Human resources experts in Thailand have called on the country’s government to reorient the education system so that students become more adept with digital technologies and are therefore able to bring digital skills to the workforce once they graduate.

“Thailand is turning into an aging society and our education system isn’t tailored to support digitalisation yet,” warned Narun Leelamanit, project director at Bangkok-based Sasin Management Consulting.

Leelamanit’s comments follow a new report by AlphaBeta – an Australia and Singapore-based strategic and economic advisory firm – which put Thailand at 10th place on its overall digital ranking of Asia-Pacific countries, just ahead of Vietnam.

The report comes six months after Thai prime minister General Prayut Chan-ocha introduced a five-year Digital Government Development Plan, also known as the Key to Thailand 4.0. Its four-step model will focus on integrating government services through digital technologies, boosting the smart operation of services, upgrading citizen-centric services, and using digital means to drive transformation within government.

Dr Nutavoot Pongsiri, president of Personnel Management Association of Thailand, also said the development of workers’ digital skills would require education reform.

“The digital economy demands different skillsets to what schools in Thailand have been providing,” he said. The current education system “tends to discourage creativity and promote conformity. As a result, missing digital competence becomes the key hurdle to digital transformation.”

Leelamanit added: “We need a close collaboration between private and education system to develop a curriculum or even tailor-made degrees to suit the need of companies and employers in the future. We see a wide gap here between what has been taught in the classroom and skills that companies are looking for which can be plug and play in the business world.”

Chanida Thirifays, business development manager at PRTR Recruitment & Outsourcing, a major Thailand headhunter, said private and public involvement in digitalisation is essential: “The government and the [private] sectors need to develop programmes together. But they must work harder on public relations, to make people aware and understand [this economic model].”

“We need national policies that will unlock all the hurdles and [scrap] redundant processes to attract investment and collaboration both from big international digital companies and domestic ones,” said Leelamanit, who cautioned that significant investment would be required. “Our country still needs to invest a lot of capital to improve the infrastructure to support digitalisation to be a 4.0 economy.”

He suggested the government could support digitisation but offering assistance to the private sector, as well as providing regulatory sandboxes that enable start-ups to thrive: “The government needs to have an agile mindset, be more flexible and commit to ensuring a consistent policy.”

Dr Pongsiri added: “To become a digital nation, the Thai government should not enact any regulation to limit access to digital information,” he said.

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