Schools doing their bit to prepare for Asean community
Students learning about other countries, as well as languages
All sectors have done things to prepare for possible changes ahead of the move to become an Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. This includes schools - the sector responsible for preparing human resources.An Asean studies subject has been created by Udonpittayanukul School (Udonpit) in the northeast province of Udon Thani to specifically educate its students about Asean countries and prepare them for the AEC.The subject is among concrete preparations that Udonpit has kicked off to prepare its students, according to Suphaporn Phongmetha, a teacher at Udonpit and head of the school's Asean Study Centre."We let our Matthayom 1-3 (Grade 7-9) students study this subject in this semester as the first group," she said.In addition to the subject Udonpit used as a tool to give students better understanding of Asean, it had some students study Vietnamese language with a native speaking teacher in a bid to equip them with another tool to communicate with people from the neighbouring country, Suphaporn said."There are tens of thousands people living in Udon Thani, who also have Vietnamese and Lao nationalities. So, it is essential that our students should know their languages," she said.Around 300 Vietnamese students pursued this study at Udon Thani Rajabhat University, she said, which could help them get a job in Thailand.Prommanusorn Phetchaburi School in Phetchaburi province is also teaching its students Burmese language. Located near Burma, there were lots of Burmese people in the province, school director Teerapun Teeranun said."We have a Burmese native speaking teacher teaching 80 students the language as a club activity this semester. But, Burmese language will be an elective subject for students from Matthayom 1-6 (Grade 7-12) to choose, while interested local people will also be taught the language in the next academic year," he said.Teerapun said learning about Asean countries had been made a new part of social studies taught to teach every class. "All teachers of every subject also agreed to adjust their educational activities, linking more activities with Asean."He has had his students visit Malaysian and Singaporean schools to create networks. Moreover, he plans to run a student exchange programme with Malaysia.Meanwhile, Udonpit has done Spirit of Asean projects with Asean countries using a web community as a communication channel.Both are among 68 schools under the Basic Education Commission that have initiated courses and activities in preparation for the AEC under the Spirit of Asean programme.Benjalug Namfa, an inspector general at the Education Ministry's Permanent Secretary Office, has an important role in preparing Thai students for the AEC. She said activities that provided knowledge about Asean were included in Nation Student Handicraft 2011 held last month."Now, of the 68 schools, we have 30 "Sister Schools", including Udonpit and Prommanusorn, which are preparing Asean educational plans with neighbouring countries and have connecting classrooms with schools in the United Kingdom and other Asean nations to do projects together on climate change, for example," she said. "So, they can learn different languages from each other and work together. "Twenty-four others are 'Buffer Schools' - schools located near the border. They are adjusting their curriculum and some contents to make their students know more about Thailand and nearby neighbouring countries. Rajabhat Universities and some experienced government officers are their advisers. "The other 14 schools called 'Asean Focus' are boosting students' awareness about the AEC, getting them to know Asean more deeply," she said."We plan to adjust official language of Asean laws to make it is easier for children to understand the laws," Benjalug added.Apart from Thailand, other Asean nations are also trying harder to raise their own students' awareness about the AEC.Marion Tan, principle of St. Margaret's Secondary School in Singapore, said her school celebrated Asean day last August. Also, content about Asean had been integrated into the social studies subject.The school had a student exchange programme with Indonesia so as to help them get to know each other more. Students learnt from local host parents in two countries and from their buddies who helped them in class, she said.The Singaporean government had allocated a huge amount to support the exchange programme for many schools, she said. In Vietnam, Nguyen Thu Anh, a teacher at Tay Son Secondary School said her school had taught students more about Asean countries, including populations, their climate, capital cities, prime ministers, food, customs and customs of each country. Lao teacher Khamla Khanthavong, from the Laos-Vietnam Friendship Secondary School, said many schools, including her's had yet to teach students about Asean, but the government had offered financial support for students to join Asean camps and sports competitions to learn more about other countries."Laos should be more alert to the AEC, and students should be encouraged to learn about Asean," Khamla said.