Putting Higher Education to Work (World Bank East Asia and Pacific Regional Report)

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The private education sector is expected to be affected by this decline in particular and the percentage of enrollments at private education institutions has already slightly decreased in recent years. In an increasingly competitive environment in which students have more choices, expensive, tuition-funded private institutions are more vulnerable to shifts in demand than public institutions, which can rely on public funding, even though there are also a number of private schools at the secondary level, such as Buddhist and Islamic faith-based schools, which receive public subsidies and per-pupil premiums from the government.

In upper-secondary education, the share of private sector enrollments dropped from Unsurprisingly, private education in Thailand is more prevalent among richer segments of society in urban areas , notably Bangkok, than among less affluent social groups in more rural areas. The university admissions process in Thailand has undergone a number of changes in recent years, but is generally based on both the upper-secondary school GPA and results in standardized entrance examinations.

That said, the system has over the past decades emphasized examinations, with high school performance usually playing a comparatively minor role in admissions. Direct admission outside the CUAS was possible, but also dependent on adequate scores in standardized examinations.

Improvements in Higher Education Needed in East Asia

Direct university admissions, which had been criticized for disadvantaging applicants from families that could not afford the additional tutoring, examination fees and travel expenses involved, have now been limited , while the importance of examinations has been reduced in general. To prevent students from accepting more than one university place, thereby blocking places that they will not take up, the new admissions process will be staggered in five rounds.

Direct university admission is only possible in the fifth and final round. Private universities, meanwhile, can admit students based on alternative criteria. Overall, university admissions have become less competitive in recent years, due to the dwindling number of students. Thai officials reported that in , for example, only , students applied to take entrance exams for , available university seats, leaving more than 50, places unoccupied. As a result, even top universities like Thammasat University are currently considering downsizing their departments and programs.

This is a vast difference compared to the shortages and access limitations of previous decades.

In , for example, there were only 45, university seats for , applicants. The number of higher education institutions in Thailand has grown strongly over the past decades from just a handful of universities in the s to officially recognized HEIs in Before student numbers started to decrease due to the demographic decline of recent years, this growth was driven by the rapid massification of education in Thailand.

The number of students in Thai higher education exploded from less than , students in the early s to more than 2. Unsurprisingly, growing demand for education brought about a number of changes in the HEI landscape, such as the merger of smaller colleges into larger universities and the emergence of private HEIs, mostly since the s. Private HEIs accounted for 48 percent of HEIs 75 in , even though their share of enrollments stood at only 17 percent.

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There are a variety of different types of HEIs in Thailand, including multi-disciplinary research universities, specialized institutions Buddhist universities, nursing colleges, or military academies and community colleges offering short-term programs and vocational training courses. Since , there are nine designated national research universities that receive special funding and support to be developed into globally competitive universities.

These include Chulalongkorn University, which was established as a university in and is considered to be the oldest university in the country. The Open Universities have comparatively low admission standards and were established in the s to meet the growing demand for education in Thailand, particularly in rural regions. Ramkhamhaeng University is considered one of the largest mega universities of the world. These institutions are dedicated to the development of local communities. These are self-governing public institutions that began to appear in the s. Unlike other public universities, which receive funding based on the number of enrolled students, autonomous universities receive block grants from the government.

Discussions are, however, underway to break the Office of the Higher Education Commission back out of MOE and re-establish it as a Ministry of University Affairs in order to centralize oversight and improve governance of the university system.

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All post-secondary institutions, both public and private, are obligated to conduct annual internal quality assurance reviews, which are then externally audited by the OHEC at least every five years. Quality indicators for HEIs include the employability of graduates, research output, publications and contributions to the establishment of a knowledge-based Thai society and the development of local communities. If institutions fail to rectify identified quality problems within a specified period of time, they are subject to closure.

The closure of HEIs is under the purview of OHEC, which also maintains a directory of duly recognized public and private higher education institutions. The internationalization of higher education is as evident in Thailand as it is in neighboring countries and around the world.


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Despite the political instability and lack of a strong governmental strategy to promote internationalization, collaborations between Thai and foreign universities has grown robustly in recent years, with the number of joint degree programs with foreign universities, for example, increasing from 92 in to in alone. In , Thai universities offered 1, international programs in English, according to the Australian government. In a related development, foreign higher education institutions have in been given the green light to open branch campuses in Thailand — a move intended to modernize the education system and reduce skills gaps in Thailand.

Critics nevertheless contend that the move will increase competition and accelerate the closure of Thai universities caused by population aging. Some observers see Thailand having great future potential as a global player in higher education. In order to become internationally more competitive, however, Thai universities will have to increase their research output, which is still relatively low by international comparison. At present, Thailand does not yet have universities that are considered world class and the standing of Thai universities in standard global university rankings is still nascent.

A draft Thai NQF was approved by the government in , but has not yet been fully implemented. It delineates 9 levels of education, from lower-secondary to doctoral education, somewhat similar to the system of education in the United States. In higher education, a set number of credit units are associated with different credentials — the credit system is a U.

The vast majority of Thai students study at the undergraduate level. In , 2. First entry-level degree programs in Thailand are commonly two years in length 60 credits , but may also be three years 90 credits in length, depending on the program. Associate of Arts or Associate of Science programs are studied at colleges, institutes of technology or universities and usually require the Certificate of Secondary Education or the Certificate of Vocational Education for admission.

In addition to associate degrees, there is a variety of less formalized diploma programs being offered at Thai colleges and universities. These are offered in a number of different majors are most often two years in length after the Certificate of Secondary Education or the Certificate of Vocational Education.

The minimum GPA for degree conferral is 2. The curriculum includes a combination of general education courses usually 30 credits , compulsory subject-specific courses and electives. The most common admission requirement is the Certificate of Secondary Education, but there are alternative entry pathways based on previous qualifications, such as an associate degree or a diploma. Graduate diplomas are short-term graduate programs that typically last two semesters 24 credits at minimum.

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Course work-only degrees usually require a higher number of credits for completion typically credits. Higher graduate diplomas are awarded only in professional fields, mainly in medical disciplines and clinical sciences. The admission requirement is generally a first professional degree, such as a Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Dental Surgery or similar. The number of credits varies by field and institution, but a minimum of 24 credits is usually required.

Doctoral degrees represent the highest academic credential in Thailand. Programs typically require a dissertation in addition to mandatory coursework. Doctorates are classified as either academic Doctor of Philosophy or professional such as the Doctor of Engineering , but both require the submission of a thesis. The duration of doctoral programs is typically three years at minimum.

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Admission is generally reserved for top students. Most first professional degree programs in Thailand are long single-tiered programs entered directly after upper secondary school.

source Some programs, like those leading to the Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Architecture degrees, are four and five years in length, respectively, but programs in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy require six years of study a minimum of credits. Medicine is studied at the faculties of medicine of one of the 19 public and 2 private institutions authorized by the Medical Council of Thailand. The six-year program leads to the award of the Doctor of Medicine and has to consist of one year of pre-medical education basic sciences and two years of pre-clinical studies, followed by three years of clinical education, according to the official curriculum guidelines of the Medical Council.

After satisfying the program requirements and completing a clinical internship of at least one year, graduates must pass the licensing examination administered by the Medical Council. Training in medical specialties requires an additional three to five years of graduate medical education, depending on the specialty.

Similarly, the practice of dentistry is regulated and overseen by The Dental Council. High school graduates can apply to registered higher education institutions whose dental programs have been certified by The Dental Council for the six-year Doctor of Dental Surgery program. As in clinical medicine, the dentistry curriculum combines theoretical instruction and clinical training. Law is offered as a four-year undergraduate program and leads to the award of a Bachelor of Laws degree.

The main assumption of the report is that to deliver labor market skills to higher education graduates, these institutions a must have characteristics that are aligned with what employers and employees need and b must be well connected among themselves and other skills providers. Similarly, to deliver research that can enhance innovation and productivity, higher education institutions need to have a strong role in research provision and have strong links with fi rms and other research providers.

Getting the system to work well requires adequate information, capacity, and incentives that are closely related to financial resources, public higher education management, and stewardship for higher education systems. Government and households have a critical role to play at the policy stage, including holding institutions accountable for results and providing public and private resources. The disconnects are ultimately illustrative of weaknesses and failures in the way fi nancial resources and institutions are managed.

Prompt public intervention is required because no country in East Asia has reached high-income status without a strong higher education system. Figure 1. This first chapter presents the economic landscape in East Asia,. To show how low- and middle-income countries can advance, this chapter then introduces the role of higher education in equipping individuals with skills and producing research that can lead to greater productivity and growth.

Chapter 2 continues with a diagnostic of higher education in skills and research in low-, middle-, and upper-income economies in East Asia. Chapter 3 shows how failures to deliver on skills and research in lowerand middle-income countries are related to critical disconnects between a higher education and b users and providers of skills and research.


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  • It demonstrates how these disconnects are related to problems with poor information, low capacity, and weak incentives. Given these challenges, chapters 46 provide policy recommendations to address these problems and mitigate the disconnects through better financing of higher education chapter 4 , better management of public higher education institutions chapter 5 , and better stewardship for the higher education system chapter 6.

    In Brief: Thailand’s Education System

    East Asias economic landscape The economies of East Asia can be divided into three income groups, which beyond a certain income per capita tend to share some common characteristics in terms of economic structure, human development, and business climate. These economies also have a sophisticated economic structure and advanced human development indicators. More precisely, according to the income classifi cation adopted by the World Development Report,4 five of these countries are lowermiddle-income economies, and Malaysia is an upper-middle-income economy.

    This group is fairly heterogeneous, but countries in it generally share more developed. In addition to the three income groups, the East Asian economies can be divided. As a result, this proxy provides an assessment of an economys productivity and ability to move up the value chain within the service, manufacturing, nonmanufacturing industry, and agricultural.

    Although the relationship between income and technology is similar, there is not a one-to-one match between the groups, with economies within income groups performing at slightly different levels of technological capacity figure 1. They coincide therefore now with the group of high-income East Asian economies. Growth was sourced mainly from capital accumulation, supplemented by gains in factor productivity, with investment largely financed by domestic savings. Overall, these economies are East Asias technological leaders in a wide range of medium- and high-tech manufacturing industries, including electronics and electrical products, automobiles and parts, shipbuilding, and machinery table B.