LiBeL Column

Waiting For The Great Leap Forward

Columns from The Nation newspaper

The Thai masterplan

Has the governments education reform bill changed anything for better? Every week or so you’ll notice stories in the paper relating to the broad topic of Education reform in Thailand. More often that not these stories merely relate to the fact that Mr T is no longer at the helm and has kindly allowed a hapless to take over the inactive post and gradually guide the course of education reform on to the sandbanks of bureaucracy. In 6 months expect to see Mr T once again leaping to defend the rights of all Thai youth to an international class western standard of education.

A minor setback to this plan is that not all Thai youth, or their families, have the 500,000 baht per year need to buy the best education available and therefore have to make do with the hope that a promise to reduce the weight of the books a student has to carry in their loaded school bags to under 2 kg will eventually come to fruition.

The masterplan to achieve this goal entails a total overhaul of the educational system involving the setting up of umpteen sub committees and overseeing bodies. One task force with far reaching powers. A retraining program for over 100,000 teachers countrywide and a prayer from Phra Somchai Badabing, the nation’s favourite T.V. monk – whose lucky numbers are 7, 24 and 59.

Failing that, every school is to provide lockers for their pupils.

So how far are the schools along the path of intellectual enlightenment? Time for a flashback to bygone times. Using the British school system, which went into decline the day the capital punishment was abolished in state schools, as a comparison, these snippets of life were taken from various websites which describes school life 100 years ago and just goes to show how far things have progressed. It’s a fact that the UK turns out more schoolgirl mums that any other European country. And that, in my book means at least they’re learning something at school.

” It was not always easily accepted that all children must attend regularly. Reasons for absence included illness, no boots, beating for the squire, harvest time, gathering blackberries and acorns etc., taking father his dinner, half-time employment, and so on…”

Totally different nowadays for the obvious reason – it’s impossible to find blackberries in Thailand.

“The school day included these selected highlights :

Line up in silence (bell).

Morning prayers.

Sit.

Spelling test.

Mental arithmetic.

Mental agility.

Work in dividing and multiplying.

Handwriting.

Prayers Line up and dismiss”

Again, changed beyond all recognition. Mental agility has now been expanded to include adding and subtracting.

“Then Mr. Kingsley told us to get out our copy writing books and copy down “Out of sight, out of mind.” We also had to copy something else down which was “A cat may look at a king.” We did this with our ink pens.”

If it ain’t broke why fix it. If memorizing incomprehensible sayings was good enough for people in Rama V’s day then it’s good enough for the Pepsi Generation.

“Mr. Kingsley said good morning to us, so we said “Good morning, sir” back to him. Then he collected in our pennies, because when along time ago when children went to school, they had to pay a penny a week. He collected them in a small rectangular box with a slit.”

Couldn’t be further from the truth. Rectangular wooden boxes with slits were phased out years ago and have now been replaced with leather wallets. Inflation has also had an effect and red banknotes are now the offering of the day.

Finally, lunch break a time for the kids to relax and burn off some of those excess calories.

” Playground activities included hoops, may poles, skipping, five stones, giant strides, horses, kites, races including egg and spoon etc.”

At last a bit of continuity through the ages, it’s pleasing to see that whilst many of the aforementioned activities have been discarded one old favourite remains as popular with today’s youth as it did 100 years ago – that of kite flying

And just to fill up some space – a Bernard Trink moment. No, I’m not going to announce a birthday party for a bar owner’s mia noi nor am I going to rehash an L.M. Boyd quotation. That narrows the options down to one – I’m going to cut & paste a piece of correspondence that I received during the week.

“Well I meet her on the net and we talk and fall in love. Now I want to be with her….she is my life. She all her life got lots of hurts and pains and I want to heal all those pains somehow at any cost. So I want to settle in Bangkok.

Have you seen a fish suffering when you put that fish out of water? Yes, it’s me I’m that fish who is suffering and dying without water angel.

I don’t know how long I could survive . . . but I want to live . . . for her . . . with her. Anyway I can’t tell you anymore . . . ’cause if I talk about her then I will destroy all the space that remains here.”

See, it’s not just total idiots who email me, romantic fools do also.