Op Ed

Are Future Thai Teachers Prepared to be More Student Centered?

By Peter J. Foley, Editor-in-Chief


Since its declared policy in 1999 to move towards a more student centered system of public education, progress has been slow, especially in rural schools. How can more progress be made in changing teachers’ attitudes and approaches to teaching?


Student Centered Learning Thailand, believes that an important part of the answer lies in how teachers are trained at the teacher training colleges in Thailand. Students studying to be teachers in Thailand should receive a thorough grounding in what modern research has discovered about how we learn, then how to apply these findings in a classroom, including best student centered teaching practices. Anecdotal evidence points to large numbers of teachers just entering the classroom who are poorly equipped to teach students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers, keystones of student centered learning. It would be a valuable service to the Thai nation for research to be done on just how much teaching knowledge a new teachers college graduate possesses.


One focus of the study might be the student’s knowledge of how people learn. Another part of such a study might be a new teachers college graduate’s understanding and knowledge of the contributions of great educational thinkers from the dawn of civilization starting with Confucius and Socrates through to the beginning of modern times with King Chulalonghorn and Maria Montessori down to the current day thinkers , King Bhumibol Adulyadej and John Dewey.


Students should be equipped at the end of their teacher training to answer questions such as: how do we get students to solve problems on their own or in groups with their peers? How do we conduct classes so that individual students’ learning needs are met; where students learn at their own pace; and where learning is individualized rather than standardized?


Over the past two decades research has debunked the notion that rote learning is an effective method of learning. We now know that only when learners are actively thinking out ideas in a personalized manner does real understanding happen.


So why is so much rote learning still going on in Thai classrooms? We at Student Centered Learning Thailand think that one of the major reasons is linked to the way new teachers are trained. Would the Ministry of Education consider researching this question?


2 replies on “Are Future Thai Teachers Prepared to be More Student Centered?”

While I fully agree with the main idea of the article I would like to point out that from a Buddhist perspective memorization is actually an extremely valuable tool. Monks devote a lot of time to it and with good reasons. I’m not taking about replacing critical thinking and true understanding with rote learning. I’m talking about using the skill to collect and keep the data needed to analyse events, thoughts and situations. We actually need this every day without realising it: from the doctor who can give a quick diagnostic from looking at a skin reaction to the teacher who must remember the details of every student’s profile in order to adapt his interventions on a daily basis. Wishing for progress we often tend to overlook what was valuable in the old way of doing things. Let’s not make this mistake again!

Good Points.
IT would be interesting to follow the project Teacher’s of Excellence that ran a few years ago, to see if the project teachers who participated were able to change their teaching and children’s learning or if timetable constraints, testing that was mandatory and resources available in their schools thwarted their enthusiasm for non-rote learning.

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