Author Topic: EDITORIAL: Isaan being failed by inequalities in education system  (Read 879 times)

Offline Johnnie F.

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Isaan being failed by inequalities in education system

Politicians are ignoring long-term solution to Northeast's poverty trap

Waves of both good and bad news have swept through the Thai education world this month alone. These realities reflect not only the inequitable structure of our national education policy but also the lack of attention authorities have paid to the field.

First the bad news. The latest survey by the Mental Health Department reveals that the average intelligence quotient (IQ) of Thai students aged six to 15 is 98.59, a little lower than the world's median average of 100. Children in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Japan have, on average, a higher IQ.

Frankly speaking, this simply means that Thai students are of lower intellectual capability at best, and even less capable than their peers in those countries at worst.

By region, students in the Northeast had the lowest average scores, with 95.99. In the South, students did a bit better, scoring 96.85. On average, Northern students' scores were 100.11 while students in the Central region achieved 101.29. Students in Bangkok averaged 104.5.

Of 72,780 Thai students surveyed, 6.5 per cent qualified as having intellectual disabilities, because their IQs were lower than 70.

The second piece of bad news came on Monday, when 200 students rallied in front of the Faculty of Mass Communication at the prestigious Chiang Mai University, demanding that the faculty's dean step down following her alleged poor management. Not long before that, a similar protest occurred at the same university's Faculty of Education, resulting in the removal of its faculty dean.

Now, three pieces of good news.

First, a team from King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok (KMUTNB) marched to victory early this month at the World RoboCup Rescue 2011 contest in Istanbul, making Thailand the champion in the field for six consecutive years now.

Then, five Thai high-school students mostly from Bangkok scooped medals at the 42nd International Physics Olympiad, with one gold medallist (also from Bangkok) earning the highest score ever for Thailand.

And third, Thai students won 99 medals including nine golds at the International Mathematics Competition 2011 (IMC) and the World Youth Mathematics Inter-City Competition 2011 held recently in Bali. The majority of these medallists were from schools in Bangkok.

These five events furnish three conclusions on the state of our education system: Bangkok students seem the best educated; students countrywide don't have equal opportunities in education; and there is something wrong in our education system.

As shown by the first piece of bad news, students in Bangkok have the highest IQ score. Needless to say, Bangkok has the best schools and other education facilities. That the lowest IQ is seen in Isaan is no surprise - and it's not because children there have brain cancer, but because there are simply not enough decent schools, libraries, teachers and education funding, which children in Bangkok have easy access to.

In principle, this is a less an education than a political problem.

It's easy to name MPs who have big houses or big plots of land in the Northeast, and even easier to see how many MPs in Isaan send their sons for education abroad while children living in their constituencies within a 50 kilometre-radius of their luxury homes don't have a decent school to go to.

What's even more heart-wrenching is that it is the parents of these Isaan kids are the majority of the national electorate, instrumental in electing every government. But what Isaan people have received in return, in the way of education development from a series of governments, is too little too late.

Over the past 20 years, Isaan's primary schools have remained just as shabby. New emerging universities there lack both quality and credibility. The education authorities are currently deciding whether to shut down E-sarn University in Khon Kaen after it was rocked by a scandal over the sale of teaching diplomas.

Yet one fine day we see a series of road signs put up over a 100km stretch of highway leading to a birthday party of an influential politician in Isaan.

In the midst of all this, politicians are talking about issuing credit cards for farmers and raising their daily wages, as if these were "magic bullets" for curing poverty once and for all.

There's no serious talk about building quality schools, libraries and research centres in Isaan or elsewhere. We believe these are key to improving the lives of the masses and eradicating their chronic poverty in the long run.

This Thailand is nothing like Bangkok. And the capital remains the only serious education destination for every kid in the Kingdom. This is not fair.

What's fair is that children of the poor and the working classes, regardless of where they live, must have the same access to quality education as their counterparts in Bangkok.

Politicians must grasp the fact that countries that spend money on educating kids to think, then use their knowledge to build robots and helicopters, ultimately have the brightest future.

The Nation