Teacher Training

Teacher training is offered either in universities by the Ministry of University Affairs or in teacher training colleges administered by the Ministry of Education's Department of Teacher Education. The university programmes are now commonly influenced by child-centred learning methods and several universities operate a Satit demonstration elementary and secondary school staffed by lecturers and trainee teachers.

Elementary and lower secondary school teachers
The mainstay of the teacher output is provided by the government Rajaphat Universities (formerly Rajaphat Institutes), the traditional teacher training colleges in most provinces. Programmes include courses in teaching methodology, school administration, special education, optional specialisation, supervised practical teaching experience, and the general education subjects of language and communication, humanities, social science, mathematics, and technology. Completion of upper secondary education (Matthayom 6) is required for access to basic teacher training programmes and elementary and lower secondary school teachers are required to complete a two-year program leading to the Higher Certificate of Education, also known as the Diploma in Education or an associate degree.

Upper secondary school teachers
To teach at the upper secondary school level, the minimum requirement is a four-year Bachelor of Education degree through government programmes provided either at a teacher's training college or in a university faculty of education. Students who have acquired the Higher Certificate of Education are eligible to continue their studies at a university or teacher's training college for two additional years of full-time study for a bachelor's degree. Prospective teachers with a bachelor's degree in other disciplines must undergo an additional one year of full-time study to complete a Bachelor of Education degree.

Teacher development and associated problems
On the government's own admission, general education is of a low academic standard compared to the development and modernisation of the country as a whole: Dr. Kasam Wattanachai, Privy Counselor to the King, August 10, 2002 "Ability of students down to the level of Laos -- other countries are taking the lead."
The shortage of teachers in rural areas and the overcrowding of classes in the public schools are exacerbated by the fact that many teachers who have qualified through the university system will obtain employment in the better-remunerated private sector. Many of the places in the faculties of education are taken up by students who enrol not with the intention of pursuing a teaching career but to benefit from the superior quality of the foreign language instruction.

In recent years, the number of fresh graduates from teacher-producing institutes ranged between 50,000 and 60,000 annually, raising concerns about quality and oversupply. The government is trying to reduce the number of graduates from teacher-education programmes to no more than 25,000 a year, but direct those graduates to underserved localities. "We need to focus on quality, not quantity," a spokesperson said. In September 2015, the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC) put forward an initiative to provide 58,000 grants to student-teachers over a 15-year period. The bulk of the grants would go to those who would be sent to work in areas with a shortage of teachers.

The acquired knowledge and competency of newly graduated teachers from the Rajabhat Universities are often comparable to the level of an American senior high school graduation, a British A-level, a French Baccalauréat, or a German Abitur. Apart from the security of being a civil servant with guaranteed employment and a pension, and the extraordinary cultural respect for the profession, there is little incentive to choose a future as a teacher in a government school. As a result, most classes in secondary schools are overcrowded with often as many as sixty students in a classroom, a situation that continues to favour the rote system that is firmly anchored in Thai culture as the only method possible.

As teaching by rote requires little pedagogic skill, once qualified -- apart from weekend seminars which are considered to be part of the reward system -- teachers tend to resist attempts to encourage them to engage in any forms of further training to improve their subject knowledge and to adopt new methodologies which will require them to use more initiative and to be more creative.

Students are not encouraged to develop analytical and critical thinking skills, which is clearly demonstrated by their inability to complete a cloze test, or to grasp a notion through context. The teachers will avoid introducing dialogue into the classroom or eliciting response from the students -- to give a wrong answer would be to lose face in the presence of one's peers, a situation that in Thai culture must always be avoided.

Dr. Adith Cheosokul, professor, Chulalongkorn University, September 1, 2002: "Thai kids have no courage to question their teachers… foreign students are very eager to communicate with their teachers. The Thais are usually silent in class. I think it's the culture. Our students tend to uphold teachers as demi-gods" -- a perception that is reinforced by the celebration of wai khru (literally 'praise the teacher') day, in all schools and colleges shortly after the beginning of the new school year, where during a festive general assembly, the students file before the teachers on their knees and offer them gifts, usually of real or hand-crafted flowers.

The essence of education therefore still hinges first and foremost on the traditional values of Buddhism, respect for the king, the monkhood, the teachers, and the family (in that order) through the rote method. Whilst indisputably very noble, these features are the main hurdle to the implementation of modern educational methodology and the development of a more engaging approach to communication while also retaining Thai cultural values.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, August 18, 2002: "Teachers must radically change their way of thinking -- I'm not sure they can do this."

Elementary and secondary school teachers do not enjoy the same long breaks as the students and are required to work through the vacations on administrative duties. Many of these tasks concern their familiarisation with the frequent improvements to the National Curriculum; indeed, changes often occur faster than authors and publishers can update the textbooks and the teachers must improvise without support material and have to design their own tests and exams -- neither of which is conducive to an improvement in quality.

The frequent changes in policy can cause confusion. Often one department of the Ministry of Education is not aware of the work of another, and the principals and the teachers in the schools are always at the end of the information chain.