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The evolution of educational reform in Thailand: the Thai educational paradox

Gerald W. Fry (Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development (OLPD), College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), University of Minnesota (UM), Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)
Hui Bi (Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development (OLPD), College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), University of Minnesota (UM), Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 3 May 2013

6379

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze critically the evolution of educational reform in Thailand. Three major phases are identified. The special focus of the paper is an assessment of the third reform which began with the passage of the Office of the National Education Commission (ONEC) (2002).

Design/methodology/approach

The methodology for the study is mixed methods including document analysis, direct participant observation, and compilation of major statistical performance indicators from diverse sources.

Findings

The success of the most recent reform has been clearly mixed. Major structural and legal changes have occurred but overall system performance remains disappointingly low, despite large Thai educational expenditures as a percent of national budget and the presence of much impressive educational leadership talent. The paper identifies what is called the “Thai educational paradox”. The essence of the paradox is Thailand’s failure to achieve its educational potential. The paper identifies key factors explaining the paradox.

Originality/value

The paper has significant theoretical, policy, and practical implications. From a theoretical perspective, the study confirms the persistence of strong regional disparities and a lack of fiscal neutrality associated with a neoliberal model of capitalistic development. From a practical policy perspective, it is imperative for Thailand to improve the overall quality of its educational system and to reduce regional disparities. There have been numerous studies of each of Thailand’s three phases of reform, but this paper’s original contribution is its presentation of a historical, interdisciplinary, and integrated perspective on the evolution of educational reform and the many obstacles associated with its implementation.

Keywords

Citation

Fry, G.W. and Bi, H. (2013), "The evolution of educational reform in Thailand: the Thai educational paradox", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 51 No. 3, pp. 290-319. https://doi.org/10.1108/09578231311311483

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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