วันอาทิตย์ที่ 14 สิงหาคม พ.ศ. 2559

Our 1st trial : Sending "Nokkala kid" to join the international summer program in Japan

The essay titled "I want to change learning approach for kids in Thailand" was impressed by the ISAK Summer School Committee. The inspiration was from I-Din's direct experience in poor teaching/learning quality in some schools in the country side where she used to be "a teacher assistant" during school breaks in grade 5-6 and she always says that she wishes all kids in Thailand can study the way she does at LPMP. (The essay made I-Din pass to the 30 minutes on-line interview and finally got selected to be one of 80 students from 33 countries (out of 700 registrants from 48 countries) to join 2016 ISAK Summer Program in Japan). From counselors' comment, it affirms that LPMP learning innovation really helps developing the kids' inner strength and thought process, as well as encouraging endless learning power which can be "observed" clearly even by people from different nation/culture.

Dear Mr. Kamolchai, and Ms. Kamolchai
Thank you very much for entrusting your child with ISAK this summer. Below, you will find comments from us, your child’s advisory/chore group.
Advisory and chore groups were designed as a means for a group of students to meet on a daily basis to reflect on daily activities, and to process and share their learning, feelings and challenges each day. Although students in each advisory group came from very diverse backgrounds, we gradually developed a family-like camaraderie in which students were able to recognize the similarities in thoughts and feelings despite differences in cultural backgrounds. Our role as advisors, along with other teachers/counselors in our group, was to create a safe environment in which students were able to be themselves. Furthermore, we guided them through their growth to ensure that they maximized their learning from ISAK summer school, and recognize how to apply this learning as they grow beyond their time at ISAK.
It was a pleasure to have I-Din in our advisory and get to know her throughout the Summer School. A kind, caring, mature individual, she undoubtedly inspired many students, counselors, and teachers, and contributed greatly to the Summer School experience.
Although she shared that she found it challenging to communicate in English only, she quickly overcame the language barrier and was always engaged in advisory and chore group meetings. Not only did she contribute good ideas but also she listened actively to others and took initiative in leading discussions. Her leadership was also evidenced by her care for others and their growth. In our advisory, she often shared her concern for her roommates who were facing challenges of their own and her ideas about how to support them. She was also conscientious about ensuring that everyone was involved in chore group and Design Innovation.
I-Din especially shined in Mindful Mixed Media. A wonderful artist, she was, as one of the instructors said, “truly in her element” in both the sketching and photography components of the class. In addition, she shared her talent with others by offering to decorate other students’ and counselors’ binders. She also attended the swing dance classes offered in the evening, arriving early every time to get extra instruction. As one teacher put, she “has a love of learning that is beautiful to see.”
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to spend time with and learn from such a special young woman. We are very excited to see what she will to bring to those around her and to the world, and we are confident that she will continue to practice leadership when she returns home.

Mari and Ken

วันอังคารที่ 4 พฤศจิกายน พ.ศ. 2557

The No Child Left Behind Act and Standardized Testing

The No Child Left Behind Act and Standardized Testing : by MelissaI first became aware of Lamplaimat Pattana School (LPMP) while doing research about education systems in several countries in which I was considering doing volunteer work. Having spent the previous thirteen years in American Higher Education as a college instructor of English Composition, I found myself increasingly frustrated working in a system that did not, ultimately, share my vision of the possibilities of education.

My American teaching career spanned the dawning of the 21st-century, and my students represented the global village; I often had students from as many as a dozen countries represented in a single classroom. It became increasingly clear to me that the needs of the 21st century, and of the young people who would be charged with facing and solving the problems inherent to it, were not being addressed as effectively and urgently as necessary.

In June of 2011, I resigned from the American education system and made the decision to go outside of the United States to see if I could find a way to use my skills and experience to make a difference in global education. As I often say, and deeply believe, “Educationanywhere matters everywhere.”

In my research about education in Thailand, I discovered Lamplaimat Pattana. As I began to read about the mission of LPMP, and as I read the extensive analytical report produced by the University of Tasmania about the school, I recognized a pedagogical soul-mate. Conversations with a representative of LPMP further enhanced my sense that LPMP was a school that not only shared my educational vision, but was in fact substantially further down the path in implementing that vision.

Problems in American Education: The No Child Left Behind Act and Standardized Testing

On January 8, 2002, former United States President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I had been teaching for three years at that time, and although I did not doubt that the intentions of the Act were good, I knew that the methodology was exactly the opposite of what we needed to focus on in American education in order to face the increasingly pressing needs of the 21stcentury.

NCLB elevated the results of standardized testing to the position of central, and only, determinant of “success” for students, teachers, and schools. In the past ten years, a generation of American students has been taught “to the test” instead of being taught in authentic ways that truly encourage a love of learning, ways that cultivate critical inquiry and dialogue, and that help students to apply their knowledge to the real-world issues faced by their local and global communities. American teachers are becoming increasingly frustrated at having to assess students based upon an extremely narrow understanding of “knowledge” and by being unable to devote enough class time to helping students nurture a genuine excitement for the learning process (instead, the time is used to relentlessly prepare for testing). In effect, the motivation for “learning” has been thoroughly externalized: the goal is to pass the test, and avoid punishment, which is the end result of not “succeeding” in the NCLB model.

Both “knowledge” and “success” are perilously ill-defined in the NCLB system. Students are considered to “know,” and therefore to have “succeeded,” to the extent that they become successful test-takers; that is, to the extent that they are able to demonstrate that they can reiterate (not necessarily deeply understand) a narrow range of information, which they have been drilled about for the entire school year at the expense of the whole range of knowledge and skills which have been neglected in order to “teach to the test” (many of which skills, of course, simply cannot be assessed in the standardized testing model).

Also virtually ignored in the NCLB system is the inherent diversity in students themselves. Although anyone who has ever taught knows that each and every student is a unique human being with equally unique abilities and aptitudes, NCLB demands the impossible and ultimately, for the 21 century-- the undesirable: that every student be alike-- that they think alike, that they “know” the exact same things in the exact same way, and that they express that “knowledge” in the narrowly conceived way that allows test-makers to easily quantify that “knowledge.” Students are ultimately reduced to numbers in this system, a system that has been a boon for some, such as the standardized testing industry, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry since the inception of NCLB. But at what cost to the students, to America, and to the world?

In order to meet the requirements of “knowledge” in Reading and Math set out by NCLB, teachers and students are increasingly forced to give up time and resources that would otherwise be available for developing a well-rounded, holistic educational experience, one that recognizes the students as human beings, not simply standardized test-taking machines. Time for the Arts, play, sports, and even time to eat a proper nutritionally balanced lunch (all of which have been scientifically proven to enhance children's learning) has been increasingly shifted to test cram sessions. It has gone so far that two 11-year old girls from Minn, Minnesota recently felt compelled to write to their local newspaper to express their concern over being given just 10 – 11 minutes to eat lunch. (Return to discuss relevance/ implications/revise this section).

A decade into this experiment in American education, even formerly enthusiastic advocates of NCLB, such as education historian and once prominent supporter of the federal education policy, Diane Ravitch, have come to understand that, good intentions aside, NCLB is a “disaster.”

21st-century Skills

The world is changing at a faster pace than ever before in human history. The skills necessary for meeting the challenges of the new millennium are not the same as those that were sufficient to meet the challenges of the past. More than ever before, students need to develop what have come to be known as 21st century skills, authentic thinking and communication skills that include:

· Mental model building - using physical and virtual models to refine understanding
· Internal motivation - identifying and employing positive emotional connections in learning
· Multi-modal learning - applying multiple learning methods for diverse learning styles
· Social learning - using the power of social interaction to improve learning impact
· International learning - using the world around you to improve teaching and learning skills.

In effect, what educators must focus on in order to prepare students to effectively participate in the 21st-centruy global community is the development of “lifelong learners.” In the past, the focus of education has largely been placed on teaching, yet 21st century demands a shift to a focus on learners: helping students learn how to learn, how to reflect on and articulate their growing knowledge, and how to implement that knowledge, together with others, in ways that positively impact the world in which they live, is crucial to authentic education. The problems that have been created by outdated thinking cannot be solved by that same thinking; instead, education must focus on cultivating creative, critical thinking that will enable students to become self-motivated, confident innovators who are able to bring new thinking to the problems faced by the real world in which they live.

LPMP meets (and exceeds) the challenge of providing 21st-century education

Having had the privilege of experiencing LPMP as a guest observer/participant for a five weeks, I have come to know that not only were my initial impressions of the school correct, but that, in fact, the work being done at LPMP is even more transformational and progressive than I could have imagined. Below is a discussion of the ways in which I have observed LPMP meeting, and exceeding, the 21stcentury skills goal that is becoming increasingly recognized globally.

Mental model building - using physical and virtual models to refine understanding

LPMP employs a variety of learning opportunities/methodologies to assist students in developing and refining their understanding/knowledge through the use of physical and virtual models, including mind-mapping and project-based learning.


Mind-mapping allows students to begin to articulate, as well as to visually conceptualize, the framework of key questions, ideas, and language of the particular project they are working on. Mind-mapping inherently encourages complex analytical thinking. Analysis, of course, is the process of breaking down a coherent whole into its parts so as to better understand a) how the parts function in and of themselves and b) how the parts function together to make up the whole. This physical modeling tool encourages students to recognize and represent the complexity and interconnection of ideas, as well as to begin to understand and represent complex structures.

Project-based Learning (PBL)

LPMP's focus on Project-based Learning (PBL) is perhaps its most striking contribution to helping students become engaged life-long learners. Whereas the traditional lecture, drill, test methodology encourages learners to think of knowledge as compartmentalized (limited to the classroom, or to the test, for example), PBL encourages what renowned educational theorist Paulo Freire, in his seminal essay “The 'Banking' Concept of Education” defines as real knowledge. For Freire, as for progressive schools such as LPMP, knowledge is not a static, compartmentalized “thing.” Instead, it is understood to be what it truly is: a process. True knowledge “emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other (Freire ___).” It should be noted that the PBL projects themselves are imagined and constructed by the students in collaboration with their teachers, increasing student engagement and ownership. PBL encourages students to actively engage in the meaning-making process through inquiry, through dialogue, through collaboration with others, and then to apply their growing knowledge in the real world. This is the kind of knowledge, and these are the kinds of learners, crucial to the 21st-centrury.

One particularly excellent example of PBL at LPMP is a Primary Grade Six project in which students collaborated in creating a video of a text they had read together (The Alchemist). Not only was the students' understanding of the concepts clear in the excellent artifact they produced, but the joy and engagement of the students was also clear in videos and images that captured the students' creative process. Perhaps Socrates said it best when he said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” PBL kindles the flames of curiosity, creativity, engagement, and joy necessary to cultivate lifelong learners. We owe students no less as we ask them to face the enormous challenges of a century the problems of which they did not create, but will necessarily be tasked with solving.

Real-world Learning

The world as a model is also a key component of LPMP pedagogy. Students are encouraged to look to their own natural environment for learning models, and to observe and understand their world as a classroom. Children in Kindergarten Two, for example, studying ants, are encouraged to observe ants on the playground: to recognize their size, their color, their movements and habits. Of course, observation is the first principle of science, and these little investigators practice one of the most important intellectual skills when they observe their own world. They also build physical models as they produce art projects that allow them to demonstrate their growing understanding, for example, of ant morphology. What kindergarten class would be complete without music? Although they are “only” five-years old, they are already being introduced implicitly to linguistics as they sing songs (in their Native language as well as in the English language).

*I will discuss later the implications of these multi-faceted learning activities on learning styles.

Internal motivation - identifying and employing positive emotional connections in learning

One of the most impressive aspects of LPMP's pedagogy and methodology is its focus on student learning as an organic, internal process. At LPMP, punishment and cohersion are avoided in favor of student-focused learning that evokes the natural curiosity and wonder necessary fro the development of life-long learners. The intellectual materials are not “owned” by the teachers” and “given” tot he students; instead, they are the creation of the students facilitated by their teachers, who dilligently strive to ensure that students are

Multi-modal learning - applying multiple learning methods for diverse learning styles

Unlike schools that rely on traditional and outdated methods such as lecture and drill, LPMP teachers employ “multiple learning methods for diverse learning styles” daily. The Primary Six project discussed above provides and excellent example of this. Students employed multiple skill sets in producing their collaborative project, including music, technology, writing, theater, and oral presentation. Visual, auditory, kinetic

(Discuss Learning Styles research -return to ANTS discussion)

Social learning - using the power of social interaction to improve learning impact

In traditional educational settings, which often views learners in isolation, LPMP recognizes that knowledge and meaning-making is an inherently social process. Particularly in the 21-st century, as human beings become increasingly capable through technology of interacting and collaborating globally, it is important to cultivate learners who are not isolated and compartmentalized.

LOVE: Introduce Erich Fromm's definition: to love someone, you must respect them, to respect them you must know them, to know them, you must listen deeply to them. LPMP LOVES their students by this eloquent definition. Deep listening, attention to the issues to he individual student, to individual teachers, sports/games that build social connections (not heirarchical). Bodies, spirits, minds, emotions

(Khru Kloy with upset child on day one: discuss the role of empathy in critical thinking and education) EQ?SQ/IQ: HOLISTIC intertwining.

LUNCH/FLAG rituals

Home/School synthesis (home visits)

International learning - using the world around you to improve teaching and learning skills.

Real-world learning. Use ASEAN example (Primary Five). Buriram example (_________)?


· Attention to teachers as students and as human beings.
· Mentoring of younger/less experienced teachers
· Constant self-reflection: as a team, and as individuals
· Regular dialogue (talking with, not AT teachers)
· Problem-solving as a community (child with diabetes-- not HIS problem, OUR problem. Same with View and Boom)
· Attention to environment: exciting, engaging, safe, full of wonder, play, lesson (walkways as classrooms).
· Return to Fromm: LOVE (no physical, emotional barriers, trust)
· respect/love/appreciation for their own (and others') culture (builds self-esteem and other-esteem)
· Dedication of teachers extraordinary
· Involvement of parents crucial: always seeking to improve/reinforce/build upon this crucial connection – HOME VISITS.


วันอังคารที่ 28 ตุลาคม พ.ศ. 2557

TKforum 2014


Wichian Chaiyabang
Director of Lamplaimat Pattana School, Buriram
          ​Wichian Chaiyabang, Director of Lamplaimat Pattana School in Buriram, has become a pioneer of a new teaching methodology since founding the school in 2003. His goal was to see children grow up leading a balanced life, being content with their lives and feeling happy. Emphasis is placed on spirituality. This school does not use textbooks, but instead implements problem-based learning, which is a process of developing a body of knowledge from understanding of the world and from experiences. Children are also trained in skills to acquire knowledge using new technological tools. Currently, Lamplaimat Pattana School or “The school outside the box” provides children, mostly from poor families in community, with access to education on a par with that offered in city schools. The children will be ready to step out into society with a solid foundation rooted in the local community’s sustainability.
          ​Wichian graduated with a Master’s degree in Education Research from Mahasarakham University. He was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship as Social Innovator. He was also chosen to be a model teacher for the project State of the Nation: lighting the fire of creativity to power change. Over the past years, Lamplaimat Pattana has been a model school where educators come on educational visits. And Kru Wichian has been a guest speaker at various projects, especially training programs that are organized by the Ministry of Education on a regular basis for newly-certified teachers before starting teaching at public schools.


Thailand Knowledge Park Office of Knowledge Management and Development
(Public Organization)

วันเสาร์ที่ 22 มีนาคม พ.ศ. 2557

In Education, what do we mean by success?

In Education, what do we mean by success?

This month we are pleased to present an article by Mr Wichian Chaiyabang, Headmaster of Lamplaimat Patana School [LPMP] in Buriram province, Thailand.

This school provides a shining light on student centered learning and how a school where “thinking outside the education box” is the norm for all that happens in there. Under Wichian’s leadership, the LPMP team of educators is making a major contribution to the way Thai teachers teach, and the way Thai schools operate. LPMP has become a leading provider of professional learning programs for teachers from all parts of Thailand, through the programs it runs every week of the school year.

Many of those who have attended these professional learning workshops carry the message of educational change and the practical advice on how to do it, back to their own schools where they inevitably have an impact in their own classrooms and, if the conditions are right, they have an impact on a school wide basis. Throughout Thailand there are more schools similar to LPMP springing up. Like LPMP, they are small private schools, but they charge no fees, as they rely does on generating their own funding through donations and their own entrepreneurial activities.

In his article, Wichian addresses some important questions associated with measuring educational success. He argues that success in education is about educators seeing “that each child is equipped according to his or her capacity and is able to lead a life of value and contentment.”

I am sure there would be not much opposition for that proposition from thinking educators, but in this Information Age, there is evidence that schools and systems still want to push the acquisition of knowledge as one of the big priorities, and along with this they seek to develop in students the capacity to respond to knowledge seeking questions in examinations and tests which seem to be the norm for judging students’ success at school.

I am reminded of something John Lennon said of his own education; when he was in Year 6 at his Liverpool primary school, John’s his teacher set a task for the children to write, which was a short essay on the topic “What I want to be when I grow up”.

As the children wrote, the teacher wandered around the room looking at what they were writing. When she came to the Lennon, the future musical genius, she saw what he wrote ….he had written “When I grow up, I want to be happy” The teacher responded, “You don’t understand the question” Lennon responded immediately, “You don’t understand life”.

I do not know what mark he received for his short piece of work, but I am sure what he had written would have brought him a high score from teachers at LPMP and I would have given him a 10/10; we would have followed with frequent discussion the question on how does one achieve a life of happiness, and what does this mean anyway? A discussion which should be frequent in classrooms; in his article, Wichian touches on the deeper aspects of how we judge success.

In his third book, Outliers: the Story of Success [published by Little, Brown and Companyon November, 2008], Malcolm Gladwell, the Canadian – English author, journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, examines the factors that lead to high levels of success in many fields of endeavour including sport, business and education.

In Outliers, Gladwell poses questions to try to determine how much individual potential is ignored by society. The book has been translated into Thai and is recommended reading for all school teachers.

Another important book on this topic is Paul Tough’s 2008 book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, [published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008 and 2012. This is an excellent study on the types of things that are mentioned in this month’s feature article. Tough argues that the story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions tests, and senior high school exam to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed, the author argues that the qualities that matter most for success have more to do with character; skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

These are some of the things that teachers can help develop in those they teach.

I hope you all enjoy Khun Wichian’s article which has been provided in both English and Thai.

Greg Cairnduff, March, 2014


The Author of this month’s feature, Khun Wichian Chaiyabang.

Wichian is Headmaster and Education Manager at Lamplaimat Pattana School, located in Buriram province, north-eastern Thailand.

He leads the school in the provision of professional learning programs for schools throughout Thailand and is frequently to speak at conferences, universities and other forums.

Wichian is also a prolific author, having written a wide range of fiction and non – fiction books as shown below.

Children’s Literature

“The King on Green Planet” (2005)

“The Boy and the Star” (2006)

“Starfish on the Beach” (2006)

“Everyone Dreams of Being That” (2011)

“The Proud Turtle” (2013)

Short Story Collection

“One Morning before the End of the World” (2006)

Young Adult Literature

“Wind and Prairie” (2008)

- Outstanding Book, 2009 National Book Week Award

- Outstanding Book, 2011 Seven Book Award

“Go Ahead and Pray to the Green Fairy” (2009)

- Outstanding Book, 2011 Seven Book Award

Academic Publications

“School Outside-the-Box” (2008)

“Man on the Tree: Management and Leadership” (2009)

“Education Miracle (at School Outside-the-Box)” (2011)

“Spiritual Studies and Nurturing Inner Wisdom” (2011)

By:Student Centered Learning – Thailand

วันศุกร์ที่ 21 มีนาคม พ.ศ. 2557

One week in Buriram

One week in Buriram

The dream
I work as a consultant for a Thai foundation that helps students in Thai village schools. Our goal is to give the children a tool to help them in their future by giving them access to the internet - and the skills to use it properly.
We want them to learn how to get meaningful and relevant information for their studies and, in the long run, for all aspects of their life.
The foundation has been working for five years in over 20 schools with mixed results. In brief, we find that we can teach the students to use computers and find information on the internet - but we have not yet found a way to make them use this information critically so they can really benefit from it.
Copy-paste your way to nothing
Copy-paste may be very good if you know how to use it with care. For the students, copying is all too easy and in fact, it brings them nowhere. And thinking critically about what they find on the internet is not really necessary for them because the teachers dont put too much emphasis upon it anyway. The students soon learn that the important thing is to remember what the teacher tells them - not to start thinking on their own. The rote system is what we are up against and it is a formidable adversary.
So what now how do you teach children to actually think about what they are learning, reading, doing at school? How do you get them to say: This bit of information I can use - and this bit is quite useless to me ?
And most importantly: How do you get them to want to find answers that satisfy themselves and not try to find one that they think the teacher wants to hear?
Doubt creeps in
This is not easy and there were times when we started to doubt if it could be done at all. The reasoning goes like this: If we cannot do it and we dont see anybody else doing it - why do we actually think it can be done at all?
Last year we did a simple test of the students in grade 6. Only one child out of 116 gave an answer that indicated the ability to use a text on the internet meaningfully and being able to put it in writing in her own words. One out of 116 is not the goal that the foundation was aiming at.
Off to Buriram
Well, a score of 0.86% should not put you down, so we agreed that I go check out a school in Buriram that a good friend had recommended and which seemed to have the same goals for their education as our foundation and the same target group: rural children in a poor area. The name of the school is Lamplaimat Pattana and looking at their website we got the impression that this place had something quite special to offer. We contacted them and agreed that I could stay for a week to study the way they work and get a chance to talk to the teachers, students and the director of the school k. Wichian.
So off I went to Buriram, arriving at Lamplaimat Pattana Shool on a sleepy Sunday afternoon. Water buffalo were grazing on the sports grounds and it took a while before I found a teacher to help me get installed.
The school is quite overwhelming in many ways. What immediately strikes you is how beautiful it is. A big rice field surrounded by water, lawns with buffalo grazing, old houses on stilts - and new, big houses among a dense growth of trees looking like the jungle. Inside a new building I saw big six-sided classrooms with lots of room to work on the floor and at tables and an amazing amount of creatively drawn pictures and mind maps everywhere. It was like the place itself was alive and inviting you to come and learn.
Special routines
But what about the teachers, students and the lessons themselves? Would this be just as overwhelming?
I sat in on several lessons the next days. What struck me was:
  The special lesson types the school uses like chit seukhsa, exercises to help students think and create little things at the start of each day and long PBL lessons during the afternoon;
  Outdoor lessons like planting rice or minding the animals in the school;
  Talking quietly and politely to the students so that they feel ready to open up to the class and the teacher;
  Inventive activities for math lessons which made the students actually think quite hard about solving the math problems they were given;
  The way the students concentrated on their work;
  The open friendliness of both teachers and children. Most places I go the students are much to shy to talk to me - at Lamplaimat Pattana they are not shy;
  The relaxation session that starts off the afternoon, a kind of yoga which makes you relax and get ready for learning after the lunchbreak.
The teaching/learning method used at the school is Problem Based Learning which enables students to learn by engaging them in solving problems, questions and tasks. The school does not use standard textbooks but lets the students find their information by reading books in the library, consulting with the internet or by asking grownups. This not only works well, it works extremely well. The students use the computers effectively, are quick at deciding which material they need - or do not need - from the websites they visit. Manually they write down what they need from the website - and then they go and discuss in the group before presenting the answers to class. No copy paste here, thank you!
Tears to your eyes
The lesson that struck me most was one about religion in level 5. First the students were split into groups, each group getting a religion to study. This they did by using the internet and talking to teachers (and me) about various faiths. After this study they talked about their findings and the teacher started a discussion about quite deep questions. First, Do we need religion in our lives? The discussion showed that class was split in three almost equal groups about that one, yes - no - maybe. Next, the teacher asked: Do we need to be religious to be good people?
Now, I have a very good Thai friend whom I respect very much. One day we were discussing religion and I told her that I was an atheist. She looked at me in surprise and very seriously said Then how can you be a good person?
Back to Lamplaimat. I was waiting for the response of the students with more interest than they could imagine. NO! most of them said, quite spontaneously. Of course you do not have to be religious to be a good person. I bowed my head as tears filled my eyes; I did not want them to see how happy their answer made me.
One line vs one book
In our foundations little grade 6 test with the underwhelming collective score of 0.86%, the main problem for the students had been to answer the question in their own words. One line of text in their own words was enough to pass. But as I sat and watched them do the test, I saw them writing and erasing their words on the screen again and again and again. This one line cost them so much agony.
In Lamplaimat Pattana, the students have to produce a paper during their 6th year. The papers are kept at the school, placed on a big table. The results are little or big books, each book produced by a student. In his or her own words, beautifully written and drawn pages, list of contents at the beginning and works used for the paper at the end. Page after page of handwritten text. All the books are different. Strikingly different. Nobody is copying anybody and when you look at these books and their drawings it is like you are looking into the head of the student that made it.
These books and the lesson about religion convinced me that not only had we found a school which is actually able to make students reach the goal we were also aiming for. Lamplaimat Pattana are reaching a much higher goal than we ever dreamed about.
The cynic in us all
Thats all very good, you might say. 250 lucky children in Buriram see the light. What about all the other village - and city - schools in Thailand. What good is this to them?
Well, Lamplaimat Pattana has a plan for this as well. And the plan is to spread this way of teaching and this way of learning out to schools in all of Thailand.
When I sat in with the students in the classrooms, we would often see whole groups of people passing by or stopping up to look at us, taking pictures and starting to talk to the teacher guides about what they were seeing. I felt like sitting in a zoo along with a group of pandas being stared at all the time.
But the students didnt mind - they are used to this because they have known this ever since the first day they started at the school.
And the visitors get to see the lessons and the results played out in real life.
When teachers and parents from other schools see this new way of teaching actually working, the discussion is lifted to a whole new level. Now you no longer talk about whether it can be done or not because now you can see it can be done. The discussion now becomes: Do we want to adopt this method and if yes, how do we start doing it?
Two schools in one
These discussions take place in Lamplaimat Pattanas extensive course facilities which are placed close to the classrooms so that learning for grown ups and learning for students can go together. You as a teacher or parent are not just learning about an abstract idea with lots of beautiful slides on a projector - you are seeing it happen right in front of you.
Thousands of visitors come to the school every year. Some of them just stay for half a day, others for several months. Our staff have been there for training four or five times and we are now helping other schools adapt the PBL method with the support of Lamplaimat Pattana. The change in attitude and skills of our staff after one months stay at the school is bigger than the 2-3 years of staff training and work they have done with the foundation. This has been quite sobering for us.
Goodbye - Hello
The week of my first stay passed too quickly. I had long discussions with the schools director, the schools teachers who both gave me good insight into their work and also good advice: Mind the snakes at night when you walk back to your room along the rice field!
I went with the teachers to visit the homes of some of the students and met their parents and grandparents and saw how happy they are that the school is part of their lives.
I was really sad to go and when I was home again somehow I felt I had stepped out of a dream.
Soon after, our foundation management decided that we will use PBL as the basis for our work in the schools. We are now cooperating with Lamplaimat Pattana to get the best possible result in our new plans.
I have been back several times since, and I am going back again today.

Sven Sprogøe
Bangkok, March 9th 2014