According to the World Bank (WB), Thailand will face the biggest shortage of skilled labour in the Asean region, while an academic has proposed the implementation of area-based education in order to give students the right skills for the job market.
Kiatanan Ruankaew, deputy director general of Dhurakij Pundit University’s research department, revealed the WB survey results recently, which showed that 83.5 per cent of the workforce in Thailand is unskilled. This puts Thailand’s skilled workforce at the lowest proportion among other Asean countries, followed by Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. The bank blames this on the Thai education system, which has resulted in the country’s lack of competitiveness.
The survey, which was conducted between 2006 and 2009, also shows that only 38.8 per cent of workers are suitable for the job they are doing – once again putting Thailand at the lowest in Asean.
Kiatana explained that the Thai education system failed to provide the right skills to people, resulting in the creation of a workforce that does not match the jobs available. Hence, he said, change is necessary so students can be armed with the right skills to meet employers’ needs.
“In neighbouring countries like Malaysia, China and Singapore, education plays a key role in improving the economy. In these countries, education relies on four aspects: management, planning, personnel and resource allocation. Also, the curriculum is flexible enough for students to choose between vocational training and university,” he added.
The survey was revealed at a forum held recently in Bangkok by Quality Learning Foundation, the Thailand Research Fund and education reform associations from 14 provinces.
Yongyud Wongpiromsarn, director of the committee on education reform, said area-based education was key to redesigning the education system so it meets local demands.
“The current reform plan will not be like the efforts made earlier as we are working with every segment including public, private and government sectors to define local needs and fill them with the right skills,” he added.
Sompong Jitradub, an academic from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Education, said education in the 21st century consists of three key aspects, namely education aimed for the Asean community, education for careers, and education for the public and private sectors.
“The education system currently faces many obstacles, including inequality in many areas. These can be tackled by implementing reforms that are geared towards the demands of the 21st century. These changes cannot be made by government, whose centralised decision-making is too unwieldy, resulting in slow progress for Thai education,” he said. “Education methods created in 14 provinces can be adjusted or adapted to fit other provinces, and that would be the most sustainable solution for education reform.”