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26 January 2015
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Three-tier strategy to tutor trainee teachers

The Thailand Development Research Institute has proposed a three-pronged strategy to improve teachers’ quality and cope with a wave of teachers retiring in 15 years.

Supanat Sasiwuthiwat, a TDRI researcher, said last week that some 190,000 state schoolteachers would reach retirement age, so their schools had to select and recruit at least 156,000 teachers to carry the workload in the future. This was about 47 per cent of all teachers by 2025.

His estimate was based on teacher retirement statistics for 2013-17 from the Basic Education Commission and retirement projections for 2018-24.

As the hope for education reform would rest on the shoulders of new generation teachers, the government should carefully craft a plan to upgrade teaching standards by implementing the three-pronged strategy for personnel management, he said.

First, teacher recruitment has to answer schools’ needs. The commission has a good chance to get able persons to be teachers. Some 100,000 people took the teacher exam last year, fighting for only 1,880 spots.

However, schools didn’t have much say in the process to ensure the applicants matched their needs because educational area offices were the recruiters. Those who passed the written exam and interview would be put on a list. Those with a better ranking had first pick of schools.

There were also doubts over the teacher exam’s quality, Supanat said. Only a short period was spent to prepare the tests, there was a lack of a quality database of exam questions and the exam questions were allegedly simplified to ensure enough teachers passed, he added.

Teacher recruitment must be of standard quality while exam questions must be kept in a database and the exam carried out according to a national standard.

Those who passed the standard score should be on the national list, so they could use their score to directly apply for teaching positions and schools could carry out additional testing as appropriate.

This method would allow graduates from other fields to take the teacher exam in the fields and areas in demand.

Those who passed the exam must get additional training before teaching in real classrooms.

Each university’s education faculty should reveal its students’ test scores so students could use that information in their decision to pursue higher education and the university could improve its teaching and learning quality.

Second, sufficient teachers should be allocated to students at each school. For example, 13,000 schools had suffered a shortage of 60,000 teachers while 10,000 schools had 21,000 teachers beyond their demands in 2010. The problem continued last year with 11,000 schools short of teachers and 10,000 with an overwhelming supply.

The Education Ministry’s teacher allocation still emphasised teachers’ volunteering rather than students’ needs. Each educational area had teachers and an educational personnel subcommittee to oversee educational personnel management but some subcommittees would transfer teachers on a voluntary basis while the schools received personnel budgets according to the number of teachers. A rural teachers’ allowance was only Bt1,000 a month. These factors contributed to the teacher shortage at rural schools.

Teacher allocation should be done according to students’ demand, Supanat urged.

Schools should be allowed to hire new teachers as employees according the Education Ministry’s formula based mainly on enrolment. These teaching staff should be provided a fair contract with career advancement according to their ability and performance.

Pay for rural teachers should be hiked and scholarships awarded to excellent students to learn how to become teachers in rural areas.

Third, working conditions and employment contracts should be boosted so teachers have better teaching quality and higher morale.

A 2014 survey found teachers spending 84 days – out of the 200-day academic year- in teacher assessment, academic competitions and training with outside agencies. Teachers’ non-teaching burden should be lessened so that they could improve their teaching quality, he said.

The assessment for a teacher’s salary and academic position based too little on his students’ performance, he said.

Contract teachers – who generally earned Bt15,000 a month or less – also faced job insecurity as their one-year contract could be revoked when funds dried up or whenever the principal decided to let them go, he added.


First Published: The Nation, January 19, 2015