Instead of skirmishing over lesser matters, Chulalongkorn University and its recently ousted Student Council president Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal can and should work together to achieve overarching education goals.
Nothing could be nobler than to make Chula an intellectual engine driving our national reforms, by applying the intellect of our elite students to solve real-world problems that will change our lives for decades to come.
We should heed the words of British thinker Bertrand Russell: “Education should have two objects: first, to give definite knowledge, reading and writing, language and mathematics, and so on; secondly, to create those mental habits which will enable people to acquire knowledge and form sound judgements for themselves.”
Thus, Chula should focus on teaching how to think – not what to think.
For example, Netiwit and his group should give opposing schools of thought equal opportunity to debate Thai education reform in settings that shed light and not heat. These discussions would be the starting point for nationwide discussion that will strongly influence the government’s final plan and thus generate buy-in from all stakeholders. Participants might debate the following topics: should the first university years focus on the liberal arts? To what extent should the curriculum be centralised? How can the less privileged be encouraged to use education to improve their lot?
Working as a team, Chula and its student activists could achieve a most meaningful win-win solution that helps all Thais.