Distinction for cultural acceptance in the classroom22.02.17 | Manuela Flattich
Hassayarat Panchaichok teaches third-year schoolchildren to understand and appreciate the cultural differences within their country, making a lasting contribution to reducing the kinds of conflicts that have caused bloody wars in the past. She was recently awarded an important prize for innovative projects in schools, having acquired the relevant knowledge during an intensive 12-day course at the Pestalozzi Children’s Village.
Hassayarat Panchaichok has been teaching at the Ban Jabo school in north-west Thailand for five years, teaching Thai, mathematics and religion and culture to children aged nine to ten. The school is part of an educational project supported by the Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation, which gives children from ethnic minorities access to quality education, supports their personal development and teaches indigenous knowledge.
Further education at the Children’s Village
In February 2016, the 34-year-old teacher travelled to Trogen in the Swiss canton of Appenzell to attend the 12-day Senior Professional Training seminar held at the Children’s Village. The further education course is regularly organised at the Children’s Village for managerial staff from its partner organisations. Together with 15 additional professionals from five project countries, Hassayarat engaged with the opportunities and challenges of educational projects in multicultural, multi-faith nations. ‘We were taught methods for tackling these challenges playfully and implementing our projects efficiently,’ she says.
Applying methods locally
Back home, the committed teacher developed a lesson plan for her school: ‘I incorporated the methods I learned at the Children’s Village into my lesson plan and adapted them to fit our local circumstances.’ The resulting concept is a comprehensive plan detailing how teachers can successfully integrate the cultural backgrounds of their pupils into their lessons and reduce conflict among the children.
Education for peace
Hassayarat is tackling a problem that has existed for a long time in Thailand, a country of many different ethnicities and religions whose population frequently clashes over their different views and opinions. These hostile attitudes are first internalised at school. ‘My approach allows the children to understand cultural differences, respect each other and reduce conflict in our country,’ Hassayarat explains. One of her methods involves showing her pupils a photograph of a child and asking them to associate the portrait with the culture of a specific ethnic group. The children learn about the way of life of the group in question and understand that the other child is just like them, despite their cultural differences. Afterwards, she asks the class how they perceived the unfamiliar culture before and after the lesson, and how they intend to apply their new knowledge in the future. ‘Not only do young people take in the content better, they also learn it for life.’
A prize for effective social engagement
The great impact of the new lesson plan was honoured by the government: the Thai Ministry of Education distinguished Hassayarat with a bronze award in the category ‘One School – One Innovation’. This annual award aims to improve the lesson quality and standard of education in Thai schools in the long term. ‘I am very proud of this prize, which confirms the significance of our work,’ she commented with a smile. The award, and more particularly the changes in her classroom, have motivated the teacher to continue sensitising children to cultural and religious diversity. ‘Our young people will grow up to become tolerant, peaceful Thai citizens.’