Originally Published January 2010
Educational opportunity in Thailand is seen clearly. Parents try to support their sons and daughters to study as high as they can achieve.
The adoption of curricula from England caused Thai students to study English from kindergarten through primary school as technological research and advancements from foreign countries reached the shores of Thailand. The nation accepted this development enthusiastically and geared its educational system toward science and technology away from humanties and the arts.
Today, there are many scholarships for honor students who study in scientific and technological fields as well as abundant research funds for working scientists. The result is obvious: support and interest in the humanities and arts has declined and in some areas it has almost disappeared. It is disheartening that the government is so distracted that it provides little priority to the arts. Many precious and ancient national treasures have been lost and scattered into the hands of art collectors and merchants.
Another trend has parents investing heavily in the education of their children by sending them to foreign countries. After graduation, some came back, others do not. The focus is often on business administration—learning to do business the way successful, rich nations accomplish it so they can find high-paying careers in large companies or lay the groundwork to develop their own businesses. It is a dilemna because Thai students who stay abroad find it difficult to reconcile the opportunities and life-styles they experience abroad with the opportunities and life-styles offered at home. It is a drain of talent that Thailand can ill afford.
In the Thai education system, business administration competes strongly with science and technology for both government and corporate support. Money buys workers—these are the employees who get the high-paying jobs and the better standard of living. The lure is right there on the internet, on their television sets, in their mobile phones.
Students who pursue the humanities and the arts are virtually neglected and face the prospect of much lower incomes and perhaps ending up in the government sector where they may try to be good civil servants or corrupted officals who take bribes. It's their perplexing choice.
I am not a professional researcher on education, but as an instructor for IELTS (International Language Testing System) in Chiang Mai, I found that the English knowledge of average Thai school teachers who teach English is quite poor (about Prathomsueksa 2 level). It's not an encouraging fact. The result is that the lack of English competency is truly an obstacle for Thai people to gain access to the multi-level learning of the sciences and technology. It also means that exposure to the arts (which is a basic yearning of Thai people) is thwarted because of the language barrier and the obstruction of obsolete thinking along with the lack of financial support.
It is sad to see that less and less people care about the arts and support them seriously anymore. The artistic works of this time might disappear if the current trend of western interest only pays attention to the demanding profits of science and technology
The arts of a free people fuel the flame of their freedom.