Thailand’s education system: why we are stuck in the feudal era

On 7 June, the group Bad Student posted a leaked Line chat. Teachers in Ubon Ratchatani Province discussed online learning amidst COVID-19. The gravest concern was loyalty, tradition, and discipline. Therefore, this was the policy introduced:

[Translation from the leaked chat.]

“Students are ready to salute the national flag at 8am in front of the television at home. They will send in photos.”

“In front of the TV also means the TV will be on?”

“Okay krub, teacher.”

Consequently, social media went nuts.

Step back to 28 May. In Trat Province, Chorraba Chuenban, director of the Provincial Office of Primary Education, proposed students wear uniforms while attending online classes. The Office posted the proposal on its Facebook Page.

Of course, social media went nuts.

A few days later, Chorraban insisted that hers is a good idea. Why? Loyalty, tradition, and discipline.

Once again, social media went nuts.

It’s no secret that the Thai education system is stuck in the feudal era. Education reform is a much-discussed topic in the kingdom. But too often, we discuss what education should be without understanding why it isn’t and won’t be any time soon.

Any type of reform required a visionary, forward-thinking leader. Teachers and directors receive the academic directive and perpetuate the educational philosophy given to them by those who outrank them. The Education Minister, whoever he or she may be, is appointed to carry out the prime minister’s vision.

We have a prime minister who counts among his most trusted advisors, Thailand’s top fortune teller, Warin Buawiratlert. A prime minister who unbuttoned his shirt and proudly show-offs what must be ten holy amulets for protection, good luck charms, and all sorts of other voodoo.

Like much else in Thailand, the education system is stuck in the feudal era because the person responsible for reforms is a relic of feudal times. So, of course, he doesn’t want reforms. Why? Reforms would leave him, and the likes of him, behind.

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