An Educational Value of Getting into Top Universities in Thailand
“Why don’t you choose Chula? It’s the best university in Thailand.”
“She’s the best student in my class, but she’s enrolling in avocational college. What a shame.”
“Sorry, I can’t go with you. I have to go to the tutoring school.”
We have heard these disappointed responses a lot in Thailand when it comes to one’s future, especially which of a student, that is not in a popular path as society has expected. The ultimate goal of Thai education is driven by the belief that the more we study, the better. That is, you should aim for a doctoral degree or medical education which takes at least six years to study and people think, from my own experience, it will prepare its students to be the smartest persons of all fields in Thai education. My father even once has said, “doctors are the smartest because they study a lot. You should try to be a doctor.” Likewise, all my relatives and some of my friends have said this.
According to a survey I conducted by using an online Google form, I discovered the interesting results. The personal information about studying in tutorial schools is observed through the questions asked in the survey. The result is that there are 26 who have ever studied in at least one tutorial school or are studying in the tutorial schools currently, of the 29 samples who answered the survey, which were almost 90 percent. Those 26 people gave the same answer that studying more outside is necessary for university admissions, especially the top universities in Thailand. Most of them also agreed that the regular schools’ curriculum does not provide the knowledge that matches with the university admission exams. From the survey, we can see that there is still an educational value of getting into the top Thai universities to students, which causes most to seek extra studying to prepare themselves for the high competition of university admissions. Thus, the educational value of getting into top universities, which contributes to high expectations for students, brings about negative effects to the students themselves and society.
To begin with, on the personal level, this phenomenon leads to extra studying which plays a big role in building mental issues in students, especially in high school students. Supat Assana and others, in their clinical and diagnostic research’s introduction, say, “Thai students spend a lot of time in classroom and many extra hours after school for tutorial classes that can cause stress and adverse impact on the health status since students focus on academic excellent outcomes.” They found that educational stress is a big part of causing other mental disorders to follow; for example, anxiety and depression. From the research’s results, there are some Thai students who have a high level of anxiety which is higher than those found in China (Supat et all.). These mental issues are found mostly in students who take extra classes after school, but that does not mean that in ones who do otherwise do not have stress. Instead, they might be found to be more stressed than the other group. Being surrounded by students who usually take extra classes can raise more self-expectations and comparison. On social media like Twitter platform, if you search the keyword “เรียนพิเศษ”meaning “taking extra classes,” what you will see is there are a lot of users who might be students complaining about how extra classes cost a huge amount of money. Some users, most importantly, anxiously talk about how they are worried by the reason that they might not be able to get into top universities or even any university because they have not studied in tutorial schools on weekends whereas most of their classmates do. This educational value, among students, of getting into top universities clearly creates the loss of confidence and pressure in students who are dependent on regular schools’ curricular only.
Besides, the popularity of studying in a top university makes people see vocational studying as an inferior education. It is thought to be a center of students who do not have enough ability to study in high school. Also, One of the beliefs is that graduating from vocational college does not allow its students to make a good deal of money in their jobs. Studying in a vocational college will not be approved by most parents or students unless the students choose to get into a university after graduating from high vocational colleges. The consequences are far worse when vocational students also believe so. This belief has existed for decades. In Charnvit Kasetsiri’s From October 14, 1973 to October 6, 1976:Bangkok and Tongpan’s Isan, there is a saying recorded, “We are just vocational students and have less studied. Let us be in the front line using our force protecting all of you. In case we die, you can use your brain to go on developing our country.” According to the book, this was said in 1973 by a leader of vocational students protesting against the military government in Thailand at that time. The leader said this to university students. This shows that even vocational students themselves have still believed they are inferior than those who study in high schools or universities. The belief still exists nowadays as we can see most Thai parents trying to persuade their children to get into top universities to run away from the vocational education attached with the prejudice words “less studying” as far as they can.
Recently, in 2020,we have also seen the protests against the military government in Thailand, where they had vocational students and people who graduated from the vocational colleges as the guards in the frontline to protect the people from police abuse. It was similar to the situation happening in 1973. Still, we do not know exactly whether their reason to voluntarily protect other people in the protests was driven by the same reason of the vocational protest leader in 1973as mentioned before. However, despite that, I believe the legacy of the vocational protest leader’s speech has still influenced Thai people’s notion towards vocational study more or less. In the present, even though there is no obvious reason why the vocational students have chosen to do so, a lot of people on social media have reposted the speech and romanticized it by appreciating the humbleness in the speech without denying the belief that they, vocational students, study less and thus their lives are worth being used to venture.
Furthermore, the labor market may lack its competent people to do certain jobs. Since the top universities are the ultimate goal of high school students, the students are occupied by a pile of books. Therefore, they often lose opportunities to find themselves or what they like exactly from doing other activities outside the classroom or home. There are few students who know what they are good at and have a clear goal. That is, we might have had a lot of more competent artists or athletes in society if most students would not have focused on the same goal or if they would have had more time to find out eventually that they were good at drawing or playing football.
The educational value of getting into top universities, all in all, affects the students’ mental health and may cause alack of the right people in some jobs. Many students are still lost and, even worse, suffering from high expectations and pressure, especially those who lose their confidence due to the trend of taking extra courses which they do not take. There might have been less students who started over several times at anew university or faculty if they have had more time to find themselves in high school. The students’ mental health should be taken seriously. We should support one’s abilities and talents no matter what they are and stop attaching great importance to the top universities. Most importantly, there should be no one’s worth judged by what kind of education they are taking.
Assana, Supat & Laohasiriwong, Wongsa& Rangseekajee, Poonsri. (2017). Quality of Life,
Mental Health and Educational Stress of High School Students in theNortheast of Thailand. Journal of Clinical and DiagnosticResearch. 11. VC01-VC06. 10.7860/JCDR/2017/29209.10429. Accessed 14 December2020.
Kasetsiri, Charnvit, et al. From October14, 1973 to October 6, 1976: Bangkok and
Tongpan’s Isan. Bangkok,The Foundation for the Promotion of Social Sciences and Humanities TexbooksProjects, 2008.