Gender Equality Calendar 2011

This year, the calender that sits on my desk is the UNESCO-UNGEI Asia-Pacific 2011 Gender Equality in Education calendar.

The calendar is filled with wonderful photos captured throughout the Asia-Pacific region as part of a photo contest. Over 250 entries were submitted from 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The photos were taken by students, teachers, government workers, development workers and photographers. The 13 winning photos are featured for the cover and each month of the calendar. You can see the amazing cover photo of school children in Bhutan below.

Gender equality is more than treating women and men exactly the same. It means providing equal access and participation in decision-making processes, social responsibilities and so forth. UNESCO has the specific objective to ensuring that men and women or boys and girls, all have equal access to achieve in education to their highest potential, not on whether they are born male or female.

School Vegetable Garden in Northern Thailand

This video provides introduction to maintaining a useful vegetable garden. The school garden is cared for by the teachers and students at a border police-run school in Ban Pha Kha, Fang, Chiang Mai Province. The teacher discusses methods for caring for the various plants in the garden ranging from climbing plants which are trained on a bamboo trellis to salad greens and local fruits. She also talks about the fence that was built around the garden to prevent pigs from neighboring farms from coming into the garden and eating the vegetables. Shan and Thai language spoken in this video. (No English!)

Case Study on Thailand’s Pwo-Karen

From the DVD “Promoting Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education,” this segment highlights the development of the Pwo-Karen mother tongue instruction program in the northern region of Thailand. The Pwo-Karen community came together to make an agreed upon alphabet and picture dictionary. After that, the community developed big books with local stories, and small reading books on cultural topics.

Stage 1 students focus on learning to listen, speak, read and write in Pwo-Karen. Stage 2 students continue to learn in Pwo-Karen but are now exposed to oral Thai language. In Stage 3, a Thai teacher is added to build their Thai listening and speaking skills and a transition primer is used until the languages are taught about 50-50. In Stage 4 & 5, the amount of teaching in Pwo-Karen decreases while the amount of teaching in Thai increases. English is also added in this stage.

Use of mother tongue vital, studies show

In the Nation article, Use of mother tongue vital, studies show, several speakers and their research results at the Language, Education and Millennium Development Goals were highlighted. Experts in the field of language related their experiences and findings from several countries, including the USA, Canada, Thailand, China, Cambodia and Vietnam. The resounding message from researchers, government officials and teachers was the same, children should learn in their mother tongue before learning a national or international language. With more and evidence to support this philosophy, it has been show by many groups working independently across the globe that the cognitive development of children is supported by learning concrete and abstract concepts in the child’s home langauge first. Then, when the child learns a second or third language, the concepts are easily applied and transferred because the thinking skills and processes are already developed.

I especially think the case in Thailand with the Patani-Malay speaking children was encouraging. Professor of linguistics, Suwilai Premsrirat, from Mahidol University’s Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia explained the process of identifying an appropriate script for the Patani-Malay language, developing learning materials based on the local language, culture and traditions in collaboration with community, teachers, parents and learners. After a few years of implementation, the results are amazing. The project has a 99% approval rate from the community and children are now transitioning from the Thai-based script of Patani-Malay to learning Thai in grade 3 onwards. I think the results are very hopeful and is a critical step in the right direction for solving the problems and conflicts in Thailand’s Deep South.

Source: The Nation

Conference stresses the importance of Language

The Nation newspaper in Bangkok published this article regarding the recent International Language, Education and Millenium Development Goals Conference held on November 9-11, 2010. Many reknown experts in the field, academics, educators, practioners and government officials attended this conference in addition to representatives from various international agencies and NGOs. Over the three days of the conference, many papers were presented regarding the power of language in increasing access for disadvantaged people to access basic services such as health care and education. Langauge is also crucial in decrease their poverty level through better school and income generation opportunities, as well as more sustainable lifestyles. As Dr. Suzanne Romaine, a well-published author on socio-linguistics, stated “language is the missing link” to having our world and its peoples develop sustainablty and equitably. Without language, we will lose to reach lingusitic and cutlural heritage and knowledge, much of which resides with the most disadvantaged and lingusitically diverse group of all, indigenous people. The speeches and talks echoed the central message that languages must be preserved and cherish and its role towards reaching important social and econmic goals must be recognized and brought to the front of the development and planning agendas.

Source: Nation

Language, Educaion and Millenium Development Goals Conference 2010

Right now there International Conference going on which brings nearly 400 participants from almost 30 countries from around the world. The three day event began today with a welcoming speech from the Prime minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva highlighting Thailands progress in Multilingual Education, particularily in the deep south.
The event is organized and funde by the Multilingual Work Group, consisting of UNESCO Bangkok, UNICEF, Save the Children, Asian Institute of Technology, Mahidol University, CARE, SEAMEO, ASPBAE. The event is held from November 9-11,2010 at the Twin Towers Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

Will Education for All be Achieved in Thailand?

In this video clip from UNESCO’s channel on youtube, Will Education for All be Achieved?, several Thai educators and UNESCO staff comment on the status of EFA in Thailand. Part of EFA is to provide universal primary education to all children as a basic human right. Thailand has been working on these issues for many years but there is still 5% which are still not being reached because they live in remote areas, are disable or have other barriers to attending school. EFA encompasses early childhood, primary and secondary education as well as higher education and adult education. The EFA goals were establish in 2000 and are expected to be reached by 2015, so in June 2010 there was an EFA Global Monitoring Report to look at the progress on these goals. Each country will be expected to make as much progress towards these goals in order to ensure that sustainable development in possible by having educated citizens.

Bunong mother tongue-based Education in Cambodia

As a part of the DVD series, Promoting Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education, the section is about the Bunong speakers in Cambodia. I am research about mother tongue-based and multilingual education as preparation for my participation in UNESCO’s Language, Education and the Millenium Development Goals Conference which will be held in Bangkok on November 9-11, 2010. This segment features the Bunong ethnic minority which lives in the rural forests of Cambodia and the struggles of Bunong children to learn Khmer language, the Cambodia national language, in school. As a way to help support the education of this ethnic minority, they have developed a written language and learning materials for the Bunong and later transition the children to learn Khmer. By having the children learn first in their mother-tongue, the acquisition of the national language is facilitated and the children have less difficulty in achieving in school.

Going Back to Work Blues

Being a teacher, I get a lot of holidays. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of the job and it makes dealing with a tough day or getting through the end of the term a bit easier knowing that I’ll get weeks to recuperate.

The beginning of the term is upon me and while I’m excited to start a new year and hopefully do exciting things in the classroom with my students, I can’t help but feel sad that my summer holidays are coming to an end.

I’m sure every person has experienced the “going back to work blues” after coming back after a holiday, even if it’s only a weekend away. It’s simply the adjustment that everyone has to make from the “having fun” attitude to the “lets get back to work” attitude. When compared to visiting new places and eating new cuisines, cooking dinner at home and getting back to a normal routine just isn’t much fun.

I’ve dealt with the going back to work blues so many times. For me it’s been an extension of the going back to school blues that every student experiences because I’ve always been tied to the school year schedule, either as a student or as a teacher. It has become part of the rhythm of my life and it makes me appreciate the opportunities that I get to travel and see that world even more.

There is no quick remedy to the melancholy you’ll feel in the first few days, weeks or months-depending on how long you were away-as you get used to being back in the real world. However, there are a few things you can do to try an lessen the going back to world blues.

1. Give your self a few day back at home before you go back to  work. A little down time will give you time to deal with all the minutia of life before dealing with the office.

2. Catch up with your friends and family. If you were away, there are probably plenty of people who want to hear what you were up to. Just don’t complain too much about going back to work!

3. Keep busy. The more things you are doing outside of work, the less boring and routine your life will be. Also, you’ll have less time to think about how much you dislike going back to work.

4. Remember the good times you had during your time away. Hopefully you don’t have to look at your photo album everyday, but perhaps reminiscing about your recent journey will brighten your day.

5. Plan your next big vacation! Having a new destination and adventure to look forward to will keep you from dwelling on the monotony of being at work. If you need a short term solution, get a change of scenery by going out of town for the weekend.

International School Trend in Bangkok

While glancing through the Nation a few days back, a read an article describing a new international school set to open in Bangkok in two years. Another international school? In a city where international schools are the new fad, I doubt that Bangkokians need another international school to choose from. When it comes down to choosing a place to send you kids to school, it really seems that international school is synonymous with quality, or at least that’s what most Thais believe. This belief stems from the aversion to the traditional Thai educational system in which rote memorization and lectures are the mainstays. Old fashioned teachers still abound and many Thai educated teachers are teaching the same way that they were taught.

Now, if you have the money to pay for ISB, NIST, Bangkok Prep, Regents, Harrow or any similar school, I say go for it. These schools provide the best education that money can buy. But be forewarned, these schools are based on British or American curricula and are comprised of Western teachers. Your child will be thrown in with the children of expats and other well-to-do Thais and acquire English to the point of native English fluency. As a Thai, however, you do run the risk of raising a child with very few Thai values unless you take the extra time to provide the training which these international schools will not provide.

While I am skeptical of the claims made in the article about Ivy League International School, I am hopefully that other Thais see the need for educational reform in Thailand. I agree that “education is the key to improving society” because by teaching our children, we can influence the leaders of tomorrow. I also applaud Ivy’s ambitious mission “to provide high-quality education for children so that they will grow up to become productive and responsible citizens. We would like to teach children to push beyond memorisation of accepted facts; to question and explore issues and ultimately to think critically on their own. The spirit of inquiry and intellectual excitement is what we would like children to experience at our school,” as this is exactly what I believe education is all about.

However, with such lofty expectations and claims, why does Ivy plan to accept only students aged 3-8? Granted young children are the most malleable and easily influenced at this age, real change will only occur if children are continually trained with the skills needed to become leaders and productive members of society. The small classroom size of 8-10 is amazing, the school is in a prime location for expats and wealthy Thais and the price, 400 thousand baht a year, is expensive to say the least. All this makes for  very elite school that is bound to serve only the super rich Bangkokians. Sure, these students will get a world class education promised by Ivy League International School, but then again they would have received a world class international school education anyway.

If we want to make a change in Thailand’s educational system, lets try to provide quality education and a price that middle class Thais can afford. Society is comprised of all types of people in order to run properly and not all of us can be the leaders of tomorrow. For the rest of us who will become politicians, musicians, teachers, doctors, nurses and business people, a good Thai school will provide the learning experiences needed to open the door to further opportunities later in life without sacrificing our Thai identify.

From the Nation newspaper in Thailand

School for future leaders

Chatiporn Assarat inherited a strong urge to improve Thailand’s education standards from his forebears.

Published on December 11, 2007

He and his two sisters have launched a new international school in Bangkok which they say will be in a class of its own, taking children and making them into ethical leaders. Chatiporn’s strong family heritage in public service can be traced back to the late 1800s. For instance, in his maternal lineage, his great-grandfather, General Luang Suranarong (Thongchai Jotikasthira), served as a royal aide-de-camp and privy councillor to His Majesty King Bhumibol. And on the paternal side of his family, Udane Tejapaibul, one of Thailand ‘s philanthropic legends, is Chatiporn’s great-uncle. Ivy Bound International School has been initiated by Chatiporn, 28, and his sisters Jiraorn, 29, and Sikan, 24. Their parents, Vichai and Ketana, believe strongly that education is the key to improving society. They are preparing to invest more than Bt400 million to realise the dreams of their children – to provide a quality education for kids. The school will be located on 3.5 rai in Sukhumvit Soi 39. It will be developed in two phases. The first phase will offer an after-school enrichment programme and the second stage will be a full-scale international school, serving children between the ages of three and eight. Construction will begin next year, with an official opening in 2009. The two-level building will contain 10 classrooms, each accommodating between eight and 10 students. Tuition fees are estimated at Bt400,000 per year. “The mission of Ivy Bound is to provide high-quality education for children so that they will grow up to become productive and responsible citizens. We would like to teach children to push beyond memorisation of accepted facts; to question and explore issues and ultimately to think critically on their own. The spirit of inquiry and intellectual excitement is what we would like children to experience at our school,” Chatiporn said. “Beyond stimulating children’s cognitive development, schools also have the responsibility to instil strong ethical morality in children. I would like to develop a new generation of Thai children who are proud of our heritage and understand the value of giving back to society. Strong leadership skills and good ethics are qualities that our country desperately needs.” Jiraorn, who is in charge of the curriculum, said: “Ivy Bound is led by a team of educational experts who have all received their degrees from Ivy League colleges. We are a school that understands the cultural context in which Thai students achieve in school. With this knowledge, we can make the necessary adaptations of programmes and methods largely conceived in the West to the needs and background of Thai students. It will be a school in a class of its own.” Chatiporn received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Williams College in Massachusetts and a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University in New York City, focused on public management and education policy-making. His older sister Jiraorn received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Yale University, and holds two masters’ degrees in education from Harvard and Stanford Universities. The youngest of the three, Sikan, also received a bachelor’s degree from Williams College, concentrating on educational psychology. At present she is working on a master’s degree in education at Harvard University.

Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn  

The Nation