Society in Transition …. Education in Transition

Internationally, each change in social and economic structure, brings  a new way of seeing the world and a new physical shape for the community. One of these great social transitions in history was the move from societies being based on agriculture to economies became based on industry.

Around the world in the 21st Century, countries are in a major transition similar to these great transitions of the past.

It is evident that globalization has brought a new configuration to give people access to the means of knowledge production, land use and living space to satisfy their needs.

In the case of Thailand, the economy is strongly agriculture based, and the agricultural society was traditionally  self contained. A change has happened over the last thirty years.  This change from a self contained agricultural system, industrialization and the accompanying urbanization of Thailand with its population shift to big cities, has created a   strain on the traditional social structure.

In 2005, the US Pulitzer Prize winning business writer Thomas L Friedman, wrote a book called The World is Flat in which he examined the shrinking size of the earth and the interconnectedness of people all around the world that has come as a result of the rapid spread of information and communications technology [ICT].

It is now possible for people to work together and compete in real time with more other people on the planet and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in history.

People can meet and collaborate by using computers, email, teleconferences, video conferences and may types of dynamic new software. For example , Thai students studying overseas are able to read the Bangkok daily newspapers on line, talk with family and friends on line and network socially in real time as though they were at home in Thailand.

Google, Apple, Micro Soft, the GPS, the mobile phone, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, various programs and ICT facilities have “flattened” the Earth.

The world of the 21st Century Knowledge Age requires a new mix of skills. Jobs that require routine manual and thinking skills are giving way to jobs that involve higher levels of understanding of complex knowledge, and applied skills like expert thinking.

It is a worthwhile professional learning exercise for teachers to reflect on the way their society has changed, as well as the way the world has changed and look at the impact of such changes on their work as teachers.

In the West, schools have changed in different periods of history:

  • The village school was the product of the agricultural era
  • The large suburban school was the product of the industrial revolution
  • Borderless, internationalized, networked schooling, interactive campuses are more likely to be the norm in the future.
  • Life- long learning is recognised as an essential feature of the information age.

For Thai schools and Thai teachers, it is useful to examine and where they fit helping their country fit with the trends in 21st Century education.

How have schools changed in the different periods of Thai history?

How must they change in the future?

SCLThailand is trying to assist teachers in this mission while at the same time respecting Thai cultural contexts and traditions.

The January paper presented here is the first of three which look at the need to develop deep understanding in students.

The first paper in the series emphasizes the fact that reform is a slow process and reform must be embedded in the particular national context of where it is occurring.

We look forward to readers’ discussion on the educational challenges posed by the flat world and welcome contributions.

Greg Cairnduff

Acting Editor