Monday, October 22, 2012

Thai kids' low IQ: It's the education, stupid!

Thai kids’ IQ and EQ haven’t improved in the past ten years. Our children aged 6-15 are far behind those of Singpore and Malaysia. Bhutan, which is economically behind Thailand, has placed more emphasis on improving its children’s IQ than this country.

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

The study, conducted by the Mental Health Department of the Public Health Ministry, found children in 20 provinces with IQ rated at 100 and 38 other provinces below the 100 threshold.

The initial conclusion is that the factor contributing to lower IQ was diet. The survey found that children fed with their mother’s own milk for six months had a higher IQ than those drinking mom’s milk for only three months. Other factors include consumption of iodine and iron minerals.

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

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

But the real challenge lies in revamping the country’s education system if the IQ and EQ gradings of our next generation of citizens are to become much more competitive than they stand now.

The past ten years have seen great improvement in our dietary provisions. If, therefore, studies have found 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.

None of the governments in the past decades has managed to uplift the country’s education standards in a meaningful way despite glowing electioneering pledges. Most of the budget for this ministry has gone towards administration costs and wages, leaving very 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 been eroding to the point that they don’t command the kind of respect previously shown by students and parents alike.

What’s worse, politicians have exploited the limited budgetary 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 country’s education system.

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

When IQ is lower, it is inevitable that our children’s EQ also suffers. A series of surveys have found that a rising number of our young people say they could “accept” corruption in higher places if they stand to benefit from those undesirable activities. 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 that has expressed deep concern about the declining IQ and EQ scores of our young people say their solution is to submit these findings to the full Senate so that they can be forwards to the Cabinet for solutions.

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

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