One of the aims of the second stage of the education reform process is to enable Thais to become quality lifelong learners. This involves the creation of quality schools, the presence of suitably qualified school administrators and teachers, the provision of education opportunities for all, and the participation of all the parties in the education sphere.
A new Educa for all
The 2nd International Conference on Learning & Teaching Strategies & Educa 2010 presented a conference and symposium (Educa) at which education leaders, researchers, academicians, and teachers were invited to submit academic papers on leading topics facing the education industry in Thailand.
Some of Thailand’s leading educators suggest ways to achieve quality learning at Educa 2010. From left: Ubonwan Hongwityakorn, PhD; Assoc Prof Pimpan Dechakupt; PhD Assoc Prof Ladda Phukiat; and Poonsak Tesniyom. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN
The theme of this year's Educa was "Teacher Development: The New Directions for Education Success" and featured the new paradigm of teacher education for pre-service, induction and in-service level teachers.
Educa is a joint collaboration of Assoc Prof Montree Yamkasikorn, EdD, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Burapha University (BU), Bang Saen campus, and director of Thai Teacher TV and Pico (Thailand) Plc, the core business of which is marketing.
The first Educa was launched in 2007 and opened to much professional and academic acclaim but little financial success. It took a year off in 2008, reassessed its strengths and weaknesses and relaunched in 2009, and according to this year's conferees, who numbered in the thousands for the three-day gathering, this year was Educa's best. Dr Montree and Yuppares Nimlekh, general manager of Stategic Marketing at Pico, agree.
Dr Montree, who is a 20-year veteran educator at Burapha and vice-chairman for Thailand Education Deans Council as well as chairman of the Educa organising committee, says, "The emphasis at BU," currently ranked 9 in Thailand among the country's top universities, "is to produce Thai teachers who are qualified to teach English and to teach other disciplines, such as science and engineering, using English as the medium of communication."
He notes that the keys to the successful delivery of education are hardware, software and "humanware". He believes that Thailand must now focus on improving the "humanware" aspect of the education equation by, inter alia, improving the skills of Thai teachers to teach courses in an integrated curriculum, which means being able to teach many subjects using English. He admits that that is a tall quest, but feels his faculty of education, and others, is up to the task and opines optimistically that the goal is achievable within the next five years.
Assoc Prof Montree Yamkasikorn, EdD, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Burapha University, Bang Saen campus and director of Thai Teacher TV BJ JOHNSON
He adds that to achieve that goal, many Thai universities must encourage Thai teachers to increase the number of courses that are taught in English, which will make our local universities more competitive globally and encourage more foreign students to study in Thailand, thereby generating valuable foreign exchange revenues for Thailand.
Dr Montree also noted that another challenge for the new generation of Thai teachers is that they must learn to share their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues and engage in team projects, such as team teaching. He said many Thai teachers enjoy working alone and don't always seek opportunities to work in groups or as members of a team. He hopes the Educa conference in 2011 will address these and other unresolved issues.
Skills set by MOE
The Ministry of Education has set the skills and characteristics that students at the various levels should strive to attain. For Prathom 1 to 3 (Grades 1 to 3), the focus is on the ability to think positively. When they move up to Prathom 4 to 6 (Grades 4 to 6), these students are expected to be enthusiastic about learning. At Mathayom 1 to 3 (Grades 7 to 9), students should have a clear understanding of the importance of a life of sufficiency, and they should live that way of life accordingly. At Mathayom 4 to 6 (Grades 10 to 12), the students should be able to identify their life goals and drive themselves towards achieving those goals. Teachers must do their part.
A conference with substance Among the several functions held at Educa 2010 was a one-day seminar on strategies to generate quality classrooms and learners. By extension, those strategies are valuable keys for achieving the student qualities and characteristics mentioned.
The seminar was delivered by a panel consisting of Assoc Prof Pimpan Dechakupt, PhD, head of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Educational Technology, Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University (CU); Assoc Prof Ladda Phukiat, president of the Thai Association of Science & Technology Education, director of Sattit Pattana School and a consultant to Thai Teachers TV; and Poonsak Tesniyom, a consultant to Thai Teachers TV and a former director of Srinakharinwirot University's Prasarnmit Demonstration School. The session was moderated by Ubonwan Hongwityakorn, PhD, from the Department of Educational Policy, Management and Leadership, CU.
Dr Pimpan introduced the seven-corner classroom model to an audience of several hundred people comprising school administrators, education consultants, teachers and university students. The model shows teachers how to attain seven sets of important skills, namely, curriculum development skills, child-centred approach skills, class innovation implementation skills, classroom assessment skills, classroom action research skills, classroom management skills and character enhancement skills.
She suggested that in order to bring about the desired changes, schools first need to set their visions and then incorporate those visions into their pedagogies that are based on the standard curriculum. Second, the schools have to get all the parties concerned to collaboratively drive the changes and to focus on working as partners. School administrators should be open-minded and supportive, they should listen to their teacher-colleagues and, perhaps most importantly, they must lead in the efforts to realise the changes.
Next, the schools should employ teaching methods that are based on the student-centred approach, as well as encourage involvement by their communities. At the same time, the teachers need to build a positive environment for the students and assist them in expanding their knowledge.
Prof Ladda commented that students play a significant role in the creation of a positive environment in the classroom. "If we want students to learn happily, we need to allow them to take part," she said. This participation by the students can be in simple forms, like designing their classroom desk arrangements themselves and coming up with their own way of lining-up for morning assembly."
Changing the paradigm
"The current classroom system encourages students to copy rather than learn," Mr Poonsak commented. He added that many Thai teachers merely acquire the knowledge that has been accumulated by other scholars, remember it and pass it to their students. They do not expand the knowledge pool.
Mr Poonsak introduced to the audience a formula that would create a desirable learning environment. In his formula, learning is achieved by means of a process called kid, konkwa, kana, kai and kian, which means, in English, think, research, work as a team, share and record. The learning process starts off by spurring students to develop critical and analytical thinking skills. Then the students are encouraged to investigate, which enables them to attain research skills. After this, the learning process stimulates the students into working as team members as, after the students have finished conducting their research, they should share and discuss their findings with one another before reaching any conclusions. Finally, they record the results.
Dr Pimpan elaborated that the steps in her formula are similar to those in the scientific process, since the student starts by defining the problem, goes on to set up a hypothesis, continues by carrying out research, moves forward to analyse the findings, and ends by making conclusions. She suggested that the process can be applied to any study subject.
Mr Poonsak advised primary school teachers to transform their classrooms into "rooms that depend on students".
"The classroom, the textbooks, the curriculum and learning mediums must be transformed into playthings," he said.
In high schools, teachers should create an environment that encourages students to find and know themselves. "Classrooms in junior high school must be places of creativity," he said, explaining that the classrooms have to be capable of providing students with resources that support their creativity and imagination. "When the classrooms provide opportunities for students to fulfil their imagination, they will be able to see the path that they would like to take into the future," he said.
"Quality classrooms leave no students behind," Mr Poonsak added.
Dr Pimpan also gave teachers several tips on how to create a positive classroom environment. These included reducing the proximity between teachers and students; smiling; frequently praising students by means of physical touch and oral words of admiration; maintaining eye contact; and regularly greeting students.
Teachers should also instil the "5Hs" into their students, suggested Dr Pimpan. These refer to heart, which means students are able to think positively; head, meaning possession of knowledge; hands, meaning putting knowledge into practice; health, implying good health; and finally happiness, which is the ultimate goal in life.
The message was very clear: Quality teachers, quality administrators and quality stakeholders create quality classrooms, quality schools and quality learners.