BANGKOK – Thailand’s Ministry of Education (MoE) highlighted the plans of merging the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) with the Office of Higher Education (OHEC) to form the new Research and Higher Education Ministry.
The merging of the current MOST with the OHEC, to form the new Research and Higher Education Ministry, is being considered by Thailand to achieve the objectives of the Thailand 4.0 initiative.
Minister of Science and Technology Dr Suvit Maesincee is hopeful that the merger between the two would be completed by the end of this government’s term. But, the Education Minister implied that the process may take more time than that because more public hearings are needed.
Dr Suvit shared that the responsibilities of the new Research and Higher Education Ministry include the unification of all research universities and related institutes in order to produce and manage human resources in response to the country’s future development programmes; as well as, support technology start-ups, and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to leverage the use of new technologies.
The new Ministry would also be responsible for assisting Thai farmers use new technologies so that they can become “smart farmers”, he said. Since the country is promoting the S-Curve industries, providing manpower and promoting technology were crucial factors of success.
There were rumors that the MOST would be dissolved but Dr Suvit clarified that the ministry would be merging with OHEC and other agencies like the National Research Council of Thailand and Thailand Research Fund.
The reorganising of these agencies is part of the government’s bureaucratic reform agenda, which covers the next 20 years, and the Thailand 4.0 initiative.
In order to provide more focus and attention to Thailand’s higher education institutes, ensuring that they are aligned with Thailand 4.0, the OHEC is set to become a separate entity from the MOE and the Ministry is preparing for the split.
The budget allocated for social and natural scientific research, both local and foreign collaboration, will fall under the proposed Research and Higher Education Ministry. Also, a new model, similar to that of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, will be adopted and will focus on research and development for satellites, astronomy, nuclear physics and other crucial fields.
The following agencies: The National Science and Technology Development Agency, the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, and Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency will all be under the new ministry’s umbrella.
Dr Suvit said that he would discuss with Mr Kobsak Pootrakul, the Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, to set up a group that would work on the merging of the Science and Technology Ministry with the Office of Higher Education Commission and all other aforementioned agencies.
As explained earlier, Deputy Education Minister Udom Kachintorn said that there had been discussions concerning the merger but more time will be needed before it takes into effect. More talks are in line to better explain the situation with all the stakeholders concerned. This being the case, it remains unclear if the merger could be completed within the term of the current government. Elections are scheduled to take place early next year.
By Teresa Umali
Open Gov Asia