Obsession with PISA ranking is hurting Thai students

your say January 24, 2018 01:00

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Re: “Imminent shake-up of Thai higher education is inevitable”, Thai Talk, January 4.

Though the wheels of reform have been set rolling over the past year, progress in fixing the rundown Thai education system will take time. Meanwhile minds urgently need to focus on how to gear Thai education to the new demands of the fourth industrial revolution. Kick-starting the digital economy is the only escape route from the middle-income trap in which Thailand is caught. Crucially this transition will not come from above. It requires a collective effort: Thailand 4.0 needs YOU.

Fortunately Thailand already has public and private schools whose excellent performance offers lessons to improve the whole education system. 

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) offers the best analysis of education systems around the world with its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. These reveal the weak spots in a country’s system and offer information on how to better their specific situation. But Thai authorities seem to have missed that point, perhaps focusing on the ranking rather than on the detailed shortcomings revealed by PISA reports.  

The OECD also promotes the benefit of each country using its own domestic examples of excellence to improve education. This idea has been echoed by several leading Thai institutes and educationalists, who have mentioned the need for cooperation to find and implement best Thai educational practice. In fact this could be a shared project for several universities, encouraging collaboration and practical use, simply fuelled by social awareness! By analysing the Thai excellence-based “big data” provided by PISA and others, collaborators could provide the Education Ministry with a template, ready to implement nationwide, only needing adjustment to regional variables – thus a home-made recipe. 

When the country’s success or failure is at stake, one should not worry about the personal credit, just get the job done and share the credit collectively. 

Dirk Sumter