YSEALI Critical Thinking in Classrooms Regional Workshop

Nattanan Ammarananthasak

Supported by the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, the Asia Foundation held a regional workshop “YSEALI Critical Thinking in Classrooms” which brought together 60 participants from ASEAN countries to spend 6 days in Bangkok learning about integrating critical thinking skills in classrooms, education gaps, social challenges, disinformation, and fake news. Sharing the mission of improving the quality of education, TDRI partnered with the Asia Foundation to arrange the workshop and attended a few sessions. The opening session took place at Eastin Grand Hotel on May 22, 2018.

To start the 6-day regional workshop, Dr.Somkiat Tangkitvanich, President of TDRI, was invited to give a lecture about “the Importance of Critical Thinking for Thailand and ASEAN”. He firstly got the audience on the same page about the definition of critical thinking skills. In global landscape, the critical thinking skills is getting more recognition probably due to data overload, paradox of choice and disruptive technologies. In Southeast Asian context, the regional report reveals ASEAN as top region in social media use. Referring to the report, Dr.Somkiat presented to the delegates the major challenge of critical thinking skills in the region and went on to highlight the seriousness of the situation by showing the PISA score result in 2015 using critical thinking skills as one of indicators. The result says overall education in Southeast Asia is not doing well, comparing to other countries in the world, and that there’s a wide gap in the ratio of students with PISA score under level, implying many of ASEAN youth are struggling with critical thinking in everyday life. Furthermore, the region, together with other countries throughout the planet, is now facing one of the greatest challenges for humanity: disruptive technologies. Since the development of technology is getting more advanced, 2 in 3 of jobs could disappear in the future. To fight this challenge of the century, Dr.Somkiat proposed the 21st century skills as solution. Critical thinking skills are, however, just one of the essential skills in the future. Among the list, there are also communication and collaboration, creativity, enthusiasm for learning and adaptability. To conclude the session, Dr.Somkiat pointed out that active learning was the mean to heighten the efficiency of learning, and that the combination of STEM and Liberal Arts high quality education would be the key to nurture the critical thinking skills.

In addition to Dr.Somkiat, the opening session was attended by many interesting speakers including Dr.Kenneth R. Bartlett, Professor and Associate Dean, College of Education and Human Development, Sylvie Doutriaux, Regional Project Manager, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Development Mission for Asia, and Dr.Rattana Lao, Program Officer: Policy and Research, the Asia Foundation.

As the last session of the workshop, the delegates, as well as 3 TDRI researchers, went on school visits on May 26, 2018. The first school is International School Bangkok (ISB), one of the top international schools in Bangkok and Asia, and the second is Thai Niyom Songkhrao School, a public school under Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). Through classroom observation, all the participants got to learn about the implementation of critical thinking in classrooms both in Thai and American context.