POSN

The Promotion of Academic Olympiads and Development of Science Education Foundation     under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra (POSN Foundation)

Background

Thailand participates in the International Science and Mathematical Olympiads with the main objectives of positioning her standard of mathematics and science education at the secondary education level against the international standard, and also utilizing the knowledge obtained from training and competition to develop and raise the standard of mathematics and science education of the country.

Thailand first participated in the International Mathematical Olympiad in 1989 and Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra (1923-2008) had graciously and continuously provided generous contributions to support the academic olympiad activities from the beginning. Her Royal Highness also acted as the patroness of the Academic Olympiads Program of the country. During the first ten years, Thailand sent delegations to participate in 5 International Olympiads, i.e. Mathematics, Computer, Chemistry, Biology, Physics. Throughout these years Thailand hosted 2 International Olympiads: Biology in 1995 and Chemistry in 1997. However, it was obvious that there was a need to improve mathematics and science curricula and education of the country to meet the international standard.

Experiences from participation in the Olympiads have shown that examination problems are never straightforward and solving them requires comprehensive knowledge from class learning, as well as the scientific process of thinking. Moreover, emphasis is also placed on experiments, in which Thai students often lack experience. In the initial period, only 125 students each year benefited from intensive-training camps under the Academic Olympiads Program, organized by the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST). However, the remaining majority of students in the country did not have the opportunity to benefit from this program.

Although raising the standard of mathematics and science education at the secondary education level to the international standard cannot be achieved in a short time, the Academic Olympiads may be utilized as an additional impetus to reach this goal.

Her Royal Highness realized the significance of and problems in developing mathematics and science education in order to reach the international standard, and also the need of an independent organization which can function efficiently with flexibility as an additional catalyst. She therefore graciously contributed her personal donation to Professor Sakda Siripant, then President of the Science Society of Thailand under the Patronage of His Majesty the King, to establish “The Promotion of Academic Olympiads and Development of Science Education Foundation under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra (POSN)” in 1999 and also consented to act as Chairman of the Foundation. In addition, Her Royal Highness also provided further financial support from the Princess Mother’s Fund (Somdet Ya’s Fund) every year. Her great emphasis on mathematics and science education of the country was indeed a noble and generous act.

The POSN Foundation

The POSN Foundation was established with the following 2 main objectives:

  1. To provide an opportunity to students with aptitude for mathematics and science in upper secondary schools throughout the country to develop their potentials in mathematics, computer, chemistry, biology, and physics according to their aptitude both theoretically and experimentally, so that they have analytical thinking and are able to master their scientific subjects in which they excel. This is implemented by setting up training centers throughout the country to provide extra training for students to be better prepared for selection to participate in the International Academic Olympiads, according to the intention of Her Royal Highness the Chairman of the POSN Foundation.
  2. To utilize the experiences acquired from the International Academic Olympiads to develop the standard of mathematics and science education in Thailand to meet the international standard.

In response to Her Royal Highness the Chairman of the POSN Foundation and for the benefit of mathematics and science education of Thailand in the long term, in the year 2000 the POSN Foundation, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the Faculties of Science of all leading national universities, established 17 POSN centers throughout the country. The emphasis was in the development of intellectual potential in mathematics and science of students in upper secondary schools, and in supplying a number of students with high potential to the Academic Olympiads Program to be selected as Thailand delegates. In addition, these POSN centers also help develop knowledge, teaching methodology as well as the attitudes of school teachers at the same time.

Activities

The activities of the POSN Foundation from the beginning fall into two main categories: participation in Academic Olympiads and preparation of recognized textbooks and learning materials.

          Olympiads participation

At present Thailand has been participating in the following academic Olympiads: Mathematics (IMO since 1989); Chemistry, Physics (IChO, IPhO, 1990); Biology, Informatics (IBO, IOI, 1991); Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA, 2007); Earth Science (IESO, 2009); and Geography (iGeo, to participate in 2015) for high school students, together with Astronomy (IAO, 2003) and Junior Science (IJSO, 2003) for junior high school students.

Students admitted to POSN centers receive training according to POSN curricula of international standard by qualified university teachers, thus enabling them to have more intensive knowledge than the Thai high school standard, as well as to develop experimental skills and to solve complicated problems analytically. In terms of operation, since the year 2000 to the present, there are 24 POSN centers around the country with more than 3,000 students joining the activities annually. Following training in POSN centers, the POSN Foundation together with IPST organizes five National Science Olympiads in Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Informatics to select students for IPST to continue the final selection towards corresponding International Olympiads.

The POSN Foundation and the POSN centers in Astronomy also organize the National Olympiad in Astronomy to select participants for IAO and IOAA.

Moreover, the Foundation in cooperation with the Office of the Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education, and IPST organize the National Competition for selecting and training candidates to participate in IESO and IJSO every year. From the operation of the POSN Foundation since 2000 it is recognized that talented students can be found all over the country. If they are guided to develop and optimize their potentials properly, the country will benefit from them immensely.

          Textbooks and learning materials

The POSN Foundation places high priority on the importance of learning materials. With this policy it has produced textbooks of the international standard written by recognized experts from leading national universities in each subject. There are at present a total of 27 textbooks: 5 in chemistry, 4 in physics, 7 in biology, 5 in mathematics, 3 in informatics and 3 in geography. These books are used in POSN centers and also serve as textbooks to teachers and students in general. In addition CDs and e-books of these textbooks are also available for wider distribution.

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Figure 1.  POSN books and CDs

          Asian Science Camp (ASC)

The POSN Foundation has another activity along the lines of the Academic Olympiads, i.e. the Asian Science Camp which involves final-year high school students, as well as first and second year university students. The ASC aims to enlighten science-talented youths through discussion and dialogue with top scholars in the world and to promote the international friendship and cooperation among the best young students of the next generation in Asia. The POSN Foundation has been involved in selecting and preparing students for the ASC annually since its inception in 2007.

          Extension of POSN experiences

In the teaching system, the teacher holds the most important role since he/she must know the subject thoroughly and possess experimental skills in order to command confidence and respect from students. The POSN Foundation believes in specialized teachers who are knowledgeable, capable and confident. It has, therefore, cooperated with the Ministry of Education and IPST in initiating an extension program to selected teachers from schools affiliated with POSN school centers, so that they can organize training their students along the same lines as that carried out in POSN centers. In this way the POSN Foundation empowers these POSN school centers to higher levels of potential and capabilities. It is hoped that more emphasis will be placed on this activity in the next decade in order to strengthen teachers, schools and students, so that they can develop further to optimize their potential and capabilities.

Current status

The Academic Olympiads was indeed important in reawakening mathematics and science education for a large number of schools, teachers and students since they increase mobility through exchanges of educators and students. The establishment of the POSN Foundation further extended this impact significantly, well beyond those who are involved in the process of selecting participants to represent the country. In addition, the performance of Thailand in these Olympiads has improved considerably due to better organization as can be seen in the data in Figure 2. Hundreds of international Olympiad participants as well as national Olympiad participants went on to win government scholarships to study science abroad, mainly in the USA and Europe. Some of them have already returned and replaced retiring professors, thus making significant contributions to mathematics and science education of the country. This is indeed a big step forward in human resources development in science and technology.

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Figure 2. Accumulated International Mathematical and Science Olympiads (IMSO) medals awarded to Thailand since 1989. Inception of POSN Foundation in 1999.