Yesterday's New York Times has a very good story talking about the challenging situation facing Thai youth. You can read the full story here: After Years of Upheaval, Not All Is Well With Thailand’s Youth
The story touches on a few factors driving the problem, but falling education standards seem to be the key. Should certainly ring familiar to anyone involved in the Thai education system.
Don't know that I'd charactise Thaksin's anti-drug campaign as "highly effective" though. Sure a lot of people (some of them involved in the trade) were killed, but it bounced back in no time at all.
Still, well worth a read.
From what I have seen in Thailand (I have an ed background, and like to visit unis where I travel), this story has large elements of truth. Booze and drugs are not difficult to find in the hands of young people, however, blaming these same young people and holding them responsible for change, is not just and will be ineffective. Lets talk about parents and role models, and opportunities and education standards (which the article addressed). Drug abuse is a symptom, not a cause.
Also, not every Thai student is in this category, there are many success stories here, and good Thai teachers, trying to do the best that they can.
As a fellow American , maybe the NYT should look in it's own backyard for solutions to some of the questions it raises. We have had a "War on Drugs" for 30 years now, yet the conflict on our southern border is because of the demand for drugs in the US. I live in a small village in Issan and volunteer at our school to help with English. The school only goes to the 6th grade and yes there is a drop out rate at age 12 that is shocking. Ask a 12 year old here what they want to be when they grow up and they will tell you they have never thought about it. Half the children here are raised by grandparents, aunts and uncles while the parents are in the city trying to make money. I truly think the teachers are trying to do their best with the limited resources they have. Every country has it's share of problems. The west made it's transition over a period of at least 100 years and more. Rural Thailand along with several other developing nations is being yanked into the 21st century in a very short time. We in the west can easily see problems here that we have tried to solve ourselves, yet still have corruption and greed at all levels. According to the NYT article, the US just has an 80% graduation rate. What's up with that?
#3 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
@neosho agree totally regarding some teachers doing the best they can with very limited resources. The obvious question is, need the resources really be that limited? I remember reading quite a few years back that the elevated expressway project from Bangkok down towards Pattaya was the second most expensive public infrastructure underway at the time -- in the world... after just the Boston Dig.
That has to raise some questions about governmental priorities/corruption etc. How many teacher salaries could have been paid with the wad of cash that expressway cost?
@ianintheworld Yes agree there are exceptions and success cases, but there could be a lot more...
Somtam, I agree, the resources need not be that limited. The same thing happens in America but we choose to call it "pork". A few years back we had a multi-million dollar bridge to nowhere approved for Alaska. A waste of money to buy votes is what it is. I guess who I am taking to task is the NYT. We have the same problems on a different level or scale. Maybe, they should devote more space to tackling the problems in the US. When I first came to asia, I too was shocked at some of what I saw. It was so blatant and easy to remedy from a western point of view. But eventually I also realized it was not that long ago that we were going through the same problems. Asia is evolving, Africa is evolving. It takes time. I may be taken to task on this but I would venture to say that the majority of people in Thailand has a 6th grade education or less. That is changing, but slowly. My gosh, I am such a dyslecsic typist you would not believe how long it took to make this post.
#5 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
Somtam, the day after my last post, the education or labor minister talked in the post about the education level in Thailand. Eleven percent of school age children are not receiving a basic education. Sixty percent of the Thai labor force has a primary education or less. One mayor was quoted as saying they tested 61 students and only 10 could read and write. In Sundays opinion section, Voranai Vanijaka writes a very good piece where he places the blame on the whole of Thai society. I do know the current government has started the free 15 year education program. Uniforms, etc are furnished. Also in the last year or two, the paying of "tea" money to school administrators and teachers was in the news a lot and they are trying to abolish it. How much success they are having, I do not know. I think business and government are realizing that without an educated work force in a technology driven world, they are going to loose out. When the $$ start talking then maybe things will change.
#6 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
I know that right now a lot of teachers teach "Voluntary extra classes" for a fee, the attendance at which can strongly influence the students grade.
#7 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957
That has to raise some questions about governmentalpriorities/corruption etc. How many teacher salaries could have beenpaid with the wad of cash that expressway cost?
Don't have the figures, but apparently the education budget isn't that small. Problem supposedly lies with the low proportion of that budget that goes to things like teachers' salaries, as compared to the huge sums set aside for infrastructure (school buildings, computers, etc)...think about how the latter (all the contracts involved) provides much greater opportunities for $ to be skimmed off at every level...there are vested interests in keeping the proportion skewed this way.
One mayor was quoted as saying they tested 61 students and only 10 could read and write.
With a system where no student can be failed...
I do know the current government has started the free 15 year educationprogram. Uniforms, etc are furnished.
Still waiting to see this become reality in some parts of Thailand. In the rural areas, sometimes i feel a much more effective way would be for uniform requirements to be relaxed. Let headmasters look the other way when kids turn up only in 'partial uniform' & slippers instead of shoes, or 'normal uniform' on scout days. Knowledge can still go into the head regardless of how the student is dressed.
Also in the last year or two, thepaying of "tea" money to school administrators and teachers was in thenews a lot and they are trying to abolish it. How much success they arehaving, I do not know.
Don't know, but heard that in certain places the 'going rate' has in fact increased - the 'reason' being that because the school can take in fewer students with the restrictions on 'tea money', the remaining students have to pay more 'tea money' (a bit like Thai hotel industry logic - raise prices to make up for lower occupancy rates).
I think business and government are realizing that without an educatedwork force in a technology driven world, they are going to loose out.When the $$ start talking then maybe things will change.
Maybe...or maybe not. Right now they seem perfectly happy getting Malaysian & Singaporean engineers to do the planning, problem-solving, implementation of safety standards & whatever else requires 'bpuat hua level thinking' in their manufacturing plants.
Glad to see you're back , Madmac. Thought you might have gotten flooded out.
The free uniforms in my village is working. The school orders and gives them out to all the kids.
Tea money is not active here. I think that is more in the cities. I have a German friend that teaches science in Chaing Mai. It's a government school but more of an upscale one. Something like a third of the teachers are foreign and it costs money to send your kid there.
In regards to the corruption. It's everywhere in this country. Yes down to the schools. I remember reading at the first part of this year about the health ministry and the way they were spending the stimulus money. Buying equiptment the hospitals did not need at enormous prices over actual cost. But as always here, it runs it's course and disappears from the news. Myself , I like China's action plan to fight it. Get caught, trial week one, week two, you die. Sends a pretty strong message, yet the practice still goes on. There used to be a saying in the US. Steal and hundred, go to jail. Steal a million, get elected. It has only been in the last 20 to 25 years that we started handing out some real sentences for white collar crime in the US. That takes me back to my original problem with the NYT article. They want to find some village or town with problems and act like it's the whole of Thailand. Sensationalist journalism. They can go to any city in America and find the same problems.
Wanderingcat....where are you from and are you in Thailand. Just curious.
#9 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
The free uniforms in my village is working. The school orders and gives them out to all the kids.
Good to hear that it is happening in some parts.
Tea money is not active here. I think that is more in the cities.
Yup the cases i've heard of are for secondary level & above, in the towns/cities (district capital & above).
Wanderingcat....where are you from and are you in Thailand
hmm. non-Thai, not in Thailand. could tell you more by PM.
Wanderingcat.....I didn't mean to get intrusive so we can just leave it alone. I just noticed you were knowledgeable about the country. I started thinking after last nights post, on the first day of school this year, there were some vendors selling uniforms and backpacks. But I have a 5 year old step-daughter and have not seen the wife have to buy her anything. Yet all the kids came home yesterday sporting new shirts. I will try to keep more vigilant. (sp) In regards to the tea money, I'm out in the middle of the rice fields, the people don't have the money. The school had a fund raiser at the first of the year to raise money for a library and people donated rice so the school could sell. After rice this year , they plan on a fund raiser for books. Sad , I know, but if I was Bill Gates, then they would depend on me for everything, which would solve nothing.
#11 neosho has been a member since 13/8/2008. Posts: 386
The school had a fund raiser at the first of the year to raise moneyfor a library and people donated rice so the school could sell. Afterrice this year , they plan on a fund raiser for books. Sad , I know,but if I was Bill Gates, then they would depend on me for everything,which would solve nothing.
Not sad when you think of how the community can get together to get things done by themselves rather than wait for 'things to fall from the sky' ('sky' here can have layers of meaning ;P). & everyone having a personal stake in project usually means that it will be better appreciated & taken care of (something to do with human nature in general?). Do often hear remarks about Thai people lacking initiative, Thai parents not caring about their kids, etc, but this kinda thing shows that it's not possible to paint all 67+ million with the same brush.
Btw in Singapore, it's a common practice for kids to wear school uniforms handed down from older siblings/cousins. & some also donate their old uniforms to the school when they graduate, to be given free to new students who can't afford them. Accessories like neckties & belts don't wear out as quickly. There's also a large scale collection of used textbooks at the end of every school year (they can be dropped off at a nation-wide chain of supermarkets), volunteers sort them & families in need are then invited to pick what they require.
Another issue...in today's news, another 2 episodes of BKK vocational school violence,a 9 y/o boy dead from gunfire in one:http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/crimes/194156/boy-9-shot-dead-while-on-way-to-school
Earlier this year there was another spate of clashes between Pathumwan Inst of Tech & RUT Uthen Thawai students incl one with ~100 students with guns & knives right outside MBK mall, tourists & shoppers were stunned by some of the students fleeing through the mall (& apparently the police only managed to nab 3).