Education reforms have been an ongoing process in Thailand as is it with its any neighbours in Southeast Asia. Reforms in Higher Education sector have also been a key area in development. The history of higher education in Thailand can dates back to 1889 when the country’s first medical school Siriraj Hospital was established. Since then, over 141 universities, both Government and private and over 50 other private higher education institutions have been established in Thailand including two open universities. Recognising today’s rapidly changing world, Thailand has embarked on a long term educational planning in order to meet the nation’s human resource requirements. The Commission on Higher Education, Thailand with support from the Ministry of Education has embarked on several initiatives that focus on technology as the engine for enhancing outreach and quality in education.
The history of higher education in Thailand can dates back to 1889 when the country’s first medical school Siriraj Hospital was established. Since then, over 141 universities, both Government and private and over 50 other private higher education institutions have been established in Thailand. In 1970, two open universities were also opened to provide an effective and economical way to respond to the growing public demand for access to higher education. Both have made use of modern technology such as radio and television to broadcast
tutorials to a wider audience and the two universities presently share around sixty percent of all tertiary enrollments. Thailand’s higher education has been
integrated into the national development plans since their inception in the early 1960s. However, recognising today’s rapidly changing world, Thailand has embarked on a long term educational planning in order to meet the nation’s human resource requirements for future generations. Thus, the Ministry of University Affairs (MUA) formulated the nation’s first long term plan for higher education (1990 – 2004) and elements of this was incorporated
into the Seventh National Higher Education Development Plan spanning the years 1992 to 1996. In order to achieve these goals, the plans place emphasis on equity, excellence, efficiency and internationalization. The organization
of Higher education The Ministry of Education Regulatory Act, promulgated in July 2003 has amalgamated education related agencies like the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of University Affairs and the Office of National Education Commission. The Commission of Higher Education is one of the central administrative bodies of the MoE, with a legal status as juristic person.
The Commission of Higher Education (CHE) is directed by the Board. The Board has the authority to formulate higher education development policies and plans corresponding to the National Economic and Social Development Plan and the National Education Plan. The CHE is primarily involved in policy recommendation. Higher education standards, higher education development plans, and handle international cooperation in higher education. Along with devising criteria and guidelines for resource allocation and providing financial support for establishment of higher education institutions, the CHE is also responsible for monitoring, inspecting and evaluating the outcomes of higher education management. The CHE is also involved in several other functions as prescribed by the Minister of Education or Council of Ministers.
The ICT Master Plan for Higher Education (2002-2006)
This Master Plan, which aims at training IT-related skills to teachers and educational personnel in higher education institutions, specifies two important objectives: 1) development of designers and users of technologies for education will be supported in order to promote selfstudy as well as ability in applying technologies to education and in accessing information; 2) 40 percent of personnel in higher education institutions will be trained to use technologies for education. Under the IT Plans of Higher Education Institutions, most of the higher education institutions include training IT-related skills for their teachers, educational personnel and students in their master plans. A number of teachers and educational personnel have been trained to use ICT in developing teaching-learning materials while learners have been trained to use ICT as a tool in accessing information required. Following the National Education Act, 1999, and with a focus on enhancing the nation’s competitive capabilities by creating more educational opportunities to reduce the difference between the knowledge levels of the population, the Office of the Commission on Higher Education has
Quality is the challenge, quality is the concern
Dr Pavich Tongroach, Secretary General, Commission on Higher Education,
Thailand in an exclusive conversation with Rumi Mallick of Digital Learning.
? What are the challenges of higher education in Thailand?
The challenges are same as everywhere in the world. In terms of man power development we have to create manpower for the country who could push the society ahead. Hence we have to deliver good quality product. This is what the society expects from us. So quality is the main challenge in terms of human resource development and knowledge development, the research being either for basic knowledge or acquired knowledge
? What is the policy focus of higher education in Thailand!
The policy is based on our situation. Thailand is doing quite well in terms of quantity. All together we have around 137 universities plus some other higher learning institutions so we have close to 200. This is a little too many for quite a small country. In terms of intake, we seem to be able to take care of all the demands coming from high schools. If all the students who qualify school are going to university, the chances are they will be accepted in university. However, the major concern is the quality. It does not mean we have problems with quality as such, but we have a wide range of quality, based on so many no
universities. At the far end we have universities, which are ranked as world best and the others, which are trying to upgrade the academic curriculum.
Are the quality standards same for private and Government university?
Is there any difference in the way they are enforced? The standards are similar for private and Government Universities. The quality standard assurance agency is not very old. The agency has completely one cycle of 5 years of quality check, and is starting on the second cycle, which has more stringent rules for better quality.
How are ICTs being used in higher education in Thailand to build human resource that can become a part of the knowledge society and can address the challenges of globalization?
ICTs are being used extensively in higher education in Thailand. At the university level we give them freedom and independence to develop their own infrastructure. Its quite common that each lecturer will have his own website, academic department will have their own server which is a part of the campus network. At the national level our commission is running the inter-university network called the UniNet. UniNet is one of the strongest private network in the country. This is also linked to the international network in the US and its
interconnection of universities in North America and also with the pacific network of universities. We have wide scope of potentiality to link internationally via the ICT. Recently Thailand has come up with a very interesting and innovative initiative- the Thailand Cyber University. It’s not an university in itself but a virtual one. This is a huge web portal. We encourage people to add educational resources that can be shared. We have engineering
courses, medical, physical sciences and social science courses etc. we have 10 thousand e-book available online.
been developing and providing various opportunities as follows: • Developing the UniNet IT infrastructure, to connect every institution of higher education to the Internet for education and research.
• Supporting the production of courseware for dissemination via UniNet.
• Developing the Learning Management System (LMS).
• Developing the e-library, ecommunity and the learning resource sharing centre. Thailand Education and Research Network (UniNet) Initiated in1996 UniNet is Thailand Education and Research Network, (http://www.uni.net.th/en) the ICT infrastructure connecting all universities, institutions, and campuses in the country, through ATM network via 155Mbps
bandwidth fiber optics. This infrastructure is aimed at connecting the networks in Bangkok to the rural provinces through digital leased lines with 2Mbps bandwidth The primary objective of UniNet is to provide Internet access for Universities– network infrastructure for research and facilitate IT campus for istance Learning. UniNet is aimed at developing self-study centers with electronic library databases, the Internet, multimedia, video-ondemand; these centers will connect to the high performance network, develop social-learning and lifelonglearning systems by creating multimedia courseware, and providing knowledge databases and distance learning systems. This is also aimed at training teachers and assistants to apply ICT in educational development. UniNet is the Education network backbone of Thailand. Currently this has 145 Participants including public universities, IT campuses, private universities etc. The Thailand Cyber University The Thailand Cyber University (TCU) is an initiative to assist all the higher education institutes to deliver distance learning via the Internet. The initiative also aims to ensure that all online courses are of a high quality and meet government standards and promote the sharing of teaching resources and human resources.
? What tangible goals have you set for higher education institutions in Thailand to achieve global excellence in education?
We have not come up with any realistic guideline even though we talk a lot on this. We have discussed to what level is it required for all institution to put in the ICT component as standard. When I was working in Chulalonkorn university many years ago, we decided that we need to put in at least 25 ICT
components at that in the learning environment in all subject areas. But that was many years ago, I am still not sure whether Chulalonkorn university is moving in that track. Thus we may have to come up with a guideline where 50% of teaching and leaning will have ICT component.
? Is CHE partnering with other countries in education?
Yes we are partnering with many countries. A few months back we had discussion with the ministry of Human Resource Development in India and UGC, the council of the Indian university we have many good programmes running with many countries. The maximum number of programmes are with Japan, more than 30 programmes with the French government from molecular biology to fashion designing. We are also encouraging direct investment of private sectors in education by encouraging direct funding for setting up universities. Helping universities to run programmes, in kind supports or sponsorship to students. We encourage Private sector investment but we have not seen as much as we would have wanted to see.
? What solutions do you advocate for the broad development of lifelong learning?
We have tried to encourage this through the numerous non-formal education centres. The non-formal education centre throughout the country has been a big success. We encourage those who have missed out on learning at certain points in their life to join and learn. Lifelong learning means maintaining to learn or updating knowledge throughout life. And we try to do these though our graduates to improve their skills so that they are able to contribute to the
? What would you say has been your achievement in your role as the secretary general of Commission?
My colleague and I have been put in a few milestones in the development of higher education in Thailand, we have developed this standard guideline, the bible that all university are working on to keep up to the standar
network infrastructure for research and facilitate IT campus for Distance Learning. UniNet is aimed at developing self-study centers with electronic library databases, the Internet, multimedia, video-ondemand; these centers will connect to the high performance network, develop social-learning and lifelonglearning systems by creating multimedia courseware, and providing knowledge databases and distance learning systems. This is also aimed at training teachers and assistants to apply ICT in educational development. UniNet is the Education network backbone of Thailand. Currently this has 145 Participants including public universities, IT campuses, private universities etc.
The Thailand Cyber University
The Thailand Cyber University (TCU) is an initiative to assist all the higher education institutes to deliver distance learning via the Internet. The initiative also aims to ensure that all online courses are of a high quality and meet government standards and promote the sharing of teaching resources and human resources.
Mass media for education outreach
In cooperation with the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), the TOT Corporation Public Company Limited, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and international organisations under the aegis of the United Nations, the DLF presently broadcasts educational TV programmes via satellite through 14 channels. Among these, 12 channels are devoted for the direct teaching programmes at basic education level. The other two channels are the international channel broadcast in foreign languages and the community/tertiary education channel. The DLF international channel airs its international programmes in Thai, English, French, German, Japanese and Chinese. The programme coverage includes arts and culture, music, science and technology, agriculture, environment, health and innovation. The Ku-band
satellite pattern covers China (Kunming), Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. All these neighbours received the Royal Granting of distance learning
equipment from His Majesty the King. The community and tertiary education channel focuses on vocational and university education. Among the Higher Educational Institutions, the Rajamangala Institute of Technology (RIT) and Sukothaithemmathitirat Open University (SOU) produce direct teaching programmes particularly for their students. The RIT broadcasts programmes via the C-band satellite pattern while SOU broadcasts programmes through Channel 11. In September 2000, SOU was granted Royal permission to conduct weekday broadcasts via the Ku-band satellite pattern through the community/ tertiary education channel of the Distance Learning Foundation (DLF). Thailand has 514 radio broadcast stations, of which 25 of which are designated for educational purposes. At the level of higher education, Chulalongkorn University, Kasetsart University, operate radio stations. Thammasat University and the RIT, etc. broadcast programmes providing general knowledge as well as entertainment.
The Distance Learning Foundation launched the free-of-charge contentbased eLearning service from the Distance Learning Television, Wang Klaikangwon, Hua Hin District in May 2002. The eLearning web page of the DLF “www.dlf.ac.th” allows Internet users anywhere in the world to view “live broadcast” all the educational
Thailand Cyber university cooperates with higher educational institutions, state and private educational institutions to develop lessons for different courses, using quality e-learning study programmes for formal education, informal courses and study guides, short certificated courses and also promotes sharing educational resources between institutions
simultaneously with the actual broadcast. Moreover, by means of eLearning or eTraining, users anywhere are able to participate in the Flexible Learning Scheme via video conferencing and the Internet. It is worth mentioning that in carrying out His Majesty the King’s lifelong learning policy, concerted efforts and support from various public and private organisations, both within Thailand and in foreign countries are leading to the achievement of the DLF. At higher education level, the increasing popularity of eLearning was seen in several universities. Among these are two state universities, Chulalongkorn University and Kasetsart University (KU) operates Chula Online and KULN (KU Learning Network). The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), a
private university, has also initiated eClassrooms. Apart from educational institutions, other government agencies also took part in providing online learning. For instance, the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) in collaboration with Thailand Graduate Institute of Science
and Technology (TGIST), has launched “LearnOnline,” a website that was developed to serve as a central place for web-based courses from well-known universities and organizations. Other web-based courses offered include Cyber
tools for Research, Digital Design, Bioinformatics, Biodiversity, Technology Management and English for Science and Technology. More details about LearnOnline are available at http://www.learn.in.th/.
Developing materials and other technologies for Education In 2002,
the MOE implemented several projects regarding the development of materials and other technologies for education to be used at the level of basic education. As for the development of software, media and learning content, the MOE has also initiated: 1) to procure legal software; 2) to encourage teachers and educational personnel to produce software that aid the teaching-learning process; 3) to encourage educational institutions, learning centres and learning sources to develop websites so as to exchange knowledge; 4) to establish multimedia centres; 5) to develop a standardised database system; and 6) to encourage, through competition, the development of multimedia and software that aid the teaching-learning process. So far, approximately 300 electronic books and 1,500 websites have been developed and are being used as learning sources. Among these,educational institutions under the sponsorship of the SchoolNet project have developed 700 websites. Moreover, the MOE also initiated a competition that will be organised annually to support the private sector in relation to development of multimedia and software that aid the teaching-learning process.
There is an increasing popularity of eLearning among universities, the state universities, Chulalongkorn University and Kasetsart University (KU) operate Chula Online and KULN (KU Learning Network). The University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), a private university, has also initiated eClassrooms
For each year, 100 sets/subjects of multimedia and software will be selected as prototype. So far, 300 sets/subjects of multimedia and software have been developed and 10 multimedia centres have been established. As a crucial factor in the transformation of Thai society into a knowledge-based society, the Ministry has embarked on an effective utilisation of technologies for education to improve the quality of teaching and learning as well as make lifelong education for all Thai people more promising. In this regard, continuous and concrete actions must be taken to deal with the priority tasks. These include development of materials and other technologies for education and bridging the digital divide between Thailand and othercountries as well as between Thai people living in urban areas and those living in rural areas.