Opinion: National Ed Expo and the new Education Act

The National Ed Expo: Rally for Better Quality of Education took place on 26-27 August 2019 at the Berkeley Hotel Pratunam, Bangkok. The two-day event organised by the Office of the Education Council displayed informative exhibits and brought together academics, educators, policy makers and stakeholders from around the country.

An array of topics were discussed, like a national education reform that touches on many policies and laws, from Thailand’s 20-Year National Strategy, the National Economic and Social Development Plan, to the new National Education Act, of which the draft is being reviewed and presented for public opinion before it enters the legislative procedure. Also brought up for debate was the issue of disparity and inequality in education, the 2018 National Education Standards – approved by the cabinet on 2 October 2018 – and the teaching of coding as a third language in schools.

We would like to commend those who are working and devoting their best efforts to improve the Thai education system. Being part of the discussions of academics, educators and other stakeholders, we saw that every group wishes to make Thailand’s human resource development rival that of other countries, and make the education system more decentralised, empowering schools, communities and local authorities to manage local schools more independently while respecting and prioritising pupils’ diversity. The fact that these goalposts are established in the new National Education Act draft shows that Thailand’s education law is by no means moving backwards, but slowly advancing and redistributing power and ownership to the people.

The worrying concern – and something that the participants should reflect on after this – is perhaps the understanding, interpretation and actual practice of these ambitions. Because even though the current National Education Act does support decentralised education management, the reality we have seen paints a complex picture. Policy implementation has proven rocky in practice. Resource allocation, for instance, remains unequal and innovative classroom teaching has been overlooked. It is, then, vital that the government works to ensure equality and equity in education management, especially when Thailand has adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals alongside other member states of the United Nations. 2030 is critically a little over 10 years away.

Education is a chronic condition that Thailand has long endured and no cabinet has been able to prescribe the right remedy for, much less cure successfully. Each administration would implement their brand-new policy, rendering more than 300,000 teachers a variable in an experiment while more than 6 million children the human guinea pigs. When a proposed antidote does not work, a new one is concocted. The cycle continues.

 

Opinion: National Ed Expo and the new Education Act พ.ร.บ.ฉบับใหม่ และสภาพการศึกษาไทย: มุมมองคนนอกจากมหกรรมการศึกษาแห่งชาติ
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Our hope is to see policy makers, adults with decision-making powers, see the center their work on children and respect their human rights and dignity. And these children are not only those in urban areas but also more than 1.2 million of their peers in rural small schools. The adults need to take into account the latter’s varying social, cultural and economic contexts. If at the heart of education is the full development of the human personality that will go on to drive the future of the country, we must not neglect equal and equitable access to it in the first place. We, as a society, must not fail to question public education policies. Are our government’s efforts just and for the benefit of all people?

For that reason, the National Education Act draft is not merely a new education law waiting to pass but an essential framework for the future of Thailand, one of which we are all stakeholders. It is important that we understand what and where it will lead to and voice our opinions. Because sooner or later, its impact will reach us, directly or otherwise.

 

Read the draft of the new National Education Act and give your opinion at the following links.

➡️ National Education Act draft http://bit.ly/2zvqlhy

➡️ Opinion form http://bit.ly/34cml3B


Equal Stand Network organised first talk on Equality in Education and Disappearing Schools

“The small school problem offers the clearest reflection of disparity in education in Thailand.”

On Saturday, 17 August 2019, ActionAid Thailand and fellow Equal Stand Network partners organised a talk titled Equality in Education and Disappearing Schools at Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University.

With Mr. Athapol Anunthavorasakul, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Education as host, the morning session School Merger-Closure and the Voice of the Community gave a platform for those directly affected by the merger-closure policy before highlighting civil society’s collaboration with communities in managing local schools.

Joining us were Ms. Nisa Boonliang, a student from Wat Prasittharam School in Surat Thani, community leader Ms. Chinda Sudchid, volunteer community teacher Ms. Chiraphorn Sudsin, ActionAid Thailand Programme & Policy Manager Ms. Rungtip Imrungruang, and Secretary-General of the Thai Alternative Education Council Association Mr. Thewin Akkharasilachai.

Entitled Light at the End of the Tunnel, the afternoon session centred on the solutions and alternatives for small schools and policymakers on Thai education management moving forward, especially for the latter who wield more power to reduce disparity, protect the right to education and leave no children behind. The speakers in this session were Prof. Dr. Somphong Chittradub, Director of Research Center for Children and Youth Development, Ms. Ruethaiwan Han-kla, Director of Wat Don Pho Thong School in Suphanburi, and TAECA Vice-President Mr. Yutthachai Chaloemchai.

Equal Stand is a network of development organisations that aims to improve the quality of Thai education and make its access equal and equitable. We are ActionAid Thailand, Research Center for Children and Youth Development, Chulalongkorn University, Environment Development and Sustainability Center at Chulalongkorn University, Thai Alternative Education Council Association, SDG Move Thailand, Thai Civic Education, and Critizen.

Like and follow Equal Stand's Facebook page for the latest news on small schools and the fight of education equality.

 


ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi

ActionAid Thailand’s 2019 donor visit went down with success on 7 July 2019 at Wat Koke Thong, Pho Tharam District, Ratchaburi Province. The visit offered our donors and supporters an opportunity to know more about the school’s innovative curriculum and meet with the director and teachers whose team work has made Wat Koke Thong a model school for many others. The visitors on behalf of all contributors also handed the school a cheque of 26,100 baht to help improve students’ learning environment and hygiene.

We would like to thank all 23 participants for the overwhelming response and eager spirit, meeting us at the ActionAid Thailand office early Saturday morning before traveling to Wat Koke Thong School together by bus. Lucky for us that the school opened this Saturday as a substitute working day for one of their teacher training days.

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

The donors and supporters might have familiarized themselves with innovative educational tools prior to the trip, but this was the first time many got to see them in use first-hand and participate in various activities – from Jitta-sueksa, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) to Wat Koke Thong School’s principles of learning, including positive psychology, creating an empowering community at the school, commending good behaviours, and respect for human rights and values.

The innovative active learning method of Jitta-sueksa develops emotional and spiritual intelligence in students. Teachers can employ various types of Jitta-sueksa exercises to help their students get ready for the day ahead. On this visit, participants were able to observe the exercises of Grade 1-6 classes, not to mention practice Jitta-sueksa, specifically meditation and the “brain gym” games, themselves with the help of Ms. Som, a sixth-grade teacher.

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

During the lunch break, participants helped out at the two ice-cream stations, where they prepared bread rolls for coconut ice-cream with different toppings for students who were lining up for dessert after finishing their meal.

Then participants presented a cheque of 26,100 baht to school director Ms. Chanita Pilachai on behalf of everyone who had contributed to the school’s improvement of its playground and setting up polypropylene nets around class buildings keep pigeons away for students’ hygiene. As the contributions exceeded the amount originally appealed for thanks to our supporters’ generosity, the remaining amount went to renovating the pre-school class washrooms and installing new fans for the activity room.

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Before afternoon classes begin, each class would do a session of body scan, which relaxes the body, relieving it from stress and improving concentration. Visit participants also got a chance to try body scanning themselves.

“Both Jitta-sueksa in the morning and body scan are ways of meditation that are more suitable for school children than the Buddhist kind of meditation practice,” participant Ms. Kliewphan reflected after the session. “This activity is a key component to holistic education, which seeks to develop a person academically, socially, emotionally and psychologically. What the school’s method is doing is instilling a good habit for the children from a young age.

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี ActionAid Thailand supporters visit education development programme in Ratchaburi
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

After learning more about advancing small school education through innovative tools and methods, all 23 participants teamed up with students to give a new colourful look to the school’s playground equipment.

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

ActionAid Thailand would like to thank each and every participant of this visit. Although there were constraints of time, everyone gave their full cooperation and presence in all the activities.

We would also like to thank Wat Koke Thong School, the school director and teachers, for a warm welcome and giving us the opportunity to connect donors and contributors to the small school they support. We hope to be able to arrange more activities like this in the future. Please stay tuned to our channels – e-newsletter, Facebook and Twitter.

 

ผู้สนับสนุนแอ็คชั่นเอด สร้างความประทับใจครั้งใหม่ เยี่ยมงานพัฒนาคุณภาพ การศึกษา ณ ราชบุรี
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

The donation of 26,100 baht contributed by ActionAid Thailand regular donors and one-time supporters has been given to Wat Koke Thong in full with no operating costs deducted. The school has issued receipts for tax deduction claim.


แอ็คชั่นเอดและเวสเทิร์น ดิจิตอล พาอาสาสมัครใจดีพัฒนาสภาพแวดล้อมโรงเรียนฉะเชิงเทรา

ActionAid Thailand, Western Digital's spirited volunteers help improve school's learning environment

On 21 June 2019, ActionAid Thailand had a great opportunity to collaborate with IT company Western Digital to bring over 100 volunteers to improve the learning environment of the students at Wat Bang Kluea School in Bang Pakong, Chachoengsao Province.

Participants did not only put on a good example of volunteer spirit for the children, but also prepared delicious home-cooked lunch, ice-cream as well as fun games that put big smiles on their faces.

We would like to thank everyone at Western Digital, the We.care programme and Wat Bang Kluea School for coming together and making this wonderful day happen.

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

แอ็คชั่นเอดและเวสเทิร์น ดิจิตอล พา อาสาสมัคร ใจดีพัฒนาสภาพแวดล้อมโรงเรียนฉะเชิงเทรา
Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

 

Photo: Burassakorn Gitipotnopparat / ActionAid

จดหมายข่าว มูลนิธิแอ็คชั่นเอด ประเทศไทย ฉบับที่ 2/2562 (เมษายน 2562) ActionAid Thailand Newsletter Issue 2/2019 (April 2019)

ActionAid Thailand Newsletter Issue 2/2019 (April 2019)

Stay connected to ActionAid Thailand through our latest e-newsletter.

In this issue, find highlights from our programmes and the impact we made with social campaigns early this year. Read about the small school network, our collaboration with Girl Rising, and Thai Activistas’ project to battle sexual harassment on university campus.

Get ready for our first Donor Visit of 2019, a special day where you can learn hands-on about education development in small schools. Plus, read our interview with Khru Nong–Kritsaphon Watthanapan, the artist behind the small school sketch on AAT’s special collection of charity gifts.

Download the April 2019 issue of the newsletter


Problem-Based Learning: What This School in Rural Thailand Is Getting Right

Problem-Based Learning: What This School in Rural Thailand Is Getting Right

About two hours’ drive northwest of Bangkok, a small farming community in the Kampangsaen district of Thailand is making huge strides to develop young people. Led by Mrs. Pichsinee Cheunchoowong, Baan Huai Rang Ket Primary School is piloting a cutting-edge program that challenges traditional methods of teaching.

Situated in a rural setting, the program is implementing an innovative educational technique called “problem-based learning.” It uses a social and emotional learning curriculum that prioritizes developing empathy, forming and maintaining positive relationships, and building pragmatic skills as well as decision-making abilities. Students are held to individually established, high expectations both on emotional and academic levels, and they are encouraged to pay attention to their attitudes toward themselves, their peers, and the learning process.

With the guidance and facilitation of their teachers, students also have opportunities to come up with solutions for issues they face in their communities. They are encouraged to think outside the box and express their ideas and imaginations.

 

Problem-Based Learning: What This School in Rural Thailand Is Getting Right
Photo: Meredith Slater / ActionAid

 

A typical day at the school begins with a morning reflection, a key component of the program. The students and teachers sit together in a circle and take time to quiet their minds, share their feelings, and prepare for the day. Everyone sits on the ground – all at the same level – as a physical symbol of the intention that there is no hierarchy within these circles. This simple act helps students let go of anything weighing on them – the morning’s chores, troubles at home – and learn that their school can be a safe space.

 

Problem-Based Learning: What This School in Rural Thailand Is Getting Right
Photo: Meredith Slater / ActionAid

 

The morning reflection prepares students for their day of integrated learning, which combines hard sciences with social sciences using interactive methods. Instead of splitting lessons into eight subjects, as is done traditionally in Thailand, classes are structured into broader, activity-based units. Combining a wide range of tools from storyboards to the internet, teachers use project-based learning to keep students engaged and teach them skills they can use even when they’re not at school.

The culinary unit, for example, incorporates resources children bring in from their farms at home – eggs, milk, sugarcane, lemongrass, corn – and teaches them how to cook with those ingredients, while simultaneously incorporating the arts, English language instruction, and mathematics into the lesson. For instance, students draw up plans for the unit, practice the English names of foods, and lean about measurements, all while cooking a delicious meal that they’ll get to share.

Extending the reach of this lesson beyond the walls of the school, children go home excited to cook with their families. Especially for those who experience difficulties at home, cooking can be a way for students to connect with their parents. This is just one of the many ways the program is helping to build stronger home lives and enhance valuable skills within the broader community.

 

Problem-Based Learning: What This School in Rural Thailand Is Getting Right
Photo: Meredith Slater / ActionAid

 

As with so many projects supported by ActionAid, this one is spearheaded by a local changemaker who has dedicated herself to making a difference in her community. During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet with Principal Cheunchoowong at the school and learn about her drive toward innovation. It hasn’t been easy pulling her school out of the one-size-fits-all curriculum implemented in most schools. Besides dealing with pushback from parents and teachers, she might face repercussions down the road for not using the national curriculum.

In spite of these challenges, Mrs. Cheunchoowong is determined to make sure that young people have the space to learn in a positive, flexible environment. In partnership with a local education group, a nearby university, and ActionAid, Principal Cheunchoowong is successfully piloting a program that she hopes will spread not only to other primary schools within Thailand, but also to schools around the world.

 

Photo: Meredith Slater / ActionAid

 

Sustainability is the next big challenge Mrs. Cheunchoowong will tackle. She recognizes that without her at the helm, continuously pushing the envelope of this curriculum, it would likely not move forward. Mrs. Cheunchoowong is working alongside teachers and parents to build a community dedicated to this rights-based method of educating children. With her continued leadership, the support of the community, and their ongoing partnership with ActionAid, this curriculum can become a reality for students across Thailand.

 

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Written by ActionAid USA Director of Development Meredith Slater, this story is originally published on ActionAid USA.


ActionAid Thailand Newsletter Issue 1/2019 (January 2019)

ActionAid Thailand Newsletter Issue 1/2019 (January 2019)

You can now stay connected to ActionAid Thailand through our latest e-newsletter.

In this issue, find highlights from our programmes and the impact we made with social campaigns towards the end of 2018. Plus, read a recap of ActionAid Thailand donors’ visit to Wat Don Pho Thong School in Suphanburi; and get to know Thinking School, an alternative education method used by small schools in Northern Thailand.

Download the January 2019 issue of the newsletter


Wat Don Pho Thong School students are ready to pave and paint their dream

The dreams of Wat Don Pho Thong School students in Suphanburi Province are about to be realised.

This is all thanks to ActionAid Thailand donors who have given their support for the school’s learning-activity ground construction and desk and chair refurbishment projects. The total donation made is 35,000 Thai Baht.

The donation will be given to Wat Don Pho Thong School in full without any deduction, by a group of regular donors joining us on a donor visit this Saturday, 17 November. They will also get a chance to volunteer their energy and lay down the bricks or paint student desks and chairs themselves.

See how the school is getting ready for this exciting activity below.

Wat Don Pho Thong School students are ready to pave and paint their dream
Photo: Wat Don Pho Thong School
Photo: Wat Don Pho Thong School
Photo: Wat Don Pho Thong School

Tackle Thailand’s land rights crisis at Land is Life Expo

Celebrating the 44th year of Farmers Union of Thailand, People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move), together with ActionAid Thailand, the European Union, and various civil society organisations, is set to host “Land is Life Expo: Overcoming Thailand’s Land Rights Crisis” on Saturday-Sunday, 17-18 November at Thammasat University, Tha Phra Chan Campus.

With talks, panel discussions, and exhibitions, the expo aims to address and resolve Thailand’s land insecurity issues on local and policy levels, providing a platform for communities to present their measures of change in policy and law to the government in order to guarantee Thai people’s access to land as a fundamental source of livelihood and to reduce socioeconomic disparity.

This event is open to the public with free admission. Register here: http://bit.ly/2Opfrix

At the expo, you can expect:

  • An overview of Thailand’s current land rights situation and issues.
  • The history of Farmers Union of Thailand and their struggles.
  • A rundown of mobilisation activities for farming and residential land ownership across Thailand.
  • A proposal of policy change to resolve land issues.
  • Performances from folk rock bands Caravan and Hope Family, and local community artists.
  • “Thai Land” discussions on:
    • Public land for public good;
    • Land owned by Agricultural Land Reform Office (ALRO);
    • Land in the National Reserve Forest and National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation;
    • Landless ethnic groups;
    • Urban land and residential areas and;
    • Impacts and land damage caused by disasters.

Discussion panels on community land title policy, land banking policy, and public policy on land and impacts in the Thai Eastern Economic Corridor (ECC).

For updates on the event, follow Land is Life on Facebook.

Tackle Thailand’s land rights crisis at Land is Life Expo


“I like that I can think”: Meet Toey, a fourth grader from Kalasin

On a school ground in Kalasin Province stood a wooden two-storey building. The worn-out pale blue paint was telling of the years it had faced parching sunlight and rainstorms, a stark contrast to a colourful classroom inside animated by children’s eagerness to learn and participate – despite a class of only a handful students from two different years.

At Buengsawang Witthayakhom School in Kamalasai District, Grade 3 and 4 students were put together because there weren’t enough teachers. A condition that is, but never desirable in rural Thailand.

Chitraphorn Chunthakong or Toey from Grade 4 was doing the body scan meditation with her friends and juniors as Miss Pook, their homeroom teacher, led the activity. The meditation is one of the innovations the school had not long ago applied to its curriculum. In a circle, the children sat up or lied down on the wooden floor, some on their sides, some facing the ceiling, palms on their chests, all listening to the fable Miss Pook was telling. There is no wrong posture. “We would lie down for 5-10 minutes,” Toey said. “Not to sleep but listen to Miss Pook’s story and picture it in our head. When she finishes, she will ask what we think about the story and we have to share with the class.”

After body scanning, around half past two, Grade 3 and 4 students came down to the field and play sports. Toey likes volleyball. Her team’s server, she is relatively small but faster and more agile than many of her peers. The afternoon sun wasn’t too hot that day. The children’s shadows on the ground were quite proportioned to their moving bodies, allowing for a good game of “shadow catching” that let them exercise their imagination outside the classroom.

Photo: ActionAid

Toey was born in Bangkok when her family was working there. She had her first year of kindergarten at a school in the city before being moved to Kamalasai District in Kalasin to live with her paternal grandmother, whose side of the family grow rice for a living. From the second of year of kindergarten on, Toey has gone to Buengsawang Witthayakhom with her younger sibling, who is now in first grade. Meanwhile, her older sibling goes to middle school in Bangkok.

Beside listening to Miss Pook’s stories, drawing is her favourite activity. For a girl who loves realising her creativity onto A4 papers and having her imagination captured by her teacher’s tales more than anything, one might wonder why Toey often comes in second at an inter-school drawing contests, unlike her academic results, which show she has been at the top of her class since second grade.

Any child can only be so talented without practice and polish. Toey’s development is similar: before being at the top of her class consecutively from Grade 2-4, she didn’t do well at school or with other skills. This changed drastically after she had been taught Jitta-sueksa, innovative education that improve students’ concentration, mindfulness and emotional intelligence.

Miss Pook recalled how the children didn’t like coming to school before it applied teaching and learning innovation. “They didn’t enjoy learning because they felt it’s difficult. They couldn’t write or spell. But everything changed after Jitta-sueksa. When I assign them something, even though they naturally can’t stop chatting, everyone completes the task. A year ago they would have been running around the class, playing and teasing their friends. There would have been no concentration.”

The children are now more composed and focused, the teacher added. Every week, they would gather in a circle to discuss; for instance, on Mondays, where innovative education is integrated with core academic subjects, they would reflect on what they have learned in the previous week; or on Tuesdays, where they learn about nature and their connection to it, the teacher would ask them to find something from nature within the school grounds, like a leaf, and set a task based on it. “Each student would come back with different kinds of leaves,” said Miss Pook, “and I’d have them imagine what these leaves can become. They can paste them on a paper and turn them into all sorts of things, a face, a car.” And Wednesdays? Students get to sing while their teacher plays music.

Photo: ActionAid

Buengsawang Witthayakhom has put innovative education into its curriculum for a year, or two semesters, and its success is reflected in students like Toey who, her teacher recalled, quite a troublemaker. In third grade, Toey would take people’s things without permission, both at school and at home. When confronted, she said she knew what she was doing but couldn’t stop herself. She also didn’t want to come to school, and because of this she would always go hide inside a big earthen jar. In the following year, however, she got to learn Jitta-sueksa and hasn’t behaved like she used to ever since.

Miss Pook talked further about body scanning, which may seem like an ordinary afternoon nap but really isn’t. It is about reviewing one’s thoughts, meditating on the self from head to toe. “Some kids fell asleep in the beginning,” the homeroom teacher said, “but we explained to them and kept them thinking about their life on earth. ‘How long have you got to live? There isn’t much time. Have you done any nice things today? Have you done more good than bad today?’ We would ask them like this and those that have been up to mischief all morning would automatically feel guilty, but in the way that motivates them to be better. They would be pay attention in the afternoon classes, because we don’t scold them but encourage them, let them know that people can acknowledge their mistakes and better themselves.”

Every child has dreams. Even beyond childhood, many reminisce their youthful aspirations or base future ones on them. Toey said she wanted to be a math teacher when she grew up, and would apply art to her method, because she loves to draw. “I don’t like English, though,” she added, “because I cannot read and speak it yet, but I know how to multiply numbers up to 12 now. When I am a teacher, I want to teach either third or fourth grade.”

Can’t she start teaching today, we asked. Toey replied with a smile and said she couldn’t, she didn’t know enough yet. “I must know how to multiply all the numbers first.”

Toey knows Jitta-sueksa had helped her at school and enabled her to think for herself. She also has a newfound fondness or journal keeping, and writes every Saturday and Sunday and has completed four entries now. As for weekdays, she would write on Facebook about her friends and how she misses them after school.

What would have happened if she hadn’t been introduced to Jitta-sueksa? Toey looked at empty grounds in front of her, before saying she wouldn’t have been able to use her brain. “The brain is for thinking, for commanding your limbs and all of your body.”

And if she didn’t have any brain? Toey contemplated. After seconds, she replied, “I would die or be stupid. I would not be able to move, think or talk to my friends. I prefer it like this. I like that I can think.”

Photo: ActionAid

In the school garden, Chinese kale and cabbage are grown by students and teachers without any chemicals. Today, they agreed to sell a portion of these greens to villagers to raise money for the school and so that the villagers can eat organic vegetables.

Toey and her friends took out a garden hose and water the patches. Soft sunlight made the sprinkling water twinkle like crystal beads. Some of the produce were now ready. Toey took a small knife from her friend and chopped off the Chinese kale masterfully.

“The brain is for thinking.” “I like that I can think.” These are the words from this fourth grader collecting vegetables to raise money for her school. If you really think about it, that afternoon, the sun might not be the only thing that shone in the picture.


Toey is only one of the many children who have had access to quality education through the support of ActionAid Thailand.

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