Wednesday, 26 October 2016 16:24 nipa yamwagee Thai Education and the 21st Century Skills: A Proposal for a New World of Work * Athipat Cleesuntorn Graduate School of eLearning, Assumption University e-mail: email@example.com Abstract In the 21st century, a high technology, information and communication industry, and a complicated service industry make up a substantial part of the economy and development of the world. Science and technology create various alterations in producing goods and services. Digital device has taken the place of analog equipment. Travelling has been made faster by technology. Almost all business transactions can be completed electronically. Communication can also be done through various devices conveniently. Machines in most manufacturing companies are computerized making manual work easier. Modern trading is the norm in business overshadowing conventions of traditional businesses. The future world of work will be beyond the present norms. It means that Thai society needs a labor force equipped with more up-to-date knowledge and skills in information and communication technology. Change is inevitable but Thai can see this as an opportunity for change. Thai academic and vocational education can take the opportunity to make a proper change accordingly. Though academic education and vocational education are different in terms of their objectives, curriculum structures, and practice, they both need to be adjusted to such change so that the Thai graduates would fit the 21st century labor force and the needs of the country. Key words: Thai education, academic education, vocational education, 21st century skills, future world of work. Introduction In the early days of Thai history, education was primarily provided mainly for boys by the religious and royal institutions. During the reign of King Rama V (1863-1910) there was increased recognition of the need for educated people for the country development. As a result, the Thai education system was modernized and made more accessible to the general public. With 1898 Education Proclamation, strongly influenced by the British system, two educational tracks were specified: the academic and the vocational (National Identity Board, 2000). Afterwards, public and private schools, for both boys and girls, were established in Bangkok and provinces to meet the need of the general public, the growing bureaucracy, and private business agency. Almost at the same time but less in number, vocational schools and technical schools were also established to produce skilled labor and technician for manufacturing business. According to the National Scheme of Education 1992, the structure of the Thai education system is composed of one to three years of pre-primary education, six years of primary education, three years of lower-secondary education, and three years of upper-secondary education in the fields of both general and vocational education. Compulsory education is 9 years. Basic education, in both general and vocational track, is provided to every Thai for free of charge since equal of opportunity is an essential issue for any Thai government. University education is also available for those who need to get higher education. Education loan is available for those who need one. In brief, education in Thailand can be classified into 3 types: formal education, non-formal education, and informal education. Formal education is provided by both public and private institutions. Non-formal education which has more flexibility than formal education is available for those who missed school in their early ages and those who have jobs but want to get more education. Informal education can be obtained through libraries, museums, science centers, as well as mass media as radio, television, newspaper, magazines, and computer networks. In general, investment in education has been considered top priority in the last 20 years by most Thai governments (Ministry of Education, 2011). Thai education is considered satisfactory in terms of producing moderate graduate for the country development. Primary school students attending class 1. The Current Objectives of Thai Education Education plan was first formulated by the Thai government in 1932. Since then several national plans have been outlined by various governments as important task in order to produce quality people for the country. Education became one of the main parts of the national economic and social development plan that has been developed and put into practice since the first plan in 1961. The 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan 2012-2016, encompasses 3 objectives in terms of human development in order to achieve the national goals (NESDB, 2011): 1) to develop the physical and mental qualities of Thais at all ages so that they possess respect for order and discipline, cultural awareness, national pride, the opportunity and ability to engage in lifelong learning, resilience to changes, and so they become a societal force for economic and social development, 2) to improve the quality of education to meet international standards and to increase educational opportunities and alternative means of learning, and 3) to promote a stable family, community, and social environment that is conducive to the development of human resources and is consistent with future economic and social development. In addition to the mentioned objectives, few targets have been set (NESDB, 2011) as: (1) the development of all Thais both physically and mentally to ensure appropriate productive health for all age groups; (2) the upgrading of educational quality to meet international standards, support innovation, and increase educational opportunities and alternative learning methods; (3) better access to a high quality health care system and reduce health risk factors in a holistic manner; (4) to ensure that family, religious institutions, and academic institutions play important roles by instilling moral values and public virtues in children and all Thais. Many key words are appeared in both objectives and targets such as a societal force for social and economic development, quality of education to meet international standards, support innovation, alternative learning methods, instilling moral value and public virtues in children and all Thais.