March 11, 2013 00:00 By Supinda na Mahachai, Chulara
Education chiefs agree to reduce classes by 200 hours a year
The number of study hours at schools will drop to around 800 per year, as soon as big changes planned by the Education Ministry take effect.
In other words, at least 200 hours of study will be removed from Thai students’ schedule each year.
In response to the fewer study hours, the curriculum will also see a major revamp and embrace project-based learning concept.
“We need just two more meetings to conclude on the major components of the plan,” Dr Pavich Thongroj said yesterday in his capacity as the chairman of the curriculum reform and textbooks for basic education committee. He is also an adviser to the Education Ministry.
He said the plan for big changes in the educational system will be ready for implementation in a key phase before the end of this month. In its pivotal phase, the new model will be applied to Suankularb Wittayalai School, Bodin Decha School, Satriwitthaya School, Mahidol Witthayanusorn and Chulabhorn schools.
“Then, we should conclude on all the details within six months from now,” Pavich said.
On Saturday, the Education Ministry convened its first curriculum reform meeting of 30 top education officials to brainstorm on the changes. Pavich was also present.
Emerging from the meeting, Education Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana announced that the meeting believed both primary and secondary students should study less than 800 hours per academic year so that they had more time to learn other skills from extra-curricular activities.
“We expect the lower number of study hours to boost students’ learning efficiency too,” he said.
Pongthep noted that students in some foreign countries had shown better academic performances despite the fact Thai students spent more time in classrooms.
Presently, secondary students in Thailand do 1,200 hours of study per academic year and primary students do 1,000 hours. Such numbers are among the highest in the world. In African countries, students are now required to sit 1,400 hours per academic year but their academic performance has fallen.
Japanese and South Korean students, meanwhile, have studied less than 1,000 hours per year and with good academic records. Hong Kong students who have studied only 790 hours per academic year are ranked third in the world for their academic performance.
UNESCO recommends about 800 hours per year as suitable.
“The fact that our students have so many study hours results from a wrong perception, attitude and belief that long hours would enable students to learn more. But it turns out that students end up spending too many hours in class and have less time to analyse things and learn other necessary skills for life,’’ Pongthep said.
With the objective to reduce study hours to less than 800, Thai primary school students will do three hours less study per week and high school students four hours per week less, Pavich said.
His committee has also found the current curriculum had drawbacks that have resulted in students’ poor and ineffective academic merit. The meeting noted that the curriculum was too concise, a style that worked with high-calibre teachers only because it opened room for teachers to adapt and design what was best for their classes. However, most teachers need more guidance from the curriculum.
“So, we have to revamp the curriculum,” he said.
Pavich said the fewer hours of class would not affect the quality of education because students could learn through project-based learning. “Students will have the chance to access diversified branches of knowledge and are happy with learning and not feeling like they are being jailed in classrooms,’’ he said.
Assoc Prof Dr Sompong Jitradab, Chulalongkorn University lecturer agreed with the reduction of number of hours in class, saying students need more time to learn other skills that will help them survive in modern society. He has called for the ministry to scrap the current curriculum and write a new one, saying the current one, which has been used 12 years, is outdated and has many drawbacks.
Pavich said after the curriculum was revamped, he would push for the setting up of a National Curriculum Committee. “The committee will constantly improve the curriculum, where necessary,” he said.
The ministry now plans to push teacher reforms, to improve teaching of science, technology, maths and languages, plus ICT for education.