Master plan exists only on paper
THERE is criticism that Thailand has no national education master plan. But, we do. The current master plan was implemented 11 years ago. The question here is whether you have ever known about its existence.
Which agencies are in charge of implementation? Quite a few. But none of them have been closely monitored for what it is doing about the plan.
So, while the national educational plan boasts several impressive goals like Thais' happy living and better educational opportunities, the country has hardly seen any goal materialising.
This is how things are going 11 years after the current national educational plan, though with some revisions, first came into effect in 2002.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a university lecturer admits that he has never paid real attention to the plan. He has just scanned its contents and abandoned it there.
"University administrators have not given any instructions on implementation of the plan either," he said.
He added that he was too busy with teaching to worry about the national educational plan.
So, if the plan is revised, will he care to check? I guess, "No".
Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, meanwhile, is on his way to table the latest revision to the national educational plan before the Cabinet. The Educational Council approved the third revision last week.
According to Chaturon, the latest revision responds well to the government's policies. Once the Cabinet gives the green light, organisations including those outside the supervision of the Education Ministry will engage in the mission of achieving the plan's desirable goals.
He expects Thailand's ranking in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to improve and Thailand's competitiveness to soar after the revised plan is implemented.
He has boasted about how the number of educational years for Thais will rise from 9.1 years in 2011 to 12 years by 2016.
He also seems proud when he talks about the goal of increasing the number of Thai universities on the world's top lists.
But I can't fail to notice that Chaturon remains vague about how to push the tangible implementation of the national educational plan.
"I have instructed the Educational Council to find out what to do," Chaturon said last week when asked about the issue.
He suggests that it would not be possible for him or anyone to closely observe what actions each unit takes to push for implementation.
He simply said various indicators such as Ordinary National Educational Test scores and PISA rankings would reflect the efforts of players.
His answers have dimmed my hope that the national educational plan will become a real mover on the country's educational scene.
Since the plan was launched more than a decade ago, I have never heard any agency announce the results of the implementation of the national educational plan.
According to the revision made to the plan in 2009, either the Office of the Educational Council or an outside organisation is responsible for evaluating the implementation at the national level.
But despite the fact that this master plan, from all aspects, has crucial importance, authorities have never publicly released implementation results.
Entrusted with the mission of monitoring the implementation of the 2009 revision, the Educational Council plans to look into available statistics related to educational quality and educational opportunities.
However, when the council presents its latest revision this year, it will not have mentioned the performance of the implementation of the plan in the past at all.
So, has the plan really been implemented? I am wondering with a heavy heart.
Indeed, Thailand's education will never improve as long as the master plan for the sector exists just on paper. It is utterly pointless to draw up a national education master plan if authorities allow it to be ignored.
Chaturon, as the education minister, should not take this issue for granted.
After 11 years, the current national plan will remain valid till 2016 only.
So over the next three years, Chaturon should ponder more about clear-cut procedures to drive the implementation of the plan. Vague guidelines won't help.
Please don't let the national educational master plan remain largely fruitless in the next three years the way it has been throughout the past 11 years.