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(84) Dr. Krissanapong Kirtikara reflects on rural development work in Thailand

6 July 2016 –Dr. Krissanapong Kirtikara of the Princess Maha Chakri Award Foundation shared his reflections on his experience and observations regarding rural development work in Thailand. In discussing  royal patronage, social enterprises, and community-driven efforts, Dr. Kirtikara’s lecture covered decades of work in education, science, and rural development from the grassroots to the highest levels of government.

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Education’s Role

Dr. Kirtikara began by talking about the history of rural development in Thailand and its roots in the reformation of the Thai system of education. Through royal efforts, education in Thailand developed from training for civil service to a National Education scheme which provided vocational education for work.

King Chulalongkorn established the first Civil Servant School for civilians in 1910.  “Under King Chulalongkorn,” Dr. Kirtikara shared, “the country witnessed democratization of education.” Seven years later, this civil service school became known as the Chulalongkorn University. Then in 1932, Thammasat University of Political and Moral Sciences was set up to be the first open university in the world and it became an emancipation tool of democracy. Education in Thailand was meant “for work and life.” Thai citizens underwent institutionalized education based on age, but autonomous or specialized education was necessary for ordinary people and rural farmers.

After World War II, schools expanded rapidly and into rural areas. Compulsory education extended to nine years, and English was taught in secondary schools. The vocational and university system expanded to accommodate Thailand’s industrialization and economic growth. Along with the Americanization of bureaucracy and education, Thai education shifted towards “paper chasing” and “liberalization”. “Schooling destroyed autonomous learning,” Dr. Kirtikara said. “Learning/education is not the same as schooling.”


Rural Development Context

It was also during the postwar period that the Thai government invested in physical and social infrastructures that jumpstarted rural development.  Development was state-driven in those days. Government budgets had been allocated to the rural community, which eventually led to decentralization, and the beginning of the Village and Urban Community Fund.

This state-driven rural development did not produce the expected results. Production infrastructures were impermanent, projects were short-lived, and therefore jobs were irregular. Value-chain management was weak, and government agencies displayed lack of coordination.

“School-based education is not relevant in rural development,” according to Dr. Kirtikana. This type of education aimed for academic achievement, which meant that rural graduates pursued big city jobs. Able minds and able bodies leave rural areas.” Dr. Kirtikana therefore advocated for technical and vocational education, which are rural-friendly.

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Community Enterprises

Dr. Kirtikara then presented milestones which showcased rural development in terms of community enterprises including the Royal Projects funded by the King of Thailand. These projects were run by government agencies.

Another change of note, particularly in the 1980s, was the role of the Population Development Association in pioneering links between rural production and business.

The 1990s saw the emergence of rural community-based enterprises, alternative agriculture, and community savings. These were initiated by rural villagers who earned little from the traditional market setup, and were dissatisfied with city-based commercial enterprises.

In the 2000s, the Bank of Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives began micro- finance initiatives for community enterprises, inspired by the success of Muhammad Yunus. This was done in conjunction with state enterprises, the academe, and other professional institutes.


Overall, Dr. Kirtikana discussed rural development and rural enterprises by social institutions, business enterprises, and rural communities. He covered their models and attributes, progress, setup, strategies, obstacles, and lessons learned. For most of these projects, he illustrated how the development evolved from Royal Patronage to Social Enterprises, and finally, to community-driven efforts.

His lecture was followed by a short Q&A moderated by ZSDM School Head, Prof. Juan Miguel Luz.

About the Speaker

Dr. Krissanapong Kirtikara served as Deputy Minster of Education and is Chairman of the Princess Maha Chakri Award Foundation, a foundation that searches for and honors teachers of different education levels all throughout ASEAN, including Timor Leste.

An engineer by training, Dr. Kirtikara has served as president of King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, as board chairman of the Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna Council, and board chairman of the Mahidol Wittayunosorn School (National Science School for the Gifted).

About the Development@Work Seminar Series

The AIM Zuellig Graduate School of Development Management hosts numerous talks and public lectures on different aspects of development management. These seminars and lectures are free and open to the public, unless stated otherwise. For information on future seminars, visit the News and Events section of this website or like us on Facebook (



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