Without a doubt the Thai education system is underrated by some foreigners. Some people like to put the boot into Thai high schools but I’ve recently been looking at it in a new light and have seen lots of positives.
It’s great that Thai students are taught about their country and have a patriotic view. Singing the national anthem every morning is a great way to start the day. During the recent World Cup a lot of my friends didn’t know the words to their own anthem and most English people (myself included) wouldn’t have a clue what the words are in all six verses of our anthem. Thankfully all Thai people know their anthem and are proud to sing it.
Being from the UK I’m used to the idea of a royal family and personally I think they do a great job for our country. You can’t deny that Thai people love their royal family and it’s great that schools encourage this culture and teach the history of the monarchy. I wish we had been taught more in the UK about our royal family.
Thai teachers can keep a class in order. The students do exactly what the teachers say and discipline isn’t usually a problem. With 50 students in a class discipline is important and I would love to learn more from Thai teachers about how to control classes that size.
Suspension and expulsion rates in American and Australian schools are shockingly high. Whilst I couldn’t find any official statistics about suspensions and expulsions in Thai schools I did ask a few Thai students and they only knew of a handful of cases from their institutes. This could show that students are well disciplined or teachers are empathetic towards student’s issues.
Thai students create a real community at their schools. There is a feeling that everyone cares about their school and the people inside it.
Just look at how people who went to the same school greet each other when finding out they have this thing in common. They all have their class year and like to talk about their school.
The Thai education system promotes a sense of voluntarism whereby students help out around the school without the expectation of getting anything back. The schools know they can rely on students to help with events, planning and project work. These are all great skills the students can use later in their lives.
Schools also act as a place in the community. On special occasions, such as Mothers Day, outside guests are welcomed in to take part in ceremonies. Foreign teachers are also made to feel welcomed with an emphasis on students helping foreign teachers and co-workers assisting too.
Letting students pass
A lot of foreigners complain about having to let students pass every exam. The problem is this isn’t exactly true, a lot of Thai students have to re-study certain subjects again but in English classes there is probably less pressure to do so.
In the end if a student is allowed to pass your English class without being good enough, is that really a problem? Many successful Thai people have achieved a lot without having to speak English. Is English more important than science or maths in Thailand? Probably not for most people. What is the point of making a student take a test on the past perfect continuous twenty times if they are never going to need it?
Personally I think education is not always a link to success in the future. Quite a few of my Thai friends are successful despite not doing well at school and struggling in many subjects. In the UK there is a focus of revising and passing all your exams and going to university to get a great job. Here the education system focuses much more on practical skills which are needed in daily life rather than just theoretical knowledge.
Seeing progress is a great thing and by having lots of small tests during the year allows Thai students and their teachers to see how they are doing.
These tests help teachers to see weaknesses in learners and help them improve. In systems with testing every year or two, it can take longer to spot learner problems. Having exams also helps students to prepare for life outside of school by having to deal with deadlines. The issue most foreigners have with testing in Thai schools is that they have to write and mark the tests and that can be a lot of work…
Something which you have to love about the Thai education system is how it encourages students to do so many different activities. In the UK there are options to do activities but they are normally voluntary and people don’t care about them. Here in Thailand it’s quite the opposite.
Students will be given time off regular classes to take part in special events and activities. This could be preparing for a dance recital or doing something for Scouts day. It’s great that the students aren’t restricted and in many ways are encouraged to do things.
I also love that the Thai system encourages people to support others doing events. Sports day, music performances and shows are all well supported with hundreds of students watching.
A recent report in the Guardian highlighted that girls are less interested in sports at school than boys. Thailand does a great job of encouraging girls to join in sports activities in school. I remember in the UK our PE classes were always split between boys and girls. Boys would play football or rugby and girls would play netball or rounders. The Thai education has set up school sports that boys and girls play sports together such as badminton or volleyball. It really is an example of how sport can bring people together.
Rote learning is something which is missing from many education systems. There is nothing wrong with rote learning in certain situations – some UK headmasters even talk of its benefits and so it’s good to see that Thailand uses this useful learning tool.
Thai students are great at giving out facts and information which they have learned in class. As a teacher, it is great to feed students knowledge this way.
I’m pretty sure we all saw the reports of Thai teachers in debt and the equally sad story of a Thai teacher who acted as a guarantor on student loans for 60 students. These stories highlight two key things about Thai teachers. Firstly, they are underpaid and secondly they care a great deal about their students.
The average UK salary is roughly £27,500 per year. This article shows UK teacher salaries - and after a year most teachers will be earning roughly the average UK salary. Despite this, there are calls for a strike later this year over pay. Thai teachers obviously face hardships and lower than average pay but you don’t hear them threatening to walk out of the classroom.
In fact most foreign teachers in Thailand are paid more than local Thai teachers despise being less qualified. I think it is a testament to these Thai teachers that they accept this in such good grace.
You will also see the great deal of respect Thai teachers get from their students, they must be doing something right! Well they do a lot of good things, They always put effort in and try their best for their students. Many years after finishing school students still greatly respect their teachers and a lot stay in contact with them.
Why Knock the Thai Education System?
It’s interesting to note that like many things that are different in Thailand than The West, the education system gets knocked by many foreigners. Just because it isn’t the same doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Ask many Thais about their opinion of high school and they will likely be positive about it. A lot of my Thai friends say their high school years were the best of their lives!
The key point is that most of the complaints about the Thai education system come from foreign teachers working in these schools.
Foreign teachers complain about the lack of air-conditioning and computers in every room or that students have to be tested too much. For a lot of Thai students this isn’t really an issue. The overall sense of community and bonds with classmates make high school a great time for Thai students.
They have an education system which deserves far more respect from those who knock it.
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