We spent the late morning and lunchtime at a school south of Bangkok, in the town of Paknam (also called Samut Prakan). The private school, named Sriwittayapaknam, educates children from ages 3 through 15 (pre-kindergarden for 3 years through middle school/9th grade), about 1,700 in total. We were shown about the facility by one of the staff, a British born man named Richard Barrow who has been with the school for 19 years. During our two or so hours, we were treated to a top-to-bottom tour of the place, including the kindergardeners at nap time, the kitchen, and a music class with a wind-driven keyboard called a Melodica. We also got to interact with a sixth-grade English class as well.
There is apparently a Valentine’s Day tradition of sticker exchanging in which we were fortunate enough to be included. Having our kids along piqued the students’ interest, and at various points our two found themselves the center of a 20+ mob of excited, chattering Thai students. Charlie and A.J., perhaps suffering from a lack of the attention they received in Myanmar, got their fix of being the center of attention.
The students were just great – very friendly and full of the life and energy we know from Lafayette Elementary. Overall, it was a really unique experience for all of us, and we got to see a small slice of life to which we wouldn’t normally be privy.
Here are a few things that we learned:
- school starts at 7:30 and, for most grades, ends at 3:30.
- students wear a uniform three days a week.
- PE is once a week and they wear their PE clothes all day.
- Scouting is mandatory in Thailand until age 15(!!) and we visited on Scout Day so everyone had on their Scouting attire.
- There are about 45 kids in each class. The younger classes have 1-2 aides.
- Students are forbidden to wear shoes within the classroom and building. Where we have backpack hooks, they have shoe racks.
- In addition to Thai, the children learn basic English and Chinese.
- All students eat lunch at school, served from a communal pot outside their classroom.
Thank you goes to Richard Barrow for his part in facilitating our visit. His fascinating blog, covering all manner of observations about what’s going on locally, can be found here.
Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!