Let's give a precious gift to children on the occasion of National Children's Day

opinion January 14, 2013 00:00

Learning s

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AS ADULTS, what should we do to observe National Children's Day? This is of course an occasion when we should pay attention to children and their needs. A gift will be perfect, and a precious one will be appreciated.


What is the precious gift you intend to offer? A toy, book or quality education?
I am calling on all adults to join hands in giving a complete revamp of the country’s education system. Doing so will build a brighter future for our children and also the nation. 
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s motto for Children’s Day 2013 is “Uphold Discipline, Enhance Knowledge and Bring Thailand Toward Asean”.
But the question is, “How should children be equipped and empowered to fill the roles mentioned in the motto?”
Definitely, children will need better schools, better teachers, better courses and better textbooks. Last September, I called on all stakeholders to work together in pushing for an educational blueprint. Such a master plan is necessary to tackle the country’s educational problems before it is too late. However, there has been no fruitful response.
It is sad to witness how the education system has undergone inconsistent development over the last three decades. Plagued by inconsistency, the country has flatly failed to achieve its goals of providing quality education for all in spite of efforts during the last 30 years, according to the report on “Thailand K-12 Education System Progress and Failure” by Dr Sutham Vanichseni and Associates.
The educational system has many problems and parties have failed to touch the root causes. Efforts to address them for so many decades have usually ended up being just ad-hoc solutions. 
The education system is sophisticated and interdependent. It involves so many parties, so many units and so many people. Educational problems cannot be solved within or by any single organisation. All stakeholders must look into the system as a whole and adopt a holistic approach to dealing with existing problems. 
We need to look at all interrelated elements such as school structure, school management, principals, teachers, courses, students, teacher education, teaching and learning, assessment and government policies. All stakeholders must work collaboratively to crack the problems with the right treatment and systemic view, specifically with a single mission. In other words, we must revamp the educational system together! No more blaming each other. It is high time we looked ahead and moved forward. It is high time we learned the lessons from the educational problems during the past decades. 
While a holistic view is needed, we also must understand that one-size-fits-all intervention policies will not work. The education system is big and when the context changes, we must prepare coherent and appropriate interventions. 
To achieve reform of the whole system, Professor Michael Fullan has recommended formulating policy and strategy levers that have the best chance of driving a successful effort. The key elements for whole-system reform are intrinsic motivation, instructional improvement, teamwork and “allness”. He supports the use of the following criteria:
- Foster motivation of teachers and students
- Engage educators and students in continuous improvement
-Inspire teamwork
-Affect all teachers and students
Fullan has warned against embracing “a wrong driver”, something that has little chance of achieving the desired result. If the following four indicators are used to assess the effectiveness of educational reform, the work will hardly go anywhere. 
-Accountability: using test results and teacher appraisals to reward or punish teachers and schools versus capacity-building 
-Individual teacher and leadership quality: promoting individual versus group solutions
-Technology: investing in and assuming that the digital world will carry the day versus instruction
-Fragmented strategies versus integrated or systematic strategies
Although these four components sound good, it is a mistake to lead with them. Embracing these four indicators would not only fail to achieve whole system reform but also would move results backwards, he said.
To revamp the complex system, aims and objectives need to be clear and measurable with corresponding standards, he added.
Since our education philosophy, policy and plan have not been coherent for a long time, adverse impacts are already too clear. Stakeholders should not wait any longer but take actions to perpetuate change – real reform. Overhaul the whole educational system. Improve teacher education and get a new, better course design for children. 
We really should give a precious gift to children. So, let’s give them quality education. In doing so, we will also give a wonderful gift to our nation – a better future!
Learning scientist, Computer Engineering Department
King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi