U.S. experts supporting Thai push for STEM education

Several prominent academics from the United States joined in events in Bangkok last week to help Thailand promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, saying it will raise Thailand’s levels of competitiveness and innovation, following the Thailand-U.S. Education Roundtable.

The 7th Roundtable was held on February 26, and also focused on STEM education. It featured Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation, among other prominent education specialist from both countries. During the event, the Thai chapter of the Global STEM Alliance was founded through a partnership between the New York Academy of Science and the Thai Academy of Science.

Last week, at a forum on STEM education organized by the Education Council of Thailand, Council secretary general Kamol Rodklai said the visiting American experts “are here to share with us how foreign countries puts STEM to good use.” Thailand should seriously promote STEM, he said, as it will raise the Kingdom’s academic quality and upgrade its human resources.

The government believes STEM education will serve as a foundation for achieving its goal of transforming the Kingdom’s economy from one that relies on manufacturing foreign-designed products to one that is driven by knowledge, creativity and innovation. Although the government has begun devoting more budget resources to STEM programs, one challenge it faces is a shortage of human resources to deliver that type of education.

Thomas Corcoran, co-director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at Columbia University in New York City, said it is crucial for Thailand to focus on sourcing qualified teachers and developing teacher quality, as this is a crucial factor in raising level of STEM education. He suggested that the Kingdom initiate more teacher-education programs, and recruit experts from the private sector to serve as specialized teachers.

“The Education Ministry should welcome professionals from science and information technology fields to the world of teaching,” he said.

The ability to inspire children is a key characteristic of good teachers who foster creativity and innovation among students. Good teachers encourage students by showing them the value and relevance of obtaining greater knowledge, he said. “Give challenging tasks so that students can learn more and highlight how it’s relevant to efforts to problems they have recognized,” he said.

Pornpun Waitayangkoon, president of the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology, said the Thai government has resolved to promote STEM education in order to develop a workforce in science and technology. “The Education Ministry is committed to implementing this educational approach,” she said.