CORRUPTION IN THE THAI EDUCATION SYSTEM – The headline, for any foreigner outside of South East Asia, might appear shocking and even perplexing as to how an education system could in fact be corrupt.
When it comes to Thailand there is almost no area, government or business, that isn’t corrupt. Late 2012 it was discovered that a top Royal Thai Police Academy was charging nearly US$10,000 to allow cadets to have access to the exam papers prior to the exams in order to ensure a passing mark.
Today the Thai Education Minister has been caught up in a corrupt scam that mirrors the debacle of the Royal Thai Police Academy, although this time it involved trainee teachers having access to exam papers in order to secure a passing grade.
In a number of recent surveys it was clear that government officials and the public put educational reform as a priority in order to educate students to a level similar or higher than their Asean Economic Community partners (AEC).
It was planned that the Thai Government would enter ACE in 2015; however this has been put back a year due to concerns that Thais simply will not be able to compete for jobs.
One of the largest business sectors in Thailand is its tourist industry and fears are that nearly all tourists related jobs could be lost to nations such as those from the Philippines, due to their ability to communicate in the international language of English to a very high standard; whereas the Thais are woefully unable to communicate effectively.
Despite the Thai Government’s insistence that it is making improvements these appear to be lost on those attending classes where the teachers themselves are unable to effectively speak, read or write English.
I spoke to a number of foreign English teachers, all of whom asked to remain anonymous and the reaction was disturbingly similar, one such teacher remarked;
“The Thais have a ‘no-fail’ policy and therefore no matter how badly a student performs on the exams he or she will receive a pass mark. This system is mirrored throughout the entire education system from pre-school to university, which gives the children no motivation to learn.” Anon
Another foreign teacher remarked;
“At the start of each semester we have to compile course work. This is then scrutinized by Thai teachers to ensure it meets with their curriculum. Often the Thai teachers are embarrassed as they simply cannot understand the content of the work and therefore to save face they do not approve the course work. This leaves foreign teachers in a difficult position with little or nothing to teach and therefore the result is that most kids enter the education system ignorant and leave the same way.” Anon
The remarks didn’t overly surprise me considering an incident that I was informed about from a friend who has his 9 year old son enrolled in a Thai school. His son came home with a blank world map and the homework assignment was to write the name of each country on their perspective countries. Attached was a piece of paper with the answers that the teacher provided.
The father asked the son why he had written China on the continent of the United States, to which he replied; “That’s what my teacher said it was.” He produced the list his teacher had written, each country being number and a number on the map.
The father asked the teacher how she could mistake the USA for China, considering the USA was thousands of miles away and that China was right next door. The teacher, in typical Thai fashion flew into a torrent of racial abuse at the foreign father because she insisted he was wrong and to save face.
It appears that Thai teachers, in the eyes of students are almost god like and with their military style uniforms command the utmost respect at all times – woe betide a student who tells a teacher they are wrong.
The education system in Thailand is draconian and woeful inadequate at preparing Thai students for their lives ahead and without the fundamental basics of being unable to communicate in English the up and coming 2016 entry in to AEC could have the potential to devastate the labour force in the Kingdom.
The Thai Government appear to have little interest in the vital aspect of education but rather concentrates its efforts on populist polices to appease the uneducated and ignorant population – it’s like giving candy to a baby just to keep it quiet and it appears to work.
This method of sub diffusion appears to work well so that those in power can continuously rape the financial systems of the country in order to feed their inexhaustible greed; regardless to the cost to the people.
The Education Ministry has announced a number of grandiose schemes, such as employing vast numbers of foreign ‘English speaking’ teachers in order to improve upon the education of the English language. However this, like any number of Government plans, appears to get either sidetracked or watered down to such a point where it simply would not accrue any benefits to the already failed education system.
It would appear, from those directly involved in the Thai education system, that this situation will not change until the stupidity of ‘face saving’ can be laid to rest and that the Thais can openly acknowledged the inadequacies and failings in order to accept and adopt an system that requires students to be diligent in their learning process and that the material they learn is of a suitable standard that will allow them to excel in the commercial world.