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Adult literacy education and development in Thailand: an historical analysis of policies and programmes from the 1930s to the present

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This study of adult literacy education in Thailand analyses the ways in which the Thai state has historically shaped adult literacy education policies for development. For the authoritarian Thai state of the 1940s and 1950s, literacy education was a means of promoting nationalism through an imagined community of Thai citizens. For the developmentalist state of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, literacy education was the means to create a new Thai working class for industrial capitalism and export-oriented growth. For the liberal democratic state of the 1990s, literacy education was re-oriented toward a post-Fordist economy. Most recently, in the wake of the 1997 economic crisis and subsequent IMF and ADB 'structural adjustment' policies, state educational policies have shifted to an emphasis on fiscal economics over education. While state ideologies of educational policy are dominant in this historical narrative, they also possess internal contradictions contested by popular movements and social groups outside dominant classes. Literacy education in Thailand is, as such, not only the site of production and reproduction of state ideologies, but also of struggles over their meaning. Thus we find within the authoritarian nationalism of the 1940s and 1950s, a movement for popular democracy through literacy education born of the 1932 Revolution; within the work-oriented literacy programs of the 1970s, a trend towards broader community development inspired by the student revolution of October 1973; and within the neoliberal Thai state's embrace of globalization, a call for further democratization of educational opportunities first promoted by the May 1992 uprising and then embodied in the new Constitution of 1997 and the Education Act of 1999.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2002

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