Orientation to K-12 Teaching in Thailand - Dr.Walai Panich
Event Description coming up shortly.
Buddhism, Education, and Social Change – Ajarn Toomraya for Satien Dhammasatha
Our morning began with a visit to the Sathira-Dhammasathan preschool. Touring the school, we learned that their main mission is to provide a sanctuary for underprivileged children of the local community. Proclaiming that the future of the world belongs to the next generation, the school fosters love and respect as lifelong goals. Continuing with the communal focus, all students gather to set one goal at the beginning of each day. The goals often reflect how a student will interact with others, such as, “I will share my toys”. After this uplifting visit, we traveled to the Sathira-Dhammasathan retreat center to learn about Buddhism and the other outreach program the center provides.
Founded by Mae Chee Sansanee, a Buddhist nun, Sathira-Dhammasathan retreat center began as a privately owned meditation center. Her project has since grown to include a program for pregnant mothers-to-be, parent-child activities, and teen programs focusing on sexual education, peer pressure and personal development. Nestled in the midst of bustling Bangkok streets, one would never expect to find this green oasis complete with worship centers and lodging. The center maintains its deep focus on Buddhist principles including the desire to live in the present and move beyond questioning the past, to value oneself, to learn to personally adapt when the circumstance cannot be changed, and to have a non-judgmental outlook.
Philosophical Foundations of Thai Educational Policy and Practice – Dr. Chumpol Poolpatarachewin
Dr. Chumpol is a professor in the faculty of education and member of the faculty senate at Chulalongkorn University. His educational philosophy, influenced by Buddhism, ethnographic interviewing, and the Delphi method, has prompted him to rethink what it means to teach and to be a teacher. Thus, instead of the traditional lecture format, our meeting with Dr. Chumpol was conducted as a group discussion. Although our conversation covered a wide variety of topics, we focused primarily on the nature of knowledge and the King’s philosophy of sufficiency economy. Often referred to as “the middle path,” sufficiency economy promotes moderation, reasonableness, and self-immunity for all people and institutions at all levels of Thai society. Necessary for strengthening the moral fiber of Thailand, these values allow Thai society to better confront economic, cultural, and environmental challenges in a globalized world.
We are tremendously grateful for Dr. Chumpol’s willingness to give of his time. We were also honored to receive his gift, Handbook for Mankind, by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Dr. Chumpol provided us with much to consider about the very nature of education and our own positions as teachers and learners. With the help of his gift and our subsequent experiences in Thailand, we will no doubt continue to contemplate the true nature of things and try not to limit ourselves to simple definitions on the quest to know things as they really are.
Educational Policy Initiatives: Thai National Education Reform Movement
Organizational & Curricular Dimensions of Educational Reform – Mr. Ameret & Dr. Somwung Pitiyanuwat for the Office of National Education Standards & Quality Assurance
We were privileged to have our session with Mr. Ameret, a Thai entrepreneur and founding member of the ONESQA team. ONESQA, or the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment, is an independent public organization that is not a subsidiary of any government body, but reports directly to the Prime Minister on the assessment of all schools in Thailand now required to demonstrate full achievement of the national education standards. Mr. Ameret enlightened our understanding of the Thai education system especially in regards to the Buddhist philosophy and the useful tools that religion can bring to a country in its quest for growth. From history we learn the important lesson of striving for technological innovation. Education should give people valuable skills so they can contribute to new levels of innovation and growth. Education in Thailand needs to strive to be like the models of Singapore and Switzerland that have been successful in economic development and equitable education opportunity. Globalization pressures can be overcome with a citizenry that is committed to hard work and continuously learning and sacrificing. The discussion was enlightening for us because of the unique atmosphere of encouragement that ONESQA seeks to foster amongst the schools to reach and sustain the quality of education necessary to assure personal fulfillment and civic contribution on the part of all Thai citizens.
Political Dimensions of Educational Reform – Dr. Wichit Srisa-an & Mr. Tongin for the Ministry of Education
On our first day of official visits we had the privilege of meeting with ministry officials, most notably the current Minister of Educator, Dr. Wichit and the Deputy Minister, Mr. Tongin. Interestingly, many of the educators we met with were University of Minnesota Alumni. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to understand some of the major changes that are happening in Thailand on an official level. There are six main policies that guide most of the work that the Ministry and its subsidiaries are engaged in; the first is to accelerate education reform through moral and ethical development, the second to improve the quality of educational, and the third improving quality at all levels. The last three goals related more specifically to ensuring that education reform reaches all parts of Thailand: power decentralization to schools so that districts feel more ownership and play an active role in education reform, partnerships with the private sector and municipality, and finally a more comprehensive education policy for the South.
We learned more about the educational structure of Thailand, such as the way districts function and their relationship to the Ministry in Bangkok. Mr. Tongin enlightened us regarding some of Thailand’s struggles. The government provides and distributes a vast majority of funding and resources for schools, but this is still not enough to meet the needs of all students. Decentralization has thus become a favorable mechanism for preventing government bureaucracy and inefficiency from diminshing education reform. The hope is that there will be more school-based management. The session was also helpful in conceptualizing the King’s sufficiency economy principle. Sixty to eighty schools have initiated pilot programs that combine the sufficiency economy philosophy and learner centered approach. Ultimately, Thailand seems to be making big strides towards community involvement and social change centered around the schools and education system.
Dr. Rung Kaewdang for the Office of the Education Council
Event Description coming up shortly.
Reaching Culturally Diverse Students: Education for Children & Youth in Northern Thailand - Dr. Narimol Tanthasuraseth
Dr. Narimol taught us about a variety of topics relating to the education of culturally diverse students in Thailand. She covered three main issues, namely: education outreach to the hill tribes, temple schools, and special education. Her presentation and our discussion were essential in preparing us for our experiences in Chiang Mai at the temple schools, the hill-tribe village school, and the boarding school for disadvantaged children. Dr. Narimol’s biographical background was also particularly interesting, since she is an integral part of providing access to higher education for people in remote areas. Dr. Narimol is a professor of Educational Studies at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University. The Open University has no entrance exams and offers classes on weekends through mobile classroom vans.
Dr. Narimol used a large map to explain to us that the hill tribes are minority groups in Thailand that migrated from neighboring countries such as China, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma) over 100 years ago. Unfortunately, most of them fled as refugees from undemocratic governments and therefore are not citizens of Thailand. With the help of NGO’s and the UN, Thailand has been providing education for these peoples so that they can survive. Previously, their survival methods included cultivating opium and practicing slash and burn agriculture. Since opium is addictive and illegal, and slash and burn agriculture ruins ecosystems causing both drought and floods, the Thai government has made efforts to change these practices. The government supports education for these people about different ways to maintain their livelihood, such as with other cash crops, like coffee, and with sustainable agricultural practices. In addition, they are taught Thai language and math through community-based learning techniques based on a Freirean/Buddhist philosophy. One challenge for community-based education is finding local people qualified to teach.
Dr. Narimol also discussed the approach to special education in northern Thailand. She noted two distinctions within the special education system in that services are directed at both exceptional as well as disadvantaged students. We found this to be a significant and interesting difference to the traditional U.S. special education system that is focused only on exceptional students. This is a particularly important issue to consider as American educators struggle to overcome the achievement gap that plagues many disadvantaged students in the U.S. public school system.