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Thai kids' IQ down? It's the education, stupid!

Publication Date : 18-10-2012

 

Thai kids' IQ and EQ haven't improved in the past 10 years. Our children aged six to 15 are lagging far behind their counterparts in Singapore and Malaysia. Bhutan, which is economically behind Thailand, has placed more emphasis on improving its children's IQ than we have.

Those are some of the disturbing findings of a recent study cited by the Senate's Health Subcommittee. Its chairman, Surin Senator Dr Anant Ariyachaiyanich, said that, if the trend continues, today's children won't grow up to be intellectually and emotionally competent enough to compete with others on the regional, not to mention international, stage.

The study, conducted by the Health Ministry's Mental Health Department, found children in 20 provinces averaged an IQ of 100 or above, but in 38 other provinces the average fell below the 100 threshold.

The initial conclusion is that the factor contributing to lower IQ is diet. The survey found that children fed with their mother's milk for six months had higher IQs than those breastfed for only three months. Other factors include consumption of iodine and iron.

What was left without so much of a mention was the effect of social environment and parents' core values. Most important, perhaps, is the hopeless state of the country's education system.

The diet issue can be resolved with a clear-cut policy on nutrition, with budget allocations based on scientific studies. Populist policies have diverted considerable amounts of money to various grassroots political organs. Now is the time to feed our children to make sure they grow up as healthy citizens.

But the real challenge lies in revamping the country's education system so that the IQ and EQ ratings of our next generation of citizens become much more competitive than is the case now.

The past 10 years have seen great improvement in our dietary provisions. If, therefore, studies find that Thai kids' IQ and EQ scores have failed to rise with the passage of time, diet certainly isn't the main issue anymore. Education is the weakest link here.

No government in the past few decades has managed to lift the country's education standards in a meaningful way, despite fervent election pledges. Most of the budget for this ministry has gone toward administration costs and wages, leaving little for real improvement of standards of teachers in all fields.

A large number of teachers are either unqualified or heavily in debt. The teaching profession, once held in great esteem, has eroded to the point that teachers no longer command the kind of respect previously shown by students and parents alike.

What's worse, politicians have exploited the limited budget allocations for the country's educational activities for their own ends. Good, qualified bureaucrats are sidelined, while those ready to serve their political bosses take charge of the most important roles in the education system.

As a result, students don't get the kind of quality schooling that makes them inquisitive, imaginative and ethical. When teachers discourage our kids from asking questions, young minds aren't developed to boost the kind of IQ that is required in today's world. Science and mathematics have fallen by the wayside, and a good command of foreign languages has become the exception rather than the rule.

When IQ falls, it is inevitable that our children's EQ also suffers.

Several surveys have found that a rising number of young people say they would "accept" corruption in higher places if they stood to benefit personally. In other words, the ethical standards of the new generation have fallen to an alarmingly low level.

The ultimate paradox is that the Senate committee - having expressed deep concern about the declining IQ and EQ scores - says its solution is to submit these findings to the full Senate and then to the Cabinet - for solutions.

My suspicion is that the higher up we go in this country, the lower the level of IQ and EQ we find. The failure of our education standards began decades ago. And that malaise begins at the top.

 

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