THAI teachers spend 42 per cent or 84 weekdays out of the yearly 200 working days in outside-class activities and tasks such as assessments, academic competitions and training, a recent survey found.
Given that 30 per cent of their instructional time is taken away, many in the teaching profession are calling for teachers to be returned to the classroom.
In a press conference on Tuesday at Bangkok’s IBM Building, Kraiyos Patrawart – education, finance and policy specialist at the Quality Learning Foundation – said the body had surveyed 427 Thai teachers, who had won QLF awards nationwide, from September 15 to October 15, about their outside-class tasks.
The survey found that the teachers spent 84 weekdays during 200 days of school in one year in outside-class activities, or 42 per cent of their working time.
The most time-consuming activities were school, teacher and student assessments, which took 43 days, with internal assessments taking up 18 days, those undertaken by testing institutes another 16 days, and those by the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA) the remaining nine days. Academic competitions claimed 29 days, while training by external agencies accounted for another 10.
Most teachers said outside-class activities that were good for teaching and learning were academic competitions, O-Net assessment and training, and reading-skill assessment, while those with the opposite effect were ONESQA assessment and other training and assessments.
The vast majority of teachers (98 per cent) wanted ONESQA to be improved, with the Education Service Area Offices and the Office of the Basic Education Commission topping the list for just 2 per cent of respondents, the survey found.
The teachers suggested that the agencies improve by focusing more on children’s results than on papers, and by lessening the assessment burden on teachers.
“Most teachers said they wanted to be returned to classrooms and work that had no effect on students’ learning be lessened, especially document-based assessments. They also urged teacher training on desirable topics during the main school break,” Kraiyos said. “More than 90 per cent of teachers thought that if schools had freedom in academic affairs, budgets and human-resource management, it would be a key factor in [improving] teachers’ class management. The key conditions for class-management success involve teacher participation, school administrators’ quality, and participation by parents, the community and students,” he said.
Sompong Jitradap, lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of education, said teachers in Thailand still performed well, spending about four hours a day in teaching in class.
However, they are under pressure and unhappy because outside-class tasks pull 42-per-cent of their in-class teaching time, he said, adding that this is a major challenge that everyone has to pay attention to in considering why Thai education quality has failed to improve.
He cited 2012 research by the US Agency for International Develop-ment (USAid) about instructional time in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mozambique and Nepal.
The study found that if 20-30 per cent of teachers’ time taken up by outside-class activities, it would adversely affect students’ learning, their chance to learn, their attention span during lessons, and their academic performance. During USAid’s research, some teachers claimed that there was also bribery involved in some assessments, he added.
Amornvit Nakhonthap, a National Reform Council member and assistant to the education minister’s secretary, said three issues should be addressed during the current reform era.
First, the Teacher Civil Service and Educational Personnel Act should be amended so teachers are not obsessed with producing work to earn “Vidhaya Thana” accreditation status.
Second, there should be an ONESQA assessment review and adjustment in three key areas: those indicators that do not reflect real quality; the various standards applied by the assessors; and the documentation workload before the upcoming fourth-round assessment.
Third, the National Institute of Educational Testing Service should adjust its examination methods to emphasise child development and stimulation.
Arkhom Sompama, a teacher at Saithamchan School in Ratchaburi, said: “The children’s reward is to have the teacher in the classroom, so I want to return the 84 days [teachers spend outside the classroom] back to the students.”
The assessment for “Vidhaya Thana” accreditation should also be revamped to focus more on child development than the teacher’s benefit, he suggested.