Interview: Teerakiat Jareonsettasin
Which reforms could be most effective in making local education institutions competitive and in line with the Thailand 4.0 model?
TEERAKIAT JAREONSETTASIN: In order to build up the infrastructure for Thailand 4.0, one of the main changes being rolled out is the provision of high-speed internet to reach all schools in the kingdom. This coverage will also include private schools. In order to successfully implement Thailand 4.0 and improve technology, we first must ensure the proper infrastructure is there. Countries prosper when basic infrastructure and connectivity are brought to cities and villages. Thailand 4.0 is based on the German model of Industry 4.0, which includes connectivity, automation and innovation. However, thus far these have been just words in Thailand. If we do not provide infrastructure, we will not be able to provide internet in our schools. The ministry alone can’t make the schools and universities more competitive; we need to have a free market to push their competitiveness.
In particular, what do you identify as the most significant challenges in passing such reforms?
TEERAKIAT: Thailand is run by a civil law system, which creates structural and legal issues in which bureaucracy at a government level has been ingrained for decades. With a national population of 70m, the Ministry of Education alone employs over 30,000 civil servants for 225 districts. That works out to roughly one civil servant per 2500 people – a higher ratio than doctors per patient. This ministry doesn’t employ teachers or professionals, and this creates confusion among the population, as the civil servants at the ministry are perceived as teachers. We should help the teachers in order to improve the quality of our education, but there are too many civil servants who are not focused on this goal. If the ministry is the main obstacle to establishing reforms, then we first need to solve the issues within my own ministry. For instance, before the end of 2017 we still had MOEN et; a virtual network created by the ministry to serve all the state schools. This is now a ghost network. For over 10 years, the Office of the Permanent Secretary monopolised the selection of internet providers by acting as the middle person, purchasing internet at an extreme price, which then increased every year. In a domestic household, internet is cheaper and faster, but here it is slower and more expensive, costing BT5000 ($145) per month for just 1 MB of bandwidth. From a recent survey we conducted, under a third of the small schools used MOEN et. The rest help themselves by purchasing or renting from private providers – and they manage to survive. But those who are barely surviving use the virtual network, with the ministry paying three times the price. There are 400 vocational schools in which we spend roughly BT130m ($3.8m) on internet to nowhere because nobody uses it. Isn’t this corruption? Under my instruction, we immediately ended MOEN et. Schools can find the best provider themselves. Corruption in Thailand is preventing the country from improving itself. If we build a system to generate easier kickbacks, that system isn’t usable because the necessary infrastructure isn’t in place. The major policy for 2018 is to increase the speed of the internet provided to schools. In a market system, we need to welcome those that are capable of providing a competitive solution, and in remote areas the ministry will fill in the gaps. I established a target of one year to provide high-speed internet to the entire country. Currently, the coverage is at nearly 100% in every province. This shows us that when we prioritise our principles, we can achieve sustainable development.
Once the roads and basic infrastructure are provided, prosperity and knowledge can take place nationwide as students will be able to access the best content. We want the providers to compete in order to provide the best to our schools. Only a market system can increase quality; we need to decentralise and let a free market provide the best. That is to say, the ministry should not be in full control; it should only regulate the standards.
You have reached the limit of premium articles you can view for free.
Choose from the options below to purchase print or digital editions of our Reports. You can also purchase a website subscription giving you unlimited access to all of our Reports online for 12 months.
If you have already purchased this Report or have a website subscription, please login to continue.