Thai students' Pisa scores improve, but still behind

Thai students scored better in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), but are still behind on global average.

Thai students scored 441 in reading, 427 in mathematics, and 444 in science in the Pisa report officially released in Thailand on Wednesday.

It is an improvement from the previous test in 2009, when Thais scored 421 in reading, 419 in maths and 425 in science.

But it is still below the average scores of countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The average scores there are 496 in reading, 494 in maths and 501 in science. Girls performed significantly better than boys in all three subjects.

Held by the OECD, Pisa is conducted every three years in 65 countries and economies. Thailand ranked 48th in reading, 50th in maths and 47th in science in the results of the 2012 tests release on Wednesday.

This time it assessed the competencies of 6,606 Thai students aged 15 in the three subjects to examine.

China's Shanghai had the highest scores in reading with 570 points, maths with 613 points and science with 580 points.

Asian countries ranked in the top 10 in the three categories -  China's Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

Thailand has been a participant in the Pisa test since 2000.

Sunee Klainin, head of  National Project Manager Pisa 2000-2012, on Wednesday pointed to better teaching at schools supervised by the Office of the Basic Education Commission and greater opportunities for learning as factors contributing to the improvement in the scores.

She noted that the scores also reflected a gap between schools in Bangkok and other towns, and in other countries.

"It echoes a disparity in distribution of quality education between Bangkok and big towns, and elsewhere.

"What is interesting is those in schools with education expansion opportunies show a significant improvement as they gained far higher scores, resulting in the country's higher Pisa score," she said.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said that the Pisa scores will be analysed to as part of efforts to improve the education system.

The minister was upbeat, saying the Thai ranking  demonstrated the country's potential and could attract investment.

The minister said he was impressed by Vietnam's education level. It had entered the Pisa test for the first time and scored very well in reading with 508 points, maths with 511 points and science with 528 points.

Share your thoughts

Discussion 1 : 05/12/2013 at 08:55 PM
@ Asianguy: I often hear of teachers (and other graduates for that reason) who have to BUY their job.
Discussion 2 : 05/12/2013 at 08:05 PM
Education and fostering interest in learning and knowledge starts at home - as long as parents are not able to do that and think feeding their kids, sitting them before TV soaps and gamy smart phones is the best they can do, nothing will ever change.
Discussion 3 : 05/12/2013 at 06:39 PM
Someone has to think a Thai PhD has some value other than to cover stains on the wall.
Discussion 4 : 05/12/2013 at 04:23 PM
My experience with Thai academics is that they arrogantly view their PhDs as the end of learning, rather than what it should be, the beginning. Most while completely incompetent think they are above it all and tolerate no questioning from students. However, academically few publish, and those that do write sophomoric drivel. As I ghost-write for profs at top unis, I suspect that many hired someone to write their PhD dissertations because they can't write. If the supposed best and brightest are substandard, what can one expect of ordinary teachers?
Discussion 5 : 05/12/2013 at 03:13 PM
Agree 100%. Thai people are as intelligent as any. The goal of the Thai "education" system is to disable much of that potential, which would otherwise prove fatal to the archaic myths of Thainess created in the 1950s, that era's mindset of repression having been maintained as unchanged as possible ever since.
Discussion 6 : 05/12/2013 at 02:01 PM
@ Busted: I know many Thai middle class and even lower middle class parents who send or have sent their children to Thai universities “in Bangkok”. Only, I have never found out what they exactly studied there; it sounds like a mere status symbol. I think the biggest problem at Thai schools is the lack of critical thinking, much more than a poor command of English.
Discussion 7 : 05/12/2013 at 01:38 PM
When teachers are lazy (Thai) and have over-inflated opinions of their own abilities, then the students suffer. Copy, paste teachers instill their lack of knowledge onto their students. Thai teachers should under-go a series of testing every 3-5 years to prove their value in the system, not the current attitude of "I have a job for life" Until the attitude of the lazy changes, the students will continue to suffer. (I have worked with some very good Thai teachers, all them studied or had training overseas.)
Discussion 8 : 05/12/2013 at 01:07 PM
I believe there are two reasons why the governemnt refuses to reform education .The first is they incapable and don't want to look silly asking some else to do it for them .The second is want to keep the masses ignorant so they can manipulate them easier .
Discussion 9 : 05/12/2013 at 12:32 PM
Jielus, some youths prefer to have the freedom doing their own small business than working in a company. Perhaps the low pay influenced their decision making or she just not good enough. Doubt she being truthful and blaming connection is simply an easy excuse. It's not a wide spread problem especially when Thailand is having full employment and demand outstrip supply. I know as I have hard time retaining my staffs.
Discussion 10 : 05/12/2013 at 10:18 AM
The main problem here is that there's a complete lack of interest in learning and knowledge. There's no curiosity about anything. This may be the most damaging legacy of an education system that suppresses individuality, stifles creativity and inquiry and whose main role has been to produce an insular and submissive populace completely brainwashed into believing a mythic Thai greatness and uniqueness that is a complete lie.
Discussion 11 : 05/12/2013 at 09:29 AM
You are right about the U's up north! But after the degree the other problem kicks is! I know a girl with an U degree who could not get further then selling Hot Dogs on the street of Bangkok because she didn't have any connections. Corruption is a cancer that ruins a country!
Discussion 12 : 05/12/2013 at 09:05 AM
Achievable goals oldthaihand. How long do you think it took the many established Universities around the world to get the correct systems in place & to perfect the models for teaching critical thinking. I agree with you completely that the scope of knowledge that higher ed students here are expected to grasp doesn't stretch further beyond a few core books. I personally think that critical thinking is not a skill one picks up overnight, but one that needs to be honed and perfected throughout school. The main obstacle to critical thinking is the internet (plagiarism), Students copy & it's not tackled at all here. That is very disturbing
Discussion 13 : 05/12/2013 at 08:17 AM
Sorry Busted, you're wrong. I also teach at Ramkhamhaeng U part-time and there are very few if any rich kids there. It is definitely a working-class university where many students actually have part-time jobs to pay for tuition. Most Thai universities, including many in Bangkok are filled with students from families at lower to quite poor income levels. Isaan has many universities, none of which have rich kids in them.
Discussion 14 : 05/12/2013 at 07:44 AM
You are comparing USA schools/students and Thai schools/students. Apparently, you need to go back to school. Apples and oranges. People educated in USA schools are exportable generally to work anywhere in the world. Thai students are not exportable at all and can only survive in Thailand. Knowledge of English and no knowledge of English is a major reason.
Discussion 15 : 05/12/2013 at 03:41 AM
Everyone should have a chance to go to school.Money should not be the problem.if there is no corruption,Thailand would have enough money to provide free education. from iPhone application.
Discussion 16 : 05/12/2013 at 12:59 AM
with all the money we spend on our USA students...Thai students definitely are much smarter!!! Our students are not the brightest and this is not only the teachers fault....BUT parents who are to lazy to spend time with them.
Discussion 17 : 05/12/2013 at 12:42 AM
Because you can only speak about University education you can only speak about the rich people. All the others get left way way behind. You talk about a very small privileged minority. Yes they are all doing very well, that's the problem the rest of the country want to have some chance of a better future and they are not getting that chance.
Discussion 18 : 04/12/2013 at 11:24 PM
I guess you missed the crisis of 97/98 when rich people had to sell their Mercedes in Sukhumwit and recall all their children from oversees schools because they were no longer rich and couldn't afford education abroad anymore. There quite a lot of children having to come back home and get adjusted to Thai schools again.
Discussion 19 : 04/12/2013 at 10:47 PM
I can only speak about unversity-level teaching in Thailand. In my opinion, most Thai professors are not capable of facilitating effective learning. They lack real-world experience and are merely book-PhDs. Therefore, they stick religiously to often out-moded texts, teach rote learning and only test students' knowledge of the book. There's comparatively little applied learning, critical thinking or problem solving. Consequently, graduates lack the skills necessary to validate the degrees they are too easily awarded.
Discussion 20 : 04/12/2013 at 10:46 PM
@ Busted: A FEW foreigners work “in this system”, not all foreigners.
Discussion 21 : 04/12/2013 at 10:23 PM
Yes, they go to the best international schools and do not have to suffer a Thai education. Says it all really thank you.
Discussion 22 : 04/12/2013 at 10:15 PM
I don't know where people get the idea that the elites send their kids overseas at an early age. That's simply not true. Their kids might go to the best international schools and the best Thai schools. A comparative few only go oversees for grad school. My students all come from very rich families and they all study at university here.
Discussion 23 : 04/12/2013 at 10:12 PM
The education budget is not small, the problem is a huge amount of it disappears and never gets to benefit the students. The government budgets 600 baht per hour for a foreign teacher. The teacher gets about 350 baht. I'm sure you can guess where the rest of the money goes. I have seen many other similar examples in education. It's one area foreigners do know about very well as we work in this system. Most Thai's have no idea as the last time they went in a school was when they were a kid.
Discussion 24 : 04/12/2013 at 10:05 PM
A fifteen years old is not a scholar, but a pupil.
Discussion 25 : 04/12/2013 at 09:57 PM
Impressive is Vietnams results for their first time in the ranking, beat Thailand in all three categories.
Discussion 26 : 04/12/2013 at 09:18 PM
Not all Thai schools and teachers are as terrible as you make out. There are plenty of schools and teachers who do care enough and who want to do more. It is a developing country remember, & the budget to provide high quality education country wide is simply not available. I agree with you however in that the sooner the government do away with certain ridiculous policies the better. They should start by actually making it possible for people to fail when they either copy or just fail miserably on the back of being lazy and / or disinterested
Discussion 27 : 04/12/2013 at 09:10 PM
Agreed. I worry for the Thai boys mostly. They are light years behind the girls in both achievement and attitude. With many I wonder at what point they will begin to bridge the gap, if ever. The job on a plate scenario will dwindle perhaps when ASEAN fully takes hold
Discussion 28 : 04/12/2013 at 09:01 PM
How was K Chaturon 'educated', and were all ofhis, very many, 'forbears'? Except avoiding relevant questions, 'drawning the fish', and replacing wrong policies by other, eventually worse, ones every fortnight, the only general line of action, and personal common trait of all these excellences, of all colours and opinions, has been to wrap themselves into corruption better than the best khanom in honey... P.S.: the education budget is also sooo small, so...
Discussion 29 : 04/12/2013 at 08:59 PM
15000 is the salary that the economy can maintain, if you crunched the numbers you could see that clearly. And as citizens of a developing country, very few Thai graduates have the CV to go and demand high powered jobs in nations that may well pay higher salaries. There is a shortage of graduate jobs in many western countries where the people ARE smart enough to take them on & prosper in them. Plus in Thailand there will be graduates are still required by their families to help to pay money to their families every month. Your comment appears misinformed, biased and / or based on unreasonable standards
Discussion 30 : 04/12/2013 at 08:41 PM
It clearly shows that a lot of improvements in the educational system still are necessary. I am worried that there is a gap of the standards in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand - this does not happen in real democracies. And fortunately (or unfortunately) for Thailand PISA does not do a reading test in english language. And please note a 15 year old is simply a scholar and not yet a student..
Discussion 31 : 04/12/2013 at 08:31 PM
When there would a half-decent official education system, private schools would not thrive as they do (where do the kids of PTP leaders go to school?), and the better-off (mostly Thai-chinese) would not send their children abroad. This all constantly widens the gap between the 'working class' and the old and, the more so, new elites. But, as corruption would naturally die out in a country where the masses are educated, and can think for themselves...
Discussion 32 : 04/12/2013 at 08:12 PM
I think, if education sysmtem will be revised, that if students who failed cannot has to repeat the subject, then they will be more serious, will read their textbooks, study hard. Teachers has to industriously teach, know well the subject taught, not just give worksheets or seatworks, a wide reader so new knowledge gained, new ideas shared; avoid to be bookish and traditional. The Ministry of Education offices must monitor all the teachers' quality of teaching. And who neglect teaching or is doing it just partime, action must be done. For the gifted few students, quality programs must be created to allow them to skip grade level & accelerate
Discussion 33 : 04/12/2013 at 08:00 PM
Interesting that the minister’s first reaction was to wonder how to moneterize these rather feeble improvements.
Discussion 34 : 04/12/2013 at 07:53 PM
ASEAN 2015 - If you have not learned English, you will lose your job to some Thai or someone else from your neighboring ASEAN country who had learned it. Based on the lack of English skills in Thailand, ASEAN 2015 is something I would be very scared of if you only know Thai.
Discussion 35 : 04/12/2013 at 07:30 PM
The Thai education minister was upbeat... About Vietnam ?!?
Discussion 36 : 04/12/2013 at 07:03 PM
Lack of educational investment, to keep the population uneducated and susceptible to vote buying, is the reason Thai PISA scores are so low. One day, Thailand will wake up and realize outside of holiday spots and cheap sex, they have nothing to be proud of or look forward to. College graduates, who invested 4 years in school earning 15,000 thb per month or less. Any college grad that accepts that salary is NOT smart enough to be a college grad and shows poorly for the quality of Thai education
Discussion 37 : 04/12/2013 at 06:56 PM
In the face of such consistent evidence, one wonders why those with a Thai "education" to any level think themselves better educated than your average farmer. Perhaps the truth is that the only real success of a Thai education is to instill blind faith in a set of false and worthless cultural myths and to permanently stunt critical thinking. This would explain why the Bangkok self-anointed elites are so easily led by the likes of Chamlong, Thaksin, and now Suthep. Naturally, the elite send their darlings overseas as young as possible, not trusting them to the harmful effects of a Thai education.

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