'Students need better skills for fast-changing world'
A big move to revamp basic education curricula aimed at boosting students’ skills for the 21st century is being accelerated, the head of a committee to revamp curricula said last week.
Prof Pavich Tongroach was appointed last week as chairman of a basic curricula and textbook reform panel. An adviser to the Education Minister, Pavich told The Nation in an exclusive interview that curricula would be upgraded to equip students with necessary skills for the 21st century, and a rapidly changing world.
Apart from the curricula revamp, he is going to push forward four other strategies, aimed at upgrading the whole education system. They are teacher reform, information and communication technology access, upgrading STEME (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and English) learning and reform of educational agencies.
“After being given a green light to change the curriculum from the minister, we will rush to make change in the (primary and secondary education) curricula. We cannot wait anymore as our education is in crisis. Our curricula are old while the world has changed a lot and gone much more beyond what have been taught in the curricula. They have been used since 2001. Although, they were improved in 2008 – but just a minor change. Most of the curricula content has not been changed,” Pavich said.
The interview came after Education Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana officially approved two committees to work on the education revamp last Tuesday.
According to research by Tony Wagner, co-director of the Change Leadership Group at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, seven 21st century skills are problem-solving and critical thinking, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, effective written and oral communication, accessing and analysing information, and curiosity and imagination.
Pavich said Thai students’ achievements had declined for years, and they were likely to continue declining in both national and international assessments. The curricula were a major cause of the decline.
“We have problems with the curricula, and it is because of this that the process of turning our children into academically proficient individuals is not as good as in other countries.”
“The curricula revamp will help increase students’ achievements and enhance their skills for the 21st century."
“The current curricula have not focused clearly on attributes and skills of students in each level. We are going to put them in the new curricula in detail. So, Thailand will know how to produce individuals with necessary skills,” Pavich said.
The ministry is going to provide more time to students to learn from more different activities inside and outside class, and decrease formal studying time to suit students in each grade, which means redundant or unnecessary content will be removed from the curricula. Also, it would reduce students’ burden on doing too much homework so they can spend more time on doing and learning from activities.
He emphasised that a decrease in studying time must not lessen students’ learning. “We have to communicate and implement the new ones carefully otherwise they could end up like previous child-centred approach that was not successful as expected.”
He said the new curricula would give more detail to guide teachers how to teach more effectively. He planned to include detail about course description, course syllabus, course content and lesson plans in them. The current ones have only course descriptions and learning purposes.
“The curricula revamp is scheduled to be complete by this year. After that the ministry will proceed to the implementation step,” Pavich said.
Textbooks have to be changed as well, so private publishers will be allowed to compete to make changes to textbooks according attributes required for each grade. They would be given more freedom to design and present the textbooks’ content in a more creative and interesting way. They could present the content with multimedia.
He said even though publishers come up with standard text drafts, eventually the bureau under the Office of the Basic Education Commission and the Education Ministry would approve only parts that they consider should be used – and would leave out material that they don’t consider necessary for students. So, the ministry needed to propose a new process of textbook approval.
Pavich said to upgrade the whole education system, institutions that produce teachers would have to cut the number of graduates but increase their quality. Top quality institutions would be selected to produce high quality graduates under a scholarship project. The ministry is keen to boost information and communication technology access for students in remote areas so they can improve their knowledge through e-learning and searching the Internet.
He would also propose to set up STEME centres in every province where students can learn from doing experiment activities and science experts. This would also decentralise power to local administrative organisations to take care of their students.