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Vocational classes for troubled youths

A royal initiated project is helping students prone to violence to turn their lives around

BLOODY brawls among vocational students have often made headlines. The problem is so worrying that often people have to call the police for help.

A royally initiated project, however, has been set up to tackle the problem from another perspective.

"If wayward vocational students are sent to police, they will very likely face jail. But if they are put under the care of schools and private firms [via a training programme], they have a good chance of securing a brighter future," Human Capacity Building Institute chairman Thavorn Chalassathien said.

His institute is under the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), where Thavorn serves as a vice president.

According to Thavorn, the Privy Council Chambers asked the institute to recommend an interesting idea to transform students prone to violence.

The result materialised last year, when the royally-initiated dual vocational education programme was launched.

This programme targets 11 vocational schools that have a record of students prone to violence.

Between October 2013 and May this year, 41 companies joined the programme. They took in 345 misbehaving students in the hope of transforming their behaviour.

"Jailing them won't solve any problem. So we believe we had better do it this way," Thavorn said.

Patamawalai Ratanapol, chief people officer and chief operations officer of The Minor Food Group, believed a different environment could trigger transformation.

"We have seen better changes in many students who are with us," she said. "These students have developed discipline and self-esteem. They know more about what they truly want."

Last Thursday, her firm staged a certificate presentation ceremony to honour all 27 students who had been put under its care during the first phase of the special programme.

"We want them to feel proud," she said.

According to her, the programme does not focus on equipping participants with work skills - it is more about the young participants' personality and relationships with others.

Patamawalai said many of the students used to be quick to confront oth

ers and ready to fight physically.

"But when they know someone is there to advise and guide them, they are ready to change for the better," she said.

All the participants are second-year students.

The second phase of the programme, which attracted 249 students, began on June 2 and finishes on February 2.

Thavorn said the programme could accommodate 900 students but as students were encouraged to join voluntarily, the number of participants was still below the target.

Don Muang Technical College director Permsin Choeysiri said he would like to put all second-year students in a vocational certificate-level programme under the project.

"However, the decision depends on students, teachers and parents too," he said. "Some are concerned that students won't be able to catch up with their classes later on."

Thavorn believes that some teachers are worried private firms will complain to them about the bad behaviour of their students.

"But to tell you the truth, you should place your problematic students in our programme. We need to produce good people for society," he said.

So many problems in the country, such as deforestation, happened because of bad people.

"It's thus imperative that we do something to improve our human resources," he said.

Permsin said the programme had delivered tangible results already.

"One female student used to quarrel with another female student last year. But after she completed the programme and returned to our college, she's become much calmer. She does not aggressively react to provocation anymore," he said.

A source at the Dual Vocational Education Centre said the need for dual vocational education programmes has kept growing.

This year, more than 50,000 vocational students have attended such programmes.

A number of entrepreneurs have joined the programmes, which offer various benefits. Some employers, for example, can use students to solve their labour-shortage problem and help the underprivileged at the same time.

Located in Bangkok's Bang Na district, Pranda Jewellery Public Company Limited has engaged in a dual vocational education programme for more than a decade.

"This way we can get the right human resources," the firm's executive Pramote Tiasuwan said.

He said some seats in the programme were reserved for underprivileged children.

Sakchai Sangmuang, a teacher in the programme, said he was glad to see his students doing well.

"In my class, children will get the skills that can give them a livelihood. I am happy to see my students can do it," he said.


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