuttiwat, และ Bank Ngamarunchot. “Financial and Management System for Creating Educational Accountability (Thai language only).” Year end seminar “Revamping Thai Education System: Quality for All”. Bangkok: Thailand Development and Research Foundation (TDRI), 2012. 66

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Steven Reinberg. IQ isn’t fixed at birth, can increase with education. 27 December 2011. health/medical/health/medical/mentalhealth story/2011-12-27/IQ-isnt-fixed-at-birth-and-can-increase-with education/52237552/1 (10 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). Suvit Maesincee, สัมภาษณ์โดย Bank Ngamarunchot. Thai Children: Problems and Solution (June 2013). Thairath. นายกเบรกสอนสายอาชีพในโรงเรียน. 27 February 2013. (13 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). The White House. Fact Sheet President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans. 13 February 2013. http://www. president-obama-s-plan-early-education-all-americans (13 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). Trading Economics. Pupil-teacher ratio; primary in Thailand. 2008. ratio-primary-wb-data.html (13 July 2013 ที่เข้าถึง). World Bank. Vocational and Technical Education and Training. World Bank, 1991. 67

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children

Book Title

First published No.of Copies

The 2013 Quality of Children’s Life : Revive Educational Dreams for Thai Children August 2013 1,000


Bank Ngarmarunchot King Mongkut’s University of Technology, Thonburi, Economist


Dr.Suriyadeo Tripathi Dr.Wimonthip Musikaphan

Advisory Commitee

Management team

Mrs.Srisak Thai-aree Dr.Krissada Ruangareerat Dr.Somsak Chunharas Mr.Samphasit Koompraphant Dr.Younyud Wongpiromsan Dr.Wilasinee Adulyanon Salinthip Chiangthong Punnipa Sangthong Phachiyaporn Charoenporn Nanthanat Songsiri

Design & Illustrations

Teekatas Suwannakrua


Ginnakan Suwanakarn


Waraporn Tachan


The National Institute for Child and Family Development Mahidol University, Salaya, Nakonpathom, THAILAND Tel/Fax : +66 2441 0053

Source of Support

Printed at

Thai Health Promotion Foundation Healthy Child, Youth, and Family Promotion Section Dekplus Team Appa printing group

Revive educational dreams for Thai children_English version  

This is comprehensive report about 1. normative / philosophical goal of education, 2. practical issues of Thai education, and 3. solutions

Revive educational dreams for Thai children_English version  

This is comprehensive report about 1. normative / philosophical goal of education, 2. practical issues of Thai education, and 3. solutions