Teaching and Learning in Catholic Schools in Thailand
Second Graders Taking Final Tests in Thailand
Teaching and Learning in a Catholic School in Thailand
During the last week of February in 2013, I was assigned to monitor a class of second-grade students sit for their final exams at Saint Joseph Bangna Catholic school in Thailand. Although it wasn't one of my scheduled taught classes, I spent three days with a Thai teacher proctoring second graders' tests. As I sat in the back of the classroom on the first day watching the students test, I noticed on a bulletin board in front of the classroom the guiding principles for students. Five important abilities of student learners were also spelled out in big colored Thai letters. After monitoring the students' tests in all of their subjects during these three days, I became aware of how the curriculum was designed to develop the important abilities of students. In reflecting on the guiding principles for students to follow, it became obvious why all subjects were taught, and all extra-curricular activities were held. This article, therefore, is a summary of the basic teaching and learning that goes on in a Catholic school in Thailand.
ASEAN Display on Second Grade Bulletin Board
Guiding Principles for Students to Follow
The guiding principles for students to follow at Saint Joseph Bangna Catholic School have been translated by me from Thai into English. They include the following five principles:
1. To Become Well-Educated
This is on top of the list in the classroom and is probably most important. The school provides the resources for students to get a good education through excellent Thai and foreign teachers and school facilities such as libraries, laboratories, resource rooms, computers, and music and art rooms. The school also offers an academic curriculum which includes: courses in languages such as Thai, English, Chinese Mandarin, and French; science courses 1st-12th grades; health education and physical education; social science courses; religion classes; computer science classes; and art, music, and home economics classes. Also, parents may enroll their children in an English Program in which all English, science, math, and health education classes are taught in English.
2. To Become Disciplined
My school and its teachers instill discipline into the students through daily morning assemblies, assemblies before afternoon classes and dismissal at the end of the day, meditation twice a week, and occasional school trips to a temple. At morning assemblies, for example, students stand with their homeroom class in a formation for announcements, come to attention for the playing and singing of the national anthem, recite the students' code of conduct, pay homage to the King, and then recite religious prayers.
3. To Become Compassionate
As part of the school's morals training, students are taught to become compassionate through weekly mock village experiences and by contributing to flooding victims and other needy people. In the mock village scenarios which are held every Thursday morning before first-period class, students from all grade levels 1-12 are assigned to different villages which have to organize and attend to the welfare of all of its members.
4. To Aspire Toward Moral Virtues and Moral Values
The school and teachers guide students to aspire toward moral virtues with a variety of activities. Every morning before the first-period class, the students' Thai homeroom teacher presents a twenty-minute lesson on moral virtues and values. In addition to this, the students all take a Christian class, and all teachers incorporate the teaching of moral virtues and moral values in their daily lesson plans.
5. Do Excellent School Work
My school and teachers encourage all students to do excellent work both in curricular subjects and extra-curricular activities. Top students in all academic subjects are recognized at morning assemblies and special school assemblies at the beginning and end of the school year. Students who engage in extracurricular activities through interscholastic school competitions in English, science, and math are rewarded with letters of recognition and in some cases cash awards.
Campus of Saint Joseph Bangna School
Important Abilities of Student Learners
The Thailand Ministry of Education and my school recognize that there are five important abilities of student learning. They include the following:
1. Ability in Communicating
Since Thailand is a newly industrialized country and an important member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), students' communication abilities are so important for the future of Thailand and ASEAN. The school endeavors to develop students' communication skills by providing a curriculum that is rich in language art courses such as Thai, English, Mandarin Chinese, and French. Listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities are emphasized in all language courses. Students further develop communication skills through extra-curricular activities which include speaking, debate, and drama clubs as well as through participation in the interscholastic competition in storytelling, impromptu speeches, and drama skits.
2. Ability in Thinking
Critical thinking skills are emphasized in all classes, especially in math and science courses. As early as the first grade, students are taught logic in math classes, and how to use the scientific method. Thinking skills are also developed in the language and social science courses by encouraging students to use an inductive reasoning method with Socratic questioning.
3. Ability in Solving Problems
My school encourages students to solve problems in all academic classes. In math classes, students are guided in applying math concepts and formulas in the solving of real-life problems. The same is true in the science courses in which all students are expected to participate in a science fair where they apply the scientific method in the creation of an original project. In language and social studies courses, students many times work in small groups to complete projects which apply language and social studies principles in creating something new in the form of a written poster or a clay model.
4. Ability in Utilizing Self-Sufficiency in Life
Economic self-sufficiency in life is one of the King of Thailand's major teachings. In both curricular and extra-curricular activities, students are taught principles of self-sufficiency. For example, in art and music classes, students are taught how to create their art forms and music and musical instruments.
5. Ability in Utilizing Technology
As a newly industrialized nation, the utilization of technology is extremely important for Thailand's increased sustained economic growth as an ASEAN nation. All students from grade one have computer science classes in which they learn about computers and their role in the information technology world of today. The latest technology is also unveiled in all science and home economics classes.
As I observed second graders take tests in Thai, English, Chinese, math, science, health, social studies, computer science, Christianity, and art and music during my three days of monitoring tests, I gained a much better appreciation of what teaching and learning in a Catholic school entail. I also gained a better understanding of how the school was utilizing the academic curriculum and extra-curricular activities to achieve its student guiding principles and to develop the important abilities of student learners.
My Students Practicing a Drama Skit
English Day 2014 at Saint Joseph Bangna School
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn