Megauniversity/Sukhothan Thammathirat Open University (Thai)
On 5 September 2008, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU) will have served the Thai people for 30 years as an institute of higher learning that employs open and distance education system. Since the university's founding, the global trend toward lifelong learning, which depends on the support of electronic media and modern telecommunications has been recognized. These developments have created great opportunities for STOU to transmit knowledge to the people. The university has therefore organized educational programs integrating a wide range of media, including printed media, radio and television programs, and electronic media with the aim of building the knowledge - based society in Thailand. STOU will dedicate itself to the aim of elevating Thailand into a knowledge-based society, utilizing the technology of the global era and serving the people under the slogan "Anytime, anywhere - everyone can learn with STOU."
Thailand's Country Profile
A unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that had never been taken over by a European power. In 1932, a bloodless revolution took place, which led the country to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict. Thailand is currently facing separatist violence in its southern ethnic Malay-Muslim provinces.
Geography and People
Tailandis located in South East Asia, surrounded by Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Burma. In the total area of 514,000 sq km, a total of 65,068,149 people are living there. Ethnically, people are divided into 3 groups: Thai(75%), Chinese(14%) and others(11%). Majority of the people are Buddhists while there are Muslim and Christian minorities. Life expectancy at birth is 72.55 years, which is higher than many other East Asian countries. However, 10% of the population is said to live under poverty line, meaning that the gap between the rich and the poor is quite big in Thailand. When it comes to the labor force, 49% of the people engage in agriculture, 14% engage in industry, and the remaining 37% engage in services.
Education in Thailand is provided mainly by the government through the Thai Ministry of Education. Education is divided into two major levels with 6 years of elementary/primary school and 6 years of high/secondary school. After 2001, the Ministry changed the system of education, and it is now divided into four levels: the first three years in elementary school is the first level, the second level is the other half, the third level is the first three years in high school, and the last is the other half of high school. After each level, students are required to pass the NET (National Educational Test)to graduate.
Children are required only to attend six years of elementary school and at least the first three years of high school. However, lots of students in the major cities like to continue their education at university level. For admission to universities, high-school graduates are required to take 2 tests, one of which is O-NET (Ordinary National Educational Test) and the other of which is A-NET (Advanced National Educational Test). The results of these 2 tests as well as the GPA of 4th level of high school are used as criteria to determine admission to universities.
While education level in Thailand is quite high compared to the one in other South East Asian countries, Thailand has not achieved a 100% literacyrate. 7.4% of the total population is said to be illiterate today.
The quality of the telephone system in Thailand is high in general, but it is especially high in urban areas like Bangkok. The fixed telephone line system is provided by both a government-owned and commercial providers. Wireless service is also expanding rapidly and outpacing fixed lines.
Thailand also has 204 AM and 334 FM radio broadcast stations, and has 111 TV broadcast stations. The number of internet users is 8.466 million, which accounts for 13% of the total population.
Sukhothan Thammathirat Open University
Sukhothan Thammathirat Open University was established as a national university by Royal Charter in 1978. It was established for the purpose of providing people with educational opportunities at university level. It is often referred to as STOU, and is known as the first open university in South East Asia that uses a distance teaching/learning system.
The mission of the university is "to develop the quality of life of people, generally by increasing the level of knowledge of working people and expanding the educational opportunities for secondary-school graduates." In order to accomplish this mission, STOU employs a distance teaching/learning system that enables students to study on their own by using various media such as correspondence media, radio broadcasts, television, internet and so on.
Courses and Degree Programmes Offered at STOU
STOU not only offers students with degree programmes but also basic, secondary, vocational and continuing education. The following is the 4 basic programmes that STOU offers:
1. Certificate Programme
This is an one-year course. Upon completion of the course, students can acquire the certificate in English, Thai Studies, Information Work, General Education, Education, and Law and Property Law. There are also two-year certificate courses for Occupational Health and Safety, and Communication Arts.
2. Bachelor's Degree Programme
A bachelor's degree can be usually gained upon a completion of 4-year program. However, bachelor's degree program can be completed in 2-3 years if students already have a certificate, diploma or bachelor's degree in another discipline. The Bachelor's degree programs are offered in the field of Arts, Education, Business Administration, Public Administration, Laws, Public Health, Economics, Home Economics, Political Science, Agriculture, Communication Arts, Science, Technology, and Nursing Science.
3. Master's Degree Programme
Master's Degree Programs require a minimum of two-year's study. Applicants are required to hold a bachelor's degree in a relevant subjects or have a bachelor's degree in an unrelated subject and have relevant professional experience. The master's degree programs are offered in the field of Arts, Education, business Administration, Public Health, Home Economics, Economics, Agriculture, Political Science, and Communication Arts.
4. Continuing Education
University provides general public with opportunities to receive education in the form of continuing education. This takes three forms as the following:
• Dissemination of Knowledge and Information via the Mass Media • Training Programs • Certificate of Achievement Programs
Use of Media/Technologies
STOU has provided people in many different locations with opportunities to study on their own by employing a system of distance education. It means that instruction at STOU is given through the use of integrated media comprising of textbooks, workbooks, cassette, computer-assisted learning, and e-learning. Students use different kinds of media depending on the program they belong to.
Certificate and Bachelor's Program
Students study via various educational media:
1. Instructional media send through postal services, including textbooks, workbooks tapes and other media.
2. TV and Radio programs (designed specifically for STOU courses) and online media.
3. Tutorials held at study centers throughout the country
4. Additional independent study at STOU Corners in provincial public libraries
5. Laboratory activities, research and other activities for certain courses.
6. professional experience activities.
Students study via the following media:
1. Main media: Printed media (Study guide and 2-4 textbooks)
2. Supplementary media: audio-visual media (cassette/video tapes), electronic media and other additional printed media.
3. Interactive activities: enrichment seminar, intensive seminar, professional experience enrichment workshop.
4. Additional independent study ay STOU Regional Distance Education Centers throughout the country.
In the year 2004 academic year, a total of 61,883 new students were admitted to STOU. Among them, 54,845 students were admitted for Bachelor's degree programs while 6,123 were for certificate courses, 855 students were for Master's degree program, and 60 were for graduate diploma.
The total student enrollment in 2004 was 150,214. Just like a trend in the new students, majority of the people are pursuing Bachelor's degrees.
As a national university, STOU is supported by the government. About 20-30% of the overall annual revenue comes from the Government Budgets. In the 2005 fiscal year, the government yielded around 466.5 million bahts to the STOU, while the overall university revenue was 1775 million bahts.
Impacts on the Society
STOU has brought a tremendous impact on society both at a regional/national and an international level. Its contribution to the expansion of educational opportunities and to the development of distance education was so great that in 1995, STOU was awarded the Award of Excellence by the International Council for Distance Education and the Commonwealth of Learning in the category of the Excellence of Distance Education Management. STOU was the only recipient of the award among institution from 79 countries that were nominated.
Here are some of the ways that STOU has impacted the local communities in Thailand:
Increased access to the education
○At STOU, there is a program called "Certificate of Achievement Program" In this program, members of the public are given an opportunity to choose out of 250 courses to study up to 3 courses. Students are given 4 months to study and prepare for the examinations, which are held at provincial study centers throughout the country. Upon successfully passing the exams, students are awarded a certificate of achievement. Furthermore, if students wish to enroll as regular students at STOU, credits earned can be transferred to the BA degree that they choose. This project has been carried out since 1981, and a total of 60725 students had completed the study under this program by 2005.
○STOU provides educational television and radio programs, produced in various formats such as dramas, discussions and interviews. Some programs are produced specifically for STOU students, while others are produced for the general public, covering topics as science and technology, environmental preservation, health care, ares and culture, law, music and current affairs.
○STOU has organized various religious and cultural activities for STOU students as well as for the general public, intending to preserve rich Thai culture and to strengthen the Thai identity among people.
Increased access to the training services
STOU offers training services to the general public through various programs that are of benefit to their work experience, and also arranges special training programs for outside agencies, according to their requirements. During July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005, a total of 64 training programs were organized for the general public, with 2603 people receiving training while a total of 36 training programs were organized for outside agencies, with 1338 people receiving training.
- Conferences, seminars and academic discussions in various topics are organized by STOU for the purpose of strengthening the community and the society.
- Library and information services are available at a central, regional and provincial level. These library bot only provides the general public the sources of information, but also the opportunities to meet other community members and discuss various issues in the community.
- library at a central level -> 1 library
- library at a regional level -> 10 regional distance education centers
- library at a provincial level -> 75 STOU corners has been set up in provincial libraries in corporation with the Ministry of Education.