Primary Curriculum Ethics | Education Dissertations


Chapter IV

Primary Curriculum and Ethics Instruction During 1935 – 1970 (B.E. 2478 – 2513)

In the previous three Chapters we have seen that in Siam[1], throughout the periods with which we are concerned, the kings had absolute power and were treated recognized as the ‘Lord of life’. They who seemed to bewere ultimate authorities in all aspects of the country’s development, including education. Even though the education ministry was established in 1894, educational policies were still under controlled ofby the kings through the. ministers of the education whom he assigned. However, in 1932 a military coup brought the era of absolute monarchy to an abrupt end and replaced it with a constitutional monarchy in which the king was confined to a largely ceremonial role. .

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Few years after co-operation with the new administrative power under the institutional system, king Rama VII felt uneasy to compromise his different political opinion with the political leaders that brought to his abdication in 1935. Therefore the constitutional government had absolute power over the country. The ‘modernization period’ of educational reform thus initiated in 1935 and which continued till 1970, was a period of transformation, as the political revolution triggered changes in every aspect of Thai society.

The administrative power was transferred from king to Prime minister and his cabinets. Though the minister of education was remained the same in the beginning of this period, but one out of six pillar policies of the cabinet was to provide equal education to all, hence wWe would expect that ethics instruction could hardly have escaped these political is socialand social upheaval untouched. The question is therefore just how far and in what ways ethics instruction was transformed during the modernization period.

1. The Modernization Period 1935 – 1970 (B.E.2478-2513) 

In 1935, after the abdication of King Rama VII, King Rama VIII was offered the crown. A young man on his ascent to the throne, he reigned for 11 years, most of which he spent outside the kingdom, for his education and especially during the period of World War II. He died in mysterious circumstances in 1946. Besides, he was under the constitution monarchy system; his impact on Thai education was thus invisible.

His brother, Rama IX, followed him on the thrown and has held it to the present day – the longest reigning monarch in the world. However, since we are concerned with educational issue in primary curriculum and the ethics instruction in this period, the discussion will end at the year of 1970 which is in the first 25 years of Rama IX’s reign. In this modernization period, primary curriculum was developed based on western idea and theory. There was a Royal Announcement and four primary curricula used in this period, which are the following:

Royal Announcement 1936 (B.E. 2479)

Primary Curriculum 1937 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : B.E.2480)

Primary Curriculum 1948 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa: B.E.2491)

Primary Curriculum 1955 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : B.E.2498)

Primary Curriculum 1960 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa Tonton and Tonplai : B.E.2503)

Ginsburg says that to examine the educational reformation efforts in any country, the global structural and ideological context must be investigated on how they constrain it is necessary to investigate how the global structural and ideological contexts constrain and enableand enable individual and group actors’ transactions concerning education.[2] From such a perspective the situation of Thailand is peculiar. As mentioned earlier that in this period, the absolute monarchy system was replaced by the constitutional monarchy system. Consequently, the central administrative system and politics were changed into democratic system based on the western view.

However, although though the constitution was the supreme law of the Kingdom of Thailand, the country has had 18 charters and constitutions[3] since the coup backed the change from the absolute to constitutional monarchy in 1932, and this reflects the high degree of political instability and frequency of military coups faced by the nation. After each successful coup, the military regimes abrogated existing constitutions and promulgated interim ones. Somehow, this circumstance affected the national socio-economics, religion, and education. The question is how far and in what ways ethics instruction in primary curriculum was affected by all such a fluid political situation.

1.1. Politics and Administration 1935 – 1970 (B.E.2478 – 2513)

After the 1932 revolution by People’s Party, King Rama VII or King Prajadhipok was forced to grant the first constitution on 10 December 1932 by the three main coup leaders with, [4] who were educated who were scholarship students and educated in France and Germany where the national revolution and social crisis was floated over in nineteenth century. after French Revolution and social crisis. These reformers or coup leaders, who were known as the "promoters," were representatives of the younger generation of western-oriented political elite that were educated to be helpersbe instruments of an absolute monarchy that they viewed as archaic and inadequate to the task of modern government.

The principals in the coup identified themselves as nationalists. All of them became prime ministers and the major figures in Thai politics for the next three decades. Pridi Phanomyong[5],, one of the country’s leading intellectuals, was the most influential civilian promoter, who became a prime minister in 1946/B.E.2489. His chief rival among the other promoters was Pibul, or Luang Plaek Pibulsongkram[6], an ambitious junior army officer who later attained the rank of field marshal and was the prime minister during 1938/1944 and 1948-1957/B.E.2481-2487;2491-2500. Phraya Phahonphonphayuhasena[7], the senior member of the group, who was sent by royal schorlarship to study in Germany and Denmark from 1903 till 1912, he became the prime minister in 1933-1938/B.E.2476-2481 represented old-line military officers dissatisfied with cuts in appropriations for the armed forces.

After the triumph of the coup, these three exercised power as members of a cabinet, the Commissariat of the People, chosen by the National Assembly that had been summoned by them. To compromise both modern and conservative opinion, a retired jurist, Phraya Manopakorn Nithitada[8], was chosen as the president of the first committees assembly, and the first prime minister after the political change during 1932-1933/B.E.2475-2476. Since the country has been ruled by prime minister and his cabinet under constitutional system, king has no absolute power as before.

 However, in this period, there were some remarkable circumstances related to kings’ life that more or less provided some political stresses such as king Rama VII’s abdication and the mystery death of king Rama VIII. Interestingly to learn how kings’ position and mission could be, and how the government under democratic system took place in the period of significant political change.

1.1.1. King Rama VII’s Abdication

Due to the coupSince 1932, king Prajadhipok or king Rama VII, to avoid violence, surrendered his absolute power to the coup leaders, then the country has been governed under democratic system where the king has no power under the constitution but he remains as the symbol of national identity and unity. Since then king Rama VII had co-operated his mission with the new governors till 1934 he went abroad for a medical treatment. Whereas he was abroad he proposed to the government some conditions in serving as constitutional monarch. However, the government would not agree with his opinion, and so on March 2nd, 1935 he announced his resignation and issued a brief statement criticizing the administration. In it he wrote,

“I wish to surrender my formerly absolute powers to all people, not to turn them over to anyone or any group to use in an autocratic manner without concerning the people’s voice.”[9]

In his letter, he blamed the government of having no hold for democratic principles, employing methods of administration incompatible with individual freedom and the principles of justice, ruling in an autocratic manner and not letting the people have a real voice in country’s affairs.

Anyhow, the resignation from the throne of king Rama VII gave a good chance to the constitutional government to select the next king on their choice. Instead of choosing Prince Chulachakrapongse,[10] who was on the first ranking of royal family to success to the throne, the parliament, by the convince of Pridi, selected Prince Ananda Mahidol, the youngest son of HRH Prince Mahidol Adulyadej and Mom Sri-Sangwal (later Somdej Phra Sri Nakarindhara Boromaratchachonnani), who was only 9 years old and studying in Switzerland to be the next king. His young age and absence from the country were the causes of the selection that would grant to the government an absolute freedom in ruling the country without king’s power or interference. Accordingly, Prince Ananda Mahidol was in the throne as king Rama VIII in 1935. 

1.1.2. King Rama VIII and Assassination (1935-1946)

After king Rama VII’s Abdication, prince Ananda Mahidol was elected by the government to succeed king Rama VII, his uncle on March 2, 1935 as king Rama VIII. However, with his 9 years old, he continued his studying and staying with his family in Lausanne, Switzerland. He visited Thailand at the first time in 1939 when he was 13 years old. As seen in the news, television, including the story of See Phandin (Four Reigns), many people were excited to see their young king who had grown up in European country after Siam had been without a resident king for many years. Having heard about his news and seeing his good looking, the people admired king Rama VIII greatly, therefore after his first visit the country and departing to study again, thousands of people went to see him off at the airport, wished him and looked forward for his return.

Seven years later (1946), at the age of 20, King Ananda Mahidol was back to Thailand together with the Princess Mother, Sri-sangval, and his younger brother, Prince Bhumibol[11]. By this time, he visited some communities His visits in Bangkok and the surrounding areas were heartily welcomed whereas his informal and warm contact were impressed by the people in those areas. One important place of his visits was "Sampheng"[12], a district in Bangkok that King Rama I gave to the Chinese community after the establishment of Bangkok as the capital of the country in 1782.

Before Chinese people were living in the place where King Rama I would construct the royal residence (Grand Palace at present) on, therefore, Chinese residents were asked to move and settle down in Sampheng. Since then, there had been clashes between the local people who had lived at Sampheng before and the Chinese people who moved into that area. Thus the visit of King Rama VIII and prince Bhumibol, his brother, not only be appreciated but also released the tension conflict and reconciled among the local Thais and Chinese communities. This might be the last memorial mission of king Rama VIII.

On June 9th, 1946, unexpectedly a few days before his return to Switzerland to achieve his education, he was mysteriously assassinated with a gun shot in his room at Boromphimarn Palace.[13] Certainly, the news of the King’ death in such circumstance shocked the people and made them cried. The entire country dressed in black and miserable prevailed in every corner of the nation.

The first official announcement was mentioned that king Rama VIII shot himself accidently, later due to some investigations, his close servers were killed for this guilt. likewise, Pridi, who was elected by the parliament to be the prime minister one day before the king’s death, was accused to get involved. Nevertheless, the cause of his unexpected death has remained in doubt and been officially unexplained up to now.

The reign of king Rama VIII was 11 years and under the new democratic system and since he was very young and spent most of the time in studying aboard that required a Council of Regency, so as a powerless king, he didn’t conduct many tasks in his kingship. Nevertheless he still earned love, respect and be memorized by people for his gentleness, sincerity, and intellectual. After his death, his brother Prince Bhumipol Aduldej was invited to succeed as King Rama IX.

1.1.3. King Rama IX (1946-present)

Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej[14] was born in 1927, in the United States. He first came to Thailand in 1928 and finished his primary education at Mater Dei school, a catholic school in Bangkok. In 1933, after the political change in Thailand, he left with his family for Switzerland. After his brother, king Rama VIII’s death, he ascended the throne on June 9, 1946 as king Bhumibol or Rama IX. However, he returned to study in Switzerland till 1950 and went back to Thailand for the Coronation Ceremony on May 5, 1950. 

On that day he announced that “I will reign the country with Dharma for the benefit and happiness of the people”[15]. His word reflected on his private missions in developing people’s welfare especially for poor people. As a king of democratic system, he is under the constitution and no administrative power, his signature of approval for political affair is required as only official tradition. Since he came to the throne after tragic difficulties such as absolute monarchy’s failure, king Rama VII’s abdication, and lately his king brother’s assassination, moreover, he was invited from the constitutional government to be in the reign, therefore, he or less has been aware of his missions in king’s position. He spent most of the time in visiting ruler people that made him found more than thousand agricultural and natural protection projects to help the poor. 

Though he is under constitution and has less power than the absolute monarchy, according to his vision or guidance, many projects are initiated by cooperating with local people, government agencies, and NGOs. As a result, he gains enormous popular respect and moral authority in his long reign, more than 60 years. In addition, he was from time to time drawn to get involved with some political crises or national conflicts. It can be said that, to some extent, the king Rama IX indirectly helped and influenced political issues that considerably of his national concern by his moral power.

Due to the political change in 1932 with the constitutional system in 1935, the monarchy’s power in administration was transferred to prime minister and his cabinet. It is interesting to take a look at the democratic government that would be the key of development and reformation of the country in all aspects including educational reform.

1.1.4. Government and Administrative Structure

As this period of modernization under the constitutional monarchy system, all official works of the country were conducted by the prime minister and his cabinet. Even though the country was seemingly a “democracy” from then, in fact the government was dominated by the military dictatorship in an authoritarian manner. Civilian leaders were often deposed by military coups. In this period of 35 years the country had three prime ministers who were Field Marshalls who got power from the coups.

They were Field Marshall Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Prime Minister, 1938-1944; 1949-1957), Field Marshall Sarit Dhanarajata (Prime Minister, 1959-1963), and Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn (Prime Minister, 1958, 1963-1973).[16] There were six civilian prime ministers leading the country approximately 4 years out of 35 years of this modernization period, all the rest of the years was under Military leaders.[17] In summary, prime minister position was changed 15 times in 35 years and the political scenario in Thailand was always volatile. Many coups d’etate took place and a number of constitutions were created. Military leaders and dictators had always influenced Thai politics.

The governmental structure of Thailand has undergone gradual and practical evolution in response to the various changes. Even so, the basic concepts of constitutional government and monarchy laid down in the 1932 constitution remain more or less the same. We could list them in the following way. In the first figure[18] (Figure 1) the structure of the parliamentary system is given as an example. And later on we also point out the other details of the administrative system. 

The first and foremost concept of the charters and constitutions is the status of the monarch as Head of State, Head of Armed Forces, and Upholder of the Buddhist Religion and all other religions. The King, as Head of State, exercises his legislative power through the parliament, executive power through the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister, and judicial power through the courts. He is empowered with the right to be consulted and to advise and even warn the government when it appears not to administer the state affairs for the good of the people. So the main points of the constitution are that the highest administrative power belongs to the people not the King and that the power is to be exercised through the people’s representatives.

The second concept is about legislative branch, which is a bicameral parliamentary system composing of the House of Representatives (MPs), and the House of Senators.

The third concept is the executive branch. As per every constitution, the Prime Minister is head of government and chief executive. The Cabinet is responsible for the administration of 14 ministries, as well as the Office of the Prime Minister. A number of cabinet committees have been set up consisting of relevant ministers, such as the Cabinet Economics Committee and the Cabinet Social Affairs Committee etc. to coordinate major policies concerned.

Besides the ministers who were responsible for each ministry, there were a number of ministers holding the portfolio of “Minister Attached to the Prime Minister’s Office.” They were in charge of various responsibilities undertaken by this office which in itself ranks as a ministry and largely deal with formulating the national policy.[19]

According to the framework of a constitutional monarchy, the Prime Minister is the head of government and a hereditary monarch is head of state. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The country is divided into 75 provinces, excluding Bangkok Metropolis which is the capital of the country. Each province, which is administered by an appointed governor, is sub-divided into districts, sub-districts or tambons (groups of villages) and villages. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is administered by an elected governor and is divided into 50 districts.

Once the first democratic form of government was founded and the constitution was put into effect, conflict began to erupt among the members of the initial ruling coalition. There were four major factions competing for power: the older conservative civilian faction led by Phraya Manopakorn Nititada[20]; the senior military faction led by Phraya Phahol[21]; the junior army and navy faction led by Luang Plaek Phibunsongkhram and the young civilian faction led by Pridi Phanomyong.[22] In spite of such power struggles, there were some remarkable political events occurred in this period.

1.1.5. Political events

The pursuit of nationalism. The military, led by Major General Plaek Pibulsongkram[23] as Defence Minister, and the civilian liberals led by Pridi as Foreign Minister, worked together harmoniously for several years in the beginning of Constitutional system. But when Pibulsongkramn became the third prime minister in December 1938 this co-operation broke down, and military domination became more overt. 

Pibulsongkram was an admirer of Benito Mussolini, and his regime soon developed some fascist characteristics. In early 1939 forty political opponents, both monarchists and democrats, were arrested, and after rigged trials eighteen were executed, which was the first political executions in Siam in over a century. Many others, among them Prince Damrong and Phraya Songsuradej, were exiled. Pibulsongkramn launched a demagogic campaign against the Chinese business class. Chinese schools and newspapers were closed, and taxes on Chinese businesses increased.

Siam to Thailand. Also in 1939, Pibulsongkramn changed the country’s name from Siam to Prathet Thai, or Thailand, meaning "land of the free." Modernization was also an important theme in Pibulsongkramn’s new Thai nationalism. From 1938 to 1942 he issued a set of twelve Cultural Mandates. In addition to requiring that all Thais salute the flag, know the National Anthem, and speak the national language, the mandates also encouraged Thais to work hard, stay informed on current events, and to dress in a western fashion. By 1941 it became illegal to ridicule those who attempted to promote national customs.

The program also encompassed fine arts. Fiercely nationalistic plays and films were sponsored by the government. Often these depicted a glorious past when Thai warriors fearlessly gained freedom for the country, defended their honor, or sacrifice themselves. Patriotism was taught in schools and was a recurrent theme in songs and dances. At the same time, Pibulsongkram worked rigorously to rid society of its royalist influences – traditional royal holidays were replaced with new national events, royal and aristocratic titles were abandoned. Ironically, he retained his aristocratic surname. Even the Sangha was affected when the status of the royally sponsored Thammayuth sect was downgraded. 

World War II and Thai politics. In 1940, most of France was occupied by Nazi Germany, and Pibulsongkram immediately set out to avenge Siam’s humiliations by France in 1893 and 1904, when the French had redrawn the borders of Siam with Laos and Cambodia by forcing a series of treaties. Anti-French demonstrations were incessantly held around Bangkok, and in late 1940 border skirmishes erupted along the Maekong frontier. On January 9 1941, Thailand attacked southern Vietnam, giving Tokyo a reason to move on Sài Gòn (Hồ Chí Minh City). In 1941, the skirmishes became a small scale war between Vichy France and Thailand. The Thai forces dominated the war on the ground and in the air, but suffered a crushing naval defeat at the battle of Chang Island (Koh Chang). The Japanese then stepped in to mediate the conflict. The final settlement thus gave back to Thailand the disputed areas in Laos and Cambodia.

Pibulsongkram’s prestige was so increased that he was able to bask in a feeling of being truly the nation’s leader. As if to celebrate the occasion, he promoted himself to field marshal, skipping the ranks of lieutenant general and general. This caused a rapid deterioration of relations with the United States and Britain. In April 1941 the United States cut off petroleum supplies to Thailand. Thailand’s campaign for territorial expansion came to an end on December 8, 1941 when Japan invaded the country along its southern coastline and from Cambodia. After initially resisting, the Pibulsongkram regime allowed the Japanese to pass through the country in order to attack Burma and invade Malaya. Convinced by the Allied defeats of early 1942 that Japan was winning the war, Pibulsongkram decided to form an actual military alliance with the Japanese.

As a reward, Japan allowed Thailand to invade and annex the Shan States in northern Burma, and to resume sovereignty over the sultanates of northern Malaya which had previously been lost in a treaty with Britain. In January 1942 Pibulsongkram declared war on Britain and the United States, but the Thai Ambassador in Washington, Seni Pramoj, refused to deliver it to the State Department. Instead, Seni denounced the Pibulsongkram regime as illegal and formed a Seri Thai Movement in Washington. Pridi, by then serving in the role of an apparently powerless regent, led the resistance movement inside Thailand, while former Queen Ramphaiphanni[24] was the nominal head of the movement in Great Britain.

Secret training camps were set up, the majority by the populist politician Tiang Sirikhanth in the northeast region of the country. There were a dozen camps in Sakhon Nakhon Province alone. Secret airfields also appeared in the northeast, where Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force planes brought in supplies, as well as Special Operations Executive, Office of Strategic Services, and Seri Thai agents, while at the same time evacuating out prisoners of war. By early 1945, Thai air force officers were performing liaison duties with South East Asia Command in Kandy and Calcutta[25].

By 1944 it was evident that the Japanese were going to lose the war, and their behaviour in Thailand had become increasingly arrogant. Bangkok also suffered heavily from the Allied bombing raids. This, along with the economic hardship caused by the loss of Thailand’s rice export markets, made both the war and Pibulsongkram’s regime very unpopular. In July 1944 Pibulsongkram was ousted by the Seri Thai-infiltrated government. The National Assembly reconvened and appointed the liberal lawyer Khuang Aphaiwong as Prime Minister. The new government hastily evacuated the British territories that Pibulsongkram had occupied and surreptitiously aided the Seri Thai movement, while at the same time maintaining ostensibly friendly relations with the Japanese.

The Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945. Immediately, the Allied military responsibility for Thailand fell to the British. As soon as practicable, British troops were flown in and these rapidly secured the release of surviving POWs (Prisoners of War). The British were surprised to find that the disarmament of the Japanese soldiers had already been largely completed by the Thais. The British regarded Thailand as having been partly responsible for the immeasurable damage dealt upon the Allied cause and favored treating the kingdom as a defeated enemy. However, the Americans had no sympathy for what they considered to be British and French colonialism and supported the new government. Thailand thus received little punishment for its wartime role under Pibulsongkram.

Post World War II. Seni Pramoj became Prime Minister in 1945, and promptly restored the name Siam as a symbol of the end of Pibulsongkram’ s nationalist regime. However, he found his position at the head of a cabinet packed with Pridi’s loyalists quite uncomfortable. Northeastern populist politicians like Tiang Sirikhanth and Bangkok upstarts like Sanguan Tularaksa were not the sort that the aristocratic Seni preferred to associate with. They, in turn, viewed Seni as an elitist who was entirely out of touch with Thailand’s political realities. Pridi continued to wield power behind the scenes as he had done during the Khuang government. The regent’s looming presence and overarching authority rank led the proud, thin-skinned Seni, fueling a personal animosity that would poison Thailand’s postwar politics.

King Rama VIII’s mysterious death. In December 1945, the young king Rama VIII returned to Siam from Europe, and on 9th July 1946 he was found mysteriously shot dead in the palace. Three palace servants were tried and executed for his murder, but Thai society has preferred not to dwell on the event rather than to investigate its causes. 

Democratic elections were subsequently held in January 1946. These were the first elections in which political parties were legal, and Pridi’s People’s Party and its allies won a majority. In March 1946 Pridi became Siam’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. In 1947 he agreed to hand back the French territory occupied in 1940 as the price for admission to the United Nations, the dropping of all wartime claims against Siam and a substantial package of American aid. 

The king was succeeded by his younger brother Bhumibol Adulyadej. In August Pridi was forced to resign amid suspicion that he had been involved in the regicide. Without his leadership, the civilian government floundered, and in November 1947 the army, its confidence restored after the debacle of 1945, seized power. After an interim Khuang-headed government, in April 1948 the army brought Pibulsongkram back from exile and made him Prime Minister. Pridi in turn was driven into exile, eventually settling in Beijing as a guest of the People’s Republic of China.

Cold War. Pibulsongkram’s return to power coincided with the onset of the Cold War and the establishment of a Communist regime in North Vietnam. He soon won the support of the U.S., beginning a long tradition of US-backed military regime in Thailand (as the country was again renamed in July 1949, this time permanently). Once again political opponents were arrested and tried, and some were executed. During this time, several of the key figures in the wartime Free Thai (Seri Thai) underground – including Thawin Udom, Thawi Thawethikul, Chan Bunnak, and Tiang Sirikhanth – were eliminated in extra-legal fashion by the Thai police, run by Pibulsongkram’s ruthless associate Phao Sriyanond. There were attempted counter-coups by Pridi supporters in 1948, 1949 and 1951, the second leading to heavy fighting between the army and navy before Pibulsongkram emerged victorious. In the navy’s 1951 attempt, popularly known as the Manhattan Coup, Pibulsongkram was nearly killed when the ship he was held hostage aboard was bombed by the pro-government air force.

In 1949 a new constitution was promulgated, creating a Senate appointed by the king (in practice, by the government). But in 1951 the regime abolished its own constitution and reverted to the constitution 1932 arrangements, effectively abolishing the National Assembly as an elected body. This provoked strong opposition from the universities and the press, and led to a further round of trials and repression. The regime was greatly helped, however, by a postwar boom which gathered pace through the 1950s, fuelled by rice exports and U.S. aid. Thailand’s economy began to diversify, while the population increased and urbanization expanded.

New Thai leaders. By 1955 Pibulsongkram was losing his leading position in the army to younger rivals led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat and General Thanom Kittikachorn. To shore up his position he restored the 1949 constitution and called for elections, which his supporters won. But the army was not prepared to give up its power. As a result, in September 1957 it demanded Pibulsongkram’s resignation. When Pibulsongkram tried to have Sarit arrested, the army staged a bloodless coup on September 17, 1957, ending Pibulsongkram’s career for good. Thanom became Prime Minister until 1958, then yielded his place to Sarit, the real head of the regime. Sarit held power until his death in 1963, when Thanom again took the lead.

Sarit and Thanom were the first Thai leaders to have been educated entirely in Thailand, and were less influenced by European political ideas, whether fascist or democratic, than the generation of Pridi and Pibulsongkram. Rather, they were Thai traditionalists, who sought to restore the prestige of the monarchy and to maintain a society based on order, hierarchy and religion. They saw rule by the army as the best means of ensuring this, and also of defeating Communism, which they associated with Thailand’s traditional enemies, the Vietnamese. King Bhumibol returned to Thailand in 1951, and his present elevated status thus has its origins in this era.

The regimes of Sarit and Thanom were strongly supported by the U.S. Thailand formally became a U.S. ally in 1954 with the formation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). While the war in Indochina was being fought between the Vietnamese and the French, Thailand (disliking both equally) stayed aloof, but once it became a war between the U.S. and the Vietnamese Communists, Thailand committed itself strongly to the U.S. side. Concluding a secret agreement with the U.S. in 1961 Thailand sent troops to Vietnam and Laos, and allowed the U.S. to open airbases in the east of the country to conduct its bombing war against North Vietnam. The Vietnamese retaliated by supporting the Communist Party of Thailand’s insurgency in the north, northeast and sometime in the south, where guerillas co-operated with local discontented Muslims.

The political environment of Thailand changed little during the middle ’60s. Thanom and his chief deputy Praphas maintained a tight grip on power. The alliance between these two was further cemented by the marriage of Praphas’s daughter to Thanom’s son Narong. By the late 1960s, however, more elements in Thai society had become openly critical of the military government which was seen as being increasingly incapable of dealing with the country’s problems. It was not only the student activists, but also the business community that had begun to question the leadership of the government as well as its relationship with the United States. Thanom came under increasing pressure to loosen his grip on power when the king commented that it was time for parliament to be restored and a new constitution put into effect. After Sarit had suspended the constitution in 1958, a committee was established to write a new one, but almost ten years later, it had still not been completed. Finally in 1968 the government issued a new constitution and scheduled elections for the following year. The government party founded by the military junta won the election and Thanom remained prime minister.

Surprisingly, the parliament was not totally tame. A number of MPs (mostly professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and journalists) began to openly challenge some of the government’s policies, producing evidence of widespread government corruption on a number of large projects. As a new fiscal year was being debated in 1971, it actually appeared that the military’s demand for more funds might be voted down. Rather than suffer such a loss of face, Thanom carried out a putsch against his own government, suspended the constitution and dissolved the Parliament. Once again Thailand returned to absolute military rule.

This military approach that used to work well in Pibulsongkram’s in 1938 and 1947, and Sarit’s in 1957-58 would prove to be unsuccessful. By the early 1970s Thai society as a whole developed a level of political awareness where it would no longer accept such unjustified authoritarian rule. The king, using various public holidays to give speeches on public issues, became openly critical of the Thanom-Praphas regime. He expressed doubt on the use of extreme violence in the efforts to combat insurgency. He mentioned the widespread existence of corruption in the government and expressed the view that coups should become a thing of the past in the Thai political system. Furthermore, the junta began to face increasing opposition from within the military itself. Being preoccupied with their political roles, Thanom and Praphas became more remoted from direct control of the army. Meanwhile many officers felt outraged by the rapid promotion of Narong (his son in law) and it seemed that he was going to be Thanom’s successor. To these officers, it appeared that a political dynasty was being created. Consequently, Thanom was ousted from his premiership by the student uprising and had to leave the country in October 1973.

Major incidents. In the post-political revolution period after the abdication of King Rama VII, there were some major events [26] as follows.

2 March 1934: King Rama VII abdicated the throne. The National Assembly concurred with the cabinet proposal to proclaim Prince Ananda Mahidol as King Rama VIII on 7 March 1934.

10 September 1938: The government failed to secure a vote in Parliament and resigned due to the tense global situation but the Head of Council of Regency did not accept the resignation.

11 September 1938 Dissolution of Parliament for re-election of representatives within 60 days.

10 December 1938 Major General Luang Pibulsongkram was appointed Prime-Minister, Minister of Defense and Interior and, in July 1939, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

29 January 1939 The government arrested a group of people on a charge of treason and publicly announced that this group intended to harm prominent persons in the government in order to change the government regime and had intended to proclaim Prajadhipok or Krom Phra Nakhonsawan Vorapinit as King and turn the system back to an absolute monarchy.

11 September 1940 Former Thai territories were reclaimed from France and there was an outbreak of fighting (the Indo-China War).

8 December 1941 Japanese troops marched into Thailand and on 11 December 1941, the Thai government and Japan signed an alliance agreement which covered both offensive and defensive collaboration. This agreement provoked a resistance movement by a group of people against Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram both inside and outside the country. This movement was known as the Seri Thai (Free Thai) Movement and it first began to form in the United States and Great Britain. It aimed to protect Thai independence and prevent the country from disaster in case Great Britain and United States won the war.

22 July 1944 The government failed to secure a vote in the Parliament. Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram resigned.

1 August 1944 Mr. Pridi Panomyong was proclaimed the Regent of Thailand and appointed Mr. Khuang Abhaiwongse as Prime Minister on the same day.

15 August 1945 Japan surrendered. On 16 August 1945, Mr. Pridi Panomyong, the Regent of Thailand issued a Peace Proclamation, repudiating the declaration of war on Great Britain and United States under the government of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram.

17 August 1945 Khuang Abhaiwongse’s government resigned from office, opening the way for the establishment of a new government.

1 September 1945 Mr. Tawee Bunyaget was proclaimed Prime-Minister. On 17 September 1945, Mr. Seni Pramoj became Prime-Minister and resumed diplomatic relations with the Allies.

15 October 1945 Parliament passed a resolution for new elections.

24 March 1946 Mr. Pridi Panomyong became Prime-Minister.

10 May 1946 Promulgation of the constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 1946, the third Thai constitution.

9 June 1946 King Ananda Mahidol was found shot dead.

23 August 1946 Prime minister Mr. Pridi Panomyong resigned. On 24 August 1946, Rear Admiral Thawan Thamrongnavasavad became Prime Minister and encountered problems of finance, living standards, banditry, corruption and investigations into the death of King Ananda Mahidol.

19-27 May 1947 Parliament initiated general debate on a no-confidence vote against the cabinet but the cabinet succeeded in securing the confidence vote. The cabinet was modified.

8 November 1947 Lieutenant General Pin Chunhawan lead a coup-d’ etat and invited Major General Khuang Abhaiwongse to be Prime-Minister on 10 November 1947. Filed Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram returned as As Army Commander.

5 March 1948 The Coup D’etat group of 1947 was not pleased with the work of the government and thus demanded the resignation of the cabinet within 24 hours.

8 April 1948 Khuang Abhaiwongse’s government resigned and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram resumed his position as Prime-Minister.

1 October 1948 Revolt of the military chiefs of staff or the Revolt of the Generals. The Military chiefs of staff planned to seize power, with intention of improving the army, preventing its decline and stopping military interference in political affairs but were arrested by government forces.

26 February 1949 The Wang Lang Revolt led by Pridi Panomyong was a reaction to the failure of the former revolt of military chiefs. This revolt was supported by the Navy but was violently suppressed by the government.

29 June 1951 The Manhattan Revolt by a group from the Navy led by Lieutenant Commander Manas Jarupa. The revolt failed and as a result the Navy lost its political influence since then.

29 November 1951 Self-Coup D’etat by Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram to abrogate the use of 1949 Constitution because it did not have an elected House of Representatives who supported the government but only nominated senators whom the government could not control.

26 February 1957 General Representative elections (This election was widely criticized for its unfairness. University students and the people prepared to protest).

2 March 1957 The Government declared a state of emergency. About noon on the same day, thousands of students and people gathered in front of the Ministry of Interior, demanding that the government cancel the state of emergency.

14 March 1957. Cancellation of the state of emergency. The Serimanangkasila Party that won the election became the government and Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram became Prime Minister, using discretionary powers which created disorder in the country and distrust among the Thai people.

16 September 1957 Coup D’etat by military officers led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat. On the same day there was a royal command appointing Field Marshal Sarit the Military protector of the capital.

21 September 1957 Mr. Pote Sarasin became Prime Minister and formed a caretaker government for 90 days.

1 January 1958 Lieutenant General Thanom Kittikachorn became Prime Minister and formed a government.

20 October 1958 The Revolution led by Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat. This revolution was a milestone in Thailand’s democratic system since it overthrew the existing political institutions at that time.

28 January 1959 The promulgation of the Charter for the Administration of the Kingdom 1959

9 February 1959 A royal command appointed Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat Prime Minister. He formed a government and governed the country until 8 December 1963. (death).

11 December 1963 General Thanom Kittikachorn became Prime Minister and set up a government.

20 June 1968 The promulgation of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand 1968.

7 March 1969 Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn became Prime Minister, formed a government and faced many parliamentary obstacles.

From the above discussions some interesting observations about the prime ministers and their terms of position after the country was under the constitutional monarchy system come to light. Firstly, 11 out of 15 prime ministers in this period were military leaders. Secondly, the first 11 prime ministers were in their position for 16 years (1932-1948). This shows the frequency of political changes that happened in Thai leadership. And thirdly, after 1948 till 1973 the country was ruled continually by 3 Marshals for 25 years. No wonder that there is a critical saying that Thai Army and Thai democracy are relatives!

1.2. Socio-Economic Situation

At that time, movements for education reform in the less developed countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America as well as in the newly formed countries of Eastern Europe were driven by many of the same pressures as in richer countries. Population growth and persistent fiscal crises required governments to search for educational policies that will reduce costs and increase efficiency so as to maintain quality standards while providing access to as many citizens as possible.[27] European governments believed that, if they were to compete successfully in the global economy, they must develop high levels of cognitive skills in their populations. At the same time, two decades of economic slowdown eroded the legitimacy of state in European countries, as elsewhere. Thus, European policymakers also developed educational reforms that would, they hope, restore some of that lost legitimacy.[28] In the beginning of this period, many countries all over the world, including Siam were also affected by Great Depression.

1.2.1. Economic crisis: Great Depression

Great Depression followed the economic ‘crash’ of October 1929 in the U.S.[29] Thousands of investors in the USA lost large sums of money and many were ‘wiped out’. The ensuing period ranked as the longest and worst period of high unemployment and low business activity in modern times. The Depression became a worldwide business slump of the 1930s that affected almost all nations. There was a sharp decrease in world trade as each country tried to protect its own industries by raising tariffs on imported goods. In 1938, the Treasury Act was promulgated in Siam to reorganize the Treasury Department and make it more efficient. Monetary reform was also initiated with the emergence of banknotes. The first Thai bank – the Siam Commercial Bank – was set up.[30]

In some nations, the economic turmoil led to political upheaval and the emergence of aggressive nationalism. In Germany, the depression provided fertile soil for the growth of Nazism. The Japanese invaded China, hoping to restore their economy by exploiting the mineral wealth and industrial potential of Manchuria. This militarism of the Germans and Japanese eventually led to World War II (1939-1945). The Great Depression ended as nations increased their production of war materials in 1941 with America’s entry into World War II sided with Britain, France and the Soviet Union against Germany, Italy, and Japan. This increased production provided jobs and put large amounts of money back into circulation.[31]

Although Siam was not so dramatically affected as the other industrialized nations, it could hardly have escaped the effects of this period unscathed. And the depression eventually brought a fascist government to power that led by Prime Minister Phiboonsongkram from 1938 till 1944. 

1.2.2. Vietnam War and Social change

The Vietnam War hastened the modernization and westernization of Thai society though it occurred in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia from 1959 to April 30, 1975. The war was fought between the communist in North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and South Vietnam, supported by the United States and others. The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of a wider strategy called containment. American Military used some part of Thailand the base during the war with Vietnam. The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities, including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both north and south, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. soldiers.[32]

The American presence in Thailand for many years and the exposure to western culture that came with it impinged on almost every aspect of Thai life. Before the late 1960s, full access to Western culture was limited to a highly educated elite who most were sent by government to study aboard, but the Vietnam War brought the outside world face to face with large segments of the Thai society as never before. With US dollars pumping up the economy, the service, transportation, and construction industries grew phenomenally. The traditional rural family unit was broken down as more and more rural Thais moved to the city to find new jobs that they could earn money easily. This led to a clash of cultures as Thais were exposed to Western ideas about fashion, music, values, and moral standards.

During this war, educational opportunities and exposure to mass media increased during the Vietnam War years. Bright university students learned more about ideas related to Thailand’s economic and political systems, resulting in a revival of student activism. The Vietnam War period also saw the growth of the Thai middle class which gradually developed its own identity and consciousness.

The population began to grow explosively as the standard of living rose, and a flood of people began to move from the villages to the cities, and above all to Bangkok. Bangkok’s population had grown tenfold since 1945 and had tripled since 1970, and Thailand had 30 million people in 1965. However, economic development certainly did not bring prosperity to all. During the 1960s many of the rural poor felt increasingly dissatisfied with their condition in society and disillusioned by their treatment by the central government in Bangkok. Efforts by the government to develop poor rural regions often did not have the desired effect in that they contributed to the farmers’ awareness of how bad off they really were. It noteworthy that it was not always the poorest of the poor who joined the anti-government insurgency. Increased government presence in the rural villages did little to improve the situation. Villagers became subject to increase military and police harassment and bureaucratic corruption. Villagers often felt betrayed when government promised of development were frequently not fulfilled. By the early 1970s rural discontent manifested itself into a peasants’ activist movement. 

1.2.3. Peasants’ Movement 

The peasants’ movement got started in the regions just north of the central plains and the Chiang Mai area. When these regions were merged into the centralized Siamese state in King Rama V’s reign, the old local nobility were allowed to grab large tracts of land. The end result was that by the 1960s close to 30% of the households were landless. In the early 1970s university students helped to bring some of the local protests out on to the national stage. The protests focused on land loss, high rents, the heavy handed role of the police, corruption among the bureaucracy and the local elite, poor infrastructure, and overwhelming poverty. The government agreed to establish a committee to hear peasants’ grief.

1.2.4. National Economic and Social Development Plans

Since the constitution was promulgated, many national plans were written to response of it. The first overall economic and social development plan, known as the First Six Year Development Plan (1961-1966), was introduced in 1961. In terms of education, the plan was based on the National Scheme of Education focusing on enhancing educational opportunities to students who lived outside the Bangkok-Dhonburi area and in the central region of the country.

In 1967 the Second Five Year Development Plan (1967-1971) emphasized the quantitative expansion of secondary, technical, professional, and teacher education in order to prepare both the middle-and high level manpower skills needed for economic development. The plan proved so successful that the manpower shortages in most fields were eliminated. There was also very great qualitative improvement at all levels of education. Teachers were better qualified and more attention was devoted to supplying adequate quantity of teaching materials and school buildings.

1.3. Culture/Religion

During and after the World War II, the country faced a lot of social problems such as robbery and theft and moral decline of the youth. Those situations were mentioned many times in prime ministers’ speeches and a lot of concerns were raised about ethics instruction and Buddhism teaching to students. Major Piboonsongkhram mentioned in his policy on 16th March 1942 (2485) that:

For Buddhism, the government will arrange a grand council held by Buddhists for the purpose of revising the Tripitaka. Good relationship between religion and government must be built for country’s development. The government will rush in ethics training in school so that students will be good citizen with quality in the future. In the meantime, wrong morality among the youth will be monitored and wiped out.[33] 

On 1st September 1945 the then prime minster Thawee Boonyaket declared his policy (2488), in which he said: “As the government was quickly set in the turning point between war and peace, and the ethics has been ignored in society more than ever before, therefore the emergency mission is to stop the crimes and bring back peace to society.”[34] After World War II, social morality had become very low. The problems related to the youth were on the rise. M.L. Pin Malakul considers the following as the causes of such evils in the society.[35]

1) More people populated in the city where the living cost was higher, therefore parents could not support students for their needs.

2) Students were not interested to come home, because of the poverty at home. Therefore they enjoyed their life outside which easily led them to misbehaviors.

3) Advanced technology produced goods at cheaper prices, so people started to amass more extravagant things that brought economic difficulties to family.

4) The use of mass media advertisements brought to people various business products, which led to an increase in business, but where the standards of business ethics was disregarded.

5) Along with the changes in the social value system, the children began to have the freedom to expression but which allowed them to freely express their feeling. This however fostered a tendency of impatience and lack of emotional control.

6) The youth had moved away from Religion and Morality.

In addition, many articles and pictures that supported immoral behavior among youth were inserted and advanced in different public books and magazines in society. Since these reasons were considered the causes of youth’s and children’s immoral behavior, in 1947 (2490) a letter from educational ministry was sent to all educational governors of every province titled ‘Moral Correction and Principles,’ with the double intention of solving the misbehavior of the youth and to promote morality and Buddhism among them. The ministry of education was in charge of it and it demanded regular reports on the results of its implementation. From then, to enhance its effectiveness, many additional projects , such as a youth center, Buddhism book, prayer book for students, Sunday school for Buddhism learning, religion activity in school, bringing students to temple etc. were set up. This effort was clearly seen in primary curriculum of 1948 also after moral contents in ethics instruction were reduced from the former primary curricula in this period. Later on, in this period, due to political and social change during and after World War II, ethics instruction in primary curricula emphasized Nationalism whereas Buddhism and moral instruction weakened. (See Curricula of 1955 and 1960)

The administrative system for the community of Bhikkhus (monks) was altered during this period in compliance with that of the State, so that there were Ecclesiastical ministers and a prime minister. Two Buddhist Universities were established in the real sense of a university. They are: Mahamakuta University, opened in 1955 at the temple of Bovaranives; and Mahachulalongkorn University, opened in 1947 at the temple of Mahadhat that was opened in 1947. These two Buddhist Universities were managed by Bhikkhus, with a subsidy from the Government and contributions from the public. There were also Bhikkhus from neighboring countries such as Laos and Cambodia attended these universities. This was a favorable sign for Buddhism in this age of trouble and turmoil in various aspects of the society.

Even the King himself participated in the Buddhist education. For example, in 1956 (B.E. 2499), King Bhumiphol or Rama IX, temporarily renounced the throne for the purpose of ordination. During the period as a Bhikkhu he attentively studied Buddhism both in its theoretical and practical sides. This brought in the minds of the people a great appreciation for Buddhism and during the joyous occasion of his ordination an amnesty was declared for many prisoners. The Supreme Patriarch was the Preceptor [Upajja] in the royal ceremony of ordination.[36]

2. Education

Since the major political change of the country from the absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy was marked in 1932, there was a lack of proper stability in administration. The governors and governments were frequently changed. The changes definitely influenced the educational system of the country. Also along with economic development in this modernization period, a corresponding educational development was taking place. A number of national issues influenced more or less to ethics instruction in primary education. The National Education Schemes were promulgated in 1936, 1951 and 1960 respectively. 

There were promulgation of 4 Primary curricula as follows: 1) Primary Curriculum : 1937 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : 2480), 2) Primary Curriculum : 1948 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa: 2491) 3) Primary Curriculum : 1955 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : 2498) and 4) Primary Curriculum : 1960 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa Tonton and Tonplai : 2503). To discuss about these matters might give us some understanding that why this period is called ‘Modernization Period’?, and how far as well as in what ways ethics instruction in primary curriculum was transformed during the period? 

2.1. The National Education Scheme

After the change of government to democracy in 1932, every national education scheme aimed at giving the people proper education that was suitable to their both intellectual and financial abilities. The National Education Schemes of 1933 and 1936 specified that there whould be three kinds of education: Intellectual or General (Bhuddisueksa), Moral (Chariyasueksa) and Physical (Palasueksa), which were all to be considered equally important. In the National Education Scheme of 1951, Practical or Handicraft Education (Hattasueksa) was added to these three, and all these four were supposed to be studied in equal proportion.

The National Education Scheme of 1960 abandoned this principle of proportionate education and adopted a new principle which focused on adjusting educational program to meet the demands of the society and individuals. In this new system national education would be organized to suit the economic policy and the administrative machinery of the nation. Education was also made, in a way, the right of every citizen, with the special stipulation that, “the State intends to give every citizen as much education as his aptitude would allow”.

This meant that no one would be deprived of education because of his or her poverty, and the state was intended to provide for all equally. As a matter of fact, the previous governments had, in practice, been working along this line of thought before 1960. And since the insertion of this concept of equal opportunity for all in the National Education Scheme, the State began to make greater effort to give financial support to students who were poor but capable of higher study.

In this period of modernization, those three National Education Schemes were publicized with the following significant issues. 

2.1.1. The National Education Scheme of 1936

As early as the late 1930s, the government deemed it appropriate to improve and modernize education planning.

Accordingly, the 1936 National Scheme of Education divided educational system into general and vocational streams. The compulsory education of 6 years of schooling was considered too long and hence was reduced to four years. The new policy of educational administration was laid down according to which the government, the municipality, and private groups would share the responsibility. Higher education was promoted and adult education as well as special education was initiated.

The following were the objectives of this educational scheme

I. The government wanted to educate every citizen so that he may fulfill his duties under the constitutional regimes, serve his country and support himself as a good member of society.

II. For the full benefit of education, children would be given both Samansueksa (General Education) and Archewasueksa (Vocational Education).

III. Education was to be imparted at different levels:

1. Intellectual Education (Buddhisueksa): to give wisdom and knowledge.

2. Moral Education (Chariyasueksa): to instill morality.

3. Physical Education (Palasuksa): to promote good health.

IV. Education was to be divided into: 1) General Education, composed of basic principles of various subjects. This included a long 10 year of study, of which the first four years were considered as primary education, the next three years as the first lower secondary education, and the last three as the upper secondary education. And 2) Vocational Education, which was oriented toward various vocational skills, and was offered to the students who have completed any of the set courses of the General Education

V. Those who wish to study at the university level were required to complete their pre-university education first.

VI. Age restrictions were prescribed for various grades, which is shown in the chart of the National Education Plan below. (Figure. 2)

VII. The scheme emphasized compulsory education, which required that every child be given primary education according to the Primary Education Act.

VIII. In providing education, the State would allow the municipal authorities and private citizens to help the government set up schools.

IX. The State would subsidize private schools in accordance with the regulations to be laid down.

X. The State would help students in their study by granting scholarships depending on the rules to be made later on.

XI. All educational institutions were required to employ instructors, equipped with diplomas or degrees, or specialists suited to the subjects and classes they teach.

XII. The State retained its control the activities of all schools and would be in charge of holding examinations for teachers who wish to obtain diplomas, as well as examinations at the key stages of General education, i.e. final examinations of primary education and both parts of secondary education. The State could also hold final examinations grade 4 in primary education, grade 7 and grade 10 in secondary education. However, if the examination results of any school are proven trustworthy and reliable, the State would not provide its own examinations and would consider the school’s examination equivalent to those of the State.

Figure 2. The schooling structure provided in the National Scheme of Education 1936

2.1.2. The National Education Scheme of 1951

In 1950, the governments became much more concerned with the development of education as a part of national reconstruction and modernization in the post-war period. A committee was formed to revise the National Education Scheme of 1936 and draft a new scheme of education. Later on in the same year Lieutenant General Sawad S. Sawadikiat, Minister of Education, introduced the drafted scheme while addressing the conference on municipal (Prachabarn) Education in the following words:

The problem of Prachabarn Education is inseparable from that of Compulsory Education which form the basis of the country’s development. According to the Primary Education Act, children are compelled to attend school until they are fifteen years of age. However, any student who can pass primary grade 4 examination can leave school. It has, nevertheless been generally recognized that the knowledge obtained from 4 years of primary education is not sufficient for the present society.

Nowadays every country is trying to keep their children at school as long as possible so that when they leave school after completing their compulsory education, they will be well-informed citizens. At present, there is not a single developed country that imposes only four years of compulsory education. If we want to compete with foreigners, we shall have to make our people better educated. The Ministry of Education has been concerned about this matter and has set up a committee aiming at extending the period of compulsory education to seven years and making every student obtain at least the certificate of Secondary grade 3 or its equivalent.[37]

The new National Scheme of Education of 1951 was promulgated in which educational development was stated as a principal concern of the government. A reorganization of government administrative system at national, regional, and local levels took place in 1952 resulting in the establishment of many new educational units, including the Office of the National Education Council, which was later renamed as the Office of the National Education Commission. 

In the National Education Scheme of 1951 also the two branches of education, viz., general education and vocational education were retained and a student could select either of them after primary grade 4. However, in practice, this option to choose one’s branch of education at such an early stage had not been working out too well, because vocational subjects could be effectively studied only when a student had a good grasp of basic knowledge and training in general, which required at least 6 or 7 years of primary education. 

According to this scheme, secondary education was divided into three branches: General Education (Samansueksa), Special General Education (Wisamansueksa), and Vocational Education (Archewasueksa).

1) General Education (Samansueksa) at the secondary level was the continuation of primary education and the training for work which provided the foundations of knowledge and enhanced the ability of citizens. Ranging from secondary grades 1 to 3, this was a new branch aiming at dividing equally the courses between the study of textbooks and the training of students’ skill. As a result, after leaving school at this stage, students would be able to do something practical, working as skilled laborers, for example, and not just having bookish knowledge.

Special General Education (Wisamansueksa) was the education fundamental to the pre-university or vocational course. It lasted six years (secondary grades 1 to 6).

Vocational Education (Archewasueksa) was the study of specific subjects essential to earning one’s living. It could be pursued by students who had completed certain courses of primary education, or secondary education. It was divided into “Primary Vocational Education” and “Advanced Vocational Education”.

Figure 3. The school structure provided in the National Scheme of Education 1951

We could state the objectives of this educational scheme as follows.

I. The State wishes that every child should, to the best of ability, receive as much education as possible so that he may become a good democratic member of society endowed with health and sufficient knowledge and ability to earn his own living.

II. To become a good citizen each boy and girl should remain at school at least until the age of fifteen.

III. Every boy and girl should seek knowledge and skill which will become useful to his or her career later on.

IV. In the organization of education, four kinds of knowledge should be taught:

1. Chariyasueksa, to cultivate culture and public spirit.

2. Palasueksa, to promote physical strength and good health as well as good sportsmanship.

3. Buddhisueksa, to give wisdom and general knowledge.

4. Hattasueksa, to instill industriousness and skill in the use of one’s hands as basic training for work.

V. There have to be five levels of education:

1. Pre-Primary Education, which is the training of children before the period of compulsory education with the emphasis on preparing children for Primary Education.

2. Primary Education, which meant the study of basic general knowledge divided into 4 grades: Prathom 1 to Prathom 4.

3. Secondary Education. Secondary Education is to be divided into 3 branches:

i. General Education (Samansueksa) is the continuation of Primary Education plus practical training. It is regarded as the foundation of knowledge and ability and has 3 grades: Mattayom 1 to Mattayom 3.

ii. Special Education (Wisamansueksa) is the study of subject relevant to further studies in pre-university or vocational courses. It is divided into 2 parts each of which has 3 grades.

iii. Vocational Education (Archewasueksa) is the study of special subjects that are fundamental to the earning of one’s living. It can be pursued by students who have completed certain courses of Primary education or either of the other two branches of secondary education. It is divided into 2 parts: “Primary Vocational Education” and “Advanced Vocational Education”. Each part is designed to take not more than 3 years of study.

4. Pre-University or advanced Vocational Education. Pre-University Education is the study of subjects that prepare students for higher studies in college or universities. It provides a two-year course. Advanced Vocational Education is the study of vocational subjects preparing students for work or further studies in colleges or universities.

5. University Education, which is the advanced study of various subjects and research work.

VI. The chart of national education with the standard age of a child for each stage of education is given above. (See Figure. 3)

VII. Compulsory Education. According to the law, every child has to attend school until he reaches the school-leaving age.

VIII. Compulsory Education in government schools must be given free of charge, and the State should assist with such educational equipment as it thinks fit.

IX. Additional Education and Adult Education. Additional Education is an occasional course of study provided for children who have left school. Adult Education is an occasional course of study provided for adults who did not have the opportunity of studying in their childhood, or are incapable of following the normal course of study, or wish to improve the efficiency of their work by furthering their studies.

X. General Polity. The government holds education as the most important state affair.

XI. The State promotes and supports education. The organization of education is the responsibility of the State only; all educational establishments are under the control of the state. University education is permitted to be managed by the responsible party within the limits of law.

XII. The state lays special emphasis on vocational education.

XIII. The State encourages research in arts and sciences.

XIV. The State allows private citizens to participate in the provision of education lower than the university level.

XV. The State subsidizes private schools according to Regulations set by the Ministry of Education.

XVI. The State allows scholarships to students according to the regulations in order to help them in their studies.

XVII. The State promotes and directs the training of teachers in order that there may be enough qualified teachers for various schools to fulfill the aims of the National Education Scheme.

XVIII. All educational establishments must employ instructors, equipped with diplomas or degrees, or specialists suited to the subjects and classes they teach.

XIX. The state is entitled to control and inspect instruction in school and hold examinations according to the Ministry of Education’s regulations.

In 1951, the education for handicraft education (Hattasuekasa) was added as the fourth objective of Thai education to the first three objectives, we already mentioned, viz., the intellectual development, moral development, and physical development. However, in reality, the teaching did not encourage the success of manual teaching as seen from many workshops. Many schools used the periods allotted to handicrafts for teaching general academic subjects.

In 1959, the National Council on Educational Act was introduced to enforce the following duties and responsibilities: (1) to plan the improvement of the national educational policies in accordance with the national economic and governmental system, (2) to solve problems in public education and to propose actions to be taken by the government , (3) to analyze the annual report of public education , (4) to recommend to the council of Ministers the methods of securing governmental revenues for the support of public education,(5) to plan the annual budget for all the universities,(6) to approve the establishment, merger, and the dissolution of The universities, (7) to approve the establishment, merger, and the dissolution of colleges and departments within the universities and (8) to plan approve the curricula in the universities. [38]

After the coup d’etat in 1958, Field Marshall Sarit Tanarat, the leader of the Revolutionary Party, appointed a committee of twelve called “The Committee for Revising the Education Scheme”. The committee operated until September 1959 when it was dissolved by the decree of the Revolutionary Party which set up in its place the Council of National Education[39] with Field Marshal Sarit as chairman. The Council took over the unfinished task of revising the National Education Scheme of 1951, and formed an administrative committee headed by M.L. Pin Malakul, Minister of Education, to draft a new scheme which was completed in 1960. 

2.1.3. The National Education Scheme of 1960

A new National Education Scheme was ratified in October 20,1960 to be effective by April 1,1961, and also the First National Education Development Plan (1961-1966) was formulated in the model of a five-year plan and this was an integral part of the First National Economic and Social Development Plan. Since then, education assumed a full functional role as an instrument for development. Under the 1960 National Scheme of Education (1960-1976), three five-year education development plans were formulated. During this period, the main objectives of the policy were directly linked to the economic development and focused on providing medium-and high-level manpower needed for the growing economy.

In general, the principal change brought about by the National Education Scheme of 1960 was the expansion of both primary and secondary education. The fact that primary education now required 7 years of study and that it was given priority as the essential foundation of education for the general public meant major step towards real democracy, since the viability of a democracy is based upon the standard of education of its people.

Failure to govern a country in a democratic system often stems from one important factor, namely that there are not enough educated middle-class people to create public opinion. In the history of our democracy, most problems have been caused by the low standard of education of our people. The higher the standard of education becomes, the easier it is going to be for the country to be governed in a democratic system.

On compulsory education, the National Education Scheme of 1960 added a special clause that the State should, as far as its financial condition would allow, extend the period of compulsory education to raise the standard of the people’s basic knowledge. The target was to have 7 years of compulsory education. In addition, the Scheme made special provisions for disabled children who were exempted from compulsory education so that they might, regardless of their inborn handicaps, be given some from of basic education.

Figure 4. The School system by level and type of course provided in the National Scheme of Education 1960

Some significant changes were made in the educational scheme 1960 and many other points were further emphasized. The most important features of it are the following:

I. Policy

1. The government aims to provide education to all people according to their individual ability and prepare them to be good citizens who are healthy, responsible, well disciplined, moral and cultured.

2. In accordance with the national economic development plans and the administrative policy, the organization of education will be adjusted so as to respond to individual and social needs.

3. The government will upgrade people’s basic education by extending the levels of compulsory education as much as the economic resources permit. It will also support vocational and adult education extensively.

4. The government will promote education as one of the priority tasks and will be responsible to administration of education system. However, the responsibility will be shared among government agencies and private groups.

5. Autonomy is allowed to universities to some extent. In addition, research activities in various branches of study will be encouraged.

II. Educational System (See Figure 4)

1. Primary education comprised 4 years for lower grades, and 3 years for upper grades.

2. Secondary education covers 3 years for lower levels, and 2 years for upper levels.

3. Vocational education is much further expanded as shown in the figure (3) of educational system.

III. Organization of Administrative Structure

The administration is divided into Central and Regional categories. The central administration included two offices and eight departments in the Ministry of Education. (See ministry of education in this period). And the Regional Administration consisted of twelve educational regions, in which each office of administration has an official chief and his assistants for the administration and supervision in educational matters.

IV. Decentralizing Administrative Authority. 

In 1959, the policy of decentralization of administrative authority to the local people was declared. However, only in 1965 a committee was appointed to work out the transfer of school administration to the jurisdiction of the Provincial administration and it was legislated in 1966. Accordingly, most of the public primary schools are transferred to the Provincial administration. The department of Primary and Adult education administers only demonstrating primary schools, some upper primary village schools where compulsory education is not declared, and the schools for socio-economically deprived children.

Sum of changes in the Educational Scheme 1960

There is drastic change in educational organization. The Primary level covers seven years, secondary education five years. The curriculum in the first four years of primary education consists of Thai language, arithmetic, science, health and physical education, arts, and social studies. The last three years of primary education covers the former six subjects and two additional subjects, namely, English and handicrafts.[40] Therefore, it could be said that there were a lot of curriculum changes in the new scheme in respect of subject content, pedagogy. 

Some similar subjects were grouped together, and integration of subjects teaching technique was used. The assessment and evaluation according to primary curriculum 1960 had been much developed as well. The behavioral development was evaluated by teacher’s observation. Standard exam was constructed for assessment and followed by. Furthermore, subject teacher was involved for the exams’ production and exam analysis. Some works and activities were counted for means of evaluation. 

2.2. Administration and Control

It may be seen in the Primary Education Act of 1935 that the policy of the government was to enhance the influence of local administrators upon public education by setting up a municipal committee to administer primary education in the rural area. It could levy taxes for the maintenance and improvement of the municipal school system as long as its rules and regulations were not in conflict with the Municipal Act of 1933, amended in 1938 and 1943. These local administrators had to submit an annual report to the provincial governor.

According to Articles 20 and 27 of the 1935 Primary Education Act, the provincial governor had the discretionary power to authorize the creation of new local schools, to prohibit local schools altogether, or to exterminate the legal existence of any local schools, within his province. Articles 36 and 38 empowered the provincial governor and the district officer to appoint and discharge the school committee for each local school. In the areas where the system of municipal administration was established, all assets and liabilities of all local schools within those areas were transferred to the municipal jurisdiction. 

Though Article 40 of the same enactment recognized that local schools legally existed in the areas where there were no municipal councils, actually, all the local schools were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior. In view of the above circumstance, all local schools existing after 1935 will be identified as being under the municipal school system. The development of the municipal school system was unsatisfactory because sufficient funds could not be raised to support the schools.

In 1959, the government adopted a policy of decentralization for education system. According to it, administration of public primary schools in municipal areas was transferred to the municipalities. In 1966, all the public primary schools in rural areas were transferred to the Changwad (province) Administrative Organization. Public primary schools therefore were classified as follows:

1) Municipal (Tesabarn) schools were established in the provinces partly in 1935 as a result of failure of the local school system and partly as the result of the expansion of the power of the Ministry of Interior over local government.

2) Government (Rattabarn) schools which are attached to the Department of General Education;

3) Demonstration (Sathit) schools which are attached to teacher training colleges and some universities; and

4) Rural schools (Prachabarn), the vast majority of which are attached to the provincial administrative authorities called the Changwad Administrative Organization (CAO).

The General Education Department administered only schools which were reserved for experimentation and demonstration and a few upper primary schools for socio-economically deprived children. General responsibility for administering the educational system rests with the Under-Secretary of State for Education. The local administration was divided into three different levels:

1) The regional level which consists of 12 regional education offices, each headed by a regional education officer. He and his staff serve as general supervisors and provide in-service training.

2) The province (changwad) level which consisted of 71 provinces: each administered by a province education officer.

3) The district (amphoe) level which consists of about 550 districts. District education officers were responsible for supervising all education in the district.

In the central region, however, all schools and colleges, government and private, are administered directly by the appropriate departments of the Ministry of Education.

2.3. Ministry of Education

In 1938 there was a change of government. The new government passed a new act on the Ministry of Public Instruction whereby the Department of Education was abolished and the Department of General Education (Samansueksa) and the Department of Technical Knowledge (Wichakarn) were set up in its place on April 1 , 1939. The Department of General Education was in charge of general education and department of Technical Knowledge, and the Department of Technical knowledge took charge of vocational education as well as improving the syllabuses, textbooks and setting the examinations.

In 1941, the name of the Ministry of Public Instruction was changed into the Ministry of Department. The Department of Ecclesiastical Affairs was renamed the Department of Religious Affairs, and in 1942 the Technical Knowledge Department became the Department of Vocational education (Archewasueksa). The general policy of the newly founded Ministry of Department, as announced by the Minister of Education, Admiral Sin Kamolnawin in 1941, emphasized the following ponts. [41]

Primary Education

The main objective was to have as many schools as possible and to admit all children who would be encouraged to pass the examinations of primary grade 4 so that they would not have to study the same course again in the classes provided for adult education. At that time, there was still a problem of teachers’ qualifications and the syllabus that was being revised. Although the textbooks were sufficient in number and up to standard, a great number of children were so poor that they could not afford to by them. And the Ministry was keen to remedy the situation.

General Education

The Ministry made every effort to provide education for all students who wished to continue their studies up to the university level. However, the government had no immediate plan to build more state schools or increasing the number of classes in these schools, but would rather entrust the expansion of secondary education to the private sector.

Vocational Education

The aim was to train students in such a way that when they had completed the courses they would be well prepared for any kind of work that required a specific skills. Vocational courses could be taken by students who could not afford to carry on their studies in General Education, which required more money and time to complete than Vocational Education. Besides, the Ministry of Education wanted to change the general belief that skilled labour was an inferior type of work and to prove that vocational studies could be as important and profitable as studies of other subjects.

Physical Education

Provincial governors were required to help setting up playgrounds and to preserve traditional Thai sports in their provinces.

Private Schools

The government should support the setting up of private schools. In order to provide more opportunities for students the number of private schools should be increased with the help of the government in order for them to achieve and maintain high standard.

Actually, there were not much major modifications in the policies of the Ministry of Education from 1937 till 1952. The two significant changes were the replacement of the Department of Education with the Department of General Education in 1937 and the renaming of the Ministry of Religious Education into the Ministry of Education in 1941. The ecclesiastical affairs were excluded from the Ministry. The Ministry was reorganized and divided into eight departments: (1) the office of the Secretary, (2) the Office of the Under-Secretary, (3) the Department of Physical Education, (4) the Department of Universities, (5) the Department of Educational Technique, (6) the Department of Primary Education, (7) the Department of Secondary Education, and (8) the Department of Vocational Education. 

In 1951, the Ministry of Education made the Division of Primary Education to be the Department of Public Education which comprised primary, special and adult education. Later on, it was renamed as Department of Primary and Adult Education. In 1954 the Supervisory Unit was established in the Department of Primary and Adult Education. The Department of Teachers’ Training was added to the Ministry in 1955. 

In 1960, there took place a further re-arrangement of the various departments in the Ministry of Education. Accordingly, it comprised of 2 offices and 8 departments as below.

1. Office of the Secretary of the Minister

2. Office of the Under Secretary

3. Department f Teacher Training

4. Department of Primary and Adult Education

5. Department of Secondary Education

6. Department of Vocational Education

7. Department of Educational Techniques

8. Department of Religious Affairs

9. Department of Physical Education

10. Department of Fine Arts

Figure 5. Figure Reorganization of the Ministry of Education from 1935-1970

Although the Departments of Religious Affair and Fine Arts were added the Department of University was excluded. And also the Department of Primary and Adult Education was in fact a renamed one of the department of Primary Education, the details of all of whichare given in figure 5.

2.4. Secondary Education

Secondary education aimed basically at giving students general knowledge and skills to enable them to earn a living, or to become an apprentice or to continue their studies at a higher level. It was meant, at a deeper level, to explore and promote the interests and aptitudes of different students, taking into account individual differences.

The curriculum of the secondary school included literary, linguistic, mathematical and scientific fields. It was divided into two streams of academic and vocational areas. The academic stream was designed to prepare students for university and the vocational stream to provide specific vocational training. The academic stream consisted of five years of study-three lower and two upper grades and the vocation stream consisted of 6 years of study-three lower and three upper grades. Students could transfer from the lower level of the academic stream to the upper level of the vocational stream if they wish.

Targets and Plan of Operation. The Objectives of the Department of General Education with regard to the secondary education included the following:

1. To increase an enrolment of secondary students in the provinces, and to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the provincial schools to a level that is equal to, or higher than, that in the schools in Bangkok.

2. To improve the quality of secondary education by:

2.1 Supplying buildings, teaching aids, materials and equipment to project school;

2.2 Improving the quality of teaching and learning by means of supervision and in- service training;

2.3 Developing research and analysis pertaining to secondary education such as research on curriculum, methods of teaching and testing;

2.4 Increasing the number of teachers in proportion to the increasing quantity of work;

2.5 Promoting security, welfare and opportunities of teachers to keep up their morale and to increase work efficiency;

2.6 And by seeking foreign assistance – technical, material as well as financial. 

3. To solicit from private agencies and other organizations land for sites of new schools or annexes, and funds for construction.

4. To support and encourage private schools to improve their standards of education.

The Ministry of Education exercised full responsibility for formulating policies and for controlling all types of secondary education. It controlled education through the preparation of curriculum and the providing of text-books. General secondary schools were administered by the Department of General Education, and vocational schools by the Department of Vocational Education. All private schools came under the Office of Private Education Commission.

The Department of General education, which administers all Government secondary schools, was responsible for constructing school buildings, providing qualified teachers, budgeting, gathering statistical data, maintaining official records, determining the administrative area and financing the enterprise. It also supervises the curriculum and method of instruction.

The Department of Educational Techniques was responsible for preparing and administering nationwide examinations in public and private schools for the certification of M.S. 5 graduates. It provided professional assistance to various departments in the development of curriculum, textbook and teaching aids. It’s duties also included to approve and prepare lists of books for use in school, as well as to give the Ministry of Education advice on educational matters and issues.

Curriculum development had the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. There was a permanent Curriculum Committee appointed by the Ministry of Education, consisting of the Directors-General of all the departments in the Ministry except the Department of Fine Arts and the Department of Religious Affairs. But, in practice, a committee, consisting of selected teachers, supervisors, university instructors and officials of the Ministry of Education, was appointed to consider curriculum objectives and requirements.

Then, sub-committees consisting of specialized subject teachers were appointed to work out specific details. The resulting syllabus was examined by the committee to ensure that it was in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Ministry of Education. Usually before the new curriculum was introduced into the school, it was explained and discussed at seminars and conferences convened for the purpose by the Ministry. Regional might be more effective in catering to the local needs and conditions.

As for curriculum text-book and teaching aids, the schools get assistance from the Department of Educational Techniques and Ministry of Education, whose responsibilities included the approval and preparation of lists of books for use in the schools as wall as to promote the use of instructional aids on the part of teachers.

Before 1958 every school had a six-day week, but since then they were allowed to open five or six days a week as the schools might deem it fit. However, the hours of study must total at least 30 per week for primary and secondary schools, and 33 for vocational schools.

The emphasis on examinations was very much emphasised. Admission to secondary schools and universities depended upon the results of regular examinations and naturally many students were eliminated at the end of each year for failing in examinations. So a high promotion rate inevitably became one of the goals which all schools try to achieve.

Examinations given at the end of the primary level, the lower secondary level and the upper secondary level, were set by the Ministry of Education. University entrance examinations were conducted by the Bureau of State Universities. Throughout one’s school career, a student had to take examinations. Consequently, all efforts concentrated on passing the examinations successfully.

2.5. Special Education

The term “Special Education” as defined by the Thai Ministry of Education is some what different from the conventional meaning it has in the western hemisphere. In other countries, this may refer to the provision of education for children who are exceptional or handicapped physically, psychologically or mentally, socially and emotionally. In Thailand, the term carries a broader connotation that special education is provided for all kinds of handicapped children, including those who live in remote areas and poor, in order to maximize the effort of compulsory education.

It had been the government policy to provide special education either by itself or in collaboration with the private sector. The Ministry of Education provided the voluntary organizations with financial and academic assistance in terms of construction costs and teachers. Thus the implementation of special education programs in Thailand was the joint effort of governmental authorities and different foundations to which some of the special schools belonged. The government’s contribution towards these schools were in the form of annual subsidies, teachers’ salaries, school building costs, educational equipments and students’ boarding and lodging coasts.

The special education program in Thailand was carried out only on a limited scale and had to face many problems. Firstly, the Ministry of Education could not expand the scope of work due to the lack of budget and personnel. Secondly, foundations which supported activities for handicapped children were more preoccupied with the philanthropic rather than the educational aspect.

Thirdly, there were few qualified teachers who had been trained in the field of special education. Most teachers who worked in schools or institutions for handicapped children were offered only in-service training. Finally, the attitude of the people towards the handicapped in Thailand tended to be overprotective. They felt that those handicapped people should merely be taken care of but not necessarily to be educated so as to earn their living. Job opportunities for handicapped workers also were too limited. The Ministry of Education was fully aware of these obstacles and were attempting to overcome them, but with limited success.[42]

2.6. Teachers Education

In 1940, the Ministry of Education set up the Teachers Training Section in the Department of Education Techniques. It was responsible for the training of teachers in the capital as well as in the provinces. There were, at first, four of such schools: Suan Sunanta School, Bangkok Primary Teachers School, Petburividhyalongkorn Girls’ School and Ban Somdej Chao Phraya School. During the Second World War all the teachers training schools were moved to the provinces. In 1944, eight more teachers training schools were set up in Songkla, Udorn, Ubol, Lopburi,Ayutthaya, Petchaboon, Pitsanuloke and Nakornsawan which located in different parts of the country.

After the war, the schools in Bangkok were re-opened in 1947 and the training system was extensively developed. Experts from UNESCO played a major role in improving the quality of teachers training program. What could be called a semi-qualified teachers training was abandoned, although there was a shortage of teachers. To remedy the scarcity of teachers, at one time the Ministry had to take pupils who had finished only secondary grade III for two years’ training before sending them to rural areas. Some primary teachers were recruited on an accelerated program. School leavers who had completed secondary grade VIII were given a one-year course and were authorized to teach in primary schools. Those were attempts at solving the immediate problem of teacher shortage.

Before 1952, Teacher education was formerly administered by different agencies. The Vocational Education Department was in charge of training vocational school teachers. Agriculture teachers were trained by agricultural schools. The Physical Education Department trained physical education teachers for both primary and secondary schools. In the attempt to standardize the training of teachers undertaken by various authorities the government, then later in 1954, the Teacher Training Development was set up as an independent body from the Department of Education Techniques to be responsible for all types of teacher education. However, this did not work out satisfactorily then the training of vocational teachers and physical education teachers was handed back to the Vocational Education Development and the Physical Education Department.

In 1958, nine teachers training schools were granted college status, and a few years later all the teachers training schools became teachers training colleges. There are now thirty-six teachers colleges in the whole country, which means that on average there is one teachers college for two provinces. These colleges offer courses leading to both the Lower Certificate of Education and the Higher Certificate of Education. Degree courses for teachers are offered in various universities, for example Chulalongkorn University, Chiengmai University, Silpakorn University, and, particularly, Srinakharintrawirot University, the former College of Education, and which has campuses both in Bangkok and in the provinces.

The concept of teacher training is based on the trilogy of learning: general education, specialized subjects as major or minor subjects and professional education which comprises methods of teaching and educational psychology and guidance. As teacher training is one of the most vital factors contributing to the development of the educational system as a whole; it is agreed that priority should be given to the high standard and efficiency in teacher education.

Prospective teachers are trained to teach in the primary and secondary classes. The courses are divided into three levels:

The Lower Certificate in Education. Students who have graduated from M.S. III (the third year of secondary education) may sit for an entrance examination to the teachers colleges. After two years training, they are awarded the Lower Certificate in Education, which qualifies them to teach in the seven classes at primary schools.

The Higher Certificate in Education. Students are recruited from graduates of M.S. V or those who have obtained the Lower Certificate in Education. They follow another two-year course which will enable them to teach in lower secondary classes up to M.S. III

Degree Courses in Education. The Srinakharintrawirot University, formerly known as the College of Education, offer courses in various branches of education at bachelor, master’s and doctoral degree levels. Furthermore, in order to meet the demand for degree teachers, teachers colleges have opened courses similar to those of the Srinakharintrawirot University since 1974. These colleges will turn out about 900 degree teachers in 1976.

Policy and Strategy 

The Department of Teacher Training aims both at training competent teachers and at increasing the teacher output to meet the chronic shortages. Since the beginning, it has spared no effort to carry out this difficult mission. Over the years, there have been special programmes to encourage the teachers to upgrade themselves, for example, by setting up evening courses in teachers colleges for the in-service teachers so that they may become qualified or better equipped.

In the early days when teachers were urgently needed, they were recruited from the equivalent of primary grade VII leavers and after giving a two year training, were appointed in the primary public schools in the rural areas. Although this measure has been discontinued as better qualified teachers became available, those who were already appointed needed to be better equipped to impart quality education in the schools. The upgrade programs are intended for this purpose.

In-service teachers in the provinces had many opportunities to improve themselves through these programs. They can either take up correspondence courses in Bangkok, then took qualifying examination at the end of the session. Better still, they can take an entrance examination, then attend evening courses leading to the Lower or the Higher Certificate in Education. Those who have already obtained both certificates but wish to get a degree may attend evening courses leading the bachelor degree at Srinakharintrawirot University.

In order to accelerate the output of competent teachers, the teachers colleges have stepped up the number of intake both in regular sessions and evening sessions. In 1973 the number of lower certificate teachers output rose to 9,124 and the higher certificate was 3,008. Thus there were more or less enough qualified teachers at all levels to meet the demand. The Department of Teacher Training had now a policy to reduce the evening courses enrolment so as to avoid wastage in training. The problem was that many qualified teachers failed to find jobs in urban areas whereas vacancies in the rural areas have not been filled. The expansion of the teacher training had not solved the fundamental problem of teacher shortages, but had rather lead to an uneven distribution of teachers.

The Department of Teachers Training also had a policy to train teachers to become competent community leaders in rural areas. Student teachers were encouraged to do their teaching practice during their training in needy areas so that they may realize the acuteness of the teacher shortage problem and feel inspired to go out to help the rural community after their training.

With the objectives of training competent teachers, the Development of Teacher Training had set up a Rural Teacher Training Project and adopted the following strategies:

1. Set up more teachers colleges in the provinces so that the staff and students are kept in touch with the local way of life, culture and needs.

2. Give scholarships to teacher trainers to study abroad in order to raise the standard of teacher training in the teachers college.

3. Set up special programs to train primary school teachers in sensitive areas in co-operation with the Department of Public Administration. These teachers are recruited from the Border Patrol Police to help fill the gap of teacher shortages in politically sensitive areas.

4. Upgrade the teaching profession by setting up degree courses for teachers in the provincial colleges.

5. Give scholarships to students from the rural areas on condition that they go back and teach in their native villages especially in the hilltribes project.

6. Give hardship allowances and free accommodation to teachers who are willing to go out to teach upcountry. They also have better chances for promotion and further studies.

7. In order to promote good understanding among the Southern provinces students are allowed to take Islamic Religious Instruction as a minor subject at the higher certificate level and as part of the training program at lower certificate level at any southern teachers college.

As most of the teachers who were graduated at the lower certificate level teach in primary schools throughout the country, it is the government’s policy that they should not only get academic knowledge but that their knowledge of other subjects such as physical and health education, agriculture and Boy Scout Organization should not be neglected either. They are expected to supervise all the extra-curricular activities when working in small schools and to provide their community with effective leadership in development programs.

The impact of the Rural Teacher Training Project upon the teacher training was so great that an entirely new concept of training for primary school teachers emerged. The following features were characteristic of the modernized teacher training program.

1. Decentralization of teachers colleges. New teachers colleges are set up in the provinces so that students will be in touch with life in the rural community. They will learn about the way of life, the culture and the social structure of the individual communities.

2. Economic orientation of teacher training program. As agriculture is the most predominant occupation of the Thai people, it has been introduced in the training program. Student teachers have to learn about modern agricultural techniques, and farmers’ cooperative movements in various parts of the world, so that they can help the adult population of the community beside teaching their pupils.

3. Emphasis on practical resourcefulness of student – teachers. The new teacher training program requires that students have adequate knowledge of physical education, Boy Scout and Junior Red Cross organizations. Practical knowledge of carpentry may come into use with the construction or the repairing of school buildings. An primary public school teacher in the rural areas is therefore a community helper who could improve the living condition of the community besides being a competent teacher.

The in-service teachers had not been neglected. There were special courses for them during the summer holidays. In 1974, there were 39,000 teachers attending these courses and taking examinations in order to upgrade their qualifications. There were also qualifying examinations for those who were not sufficiently qualified. There were, in 1974, 20,808 teachers who took the lower certificate examination and 31,506 too the higher level.

Problems in Teacher Training

1. Lack of motivation from the part of the students. Some students who enroll in teacher training colleges are not genuinely interested in the teaching profession. Because of the lack of other openings for further education they turn to teacher training courses, usually the two-year course. Therefore it will be unrealistic to expect them to become teachers of high quality.

2. Discontinuity of the curriculum. After two years of training to become primary school teachers, students who wish to pursue a higher level of education may stay on for another two years, but the curriculum, instead of being the continuation of the previous course, aims at training teachers for secondary schools.

3. Over ambition of the student teachers. There is a natural gradation among teachers of different grades, for example, the degree holders tend to feel superior to those who have only a certificate. Therefore certificate teachers try to obtain a higher certificate and eventually a degree. The fact that a degree means prestige will in future lead to a serious problem of unemployment among degree teachers, since recently, in addition to the courses available at Srinakharintrawirot University, seventeen teachers colleges have extended their training to the degree level.

4. Discrimination of jobs. Teachers with the same qualification who join different departments of the Ministry of Education and those who teach in the universities do not have the same prestige nor promotion opportunities.

5. Insufficient job opportunities. Although the number of qualified teacher output has increased every year, the sad fact remains that not all of them become teachers, mainly because the number of posts in government schools is limited. As a result, apart from those who take up teaching post in private schools the rest take up other forms of employment.

6. Unwillingness to serve in the poor areas. There is a prevailing reluctance to apply for teaching posts in rural areas due to poor living conditions, thus the problem of teacher shortage in remote areas remain unsolved.

7. Problem of over-work for those who attend the upgrade facilities. The evening courses offered in the teachers colleges are good in principle, in upgrading in-service teachers in primary and secondary schools, but they create problems of poor performance on the part of those teachers who attend them, both as serving teachers and as course participants.

8. Inexperienced teachers. At the teacher training level, often academic staff are recruited from young graduates who lack the academic training and experience in teacher education.

9. Lack of co-ordination between teacher colleges and universities. There is no co-ordination between the teacher colleges and the universities which offer courses in education.

10. Too centralized curriculum. The curriculum for the teacher training at present is too centralized and does not meet the diversified regional needs, nor is it suitable for the various local conditions.

3. Primary Education

In this modernization period, education has a multi faceted task, such as encouraging nationalism, development of character and personality, helping to improve the national economy, to provide skilled and efficient government leaders as well as professional and technical workers etc. Therefore primary education aims at providing basic knowledge and promoting the development of children towards an effective learning system that will enable them to successfully realize the above mentioned task. The governors in this period of our study, with their educational background in Western countries and some political effect, attempted to improvise and make efficient the whole education system as much as their ruling time provided. Let us focus on the area of our study to see how such developments affected the Primary Education level.

3.1. Primary Education and Change

In 1935, the Primary Educational Act of 1921 was revised to modify the basic policy in budget allocation for primary schools and which replaced the system of direct tax for education. In the Educational Scheme 1936, compulsory elementary education consisted of four years of general education. In 1938, primary education was reduced from 6 to 4 years, therefore the Ministry of Education dropped vocational training in primary schools and included this course in the vocational school.

The Ministry also dissolved the Department of Education and replaced it with the Department of General Education. Some of the works which were formerly under the Department of Education were assigned to the Department of Educational Techniques formerly known as the Scholastic Affairs Department. 

In 1942, there was another change of government and Lieutenant General Prayoon Pamornmontri became Minister of Education. A year later the Ministry took control of all municipal schools but in the following year, 64 of them were moved back to the municipality. In its report of 1943.[43] The Department of General Education stated that the progress of education had been impeded by the shortage of funds. With more adequate funds, the Ministry would be able to buy more teaching equipment, build more schools, train more teachers, etc.

In spite of this and the war years, which disrupted the normal routine, it could be said that the achievements in 1943 were no less satisfactory than those of the preceding years. In 1944, during World War II, as the central areas of Bangkok and Dhonburi were under constant air bombardment, schools in dangerous areas were evacuated. Later the government ordered all government and private schools closed until 1945. In 1948 the government enacted the new Civil Service Act. In accordance with its stipulations the status of all public primary school teachers were raised from the local employees to government officials. In effect, all expenses incurred by the administration of the primary education were borne only by the government. 

Curriculum research was carried out both extensively and intensively by the Primary Education Division, Department of General Education, and the Bangkok Institute for Child Study, Srinakharinwirot University. Research findings revealed that the goals of primary education were too broad and too general to be of much help in establishing appropriate curricula and in evaluating pupil progress.

The objectives were not formulated in measurable terms or in terminal performance specifications. The content of education was oriented toward examination criteria with an over-emphasis on academic subjects. Thus the system attempted to prepare all school children for further education even though not more than 35% of fourth-grade children had access to upper primary education and only a small percentage from that level proceeds to secondary and higher education.

The examination system in primary education was another problem, and its effects were felt throughout the educational process. So long as subject-matter examinations which put a premium upon rote-learning were required, the curriculum and teaching methods will continue to emphasize memorization and preparation for examinations rather than actual learning. The most noxious effect is that many students and even parents, felt that education consisted only of preparation for interim and end-of-year examinations. And teachers tended to blame children’s learning abilities rather than their own poor instructional methods for the poor performance of the students in the final examination.

The Ministry of Education had completed a systematic appraisal of the existing curriculum with a definite intention to reform it at many levels. The conclusion of the evaluating committee was the following: “Curriculum objectives of the primary level were too broad and idealistic with respect to what primary pupils can actually learn, while the curriculum content was primarily subject matter oriented, inducing, to a large extent, only cognitive development. Besides the stated purposes, content prescription and time allotment proportions, little attention was given to suggesting ways and means for teachers to organize, in the light of children’s needs and curiosities, the learning program, materials and desirable environments which lead to sensible learning experiences”.[44]

The lack of instruction materials for the use of teachers was a serious handicap, especially in the rural areas. Very few schools had such curriculum guides or lesson plans. Besides, those which were available tended to follow those used in the metropolitan area of Bangkok-Dhonburi, and hence inappropriate for rural children. The Ministry of Education, through the Department of Educational Techniques in which a Division of Curriculum Development was established, had therefore given considerable priority to curriculum reform, including a proper revision of the textbooks. Although the examination system, especially the end-of-year evaluation, persisted, the process of evaluating primary education was improved. Formative evaluation has been emphasized.

3.2. The Goal of Compulsory Primary Education

When the Primary Education Act of 1921 was issued, Chao Phraya Dhamasakdimontri, the Minister of Education at that time aired his grave concern that compulsory education which required all children for would be difficult because the majority of Thai people were poor and economy was subsistence. In all kinds of vocations, farming or gardening, people had to employ their children in the household chores, and took care of younger children and the cattle.

If this Act was enforced, it would certainly put extra burdens on poor families in providing their children’s school supplies, clothing, and transportation to schools. Farmers and gardeners did not see the need for book learning to help them in earning for the family. People who send their children to school were only those who want their children to enter civil service.

Till 1970, Thailand faced the same problem, the findings of the Ministry of Education’s research[45] on the children who did not take the final examination showed that children who had the right to sit in the final examination but missed it stood at 44.7% And children who were absent most of the time and thus were refused to sit in the exam was 55.3% The reasons of their continuous absence from the school were basically two:

1. Parents were poor and could not afford school supplies, and clothing. Moreover, they needed the children to help with household chores such as taking care of younger children or working in the field.

2. People’s value of schooling has not changed much. They considered that schooling was meant basically for the purpose of becoming civil servants and higher education. Therefore, they did not consider education necessary for those who will be engaged in agriculture, commerce, arts and craft etc. Hence, the majority of people, especially poor families, were not convinced of the need for compulsory education as children were needed for household chores and work in the fields. If parents send their children to school beyond compulsory education, they prefer that their children pursue general education courses that lead to higher education not for vocational education. Meanwhile, many upper primary classroom teachers (grades 5-7) teach mathematics and English in hours allotted to handicrafts.

Besides, Primary schools under the municipalities and the Ministry of the Interior, which offered compulsory education to all children did not encourage the vocational oriented subjects. There was inadequate budget allowed for workshop equipment, agricultural tools, handicraft tools, and home economics equipment. Moreover, the preparation of primary school teachers consisted of general academic subjects only. The specialized classes in agriculture at primary school level were abolished because of unpopularity. The lower and middle vocational schools had the same fate. So it was very difficult to prepare a skilled and semi-skilled labor force in the country even though this had been an objective ever since the foundation period.

It is interesting to note that the Prathom 4-5 (grade 4-5) Primary courses to technical education were not popular. Most parents sent their children to secondary school after the third grade, or the fourth grade after the year 1932. In 1932 the first three primary grades were changed to four grades as the preparatory class was changed into Prathom 5-6. In 1936, Grade (Prathom) 5 and 6, because of their unpopularity among the children, were abolished completely. When the children went on studying in school beyond compulsory education, they usually pursued a general education course in the secondary school. 

Problems of Compulsory Management

Though the policy of compulsory primary education was planned, it could not be achieved due to three main problems.

1. Finances. The Budget Bureau (Prime Minister’s Office) allocated all public primary education funds through the Department of Local Administration (Ministry of Interior) for the municipal and rural primary schools, and through the Department of General Education (Ministry of Education) for the rest. The major item of public recurring expenditure (90%) was teachers’ salaries. Average teachers’ salaries had risen slightly less than per capita income, and this fact had tended to induce teacher shortages and the recruitment of low qualified teachers in the rural areas, a problem that we discussed earlier.

With decentralization of public school administration to the local authorities, it was expected that the municipal and provincial administrative authorities would assume a greater proportion of the financial burden. Although 25% of the local budgets were intended to be utilized for primary education, many localities were not able to meet this target because of economic constraints.

2. Drop-outs and repeaters. The country had the problem of having 48% of the children who entered the first grade repeating grades; thus it took 5 or 6, and in some cases 7 years, to complete four grades. In addition, dropout rates averaged about 6% each year. A study of repeaters in 1965 indicated that 50% were in the first grade, 25% in the second, 18% in the third and 7% in the fourth.

3. Shortage of Personnel. Primary education suffered from a shortage of trained teachers mainly in rural areas, since better teachers normally find employment in urban areas. In 1973, educational statistics indicated that about 2% of primary school teachers in the country were degree holders, about 30% diploma holders, 38% lower certificate holders, while 30% had no proper teaching qualification.

The shortage of classrooms and teaching materials, including textbook, contributed to the low quality of primary education. To alleviate material shortages, a program of free textbooks and teaching materials was included in the Third Five Year Plan. A lot of money had been allocated for this purpose.

In this period, the country was plagued by increasing financial limitations combined with rising expectations for education on the part of the population. Careful planning of primary school development was essential to reduce wide disparities in educational facilities and opportunities in different parts of the country and to make efficient use of available resources. This was done through operational plans prepared by the Department of Local Administration (Division of Rural Primary Education) and Changwad Administrative Organizations, with the collaboration of the National Education Commission and the Planning Division of the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Education.

3.3. Primary Education: Aims and Policy

The main objective of primary education in this period was to provide all pupils moral, physical, intellectual and practical education in accordance with their individual capacities, so that they would become disciplined and responsible citizens with good mental and physical health, with good skills and with a democratic outlook. In other words, primary education was designed to teach the future citizens self-realization, human relationship, economic efficiency, and civic responsibility.

In fact with such an objective in mind, primary education had been made compulsory in Thailand as early as 1921. Before 1960, it consisted of only four years, and all 7 year-olds were required to be in school till the end of Grade IV, or until the age of 14, whichever came first. However, now in accordance with the recommendation of the Karachi Plan proposed by the UNESCO Regional Meeting of Representatives of Asian Member State on Primary and Compulsory Education[46], the Government of Thailand committed itself to the expansion of compulsory education from 4 to 7 years, and promulgated a new National Education Scheme in 1960.

Nevertheless, this extension of the study period of compulsory education to 7 years was set to depend on the resources and readiness of each locality. Since compulsory primary education consumes vast sums of money, the government policy, as stipulated in the National Education Scheme encourages the establishment of private primary schools. Approximately 10% of the total enrolment in primary education was in private schools at that time. Most of the latter, however, located in the urban areas.

3.4. Primary curriculum

In order to achieve the primary educational objectives already mentioned, the primary school curricula prescribed a number of required subjects and allotted times for each. The curriculum pattern, however, was heavily oriented towards a western form of education especially in relation to organization of modern subjects. However the medium of instruction was in Thai, in the form used in the central plains of country.

In the primary curricula of 1937, 1948, 1955 and 1960, the objectives that were emphasized meant to encourage the students to be good citizens in a proper democratic system unlike in the period of expansion which aimed mainly at training the students in general knowledge and teaching them to earn a livelihood. 

In this period, there were common and vocational courses which disposed entirely of knowledge, morality, and hygiene dimensions. On the contrary, as we may see from the primary curricula of 1948, 1955 and 1960 their objectives were oriented to forming good citizen under democracy. Due to this point of view, education was used as an instrument to serve the political purpose.

During all these periods, the primary curriculum included four years of study, which however, was changed to seven years in 1960. In the curriculum of 1937, there were eleven subjects taught in primary but Thai subject was emphasized more than the others. In 1948, composition subject was focused while the focus on Thai reading and writing subjects were decreased. In 1955 eleven subjects were grouped under four divisions of Thai, Arithmetic, Natural education and Social education. Further in 1960, the similar subjects were put as a section. New techniques and theories of teaching were promoted in this period such as Group – corporation, Field trip, Play Way, Project system and also Neo- techniques. But this technique was canceled because there was not enough personnel preparation.

A rule structure was codified according to the curriculum of 1948 for primary school examination, which did not focus only on memory. In 1955, there was no primary examination for grade 1, the attendance of students was considered substitute for exam and students were moved to the next grade automatically. This system was changed in the primary curriculum of 1960, when standard examinations were set for proper assessment.

Those primary curricula are briefly put in the following sections and especially with the help of tables, which are made according to the objective, content, time table, teaching and assessment as proposed in the curricula. With their help, ethics instruction of each primary curriculum in this period will be discussed and elaborated.

4. Primary Curricula and Ethics Instruction

In the expansion period (1902 -1935), besides of being good citizen, the primary curricula promoted two main aims: literacy and patriotism. Accordingly, loyalty to the Thai nation was included in ethics instruction, and was further inculcated through participation in activities such as the boy scouts. In the period of modernization (1935 – 1970), however, due to the introduction of constitutional monarchy and democracy, the objectives of primary education were re-defined to promote a threefold schema of personal development, focusing on intellectual (Bhuddasuksa), moral (Chariyasuksa), and physical (Palasuksa) education. Citizenship within a democratic state was now assigned a prominent part in ethics instruction.

4.1. Primary Curriculum 1937 (Laksutr Prathomsuksa 2480): Ethics Instruction

Actually, no objective was mentioned in the primary curriculum of 1937. However, it was included in the National Education Scheme of 1936. 

Table 1. Primary Curriculum: 1937 (Laksutr Prathomsuksa: 2480)






Universal provision for general and vocational education focusing on general knowledge, morality and hygiene.

Primary level: 4 years (Prathom)

11 subjects with a special emphasis on Thai language

Group work, field trips, etc promoted in teaching.

New provisions for primary examination based on the curriculum.

Objective. The primary curriculum 1937 took the same aims of the National Education Scheme: to educate all citizens so that they would do their own duties and contribute to the nation through the democratic system. Ethical instruction was incorporated in every level of the curriculum as one means to this end. 

Content/Subject. The content of Ethics Instruction was divided into two parts: civic duty and morality.

‘Morality’ inculcated a range of virtues and duties:

1) Good manners in various situations.

2) Honesty in life and work.

3) Kindness, mercy and social service.

4) Courage tempered by humility

5) Gratitude to parents, teachers, society and nation.

6) Thrift

7) Industry (i.e. hard work and productivity)

8) Due regard for the public good and safety.

‘Civic duty’ treated the following matters.

1) General civic duties: the citizen’s obligations towards family, society, country, religion, king and constitution.

2) The Constitution: Thai citizens’ rights and their duties (defined by the constitution) to obey the law, defend the country, perform public service, and participate in the democratic electoral process.

3) Local administration: civic obligations at local and district levels

4) National festivals, such as Constitution Day, Buddha Day, the King’s Birthday, etc.

The new Ethics Instruction thus not only incorporated traditional moral teachings, but also became a vital instrument in persuading and preparing all individuals to shoulder the burden of citizenship under the new constitution. In this way, people were taught to observe a new range of laws and regulations: for example to register births and deaths, to notify appropriate authorities of changes of address, to complete census returns, to pay taxes, and in general to cooperate in the functioning of a modern bureaucratic state. Of course, the Civic Duty curriculum had to be substantially revised: every page now mentioned the new system of administration of the country under the constitutional system.[47]

The new curriculum brought about a significant shift in the very foundations of ethics instruction. Buddhist morality, which had formerly played a key role in it, was now largely excluded in deference to the principle of democratic liberty of conscience. The Department of Academic Affairs stressed that under the new constitution, the curriculum should not oblige people to study any particular religion because different religions might be represented in the classroom. Accordingly, only a generalized form of ethics, dealing with principles common to all religions, could be taught. [48]

Structure/time table. Primary school pupils from grades 1 to 4 studied Ethics once a week for one hour – the same time allotted to Boy Scout and Red Cross activities. Prayers, educational assembly, and discipline conference could each be done once a week. Camping and field trips were to be arranged twice a year, but not on school days. 

Pedagogy. It was recommended that ethics instruction, like physical education, should be a practical rather than an academic matter. It was to be carried out, as far as possible, outside the classroom, so that young students would not find the experience too oppressive[49]. The curriculum also provided for the adjustment of the lesson duration from one hour to 45 minutes if the children were too young to sustain concentration for the longer period.[50] Educational atmosphere and the provision for breaks between classes were to be made conducive to the students’ relaxation, as this was thought also to be conducive to learning. In addition to the national curriculum itself, and a text book, a teacher’s manual was produced to promote consistency in standards of teaching.[51]

Assessment. An oral exam had been used for Ethics Instruction in the primary curriculum since 1934. After the primary curriculum of 1937 was promulgated, a new standard examination was created and revised in 1939. Nevertheless, an oral exam remained for Grade I students in the subjects of morality and civic duty, geography, history, and natural science.

Table 2. Primary Curriculum : 1937 (2480) : Ethics Instruction



Structure/time table



To be a good citizen under the Democratic system.

To be healthy and be good.

Civic duty in the democratic system.

General Ethics and manners

One hour per week

To be practical rather than theoretical. 

A ‘psychological approach’ to be used in teaching.

Oral Exam

Standard exam

Evaluation Problems. At the end of the school year of 1941, the Ministry of Education cancelled all final examinations because Thailand was caught up in the Second World War, although not an active participant in it. In the absence of examinations, a 60 percent attendance was deemed to constitute successful completion of the course in that year. 

4.2. Primary Curriculum 1948 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa 2491): Ethics Instruction

In 1948, a new primary curriculum was promulgated to keep pace with the changing times. It gave priority to morality which was now separated from civic duty. The objectives, content, structure, pedagogy and assessment can be seen in the following tables and clarification. 

Table 3. Primary Curriculum : 1948 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa: 2491)






To produce literacy in the first grade of primary education and provide grade 2-4 students with appropriate study. To educate citizens of a democracy. 

4 grades of primary education.

More focus on composition and less on Thai reading and writing.

New techniques: ‘play school’ and project work.

Examinations to test understanding rather than rote learning.

Objective. In this curriculum, Ethics instruction was re-designated ‘Morality’ and assigned 3 aims:[52]

1) To be faithful to Buddhism and practice all rites and Buddhist norms,

2) To cultivate good manners, and

3) To inculcate good habits.

This marked the abandonment of the view – enshrined in the 1937 curriculum – that to privilege Buddhism in this way was to infringe the rights of students adhering to other religions.

For Civic Duty, the aims [53]were:

1) to know one’s duties towards school, family and society.

2) to know one’s duties towards the country, king , and constitution.

Boy Scout and Young Red Cross activities were aimed to supplement the formative influences of home, temple, and school. [54]

Content/Subject. Morality was highlighted in this curriculum to fill the moral vacuum left by World War II. Ethical instruction was divided into Morality and Civic Duty. The contents of Morality were the Buddhist Dharma: the Three Jewels (the Buddha, his Teaching, and his Sangha, or enlightened spiritual community), the Buddha’s biography, together with Buddhist values, precepts and spiritual teachings. However, this core of Buddhism was supplemented with instruction in good manners for various situations, the ethics of obedience, honesty, punctuality, diligence, work, and the duty of placing public good above private advantage.

Civic Duty comprised instruction in the following:

1) School: to follow the school’s rules and norms, and to maintain the good name of the school.

2) Family: to foster self respect, to maintain the family’s property and dignity, and to help the family’s work.

3) Society: to devote oneself to the benefit of others, to protect public property, to help people and animals in suffering, and to sacrifice oneself where necessary for the community’s benefit.

4) Country: to know the significance of Thailand’s flag and its national anthem, to love the country and guard the nation’s honor, to carry on Thai culture and tradition, and use Thai products.

The contents and activities of Boy Scout and Young Red Cross were the following:

Structure and timetable. Boy Scout and Young Red Cross were included in physical education, which was provided for 3 hours a week. Camping was provided once a year, while ethical discussion was held once a week in extra timetable.

Pedagogy. To prevent a new world war, the United Nation Organization (UNO) was established. Sub-organizations were set up to support the countries who were UNO members, i.e. WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, and these provided a lot of help in Thai education in the form of experts’ advice, materials, scholarships, etc. Unsurprisingly, the educational thought and systems of the United States have influenced Thai education strongly from this time onwards:[55] hence the attempts to introduce into primary teaching methods such as ‘play school’, project work, the Dolton Plan, and the Heuristic Method. These teaching approaches encouraged teachers to use activities and experiences in teaching. Indeed, there were even suggestions that an element of ‘democracy’ could be used in schools and classrooms, and teachers were discouraged from using punishment in learning. However, most teachers could not understand and were not able to use the new techniques, and retained the old method of ‘chalk and talk’ together with traditional discipline. [56]

From a National Conference for District School Improvement[57], there were suggestions on how to teach morality and civic duty as follows:

1) Teaching by doing or experiencing;

2) Teaching by using pictures or illustration;

3) Teaching by telling tales, fables, etc.;

4) Teaching by using interesting topics;

5) Teaching by activities i.e. sports, games, attending religious affairs.

Apart from the above suggestions, the conference gave special recommendation on the moral instruction that it had to be integrated as much as possible in every subjects. Teachers must be good role model for students and had to know students’ individual differences in order to develop their behavior and correct their mischief.

Assessment. The assessment of primary curriculum 1948 was not different from curriculum 1937. Oral exam was still provided in all subjects including ethics. However, to give more value in ethics, the exam score of ethics was added from 60 to 100.[58]

Table 4. Primary Curriculum : 1948 (2491): Ethics Instruction



Structure/time table



To produce citizens of a democracy. 

To be good Buddhists

To have good manner.

To practice the duty on the school, family, society, country, king and constitution.

The three jewels of Buddhism

Buddha’s biography

Dharma and precepts

Good manners

One hour per week for Morality;

One hour per week for Civic Duty.

Psychological approach was used in teaching:

‘Play School’,

‘Project Work’,

‘Dalton Plan’



Oral Exam for ethics instruction

The idea that evaluation was the testing of what students learned from textbooks stayed on for a long time. In 1950 when Thailand joined the Education Project of the UNESCO, a new idea of evaluating was introduced. This new evaluation included not only intellectual development but also emotional, social, and physical development. However, it seemed that the history was repeated again as most teachers could not understand and were unable to apply the new idea. [59]

In 1952 there was a problem in the Ministry of Education about the primary examination results of local and district schools. A large number of grade I students failed the exam, and therefore were required to repeat the year. In the event, many students chose not to do so, preferring to leave school without completing compulsory education. To solve this problem, for Grade I students, the Ministry provided an oral exam in the subjects of morality and civic duty, geography, history, and natural science. A written exam was provided for the other subjects under the following guidelines[60]:

1) Subject teachers were to participate in exam preparation.

2) The exam was to reflect the content of the curriculum

3) Every question had to be clear and test understanding as well as memory

4) Exam questions were to be couched in clear, comprehensible language.

5) Practical examinations were to be provided in drawing, handicraft, and physical education. 

4.3. Primary Curriculum: 1955 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa 2498) : Ethics Instruction

After using the Educational Plan of 1951 (2494) for about four years, the government considered that the revision of the Plan was needed. Therefore, the Educational Plan of 1955 (2498) was promulgated to educate people as their potentials in the respects of physical, intellectual, moral, and skill.[61] According to Panas[62], he writes that since people highly valued comfortable life and in their view labor and farm work were too hard jobs, they took education to avoid the hard work. The country would have been in danger if educated people had worked by just thinking and speaking not practicing. Thus, the government added working skills into the Education Plan 1955 to promote handicrafts and labor work. 

The primary curriculum was also revised in relation to the Educational Plan 1955. On 17th May 1955, a new revision of primary curriculum was promulgated, which would be used for Grade I. All 11 subjects were combined into 5 sections: Thai language, Mathematics, Natural sciences, Social Education, and special activities. Social sciences included the subjects of moral, citizen’s duty, geography, history, physical, handicraft, music and singing, etc.[63] Vocational education and foreign languages were additional sections as compatible curriculum[64]. 

Table 5. Primary Curriculum : 1955 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa : 2498)






To provide learners general knowledge;

Educate people to live healthily with emotional and social skills;

To be a good citizen under democracy.

here were 7 grades for primary education.

Thai language, Arithmetic, Natural science, Social Education, and special activities

Neo- technique was aimed to use in teaching but it was canceled because not enough personnel preparation.

Grade I had no exam. The attendance of students was considered instead of exam.

Objective. As mentioned before, this curriculum was in compliance with the Educational Plan 1955, which aimed to educate people according to their potentials in the respects of physical, intellectual, moral, and skill. Students must be developed to be a good citizen under democratic system. Morality and Civic Duty were combined in the section of Social Education. The objectives of the social education were: to provide students how to live together in society of democratic system; how to live in unity within community and support each other; how to appreciate the beauty of nature and environment; and how to develop one’s living circumstance and others’. All students must be taught about the needs of their living skills.


According to the primary curriculum 1955, the contents of Social Education section were the following:[65]

1) Individual information: name, family name, age, date of birth, etc.

2) Family information: family tree, relatives, etc.

3) School information: school’s name and location, play ground, etc.

4) Neighboring information: neighbors and societies, etc.

5) Local information: local events, places, etc.

6) Important people: well known people and their contribution for society, etc.

Time table. Students had to study Social education for 5 hours a week. 

Pedagogy. This curriculum adopted a modern pedagogy from United States called progressivism.[66] Since the change in curriculum was too dramatic for Thai education and teachers did not understand the theory of progressivism although there had been some explanation and teachers’ manual before enforcing this new theory, the teachers therefore remained using their old teaching style.[67] Finally, this curriculum was terminated after being used in Grade I for 5 months.

In 1956 (2499), Audio tape was introduced as a new teaching material. Pedagogical training was arranged for professional teaching development. Buddhist monks were invited to substitute the lacking of teachers in schools and they especially taught ethics instruction. 

Assessment. There was no final exam in this curriculum. If students had studied all subjects in the 5 sections required, they could go to the next grade level without sitting for the final exam. If students did not reach the educational standard required, remedial teaching was the tool to help them fulfill the standard. This curriculum was used just for several months and then being replaced by the former primary curriculum of 1948. However, to some extent it can be said that this curriculum presented some innovation in primary curriculum and assessment as its issues were eventually brought to the improvement of the next primary curriculum.

Table 6. Primary Curriculum : 1955 (2498): Ethics Instruction



Structure/time table



To be a good and healthy citizen.

To be a man of democracy.

Social education:

– person

– family

– school

– neighbor

– society

– well known person

4-5 hours per a week


Innovation of technology was used in teaching.

No exam.

There were some criterions for ethics instruction.

4.4. Primary Curriculum 1960 ( Laksutr Prathomsuksa Ton-ton and Ton-plai 2503): Ethics Instruction

After the coup in 1958, the government set the Office of the National Educational Council to develop a new educational plan. This new education plan was promulgated in 1960. This educational plan was similar to educational plan 1951 by aims and managements. It promoted four educational dimensions of intellectual, moral, physical and skill in order to form good citizens as their potentials with good health.

The primary curriculum 1960 was revised in response to the new plan. This curriculum was different from the primary curriculum 1955 in terms of curriculum, school system, and grade level system. This curriculum was designed with broad field and integration of subjects. Subjects and similar contents were put together as a subject area. Far example geography, history, civic duty and morality were merged into Social Education. 

The primary curriculum 1960 was applied for students in grade 1, 2, and 5 in 1961; grade 3 and 6 in 1962; and grade 4 and 7 in 1963. Then in 1963, the new curriculum 1960 was completely applied for lower primary education (Laksutr Prathomsuksa tonton) and upper primary curriculum (Laksutr Prathomsuksa tonplai). as seen in the following table.

Before 1962, primary education was compulsory for 4 years and there were 3 years at secondary school. As a member country of UNESCO, Thailand was abided to follow UNESCO’s policy on education in providing 7 years of compulsory education. Therefore, in 1962, its school system was changed, the primary education was expanded into 7 years according to the National Education Act 1962. 

The curriculum in the first four years of primary education consists of Thai language, arithmetic, science, health and physical education, arts, and social studies. The last three years of primary education covers the former six subjects and two additional subjects, namely, English and handicrafts. [68] Consequently, it could be said that there were a lot of curriculum changes in this curriculum in the respects of subject content, pedagogy. Some similar subjects were grouped together, and integration of subjects teaching was used. The assessment and evaluation according to primary curriculum 1960 had been much developed as well. The behavioral development was evaluated by teacher’s observation. Standard exam was constructed for assessment and followed by. Furthermore, subject teacher was involved for the exams’ production and exam analysis. Some works and activities were counted for means of evaluation. 

Objective. There were 3 aspects[69] of objectives according to primary curriculum 1960. 

1) National objectives. These objectives were the same as mentioned in the National Education Act 1960, which were to become a good citizen who, with a high standard of morality and a good knowledge of culture, and have a sense of discipline and responsibility as well as good health.

2) Curriculum objectives. These objectives were to foster students’ development in order to be good citizens under democratic system. There were 4 dimensions of characteristics that students must be trained.

· Individual quality: 13 characteristics

· Human relation: 6 characteristics

· Living skills: 7 characteristics

· Citizen’s responsibility: 10 characteristics

3) Subject objectives. As for Social Education, which included ethics instruction, there were 8 objectives under the following topics :

– the relationship between human beings and society, nature, and the environment,

– the right and duty of citizens under democratic system,

– problem solving.

The only one moral objective was to educate students the value of morality and culture, and practice them skillfully. [70]

Those objectives of the primary curriculum were viewed to cover all educational purposes more than being a curriculum for primary education.[71] It was criticized that the objectives of this curriculum were similar to the educational objectives of the United States or copied from another country. The objectives were too general, did not suit Thai context and needs.[72]

Content/Subject. Since the primary curriculum divided primary education into 2 levels: lower primary (grade 1 – grade 4) and upper level (grade 5 – grade 7), the content of Social education was separated as follows.

1) Upper primary: the subject contained the knowledge about oneself, society, community, and country. It emphasized relationship between human beings, human society, nature and environment; acceptance of morality and culture value by practicing; respect the right and opinions of other people; relation between people and administration system of the country. For moral content, it was written in general knowledge, no specific ethical or religion knowledge, as seen below.

Grade 1: Festival holiday or Religious Days, students attended cultural activities or religious ceremony.

Grade 2: History of the school and the society:- students practiced moral teaching and social culture.

Grade 3: Tradition and culture, morality and Thai culture; arranging and decorating house, school, and community; Moral and cultural practice.

Grade 4: Morality and Thai culture, students’ s duty on holiday and religious days.

The freedom of religion teaching was provided according to student’s religion, and local curriculum was allowed to be adjusted or added depending on the policy of each Local Education Office. [73] However, the Local Education Offices copied all teaching manuals and teaching plans from the Central Education Office. Therefore, the local curriculum failed to introduce local curriculum into primary education.[74] 

4) Upper primary: The contents of Social Education were categorized as morality, civic duty, geography, and history. As for morality, students in Grade 5, 6, and 7 had to study the following topics.[75]

1. Buddha’s bibliography in brief

2. Three jewels and their values

3. Five precepts and Laity’s Dharma (Ubosod Silp)

4. Buddhist dharma and practices

5. Buddha’s teaching

6. Thai traditions and culture

7. Ethics: Honesty, punctuality, guilty of committing sin, friendliness, mercy, compassion, sharing, patient, courage, saving, unity, acceptance of loss, the duty of placing public good above private advantage, and avoiding immoral practice.[76]

8. Good manners and social manners for various situations,.

For civic duty, the upper primary students studied the following contents[77].

Grade 5: students learned about school’s rules, vocation, spending useful leisure time, etc.

Grade 6: students learned about ancient places, antiques, public property,

local and central administration, etc.

Grade 7: students learn about public administration under the Constitution, the right and duty on political matters such as election, parliament representatives, etc.

Apart from studying Buddhism, students in other religions were allowed to study their own religion but the religious textbooks must be approved by the government. As a whole, this curriculum emphasized public administrative system of the country more than ethics or moral instruction as could be observed from the contents.

Structure/time table. In the primary curriculum 1960, lower primary students studied 5 hours a day and 5 days a week. They studied Social Education 5 hours a week, or one hour a day, whereas upper primary students studied 6 hours a day, and 5 days a week. They studied social education 4 hours per week which included morality and civic duty. Physical education, Boy Scout and Young Red Cross’s activities must be performed 3 hours per week in extra timetable. In addition, all students had to attend ethical meeting or group prayers half an hour per week. 

Pedagogy. Relating to the educational projects of UNESCO in cooperation with the General Education Department during 1951-1961 (2494-2504), many educational improvements were introduced into the schools all over the country. These projects promoted many new techniques and methodologies in teaching such as Creative Teaching, Intuitive Approach to Teaching Concepts, Programmed Learning, Team Teaching, and Inquiring Method, for instance.

Along with the new methodologies in teaching, there were 8 innovations needed and brought up in education more than ever before, i.e. audio media, books, computers, Television, Teaching program, Learning program, System approach, and management science. In the meantime, ethics instruction was not in progress. There was neither educational innovation nor project on ethics instruction introduced by the two offices. However, for this reason, two national education symposiums provided in 1961 and 1963 were set to improve ethics curriculum and to train teachers for ethics instruction.[78] 

Assessment. There was procedure of evaluation for every primary level. It was also mentioned that student’s behavior development must be evaluated and scored. Every primary student needed to pass 3 types of evaluation i.e. behavioral evaluation, practical evaluation, and final examination. The final exam of grade 7 was ministered by district and provincial education offices in 1970 (2513). However in 1971, there was a national declaration about primary evaluation to let primary students in some levels automatically passed to the next level due to the problem of many students failed and dropped out since 1955 (2498).

By the virtue of this primary curriculum, assessment and evaluation were quickly developed in terms of technique, method, training, exam analysis, etc. Multiple choices exam was more popular than writing exam, and became the standards of exam for grade 4 and 7. Unexpectedly, many teachers took the exam papers and trained their students to pass primary level exam so that the students got certificates. Therefore students only tried to memorize the answers of the exam questions accordingly. Thus, all new innovations in primary examination were not so successful as it should have been.

The changes of primary curriculum 1960 that related to contents, pedagogy, and assessment method, had some effects on ethics instruction as well. Ethics instruction or morality and civic subject was merged with social education. New methodologies of teaching and assessments were promoted. These changes were influenced by many Thai academics who had studied in the United States and became the heads of educational offices when coming back to Thailand along with the UNESCO’s policy. However, at the end of the day, there was not much change for teaching method, most of the teachers still used their old style of teaching ‘chalk and talk’.

The objective tests were introduced in 1961, and aroused wide interest in analyzing the curriculum. Grades or marks for physical, emotional, and social developments were given, and thus gave rise to the complaints about the decline of intellectual standards. There was a revision of methods of measurement and evaluation in the primary schools in 1967. There was still a strong sentiment attached to evaluation as passing the examination. The majority of teachers were not professionally well trained enough in teaching and understanding children, and they tended to emphasize the value of book learning to pass the examination. Many school teachers still were restricted to a written examination, the test of memorization and book learning. Evaluation meant only passing or failing the examination to most teachers, and they tried their best to cover the subject matter by the lecture method, and considered other activities as a waste of time.

Many teachers did not understand the objectives of education in promoting the individual development and abilities of the children. Teachers did not also pay much attention to develop students of good work habits, study habits, reading habits, research skills, sense of responsibility, cleanliness, manners, etc.[79] Therefore teachers did not actually teach but prepare students for the examination. Nonetheless, there was some improvement of assessment at some extend. Memory was only the concern for the assessment but also application. Teaching, even nature study, tended to be book learning. Teachers were engaged to assessment and evaluation.

5. Summary

The period of modernization began with the end of Absolute Monarchy which had prevailed since the 13th century. The new values of democracy under the Constitution were strongly promoted to the people, especially through education. The government tried hard to develop primary education or compulsory education. Nevertheless, the quality of primary education was uneven. Urban schools were generally more efficient, offering relatively good basic education to a large percentage of the relevant age-groups, whereas children in rural areas often found programs of limited scope and quality. 

Because of the shortage of qualified teachers and lack of teaching materials and textbooks, instruction in rural schools stressed reading, writing, arithmetic and rote learning. In some schools there were no lesson plans or curriculum guides for teachers. In schools where teaching materials were available, many teachers were inclined to depend on textbooks and memorization of subject-matter rather than using new teaching methodologies and encouraging pupil participation in their classrooms.

The objectives of primary curricula and ethics instruction were modified in order to educate people about the constitution and democratic system. In addition, after World War II, when Thailand joined UNESCO’s policy in education, compulsory primary education was extended from 4 to 7 years. New teaching methods and materials including assessment and evaluation systems were imported from the United States and promoted in the primary curriculum. Ethics instruction was not excepted from the change. The traditional role of Buddhist teaching seemed to be fading in this period. In fact, most of these new methodologies were received lip service, but were rarely applied in the classroom. The brief training given to teachers was inadequate to change their method of teaching. Nevertheless, methods of assessment and evaluation were changed to some extent.

6. Appendices

Appendix A Prime Ministers during 1932-1973

Appendix B Thai constitutions and charters from 1932 to 2007 (B.E.2475-2551)

Appendix C Prime Ministers during 1932-1973

Appendix D Pridi Banomyong

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