> Donor's Voices > Dr. Panom Pongpaibool, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Education to community service for EDF
Dr. Panom Pongpaibool, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Education to community service for EDF
This year, Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education (1999-2001) Dr. Panom Pongpaibool joined EDF’s management team. With more than 40 years experience in the educational development field, he will provide invaluable input and enthusiasm to improve life and quality of education for children and youth in rural areas.

We would like to share with you some of his perspectives and insights.
ดร.พนม พงษ์ไพบูลย์ จากปลัดกระทรวงศึกษาธิการ สู่การทำงานเพื่อสังคมกับ EDF

EDF: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dr. Panom:
I started my career as an elementary school teacher in 2507 and gradually made my way up to researcher, education planner, then Director-general, Deputy Permanent Secretary and finally Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education. The most important thing I’ve learned after being in government service a long time is that government’s effort alone is not sufficient to achieve the public good; we need support from other sectors, especially that from the popular sector.

I joined EDF’s Board of Directors because I supported their mission to improve education development in needy areas so that the people there can stand on their own feet.

After my retirement, I have been looking for ways I could contribute back to society. EDF provides an appropriate platform for me to do so. If there is anything I can do, I’d be more than willing to help. Now I’m 69 - almost 70 actually - so I still have some time left to help out as much and as fast as I can.

EDF: How did you come across EDF?
Dr. Panom:
I first knew EDF through Dr Thongchai Chewprecha**, when I was serving as Deputy Permanent Secretary. Back then, he was working on Japanese abacus project with EDF. He introduced the program to me because he knew that I studied math. I am in favor of the program as I feel that it’s helping children to do calculation in their head better and faster. Abacus doesn’t have written representation as such; it’s what one calls “imaginary mathematics”. Actually I am the first person who spoke about imaginary mathematics.

I have been close with Dr. Thongchai after he invited me to accompany him to Japan to observe an abacus teaching and learning. We are good friends and have become each other’s mentors somehow. After I retired he asked if I could give EDF a hand and I was happy to do that.

EDF: What is your philosophy regarding work?
Dr. Panom:
I’ve always thought that for the nation to progress, we must not overlook those in disadvantaged circumstances. Throughout my working life, regardless of post, I have kept these people as a priority. For those who can somehow take care of themselves, I didn’t turn a blind eye to them, but they just had to come second. EDF has been doing the same. I tried to modify and change a lot of things when I was in the Ministry of Education to ensure that the disadvantaged poor will gain more access to education.

EDF: What changes did you see in Thai Education today and how it was 30 years ago?
Dr. Panom:
The changes are considerable. In fact, an education in Thailand has consistently and significantly improved. In the old days, education was a privilege for a fortunate few. For example, secondary education was only for those whose parents are middle or high income earners. But today, children from average to low-income families are able to attend secondary schools. This is considered a good progress. Many reckon that Thai educational quality has dropped but I don’t think it has. Education is more accessible nowadays.

Transition rate to secondary education in the past was only 20-25% but today it has surged to nearly 100%. Likewise, transition rate to university was not even 5% in the past but now it has increased to 25%. This is a satisfactory development. When we broaden access to education to a large number of people, there will always be low-performing students who are subject to getting reproached.

Our education has been making great progress all along but we’d still like to see it develop faster and in a healthier manner. It doesn’t advance as fast as I wish. But on the whole, I believe it is much better than what it used to be.

EDF: What do you think about the government’s 15-year free education policy
Dr. Panom:
Free education is, of course, welcomed by all; it’s a good policy. However, I would rather place a key emphasis on poor student beneficiaries than on free education. Now whether you are rich or poor, you can enjoy free education. But in fact, those who are well-off, they don’t really want a free uniform or books provided by the government. Some even gave up joining the campaign. Perhaps, it’s better to just concentrate on serving those kids who are in need. This way each would get more than one set of uniform in better quality and a few more books. Equality issue shouldn’t be of concern in this context. What is of concern right now is that the really needy don’t get enough of what is needed.

EDF: What do you think about the statement: “When people have become more educated, they will be able to free themselves of poverty”
Dr. Panom:
I think education is a magic, cure-all pill. To be educated is better than not getting any schooling for sure. Education helps us become more informed and knowledgeable. Knowledge brings out great ideas. When a person is able to think, he will know how to solve problems, to be creative and to adapt. I once wrote a book called “Education is the All-Inclusive Medical Concoction”. Giving people education is like giving them an all-in-one vaccine. Education is not modern medicine which is for an immediate and specific use, but rather, an elixir with preventative and restorative properties, immunizing and strengthening us against all diseases.

EDF: In recent years, there have been many NGOs and charities coming to play a part in education development. How do feel about this movement?
Dr. Panom:
I think it’s a good thing that NGOs and charities, including EDF, realize the importance of education and give support accordingly. To better education, we need everyones help; government alone will not be able to reach out to everyone. So we must all help. Help doesn’t have to be in solely monetary form, prompting others to become more aware of the importance of education for the disadvantaged is also important and will help bring about a solution.

EDF: Lastly, is there anything you would like to say to EDF donors?
Dr. Panom:
In terms of Buddhist merit-making, giving the gift of education excels all other gifts because it influentially helps in the bringing up of a human being so that he or she can achieve independence and self-reliance.

In practical reality, similarly, giving someone an educational opportunity through which the person can learn to help himself is a way to cut down many social problems, tackling the root cause of problems. When people are less ignorant and more educated, problems of ill health, crime and the like are automatically lessened. So it’s an ideal solve-all solution which works directly and indirectly.

For those who can extend their hands to help out directly, please do so. For those who don’t quite know how, you can reach out to those in need through EDF. It’s also a way to help the nation. People who make merits are always in blissful happiness.

**Dr. Thongchai Chewprecha is a former Director of The Institute for The
Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology, and Mahidol Witthayanusorn School. He is currently serving as an EDF Board member.
2011-06-06 | Donor's Voices | เปิดอ่าน 5562

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