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Higher Education in Thailand  

Sukanya Chaemchoy, Thunwita Sirivorapat Puthpongsiriporn, and Gerald W. Fry

Thai higher education has a long history dating back to the 19th century. Its great modernizer, King Chulalongkorn the Great, was visionary in realizing the importance of expanding education to modernize his kingdom and avoid Western colonization. Thailand was the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. The country’s first formal institution of higher education, Chulalongkorn University, was established in 1917, named in honor of this visionary king. Since that time, Thai higher education has evolved in diverse ways. Key trends have been (a) massification, (b) privatization, (c) diversification, and (d) internationalization. Massification began in the 1960s with the opening of universities in each of Thailand’s major regions. In the 1970s, two open universities with huge enrollments were established. One of those, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU), was a university without walls, serving students throughout the Kingdom. Then Thailand’s teacher training colleges became a large system of comprehensive Rajabhat Universities (38 universities, across every region of the nation). In 1969, authority was granted for private universities to be established, and over the past decades there has been a proliferation of such institutions (now totaling 71). Thailand’s system of higher education is highly diverse, with many different genres of institutions under 12 different ministries and agencies. Another important trend is internationalization, with a dramatic growth in the number of international programs and students during the period 2000-2020. Major reforms of higher education have been primarily structural in nature. In 2003, the Ministry of University Affairs merged with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to become one of its five major commissions, the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC). Then in 2019, OHEC was moved out of the MOE to become part of a new Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation (MHESI). As the nation moves into the decade of the 2020s, Thai higher education faces major challenges. The most critical is declining enrollments, primarily the result of Thailand’s great success in reducing its fertility rate. With the dramatic growth in higher education institutions, there are simply inadequate numbers of Thai students to fill available spots. A second related issue is the problem of the quality of Thai higher education. Reflective of this problem is the failure of any Thai higher education institutions to be highly ranked in international systems. Many of Thailand’s best students choose to study overseas. Another major issue is funding, with problems related to the ways funds are spent and the low pay of university professors. Also related to the funding issue is Thailand’s low ranking on how much it spends on research and development. This important area receives inadequate priority, though there were significant improvements in 2018 and 2019. There are also curricular issues in terms of what students should be taught and how, as well as concerns that Thai students are not being adequately prepared for the new digital 4.0 knowledge economy. In 2021, Thailand is mired in a “middle-income trap,” and to move beyond that, it is imperative that Thailand improve the quality, equity, and efficiency of its higher education system.

Article

Race, Social Justice, and University Language Programs From an International Perspective  

Elisa Gavari Starkie and Paula Tenca Sidotti

The democratization of university access made possible the arrival of new university students from different backgrounds. At this time access was opened to all individuals coming from all different backgrounds. The new student population had a strong impact on the university life. Some university professors complained that although some students were talented, they could not communicate in complex scenarios. The article will focus on the theoretical principles that inspired the democratic curriculum and the psychological approach that allowed new individual cognitive perspectives and a new vision of the university population. At this time the education principles by Freire and Dewey generated an impulse for democratic education. From this framework the article will analyze the research and educational principles that inspired the Writing Across Curriculums (WAC) movement and the supplementary Writing in the Disciplines (WID). Both programs were very successful and led to the establishment of the Writing Academic Centers that since then and until now guarantee a democratic university education. These centers have fostered WAC, which developed into WID. The need to address global classrooms has inspired Writing Across the Communities, which considers race and social justice within language programs. The university scientific approach is aligned with the international organization’s objectives for the 20th century.