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Low reading rates among children and youth are proof of the failure of the Thai education system, and of the urgent need to reform it, academics said yesterday.

According to the Global Competitive Report of the World Economic Forum this year, the quality of the Thai education system is ranked at 77th among 142 countries, tumbling 11 spots from last year, said Wittayakorn Chiangkul, dean of the College of Social Innovation at Rangsit University.

The decline was partly due to the low reading rate among young Thais, the academic said, adding that a recent survey by the National Statistical Office also found that only 18.5% of Thai kids read every day while 14.9% rarely read.

Thais read five books a year on average, while people in developed countries such as Japan read 50 books a year.

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“Successful developed countries are reported to have high reading rates, because reading is an important self-learning method that can develop people’s qualities,” Mr Wittayakorn said during an event launching a list of 100 books recommended for Thai children and youth. Under the project, commissioned by the Quality Learning Foundation, a six-member committee led by Mr Wittayakorn has selected 100 Thai-language books with content that will promote the development of children.

According to the selection criteria, the books must have literary value, have content suitable for young readers and encourage children to learn more about Thai culture and society.

The books are divided into three categories _ those suitable for readers aged 0-6 years, 6-12 and 12-18.

The project aims to encourage Thai children to develop a reading habit.

Parts of the reason for the low reading rate, Mr Wittaya said, is that “education policy-makers give priority to technology such as computers or tablets rather than reading”.

“The education system must be reformed. Rather than just using lectures as a main teaching method, we must focus more on getting children to read.”

Pornpilai Lerdwicha, an academic specialising in brain-based learning who has joined the 100 good books project, said the low reading rate was partly influenced by children being introduced to technology from an early age.

“Before the age of seven, kids will absorb whatever adults introduce to them,” explained Ms Pornpilai.

“But if computer games and television are introduced to them at this age, they are more likely to stick to that technology when they grow up.”

Apart from early introduction of technology, Ms Pornpilai said authorities did not pay enough attention to education.

Local authorities allocate most of their budgets to infrastructure improvement, she said, with little attention to building libraries or improving schools.

The list of 100 good books will be disseminated to teachers and the general public as a guideline for book selection for youngsters. The list is also be available at http://www.qlf.or.th.

Source: Bangkok Post

Posted by QLF

Quality Learning Foundation (QLF), a new state agency created under the Prime Minister’s leadership and regulated from the Prime Minister’s Office. It seeks the Promotion of a Learning Society and the raised quality of Youth and Children Education and seeks to take new initiatives in the Thai education system, encourage education reform and accelerate quality learning.