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Education 4.0: An Article Critique on Strategies for Thailand's Trailblazers

Education is the key to an improved and stable country. Globally, every government would wish to develop its education sector and to provide quality education for all. However, this is still a dream for most countries around the world (Ripley, 2013). On the other hand, Thailand is mindful and responsive to its education sector's needs and demands. Researchers and the Ministry of Education are working hand in hand to upgrade the 21st-century learners. This is proven by the research article written by Ruchiwit et al. (2019) entitled “Strategies for Creating Innovators in Thailand’s Higher Education.” Align with the Thailand’s 20-year National Strategy (2016-2036), they analyzed scholarly discourses, synthesized them, and suggested innovative programs as strategies to develop graduates to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners.


An explanation of the economic framework to relieve Thailand from economic hurdles was the starting discussion of their research paper. To vividly imagine their context, I made a figure below that projects the theory of Thailand’s economic model. As shown, their country has been stagnant at Thailand 3.0 because the educational strategies included at this stage no longer serve the stakeholders, hence the conception of Thailand 4.0.

It was pretty easy for me to understand this concept due to the strong overview that the writers provided. Additionally, any writers or researchers investigating ways to elevate their country’s education system will consider this groundwork useful. Thailand 4.0, similar to other strategic research bodies (e.g. Goker, 2017; Lawrence et al., 2019; Tandon & Tandon, 2020), focused on revising the curricula to produce graduates who are competent in the workforce. Thailand 4.0, commonly known as Education 4.0., is a “a general approach or trend to preparing a future workforce for Industry 4.0” (Bonfield, et al., 2020, p. 224).


But no research paper is perfect; likewise, this study gave a promising overview but with amorphous body discussion because it missed to address the following points:


1. Language Tone. The discussion segment had copious information, yet the distinction between the analysis of the corpus and the writers' opinion was nebulous. They were not so comprehensive in providing their readers the keywords that would differentiate the raw examples or pieces of data they gathered or lifted from the articles. Had they succeeded in this aspect, their study would be a great help for the other researchers who also have the same goal with them – to achieve Education 4.0.


2. Data Presentation.

a. There were incongruent statements about the claim on Thailand’s educational rank because the first part of the research stated:


Therefore, no Thai university has been ranked in the top 200 universities since the world rankings were established. For Thai universities to be competitive internationally, they need to be ranked among the top 200 universities according to the QS world ranking criteria.

(Please see page 1.)


Then, under Strategic Control and Feedback, it was written, “At present, Thai universities are ranked among the top 3 universities in ASEAN and top among the top 100 universities in the world, according to the QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education”.

(Please see page 8, para. 3.)


b. They promised in the Overview section, “Curriculum structure and content with instruction focusing on innovation are implemented as tools to promote the production of innovators that suits the needs of Thai society…” (Please see page 2). Nevertheless, they only presented the curriculum with a short description but not the discussion of its content. They should have provided the details because these are indeed essential to create a lucid big picture.


c. There were a few missing data in the Methodology portion. It was stated that there were two methods. The first one consists of 30 articles from online scholarly journals. However, the second method did not mention the number of articles they mustered from seminars and dialogues. Furthermore, the writers were not specific with their procedure. Knowing that they collected articles, they should have mentioned their assessment process for each article and their tools to come up with their results or discussion. For instance, they should have justified why they enumerated the three related issues (i.e., information technology, commercialization, and risks) under Situational Analysis and Trends. It would be formidable if they showed examples and details of the analytical process. This can prove the validity of the study and strengthen the credibility of the writers.


d. The presentation of the educational trend was prolix. This section can easily be deciphered if the writers accompanied it with a non-prose form (i.e. a timeline or a figure).


3. Word Choice. The writers tended to be redundant not only with their ideas but also with their words. For example:


a. “This is an economic model whose aim is to relieve the country from several economic challenges that have resulted from past economic development models, models that emphasized agriculture…” (Please see page 1.). As seen, in a single sentence, the words economic and models were repeated three times.


b. In the discussion portion of Curriculum and Instruction Design which consists of 15 sentences, the writers repeated the word innovation 28 times without clearly defining and delineating the context of innovation in their study. This created a gap. Since this is an article published in Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, written by experts in the nursing field, and claimed to focus on the science programs, it is expected to have a specific definition of innovation in the context of medicine, nursing, or other science programs. However, they mentioned nursing education curricula only once. (Please see page 2.)


With these said, I believe Ruchiwit et al.'s research will be more constructive if they provided compelling data on science curriculum, especially that their study seemed to patronize the student-centered approach. Therefore, it is recommended that their paper be treated as Phase 1 of an action research that develops effective strategies to address Thailand 4.0. Second, educators and researchers should equally be keen to discern that there is no one-size-fits-all teaching strategy and curriculum. Lastly, as a recommendation for other future researchers, it is best to read this source after Puncreobutr (2016) and Wittayasin (2017).


After I construed the paper, I invited my Thai students to read this article and evaluate it themselves. Being Thai and experienced teachers in their country make them much credible literary critics of this work.


Correspondingly, all of them mentioned that the article was informative and enlightening. They learned several factors, aspects, and terminologies that also encouraged them to read other related research articles. For example, Ms. Kornpreeya Kongrang cited Puncreobutr (2016) to connect an idea to Ruchiwit et al,’s (2019) study.


While Ms. Suwanee Sutthiwiset wrote,


I agree when the researchers mentioned that Thai students are afraid of sharing their ideas in the public and feel uncomfortable about change and uncertainty. These issues are the same in my class. I always convince my students to share their opinion about the lessons. But they are always hesitant.


With the same perspective as the others, Ms. Wansakarn Prasertsuk affirmed that,


The overview is the strength of the article which clearly defined the factors that have caused national development to slow down in education system. The researchers emphasized the lack of innovative ideas and skills of being workers as they respond to the needs of their employers. Also, they were able to determine that for Thai Higher Education to be strong, innovative ways of developing a program that will create innovators must be addressed. Based on the analysis of the current situation and future trends affecting Thai education, some strategies should aim at strengthening the country’s development in the following areas of all Thai people, for instance, self-development abilities and lifelong learning.


Being experienced teachers themselves, they pointed out insightful ideas that could make the project a success and the research paper more substantial. Here are the excerpts of their papers:


Ms. Yupawadee Thogkham:

This study said that higher education should teach science and technology in order to produce university graduates who are innovators. But nowadays, both parents and teachers cannot force their children and students to study science and technology because of these subjects are difficult for them. Majority of the students do not want to study hard all year, so after graduating high school, they choose only easier majors to study in higher education that is very different from the last five years.


Secondly, the financial priority is also very important for Thai families. Most of them prefer to invest their money in business, not in education; especially if they have their own family business, their parents try to encourage their children to study the major that can support their own business after graduating.


Thirdly, this article didn’t say about learning foreign language that support them to study and understand science and technology researches from other countries.


Lastly, there is no data that shows the percentage of university students studying social science and those who study science and technology to support the author’s claim that tertiary education is not helping Thai university students to become innovators.


Ms. Fatima Chiyaphueak:

I think that in order to elevate Thailand to be in the same level with neighboring countries in terms of innovation, Thai students must have a high competency in the use of the English language which the researchers missed to consider.


Also, the researchers did not consider the fact that students in university are free to choose what to study. It also depends on the decision of the parents like for example those families who have their own business, they want their children to study about business management. Many of our gradates have their own family businesses.

Lastly, the balance of the courses to be offered must be considered. If most students will study to be innovators (in science), who will work in schools or government offices?


Mr. Pannawat Thiensawat:

The researchers only focused on the goal of creating innovative graduates in order to serve the needs of employers both private and public sectors. I believed that the development of the country cannot progress in focusing to only one factor.

There are some factors to be considered such as the financial status of the graduates, the competency to learn science program, and personal interests. I believe that the sustainable development should balance both social sciences and science program.


Ms. Sarawat Yongpavisai:

In my opinion, the researchers should have also addressed a possible solution to the inequality in education. Education development is related to economic and social development because of the differences between urban and rural. Poor families are less likely to receive educational opportunities than wealthy families.


Ms. Kornpreeya Kongrang:

Education inequality is the main problem which Thai people encounter throughout the country. Inequality is spanning in Thailand due to the gap of economic level among Thais. Most students were left behind because education system is currently focusing on the brightest students from a few select schools while slow learners from most schools are hidden and left. When parents and community do not expect much from those low proficiency students, it is a challenge to prepare them to become skilled and competitive workers for Thailand 4.0.


Ms. Patariya Khounha:

In my opinion, teachers are only one of the components to contribute to the last line of the education system. They just follow the curriculum that the Ministry of Education makes. I can understand why the development of education in Thailand seems difficult and I feel that this is the main problem for running the Thai education system.

I think to address the factors that hinder the education development two things must be done: (1.) there should be continuity of projects; and (2.) conflicts of interest must be set aside if the project is really beneficial for the majority.


To implement the plan, we must consider that:


The consequences and the statistics of the curriculum design for innovator incubation program among the graduates in the country is not explained thoroughly. Due to this missing information, we are not sure that the program will be effective or the program should be better developed as Mr. Sedthawit Choadpradungpong put it.


While, Mr. Niorn Sangsukha postulated:

This generation of students should have comprehensive knowledge in technology utilization and Artificial Intelligence. They should understand the real concept of lifelong learning. Students should be properly guided on how to manage the entrepreneurial skills and the challenges of being innovative.


Overall, the intention to create innovative strategies in Thailand’s higher education was indeed heroic. Every citizen in the world would wish their education to be up to par; however, all education stakeholders, most importantly, those who have the budget and position, should hit the meat of the matter. Akin to a tree, sweet fruit is a scion from rich soil, well-grounded roots, and the right season; needless to say, before we reform our sweet students, we have to start from the bottom. Collectively, we have to undergo a rigid and thorough understanding of the curriculum, to provide our teachers generous trainings and benefits, and to pledge equal opportunities for the underprivileged students.

In a nutshell, with some points to trump, Ruchiwit et al.’s study is a good start towards a more promising investigative research because it presented the landscape picture of Education 4.0.


How about you?

What scholarly article did you evaluate?


Article Evaluated:

Ruchiwit, M., Patchotasingh, M., & Phanphairoj, K. (2019). Strategies for creating innovators in Thailand’s higher education. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 6, 1-10.


References:

Bonfield, C. A., Salter, M., Longmuir, A., Benson, M., & Adachi, C. (2020). Transformation or evolution?: Education 4.0, teaching and learning in the digital age. Higher Education Pedagogies, 5(1), 223-246.


Goker, S. D. (2017). Reflective models in teacher supervision introduced by Education 4.0: The teacher in the mirror. Studies in Educational Research and Development, 1(1), 1-15.


Lawrence, R., Ching, L. F., & Abdullah, H. (2019). Strengths and weakness of education 4.0 in the higher education institution. International Journal of Innovative Technology and Exploring Engineering, 9(2S3), 511-519.


Puncreobutr, V. (2016). Education 4.0: New challenge of learning. St. Theresa Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2(2), 92-97.


Ripley, A. (2013). The smartest kids in the world and how they got that way. Simon and Shuster, Inc.


Tandon, R. & Tandon, S. (2019). Education 4.0: A new paradigm in transforming the future of education in India. International Journal of Innovative Science, Engineering & Technology, 7(2), 32-54.



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