In 2005

Koh Chang Gets School of Dreams

koh-chang-news-logoFeb 3, 2005

Dilapidated facilities make way for computer labs and foreign teachers

Even though the students had to go barefoot to get there, and the walls and roofs were full of holes, Wat Salak Petch School was the only option for most children on Koh Chang for 70 years.

But it seems things are on the up these days, with the school being selected to become a “dream school” under the government’s “One district-One Lab School” project.

“My school has changed,” said Prakaydao Sornpradit, a grade-11 student.

“Before, we couldn’t wear socks and shoes to school, because the laterite road was muddy almost everyday. But now we have a concrete road, so now it is the rule that we must wear both socks and shoes.”

Wat Salak Petch School has 265 students and 11 teachers.

Prakaydao has been studying there since kindergarten. She said the school used to be in much worse condition.

“There were many holes in the washing-room roof, the small canteen was very crowded and only two old computers were provided for the students,” she said.

However, parents on the island had no choice. Sending their children to other, better schools on the mainland was considered an extravagance for the local people, she said.

Prakaydao said that the travelling costs alone of studying on the mainland were more than Bt130 a day.

Today, Wat Salak Petch School has been improved. Its three run-down buildings, restrooms and canteen have been renovated. There are now 15 computers, multimedia instruments, and an audio lab and library have been installed.

“I like the new basketball court the most,” said Thidanai Hongron, a primary student, “followed by the computer room and the new foreign teachers”.

The Lab School Project aims to ensure each of the country’s 921 districts has at least one lab school equal to the popular ones in urban areas. The government is hoping local children will be able to study in their hometown, and not have to struggle to win places at Bangkok schools anymore, said Piyabut Chonvicharn, an assistant to the Education minister.

Meanwhile, he said, the new high-tech equipment and the material improvement of the schools were less important than giving more students the chance to learn by themselves.

“Vocational knowledge is important too. The students should have knowledge that is suitable to their locality and which will enable them to work in their hometowns after they have finished high school if they choose not to continue their studies to university level,” Piyabut said.

So, English is a subject that the school plans to emphasise, because these days Koh Chang is a popular tourist destination.

Chanpen Chuerkaew, 43, a local vendor, said she hoped her child could learn to speak English in order to help her when speaking to tourists.

Chanpen initially sent her son to the school because she had no other choice, but now, the revamped school gives her renewed hope.

“My son should improve because of the school’s new foreign teachers and the new sound lab,” she said. “I left school after primary school so I hope my child gets a better education than me.”

The school’s headmaster, Wirat Rattanawichit, said the dream school had to serve the local community too. So, the school plans to transform itself into a learning centre, where local people can seek knowledge.

To accelerate the improvement of the dream schools, the ministry has invited private companies to become sponsors.

Wat Salak Petch School’s refurbishments have been sponsored by the Unithai Group of Companies, which has interests in shipping, logistics, shipyards and heavy engineering projects near Koh Chang.

Another of the projects to help the poor initiated by the Thaksin government.