International Programs


Project Upgrade:
Improving Teaching and Learning in Mathematics and Science

A collaboration between:

Thailand’s relatively poor performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) science assessment was identified as a critical national problem by its Ministry of Education and led to an initiative to improve literacy, math, and science nationwide and to provide special assistance to low performing schools serving grades K-9 from 2009 to 2015. The Thai government allocated the equivalent of $1.5 million to the Ministry of Education to undertake initiatives to improve teaching and learning in schools. This initiative requires the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) to assess the subject matter and pedagogical knowledge of all math and science teachers in the nation, identify their content needs, and provide them with access to university courses designed to meet these needs. A second part of this national initiative focuses on improving the performance of schools whose students are scoring below average on the national mathematics and science assessments. There are 10,000 such schools. 

Project Upgrade focuses on this second aspect of the national initiative, improving performance in low-performing small schools. Led by IPST, a partnership of Thai and U.S. institutions supports the design and implementation of Project Upgrade. A pilot project began in 2010 serving 100 low-performing schools clustered in five provinces and beginning in 2012 it will be scaled up to eventually reach all of the schools with weak performance in mathematics and science. This will be a comprehensive intervention designed to address all of the key elements affecting school performance.

A partnership of leading educational organizations will help Thailand design, develop, and implement its mathematics and science improvement initiative: The Kenan Institute Asia, the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Education work collaboratively with IPST, drawing on the advice and expertise of others such as the National Institute of Education in Singapore, the Merck Institute for Science Education, and the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education at the University of Nottingham as needed.

The Goals for Project Upgrade
The ultimate goals of the program:

  1. Improve student achievement in mathematics and science;
  2. Increase the number of students who choose the science and mathematics stream in upper secondary schools and pursue science or mathematically related careers in university;
  3. Increase the general level of mathematical and scientific literacy of school-leavers in order to help become productive workers and responsible citizens; and
  4. Develop a culture of continuous improvement that includes a cycle of analysis of student work and test results, identification of interventions or changes in practice, making changes in practice, and reflecting on the impact of the changes.

The intermediate goals (means):

  1. Improve the teaching capacity of mathematics and science teachers by introducing more effective and more consistent classroom practices and  better instructional materials;
  2. Build a new infrastructure for professional development and instructional improvement that can be sustained by the Ministry, IPST, and the provinces;
  3. Develop strong norms of responsibility for student outcomes, improving the practice of teaching, and for adapting teaching to meet the needs of each student;
  4. Develop the capacity of teacher leaders in mathematics and science selected from the participating schools to the extent possible to provide training and coaching for local teachers;
  5. Provide incentive schemes and improved supervision for teachers and teacher trainers to motivate them to participate fully in ongoing professional development and the professional learning communities formed in their provinces;
  6. Engage school principals and ESAO supervisors in supporting the program through leadership development and training; and.
  7. Work closely with educational administrators in changing relevant policies and practices to enable the change of teaching practices for higher student achievement.

Cathy Scott has been actively involved in this project, especially with Intermediate Goals 1-4, that is, developing curriculum materials and working with teachers and teacher-trainers.  She participated in the review and revision of dozens of lessons in science and mathematics for grades 2-9, conducted workshops to introduce teachers to inquiry and student-centered pedagogy, and seminars for mentor-teachers who are helping other teachers implement the new curricula and pedagogies.