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Concern voiced about NCPO'S 'Rush' to change the school curriculum

MILLIONS of children will feel the impacts - good or bad - from one of the National Council for Peace and Order's urgent policies within months, as it seeks to introduce the specific subjects of history and civic duty.

Presently, history and civic duty are just parts of the social studies and humanity segment in the school curriculum.

However, it is very likely that history and civic duty will soon be included as separate subjects or courses. Authorities have rushed to rework the school curriculum to ensure that history and civic duty get a stronger emphasis.

Each school student will spend at least one class hour on history and at least one class hour on civic duty each week. Older students will have to dedicate even more hours to these two subjects.

"So what about other subjects? Buddhism, geography and economics are under social studies and humanity are also important," Athapol Anunthavorasakul, the president of social studies at Chulalongkorn University, said last week.

Teaching at the faculty of education, he expressed concern that such a strong emphasis on history and civic duty could mean students have less time for other social studies.

The social studies and humanity group now has 160 sessions each academic year in junior and secondary classes.

"If history will require 40 hours and civic duty 40 hours, then we are going to have just 80 hours for all other social studies subjects," he said.

Winai Rodjai, who now spearheads the effort to help children focus more on history and civic duty, dismissed Athapol's concerns.

"No, there will be no impact on other subjects," he said, explaining class hours could also be shared from outside the Social-Studies Group.

He also insisted that teachers would not have any extra burden because they were expected to teach students about History and Civic Duty anyway.

"It's just that the current curriculum has not highlighted these two topics enough. So, we have to revamp the curriculum," Winai said. He is a former deputy secretary general of Office of Basic Education Commission.

According to him, a stronger emphasis on these topics will serve to promote patriotism, respect for different opinions and reconciliation.

Athapol, so far, said he was still worried that the move would run against efforts to integrate knowledge from various fields in the curriculum.

"In fact, it has been agreed among academics and experts that integration is the right way," he lamented.

He also questioned the rush to introduce the revised curriculum for the plan to introduce History and Civic Duty subjects.

"Have you listened to the opinions of all involved?" he said.

This university lecturer believed the rush might hamper educational quality too.

According to Winai, academics, lecturers and historians will be invited to discuss and work on the curriculum revamp next week. Then, efforts to prepare the content for the Civic Duty and History, as well as related manuals for teachers will start next month.

The revised curriculum will be introduced in November, if the schedule is not interrupted.

"Normally, it takes a long time to write just one textbook, so how can you revise the curriculum for students up from primary to senior secondary levels within four months?

"In fact, after we draft a revised curriculum, we will have to experiment with it at just some schools first," he said.

He wondered who would take responsibility if the move proved to be a failure.

Sompong Jitradab Angsuwathin, another edu-cation lecturer at the univer-sity, said the curriculum revision would affect other sub-jects one way or another.

"So, I would like to ask if you have already consulted teachers and parents," he said.

While the revision sought to promote patriotism and create good citizens for the country, the point was that children won't turn into good citizens and patriots simply because of what they read or learn.

Thailand in fact used to place a strong emphasis on history and civic duty.

"We are going to see the 1960 theme repeating in class," he said.

However, if authorities were going to place a strong emphasis on history and civic duty now, they should ensure they deliver proper content from a contemporary perspective.

"Don't stick to the content that makes Thai children dislike our neighbouring countries. We should see our neighbours as friends," he said.

Countries in the same region share the same cultural roots, he added.

Kamol Rodklai, deputy secretary-general of the Basic Education Commission, said the focus on history and civic education would seek to inculcate integrity, ethics, discipline, social responsibility, love for the nation, religions and monarchy, and pride in Thainess among students.

"We're going to instruct international schools to increase content about Thailand's history and civic duty too," he said.


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