There are reports that the non-profit Thai Sikh International School (TSIS) in Bangkok will be sold to a Christian missionary school.
If those rumours are accurate, then the news should cause real dismay to anyone who values good education. The school has produced many outstanding students, many of them going on to become engineers, doctors, businessman and contributing to Thailand in multiple ways. Scores of them have won scholarships for universities both in Thailand and abroad before returning to boost this country with their skills.
Profit has never been the motive of the school, unlike many other international schools in Thailand, which can charge a whopping Bt700,000 for admission into kindergarten. Rather, the focus at TSIS is solely on educating the Thai Sikh community – and by extension Thais and Indians – at a subsidised rate.
Parents of the students are now concerned at signs of a decline in the school. Many of them blame a sudden change in staffing policies after a Singaporean adviser was brought in by the school, with chopping and changing of teachers, who are also being pressured to work at weekends.
The high teacher turnover has prompted parents to take their children out of school.
A second problem stems from young Sikhs’ growing reluctance to wear articles of their faith – uncut hair, comb, bracelet, dagger, etc. Some are reluctant for fear of being stigmatised (Sikhs have been confused for fundamentalist Arabs), others because they follow the trends of their Thai peers. The school, in its wisdom, has stopped admitting those Sikh children who have cut their hair.
It is now imperative that the Sikh community to introspect and come up with a solution to keep the school alive, rather than selling to organisations whose main motivation is profit. The Thai-Indian Chamber of Commerce, the Indian community and the Embassy of India have a big role to play. The Sikhs once defended India with their lives. It is now time for the whole Indian community to rise to the occasion, reach out of the Sikhs and help them when they need it most.