Pongpol Adireksarn : Universities and Colleges as the foundations for SMEs  

Educational institutions play a vital role in building the country's human resources. And Thailand cannot become a strong SMEs nation without  an efficient human resource base. Today' the Ministry of Education, under leadership of Minister Pongpol Adireksarn, is ready to help move forward the country's educational reform and to help the overall economy. Here's an excerpt from SMEs Today interview with the Minister.

The government wants to see growth in number of SMEs and wants to see newly graduates start their own business. What's the role of Ministry of Education on the matter?
          We have started a " One School, One Product" initiative, which encourages primary and secondary school and university students to research and bring out new products Actually, schools have been doing projects like this for a long time. However, they just need some push from
the Ministry to realize the full benefits of the projects.

          So far, products schools have introduced use raw materials that are available locally for free or at low cost, due to school's limit budget. For example, some schools use  newspaper as raw material  to produce "Sa-like papers. The initiative helps student to learn budgeting skills and how to add value to their products. From schools visits, we have seen that many schools have developed handicraft and food projects. Even primary school students are helping out.

          Both Bangkok and up-country schools are involved in the initiative. This is very beneficial because the students are instilled with the sense of entrepreneurship at a young age. At the same time, they can use the knowledge to produce a family product. This can then be linked to the "One Tambon One product" initiative.

"One school One product" initiative seems to aim at production know-how. When are students expected to learn business and management skills?
          At present marketing, finance and managements are already being taught in vocational and undergraduate schools. Unfortunately, we lack a proper module to link them together and make them applicable. The Ministry of Education is studying how to do just that.

            In one school, One product initiative, these skills are being cultivated from high school levels onwards because students have a chance to learn to sell their products. In vocation colleges and schools students must learn to be inventive to sell their products. It's part of their curriculum, and is clearly a basis for SMEs thinking process.

The Ministry's policy is to teach students to think and adapt skills to use in their jobs.
          We are in the process of incorporating this into final exams. This means the students will have to research for information and do a project to complete a degree, instead of just completing paper exams. For example, engineering student's grading system will partly be based on the tools they design.

This does not mean we have to draw up a completely new educational curriculum program.
We will have to continuous adjustments to existing programs. What we will do is to start by asking what human resources corporations and SMEs in eachindustry need. Then we will adjust our educational programs to supply these demands. At the same time, we will encourage young generations to become entrepreneurs.

             Currently, we are working with Department of Vocational Education on the issue of economic crops. For rice technology, we have invited private companies, such as the rice producers and exports, to sit on our board, They are very glad that the Ministry is paying attention to preserve and develop rice knowledge  for future generations.

The Ministry aims to set up a Product Design Center that will link market demand with supply from educational institutions.
          Many products designed by vocational school students do not match the SMEs and market demand. A Product design Center can help follow market trends and gather the information for these schools. This knowledge can also be passed on to villagers for the one Product initiative. Designs at university levels will be more advanced and SMEs can tap into these resources as well.
            From school visits, I have seen many incredible inventions that just sit on the shelves. The Ministry plans to help bring these inventions and products to the market. not only locally but also internationally through websites. We will also help acquire patents for the products.

On the Permanent Exhibition Center.
We are planning for a "Permanent Exhibition Center" that will be a show-case and put on the market researches and products conceived by students at all school levels. Not only can it help generate income. it will also stimulate student's interests in skill development. Rajamangala institute of Technology is spearheading the project with Uthen-Thawai campus as the first center. The concept can later be expanded to other provinces.

             At the moment, the center is almost ready. We will announce to all institutions to apply for product exhibitions. Basic guideline for exhibition the products are that 1) it must meet international standard, and 2) it must have a user manual, and 3) it must have after-sales service.

On the teaching system in Thailand
In the past, student are taught to obey the teachers and not to think too much. We feel that the teachers must change their their mindset We need not create a new act since this vision of Thai education has already been stated in the 1999 educational act; one just has to read through it. Teachers must teach students to think, not just listen and agree. but at the same time, students must ask a lot of questions to promote the change.


Copyright : Ministry of Education, THAILAND
Program by Nipa Yamvajee (9 July 2003)
Educational Management Information System Center
Ministry Of Education
Tel. 0 2281-9809, 0 2628-5643, 0 2628-5644  Fax. 0 2281-8218

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