Results of international assessments must be put to good use

opinion March 03, 2014 00:00

By Chularat Saengpassa

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A total of 4,000 Thai teachers and 200 Thai school executives are now being studied by the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis).

As this is the first time that Thailand has subjected its teachers and schools to scrutiny by Talis, Thai authorities eagerly hope the survey’s results will reflect Thailand’s teacher quality and identify existing problems. But are these authorities prepared to apply the survey results to improve Thailand’s overall education system?

I have seen the results of so many international assessments regarding Thailand’s education during the past few decades. Every time the results come up, there is a big buzz. But soon enough, it all simply fades away.

After monitoring what has been going on in Thailand’s educational arena for quite a long time, I really would like to urge all relevant authorities and parties to put to good use the results of Talis, as well as those of other international assessments.

If the findings from such assessments are simply ignored, what’s the point of spending so much time and money to take part in them in the first place?

I hope all relevant parties will heed the recommendations from Prachaya Wesarat, a specialist at the Office of the Educational Council.

According to Prachaya, after the Talis results come out, the Educational Council must share them with all parties concerned, from the Office of Basic Education Commission to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, and with all local administrative organisations that are responsible for education.

Conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, the Talis asks teachers and schools about their working conditions and learning environments. It covers important themes such as initial teacher education and professional development; what sort of appraisal and feedback teachers get; the school climate; school leadership; and teachers’ instructional beliefs and pedagogical practices.

In the end, Talis promises to show participating countries like Thailand how to prepare teachers for diverse challenges in today’s schools.

Therefore, Prachaya strongly recommends that relevant authorities take the Talis results seriously and make improvements where possible.

He also suggests that Talis results and PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results be integrated to achieve synergy.

While Talis focuses on teachers and schools, the PISA focuses on students.

This means if Thailand looks into the results of both, it should be able to see some links and have a better understanding of how to improve the overall quality of education.

In addition, Prachaya has emphasised that relevant authorities should refrain from any kind of blanket labelling.

I would like to add that key problems highlighted by international assessments may not affect all teachers, all schools and all students. Therefore, authorities must find out both where the problems lie and where problems do not exist. By making comparisons, they will understand what the root causes of the problems are.

If relevant parties take on this advice and apply it to all the international assessments, tests and surveys that Thailand takes part in, the Kingdom looks set to enjoy huge benefits.

If real efforts are made, they are bound to bear fruit.

Look at the Education Ministry’s serious efforts to reverse Thai students’ falling PISA scores. By the time the ministry recognised how Thai students’ performances had fallen over the period from 2000 to 2009, it was determined to make a change. It has since mobilised resources and integrated efforts in pursuit of the goal. Schools have even received PISA training so that they can guide their students better.

As a result, Thai children’s scores improved in the PISA 2012.

Although Thai children’s average scores are still below the international average, their improvement reflects the fact that the application of PISA results or the like can make a difference.

Under the initiative of the Office of the Educational Council, Thailand will also jump into the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study, the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC) and the Early Childhood Education Study.

Results from the PIACC, I would like to point out, will be extremely useful in developing Thais’ skills and abilities. If the results are applied by all relevant agencies including the National Economic and Social Development Board and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Thais will be empowered. With higher abilities, they should be able to secure a good job, a good income, and a good life.

Education is a key foundation not just for the country, but also for individual people. So, educational authorities should be aware that their duty is very important and that they should not take anything for granted.

When results from international assessments come out, they indeed must put them to good use.