Finding out rapidly: a soft systems approach to training needs analysis in Thailand

Thailand is experiencing the unfamiliar phenomenon of aid and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank lending money for internal development programmes. In the economic boom years, aid was neither sought nor required since structural development was funded from the growth which South East Asian countries had begun to take for granted. Today, falling growth and rising unemployment linked to a depreciating currency and weak export markets have meant that Thailand has had to look elsewhere for development capital and to become proficient in managing educational projects. This article describes a rapid training needs analysis of the Thai educational sector commissioned by the British Council, the purpose of which was to discover the capacity of the education sector to undertake and deliver externally-funded projects. Using the Kolb learning cycle as a paradigm of good practice, and an adapted version of the soft systems approach to planning, the paper describes a learning process for developing an action plan to produce a training package for enhancing project management skills. Finally, the paper reflects on the experience of the project and sets out some learning objectives for future exercises of this type.