Liberals in Thailand Against Children Learning Conservative Values
Schools across Thailand will begin teaching Thai history as a main subject in the coming academic year, focusing on nationalism, conservatism and traditional values. The move has angered liberal academics over the government’s efforts to instill a nationalistic and conservative mindset.
“It appears that the government wishes to impose nationalism on children,” noted prominent educator Prof Dr Sompong Jitradub. “The move is unusual and contradicts educational principles as well as global trends.”
G20 countries are moving toward democracy, human rights, the environment, and liberalism. However, rather than riding these mega-trends, Thailand’s Education Ministry is working hard to instill nationalism and conservatism.
“The Thai educational sector appears to have failed to comprehend the global context.” That is why Thai education has never shone on the global stage,” he lamented.
Prof Sompong stated that if Thailand truly wanted to catch up with the rest of the world, it would overhaul its curriculum, particularly in the English language.
Instead, the government’s plan to make history a core subject would drag Thai children back to conservatism, he added, whose mindsets already resonate with global trends.
“The government of Thailand is laying the groundwork for a trap of nationalism and ancestor worship,” he warned. “Excessive nationalism and reverence for ancestors may foster biases against neighbouring countries.”
Sompong also suspects the government has a hidden agenda in promoting history, believing it will replace the new generation’s trend toward liberalism with conservative attitudes.
Traditional Values in Thailand
Prime Minister Prayut has repeatedly stated that Thais should love their country, religion, and monarchy during his tenure as junta leader. Whenever he visits a school, he usually emphasizes the importance of instilling a love for the country and the Royal Family.
The prime minister appeared pleased as he toured a “History Class” exhibition at Government House earlier this week. The exhibition was held by the Education Ministry to demonstrate its willingness to promote history lessons – or at least its version of history – in schools.
“The Basic Education Commission has already approved the formal separation of history from other subjects,” said Education Minister Treenuch Thiengthong.
She denied that the government was using this move to force children to love their country. She claims that the new history course will be current and interesting. Even with history as a main subject, students will not be required to study for longer periods of time. Treenuch also stated that the government will not have to increase its budget.
“The new content will fit well into the current economic, social, and citizenship context,” she stated emphatically.
Making Thai History Enjoyable
According to the education minister, the new policy will also make history more enjoyable for students. And, she added, history lessons would not only foster patriotism but would also help children prepare for the future.
“In school, students will learn from and apply mistakes and success stories from history.”
Junior high students will take 40 hours of history each year, while senior high students will take 80 hours over three years.
The Education Ministry has stated that the new core subject will be taught using an active learning approach. The learning formats will vary. Museums, historical sites, and local wisdom activities, for example, may be included to provide students with historical knowledge.
In addition, the ministry will hire more history teachers to support the policy. These teachers will use digital and modern technologies to monitor their students’ learning, provide advice, and encourage the application of knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.
Learning Thainess and Culture
Given that students will also study citizenship, clear indicators will be established to avoid redundancy. Nipat Artmit, director of the Sunthornwattana School in Chaiyaphum, said he supported the ministry’s decision because history deserved more emphasis.
“If it isn’t the main topic, kids tend to take it for granted.” That is why they are blind to their homeland’s history and the roots of Thainess,” he explained.
He stated that his school had planned integrative content for his history class. It will, for example, take students on educational trips to learning facilities and important temples. For example, students will learn about the first governor of Chaiyaphum and other topics.
A state school teacher, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said she couldn’t understand the Education Ministry’s move because she believed the separation of history as a subject had already been implemented in practice.
“We have already separated history and social studies in recent years.” “We spend one hour per week on history and two hours per week on social studies,” she explained.
According to the head of social studies at one secondary school, the separation has been in effect since HM Queen Sirikit – now known as the Queen Mother – mentioned the importance of history as a subject more than a decade ago.
Another teacher believes that the government’s decision to prioritize history education is motivated by politics.
But she is skeptical that the government will get its way.
“Don’t forget that students read the news as well.” They are also concerned about issues that are close to their hearts. They will not simply listen to what teachers or adults say to them. They will ask questions and analyze information based on their mindset,” said the teacher, who requested anonymity due to professional concerns.
She stated that she would try to teach history by incorporating current events and encouraging analytical thinking.
Source: Thai PBS