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Thai Students Rank Low in Maths and Science in TIMMS Study


Any foreign teacher that has taught in Thailand will tell you Thai students are far below much of the rest of the world in English. According to a new Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) done by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, Thai students rank low in Maths and Science too. No surprise there, for any foreign teacher with any experience teaching in Thailand.

According to the TIMMS study, Thai students were evaluated along with students of the same age in a total of 52 countries — 4th grade students (Prathom 4 in Thailand) in 52 countries and 8th graders (Thailand’s Mathayom 2) in 45 countries. The results, as expected, were exceptionally poor for Thai students. In fact, Thai students fell even lower in the rankings than during the last assessment four years ago.

In 2012, 8th-grade students in Thailand ranked 28th in Maths, down 14 points from last time from 441 to 427 points. In Science, Thai students in the 8th grade ranked 25th — falling 20 points in 2012 from 471 to 451 points. This after the Thai government has supposedly spent more money on education and after Thailand’s education standards have been ‘improved’. Again, any foreign teacher in Thailand will tell you they have not.

Not only is the training of Thai teachers incredibly poor, with many teachers teaching subjects they did not major in (please tell me how you can teach Chemistry if your university major was English?), but Thai students are not taught to think for themselves either. Instead, everything is learned by rote. So, when a Thai student is assessed by an international body like the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, as most Thai students are not able to problem solve, think for themselves, or do anything ‘outside the box’, they’re pretty much doomed to failure.

It would be nice to say, with all the Ministry of Education ‘improvements’ that have gone on in the 10-years plus I’ve been in Thailand, that Thai students will eventually improve in Maths and Science. But, unfortunately, they won’t. Thailand’s Ministry of Education spends far too much time and money on changes in the way the education system is run or teacher requirements that have no value whatsoever (the Cultural Course for Foreign Teachers, anyone?) and no time at all on implementing an educational standard that is acceptable worldwide.

Thailand’s education system is a mess. It always has been and, until the entire Ministry of Education either joins the 21st century or quits or gets fired, it will always remain the same. Why do you think so many teachers like myself stopped teaching in Thailand? Most of us don’t enjoy banging our heads against a brick wall for years on end, especially when there is absolutely no proof of any improvement with the Thai education system, Thai schools, the Thai system for teachers, both Thai and foreign, or the way foreign teachers are treated.

As for who came top in the TIMMS study in Maths and Science, there are no surprises there either –4th grade students in Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong were the top in Maths, and South Korea, Singapore and Finland in Science.

And that’s the way it will always remain. At least for Thailand.