Thailand is a leading food exporter in Southeast Asia. Over a century of development, agricultural education has been instrumental to agricultural development of the country. With the on-going movements in educational reform and renewed direction of agricultural development, there is a need to holistically examine the system of agricultural education in Thailand.
This nationwide study reviewed the past and examined the present prospects of agricultural education at three levels: basic education, vocational education, and higher education. The research methods include an extensive documentary analysis, an empirical analysis with surveys and case studies, and reflections from opinion leaders.
Inspired by the US land-grant model, the contemporary era of agricultural education in Thailand began in 1943 with an establishment of the first university specialized in agriculture. Stimulated by the green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, agricultural education during that period expanded rapidly to meet the nation’s demand for manpower and technology. Aside from the success on this primary role, critics have pinpointed the side effects of agricultural education on small-scale farmers.
Strength of the Thai system of agricultural education lies in its comprehensive and diversified structure, a result of resource accumulation over the booming period. At present, the existing system is being questioned on its relevance. Higher education in agriculture, being the spearhead of the system, has been a subject of criticism on “functional imbalance.”
To be relevant, agricultural education must be more responsive to the changing contexts of national development, keeping equilibrium of competitiveness and sustainability of Thai agriculture. It is imperative that a national forum on agricultural education must be formed, serving as a task force to revitalize the total system of agricultural education. Recommendations are given for strengthening of agricultural education at all levels. Enhancing the linkage between formal and non-formal education is also recommended.
Keywords: Agricultural Education, Agricultural Development, Educational Policy, Thailand