October 31, 2022 ─ The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Regional Centre for STEM Education (SEAMEO STEM-ED) with support from Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production and in collaboration with the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO); and The Teachers’ Council of Thailand (Kuruspa) launched “Strengthening Teacher Education Program (STEP)” initiative ─ undertaking pre-service education reform and tasked themselves with a three-year goal to produce a new generation of better-equipped competent teachers.
The recent research conducted by Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that high percentages of Thai students were failing to reach proficiency in literacy in Thai and in mathematics by age 15; and the results of national assessments in grades 6, 9, and 12 confirm this conclusion. The SEA-PLM assessment project which assessed 5th graders in five SEAMEO countries, not including Thailand, in 2021 has found similar patterns of performance. Only Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam have shown patterns of student performance in mathematics and science that approach or surpass the OECD average PISA score.
In Thailand, several organizations have identified inadequate training of teachers to be a major obstruction to education improvement. The Thai government, after conducting a review concluded this problem was affecting national development and the economy. The government concluded reform was needed and set up a committee of School of Education deans to develop a national agenda. The SEAMEO STEM-ED Centre also concluded that inadequate teacher preparation was an obstacle to STEM program implementation, and began to plan an initiative to address the problem.
The Centre sought collaboration with both national and international agencies to develop an intervention that would produce highly qualified pre-service teachers. Partnerships were formed with the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO, an autonomous public agency responsible for developing national policy for higher education, science, research, and innovation; the Secretariat Office of the Teachers’ Council of Thailand which is responsible for ensuring the nation’s teacher competence standards; Chevron Corporation whose mission is “human energy” and is willing to fund social investment initiatives in human development; and the Core Practice Consortium led by Dean Pamela Grossman of the University of Pennsylvania which is a group of American teacher education programs who are collaborating to strengthen attention to effective practice in their programs.
A new generation of teachers is needed, and through partnership, success is on the way
At the meeting held to launch the initiative, SEAMEO STEM-ED Centre Director, Dr. Pornpun Waitayangkoon highlighted how academics must transform and utilize core teaching practices, thus a new passionate generation of teachers should be prepared to use effective teaching methods.
Expressing a strong determination to see teacher preparation strengthened in Thailand, she noted that the Stem Ed Centre, Chevron, NXPO, and the Teachers Council of Thailand had strong and diverse capabilities. She concluded “this is a strong team. Together we will make this initiative successful.”
The Centre’s Senior Advisor, Tom Corcoran who possesses over 50 years of experience in education reform emphasized that teacher preparation programs must ensure that novice teachers master effective practices. He explained why the Centre had partnered with Dean Grossman and her team from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America.
Dean Grossman from the University of Pennsylvania said this partnership is to develop teacher education and focus on preparing teachers for the reality of classrooms. She noted how the universities in the Core Practices Consortium were collaborating to share their experience and develop knowledge about effective teacher preparation. She also underscored how “practice-based teacher education” places evidence-based instructional practices at the center of professional preparation.
Universities must adapt at an accelerated pace
NXPO President Dr. Kitipong Promwong highlighted the everchanging trend of education which revolves around creativity, and the utilization of technology and innovation.
“The learning process of the new generation of students is not limited to what happens in classrooms, but online short courses are now available which allows the attainment of national competitiveness to be accelerated,” the NXPO President said.
“The STEP initiative is another collaboration in which NXPO is seeking to strengthen educational policies. Partnering with the Teachers Council who regulates and ensure the quality of teachers, and SEAMEO STEM-ED a strong advocate for more effective practices, as well as with Chevron Thailand’s support, we shall transform education for the better future,” Dr. Promwong said, sharing his thoughts about the partnership.
Kuruspa believes the partnership can produce highly professional teachers
Dr. Amolwan Weerathammo, Secretary-General of The Teachers’ Council of Thailand said the STEP partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, an institution known for producing effective teachers and for emphasizing teaching practices rather than just theories of teaching, was a significant step forward.
She also urged that pre-service teachers must develop practical teaching skills and hone their experiences not only relying on studying the theories in classrooms.
“I hope that the outcomes of this partnership will be applied at the national policy level to regulate the quality of future teachers,” the Secretary-General of the Teachers Council said.
Energy fills partnership vehicle
Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Pornsuree Konanta highlighted how “human empowerment” remains one of the company’s core values for the past 60 years.
In this partnership, Chevron Thailand Exploration and Production will contribute 12 Million THB to the enhancement of pre-service teacher education. “Chevron Corporation is pleased to support this initiative with finance and resources, workshops, research development, as well as STEP implementation,” the Vice President of Corporate Affairs said.
For the initial stage of this program, ten universities were selected from the submitted proposals based on their readiness, determination, qualifications, etc. and their faculty members will enroll in this pilot program from 2022-2025.
The participating universities are Chaiyaphum Rajabhat University, Thaksin University, Buriram Rajabhat University, Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, Phuket Rajabhat University, Mahasarakham University, Surindra Rajabhat University, Fatoni University, Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University, and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University.