Interview: Teerakiat Jareonsettasin
In which specific areas of educational reform is the Ministry of Education (MoE) planning to focus its efforts in the short term?
TEERAKIAT JAREONSETTASIN: In recent years the MoE has placed great importance on education reform, including engaging in much-needed restructuring and reorganisation of our administration. One major proposed policy is to enable students in fields with teaching shortages to apply to be trainee teachers, in conjunction with their postgraduate studies, something which is already in place in many countries around the world. It would allow emerging experts in their respective fields to use their practical knowledge to expand the pedagogy, increase professional development and stimulate demand for educational professions. An independent committee has also been established, which will advise the Cabinet on future education reforms.
Other significant targeted reforms include making pre-school compulsory, which is an effort to further invest in human capital at its earliest stage, as well as a proposal which would spin-off a Ministry of Higher Education from the MoE, allowing the separate entity to focus on its own core issues.
Close attention is also being paid to schools in dire need of investment to allow the best possible access to education in these areas, which will reduce inequality and ensure an equitable educational system. The sector is moving forward, not only with words and abstract ideas, but in terms of concrete policies that focus on recruitment, incentivisation and deregulation.
How can the education sector be liberalised and opened up to foreign institutions in fields where Thailand has capacity shortages?
TEERAKIAT: A new piece of Article 44 legislation is being scrutinised by the relevant authorities that would greatly liberalise Thailand’s education sector for foreign participation; specifically it would allow overseas education institutions to come and establish themselves in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), either through partnerships with local universities or by themselves. Many foreign institutions have long held representative offices in Thailand waiting for such a reform, and now these reforms are finally coming into effect.
There will, of course, be certain parameters set for allowing foreign institutions to come in. Namely, they must fit in with the concept of the EEC and its related industries, and be engaged in fields that are specifically in demand in Thailand. There would be no restrictions on the percentage of shareholders, investors or staff which are local or foreign, and they would not be subject to local curriculum regulations.
Furthermore, tax incentives would be extended in line with what is being offered to foreign private sector investors entering the EEC. The existing regulations on foreign institutions are dated, so we will use this channel to facilitate investment and development to build up capacity in areas of need.
In what ways will engagement with the private sector enable Thailand’s education system to meet industry needs moving forward?
TEERAKIAT: The number one area of need in Thailand is upgrading English comprehension at all levels of the education sector, and we have introduced a new training programme over the next two-year period for over 40,000 teachers to undergo intensive English courses. This is being done in partnership with the British Council, and represents their largest project in over 60 years of operating in Thailand. The feedback so far has been well-received. A second initiative is an education-to-employment policy, whereby we are engaging with over 1500 corporates from across the country to run short courses, which will lead to work for students outside of their mainstream education. In fact, we are asking the private sector to lead this initiative, rather than designing the courses ourselves, and are stepping back to take a more regulatory role.
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