Author Topic: Pinpointing weaknesses in the teaching system  (Read 594 times)

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Offline Johnnie F.

Pinpointing weaknesses in the teaching system
« on: October 29, 2012, 09:32:10 AM »
Exclusive Interview

Pinpointing weaknesses in our teaching system

IPST head tells what key assessments have revealed

Achievements by Thai students in national and international tests have steadily declined - a situation all stakeholders need to solve urgently, Pornpun Waitayangkoon, director of the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) told The Nation in a recent exclusive interview.

Why are Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and the Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net) so important to Thailand?

They've helped us discover weak points in our education. PISA assesses children's life skills and knowledge application while TIMSS assesses their academic achievements in maths and science. The analyses based on both assessments' results told us what has gone wrong in the Kingdom's education system. The results of the analyses are really helpful for education quality improvement. Learning all the flaws in the education system could lead to policies to provide correct solutions to these flaws. Thailand has to pay around Bt2 million - Bt3 million to join each round of international testing. We have to make use of all the assessments' results after analysing them.

What do they tell us?

Based on the analyses of these assessments, we've found that the problem lies in small schools and extended primary schools. (Extended primary schools extend educational provisions to lower secondary education). The extended primary school students are the weakest group in TIMSS. Schools in the Northeast had the lowest average scores in TIMSS compared to other parts of the country, whereas those in Bangkok achieved the highest average scores, followed by the North, Central, and South regions. Most Thai students were at low levels in PISA and TIMSS, which were at Level 1 or below. Also, most Thai parents, especially in the Northeast, have a low financial status so they have to work to earn a living for their families but don't have enough time to help their children improve their learning.

Why did the small schools and extended primary schools get the lowest average scores?

There are not enough teachers, books and instructional media at such schools. Many teachers in such schools have not taught in the fields they graduated from. Many of the 7,000 extended primary schools are not ready to provide lower secondary education to students due to a shortage of resources and teachers qualified to teach at that level. Knowledge among some teachers at secondary schools is weak. Teachers in Educational Development Study-Mathematics said many Thai secondary school teachers with a maths major had sufficient knowledge to teach only primary school students.

Overall, what are the problems challenging students and people in the education system?

Most Thai students have weak fundamentals in primary education but are allowed to pass this level and continue studying at more difficult levels. So, the higher education levels they study, the less they manage to absorb. Students have trouble with reading so they are unable to analyse, as they often don't understand the questions clearly.

Meanwhile, teachers cover too much content, while skipping difficult lessons they are unable to make students understand. Some content found in questions of TIMSS have not been taught in Thai curricula. Teachers don't teach and test adequately students' thinking and knowledge application, while their teaching is based on content.

What should the government do to make quality of education in different kinds and sizes of schools more equal?

We have to create clusters of schools with different achievements, including high, middle and low achievement groups. The government should give those in the low achievement cluster - which includes small and extended primary schools - the most resources, including budget, teachers, instructional media and books. As primary education is the heart of education, Thailand must recruit good and excellent teachers for this level. Primary school teachers should be the most expensive teachers because they have to provide students with a firm foundation.

What should the stakeholders do to lift education quality, resulting in improved test scores?

O-Net will have to be adjusted from a content-based test that requires only content recall and an understanding to answer the test's questions, to knowledge application that has students finding out solutions to different problems or situations. Teachers should learn more about applied test questions and questions in PISA and TIMSS. They should be trained to create that kind of test question because the questions encourage students' thinking skills. Better salaries should be paid to teachers to draw excellent people to this career. Teachers should have professional standards to guarantee their qualifications.

What has IPST done to upgrade education quality and increase test scores?

IPST has created a curriculum framework in maths, science and technology, telling what students need to learn. For PISA and TIMSS, we met more than 10,000 administrators of educational service area offices, school administrators and proficient teachers last year. We aimed to get them to know the importance of assessments and to learn about the assessments' applied test questions which should make test takers think deeper than the tests created by Thai teachers now. This will motivate them to adjust their teaching. We will train 700 educational supervisors to be trainers in schools. They will help the teachers improve their tests to encourage students' thinking skills rather than content. IPST will have to review mathematics, science and technology curricula of all 12 levels in primary and secondary education in 2013. We will keep the core concepts or big ideas of each subject and let students learn more from educational activities.

Will Thai students' achievements improve in both local and international tests?

They will be better. We are now adjusting many things to deal with the problems. We've learned what caused the decline but education policies still have to be implemented unceasingly. Now, different education ministers have different ideas of development. This affects continuity in policy implementation.

We've targeted for Thai students' average scores in PISA and TIMSS to be not lower than the international average by 2017.

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