Project aims to nurture new-generation teachers

By Chularat Saengpassa
The Nation

Warakorn says he will address the shortcomings in the current scenario.

Does Thailand lack enough teachers? Or does it just lack qualified teaching staff?

No matter what the answer, Dr Warakorn Samkoset believes his project about "new-generation teachers" should significantly boost the country's educational services.

This project is a main highlight of the country's upcoming educational reform.

In a recent interview, Warakorn said his project would provide 35,100 new teachers for schools across the country by 2019.

"If the project wins the Cabinet's green light, the first batch of new-generation teachers should start their service within the next two years," he said.

Warakorn chairs a committee on planning the production and development of teaching personnel.

During the past several decades, the country's educational-service sector has lost its appeal among young, energetic and highly knowledgeable people.

"We have to overturn such a trend. We must attract highly capable and good people to the teaching profession," Warakorn said, "And we intend to do so by launching the New-Generation Teachers project".

About 150,000 teachers - roughly 30 per cent of the current teaching force - are set to retire over the next decade.

"They should be replaced by new-generation teachers," Warakorn said.

Through a proper selection process, only qualified students and faculties of education will be allowed to join the New-Generation Teacher Project.

The participating faculties of education, for example, must pass a criteria set by the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment.

Warakorn explained the project would offer jobs to 16,000 qualified students in the five-year teaching course after their graduation.

"These aspirants will be guaranteed teaching jobs although they won't get any scholarships," he said.

He added the project separately would offer scholarships to 19,000 students in the five-year teaching course, but these students must agree to work in remote areas after their graduation.

Each scholarship is worth Bt69,000 a year.

Currently,highly-qualified teachers are mostly concentrated in big cities. Remote schools thus rarely have high standard teachers.

According to Warakorn, students accepted to the New-Generation Teacher project must have a grade point average of at least 2.75 both before and during their participation.

"Quality teachers will improve education quality," he said.

In a related project, the government will recruit 10,000 teachers from graduates in fields unrelated to teaching, but those needed in classrooms such as science, mathematics and English language.

"Before they get teaching jobs, they must take a course on teaching training first. The course will take about one and a half years," Warakorn said.

The country is set to start its second educational reform later this year.

As part of the upcoming reform, the Education Ministry will also establish the National Institute of Education, Thailand Vocational Qualification Institute, and the Council of Technology for Education.

Prof Sirichai Kanjanawasee, dean of the Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Education, said he agreed with the New-Generation Teacher project and was interested in participating in it.

"But I hope the project will continue in the long run or else participants will finally end up in other professions," he said.

Sirichai revealed his faculty had just come up with a scheme very similar to the New-Generation Teacher Project.

"We have proposed to provincial administrative organisations that we are ready to provide them with good-quality graduates if they guarantee jobs for our selected students," he said.

Sirichai said students would be selected from local children who agreed to go back and teach at schools in their hometowns.

"We will offer these students scholarships if they agree to the conditions," he said. According to Sirichai, his faculty has produced 300 graduates each year. But less than half have become teachers.