This study analyzes policy statements in two influential Thai educational policies, the National Education Act B.E. 2542 (1999) and the National Education Plan B.E. 2552-2559 (2009-2016). A Critical Discourse Analysis approach was used to examine if the policy statements contributed to reducing or reproducing patterns of inequities in Thai society. The word literacy in these Thai educational documents is used to mean knowledge and skills and enjoyment in using, reading, and writing Central Thai. The policies assume both an autonomous model and ideological model of literacy. There is emphasis on the necessity to improve literacy rates, but also attention is paid to the possibly unique literacy practices of disadvantaged Thais. The policies assume that literacy develops in individual learners along with critical thinking abilities, self-reliance, and eagerness to develop literacy for lifelong learning. However, the documents also stress the importance of learning how to become a good Thai person, or what I have called “Thai-ness”. Some Thai teachers might see critical thinking abilities and self-reliance in opposition to attributes of Thai-ness, and the policy might better explain the complementarity of these notions. While changes in these policies have led to equitable opportunities for disadvantaged Thais in many ways, apparent and real contradictions in them may hinder their good intentions. For example, inexplicitness about language policy in Thai schools may prevent teachers from using local languages, despite the policies’ promotion of local wisdom. I argue that changing historical valuations of knowledge and languages will require policies to persuade all that change is desirable. Similar to developments in the West, family literacy, funds of knowledge, and teacher-parent collaboration are recommended in these two Thai educational documents. Valuing local wisdom in communities and integrating it into instruction and creating closer ties among families and schools are admirable aims, but they may require more fundamental changes in Thai education to become fully implemented. To develop literacy in disadvantaged children may mean not only supporting parents to help their children, but also supporting disadvantaged parents themselves and taking a more ideological view of literacy that recognizes local languages.
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Thesis advisor: Toohey, Kelleen
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