Thailand has undergone a rapid transformation from a predominantly agriculture-based, government-subsidized economy to an emerging industrial, market-driven economy that new types of knowledge and skills and an increasing investment in human capital are required (Pillay, 2002:5).
Thai people, including employees, are expected to have higher-level knowledge and skills including competencies in the new technologies and they have to be life-long, autonomous and self-regulated learners who are be able to survive in changing circumstances (Pillay, 2002:5).
These aspects lead to a concern that the educational system, in particular the teaching and learning approaches and educational managements practices should be changed significantly (Pillay, 2002:5).
Societies are changing from industrial to information-based societies in which the creation and dissemination of knowledge play critical roles in both individual and social development. Accordingly, an education paradigm for knowledge-based societies is emerging in which higher-order thinking skills, communication skills, and continuous learning are emphasized (Atagi, 2002: 2).
Education reform is undeniably a global phenomenon (Harn-Asa, 2002: 1).
Thailand's international competitiveness has declined in recent years due to weak human resources, especially in science and technology fields. inefficient management and administration of the education system, inequity of access to quality education, inadequately qualified teachers, and a rigid learning environment are identified as prime causes for the failure to address the private sector's human resource needs (Atagi, 2002: 2).
Thailand's 1997 constitution paved the way for reform. Subsequently, the National Education Act 1999 laid down a solid foundation to initiate the education reform (Atagi, 2002: 2).
There is a need of the education reform because many societies are experiencing the transformation from industrial societies, where conducting a routine task of the mass labor force (following manuals and assembling parts) is enough to produce acceptable industrial production, into information societies, where require information management skills (such as the search, selection, and application of information, and the creation and dissemination of knowledge). These require education go beyond the conventional teacher-centered approach (Atagi, 2002: 15).
The emerging education paradigm is a cause of the education reform (Atagi, 2002: 15-16).
There is a need to reform education in whole system, not only in the classroom level. Therefore, all stakeholders have to involve in the education reform (Atagi, 2002: 16).
A strong factor stimulating the education reform is a decline in Thailand's economic competitiveness (Atagi, 2002: 21). In high rate of international economic competition, Thailand needs to improve the capacities of its human resources, especially in science and technology, in order to produce higher value-added products and services (Atagi, 2002: 21). Therefore, Thailand is now challenged to an appropriate and quality education to develop its human resources in order to improve competitiveness in a global market (Atagi, 2002: 22).
As equally important as economic competitiveness, many Thais are concerned with the decline of social climate (Atagi, 2002: 22). There are increases in arrests for drug related crimes, especially amphetamines, the number of children under the age of 14 using drugs, property crimes, number of suicides, and the number of outpatient visit for depression (Atagi, 2002: 22). It is concerned that education may be neglecting to consider how to build a healthy social climate (Atagi, 2002: 22-23).
Management and administration inefficiencies is a factor of the education reform. It is reported that the system and procedures to utilize the resources most efficiently for the purpose of the education reform are inadequate. Although the Thai government has been providing the largest share of total public expenditure to the education sector since 1991 (25% of total expenditures for education), the education budget is not spent prudently (23% for new building and lands, 66% for teachers salaries, and only 0.79% for teacher development) (Atagi, 2002: 23). Moreover, there are overlapping responsibilities in the management and administrative system that is centralized. This centralized system does not allow each school to be accountable for what practitioners want (Atagi, 2002: 23).
Equity of access to quality education, particularly access for provincial and low-income populations to educational services and infrastructure, is another serious challenge in Thailand (Atagi, 2002: 25).
There are many policies shaping the education reform in Thailand such as the Eight National Economic and Social Development Plan (1997-2001), which changes its emphasis from promoting economic and social development through increasing industrial capacity and export growth to economic and social development through human resource development and improvement in the quality of life (Atagi, 2002: 26).
The most important foundation for the education reform is the 1997 constitution (Atagi, 2002: 26). In Section 81 of the constitution, it is stated that "provide education to attain knowledge and morality; issue laws relating to national education; improve education so as to be attuned to economic and social change; create and strengthen knowledge and inculcate sound awareness of politics and a democratic system of goverment under a constitutional monarchy; promote research in various disciplines; accelerate the application of science and technology for national development; promote the teaching profession; and encourage the revival of local wisdom, art and culture of the nation" (Atagi, 26-27).
Enactment of the National Education Act B.E. 2542 was a major step towards realizing the education reform in Thailand (Atagi, 2002: 27). As stipulated in Section 81 of the 1997 constitution, the National Education Act B.E. 2542 serves as the master legislation for the education reform (Atagi, 2002: 28).
The quality of education, especially of teaching and learning in Thai schools, has not as yet reached the goals desired (Khemmani, 2006: 117).
The absence of these desirable attributes and satisfactory academic achievements were significant indicators for an urgent need of teaching/learning reform of the national school system (ONEC, 2000 cited by Khemmai, 2006: 117).
In response, a major movement for the education reform began in 1997 and culminated in 1999 when the NEA was passed (Khemmani, 2006: 117).
Thailand's current education reform initiatives stem from the shock of the Asian economic crisis and subsequent political reforms (1997 constitution) mandated the education reform (Fry, 2002: 2).
Thailand's social and educational development has lagged considerably behind its level of economic development (Fry, 2002: 3).
Fry (2002: 3) identified weakness of education in Thailand leading to the current reform as:
- the educational system remains over-centralized and bureaucratized, with much duplication in educational services and related inefficiencies;
- there has been a neglect of science and mathematics;
- there have been inadequate incentives to promote good teaching and teacher learning;
- problems related to access and equity, particularly at the upper secondary level persist;
- there has been the problem of traditional learning methods and their emphasis on rote learning.
to enhance its quality of life and standard of living a nation must improve the productivity of its people. The primary means for doing this are education and human resource development boradly defined (Fry, 2002: 7).
Both educational reform and decentralization were mandates by the new constitution. Thus, Thailand as part of its strategic path to economic recovery, initiated new education sector reform (Fry, 2002: 17)
Thailand's decline in recent years in international competitiveness (ONEC 2002a,b Fry, 2002: 18).
Management and administrative inefficiencies associated with Thaialnd's highly centralized bureaucratic system. There problems are particularly acute in the education and human resource development area in which there are many both horizontal and vertical redundancies (Fry, 2002: 18-19).
Thailand's social and educational development has lagged significantly behind its economic development (Fry, 2002:19)
Disparities and lack of equity to access to quality education (Fry, 2002: 19).
There has also been a concomitant social crisis reflected, for example, in drug abuse and other social problems, particularly for youth (Fry, 2002: 19; also see Thitti 2002). Thus, there is a critical need for stronger moral education an integral part of proposed learning reform ((Fry, 2002: 19).
Fry (2002: 22-23) pointed to serious quality problems existing in four areas:
structural and management issues; teacher quality, pedagogy, and methods of learning; quality of personnel and related incentives; curricular priorities.
In cases of budget, only 0.79 percent of the budget is spent on improving the quality of teachers and there is considerable concern among all three international consultants that previous in-service training of the short intensive workshop type removed from site has not been particularly effective (Fry, 2002: 23)