Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 5, 543–550, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article reviews the long attempt to transform teacher education in Thailand.
The prime focus of the article is on presenting changes in teacher education from 1974 to the present day, against the backdrop of key political and social forces.
Background to teacher preparation in Thailand
During the past four decades, from 1978 to the present, Thailand has undergone a rapid transformation from a traditional teacher training model for teachers, to a degree-led teacher educational model and, more recently, to a licenced and accredited teacher professional model.
These changes are in response to changes in both the political and the economic contexts in Thailand over this period.
The Thai Government in the enactment of the National Education Act (ONEC 1999) made it very clear that the country demanded a higher level of knowledge and skills, especially the critical thinking competencies necessary for citizen in the new era of high technologies.
After the student uprising against the military government regime in October 1973, a major educational reform movement emerged.
An integrated school curriculum with a heavy focus on immediate national and local issues had been introduced.
Such a new integrated school curriculum was intended to respond to the major motif of political activist academicians for greater equity in education as well as in all aspects of life for all people.
During 1974–1980 student teachers had to take up to 140 credits to complete their four years of education.
Courses offered at most teacher education colleges and universities emphasised not only the contents of specialisation, but also the understanding of complex issues in society.
The teacher education reform movement in this period was rather dramatic in order to produce new teachers who understood key democratic and political concerns.
Another significant movement in teacher education was the inauguration of the Teacher Training College Act of 1975.
According to this Act, both primary school teachers and secondary school teachers were required to obtain bachelor degrees.
In addition, all teacher training colleges (Rajabhats) had restructured not just their curriculum, but also their administrative structure, in response to the needs for better teacher competencies and for the production of the new generation of bachelor’s degree teachers.
In 1996, the Office of Nation Education Council (ONEC) established the Centre for Teaching and Learning Development as the responsible office for the initiation and diffusion of educational innovation.
It was to focus on the teaching and learning processes which would lead to better access to the ‘prescribed subject matters and national desirable characteristics’ (ONEC 1999).
It was recommended that in addition to the new teaching and learning approaches, all teachers and school administrators had to take a more active leadership role in implementing and encouraging these new approaches in order to achieve the set missions.
As a consequence, all Thai teachers and all student teachers were strongly required to adopt and follow the educational innovations developed by the centre in the belief that they could improve and better their teaching activities and methods, to achieve the prescribed subject matters and national desirable characteristics.
In March 1996, the Council of Ministers also established the Teacher Education Reform Office (TERO) to be the responsible unit to take care, manage and follow up the operation of educational reform.
The Teacher Education Reform Office introduced several other programmes of its own, supposedly to enhance education reform.
To support ONEC and TERO’s approaches, there had been a considerable amount of research on educational innovation on teaching methods and learning activities by researchers and professors in various universities.
The introduction of teacher and teaching certificates in 1999
In response to the Teacher Education Reform and to public concern over the quality of teachers, the Teacher Certificated and Teaching Certificates were introduced in 2003 by the Teacher Council of Thailand (TCT), the organisation with the power and duty to control and maintain the pedagogical standards of the teaching profession of Thailand.
Both the Teacher Certificates and Teaching Certificates, as stated by TCT, existed in order to serve two significant purposes:
to establish high standards for those who expect to take part in the teaching profession; and
to assure that they possess all the required teaching qualities issued by the Council.
To earn the Teacher Certificate, a school teacher had to take the Teacher Licence Test, provided by the Teacher’s Council of Thailand Board (Khurusapha).
Until 2013, a new graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education from any university where the teacher education programme had been approved by the Board of Teacher Education was automatically qualified for the Teacher Certificate. The curriculum structure together with the detail description of the course offered is to be carefully reviewed for official approval by the sub-committee members appointed by the Teachers’ Council of Thailand Board.
At present, Teaching and Teacher Certificates, together with their respective approval processes, have been operated under the Teacher Council of Thailand (TCT)’s close supervision throughout Thailand.
While the Certificates and the approval standards are considered the most essential standard for teacher professional quality, they are currently being criticized as overemphasising the limited teacher qualification categories prescribed under the 11 Topics frame described above, rather than the more extensive professional teacher quality.
The author argues that to be effective as a Thai teacher, one must not only yield uncritically to TCT’s standards, but must also be able to engage wholeheartedly in the field research that relates their knowledge on pedagogic principles to the understanding of Thai education and social issues.
There is still a challenge for Thai educators on how to offer room for more reflective practices in their teacher education programmes so as to contribute to the better professional quality of teachers in Thailand.