“Hugs” are magical medicines shared with each other every morning before high-altitude classes at Ban Mae Lit School begin. The school is situated on a 1,198-metre-high mountain in Mae Hong Son province.
“We start our day with ‘hugs’ to mentally support each other in the beginning of Contemplative Study session, the first activity done together before proceeding on other normal classes. Once again at 1pm sharp, the entire school falls silent as children are led to ‘Body Scan’ session, in which the brain is freshened up from morning fatigues and ready to absorb learning in the afternoon integrated class. In this class, students and teachers work together to design the learning activities based on the children’s interest and problems faced. At the end of the day, teachers and students get together into a circle to review what they’ve learnt all day, thank their classmates for their contributions in the joint learning and thank their teachers for giving them love, knowledge and academic skills through ‘hugs’, just like in the morning, before heading their ways home,” Mr Sayan Phosuwan, Ban Mae Lit School Director talked about the school daily routine.
Mr Sayan shared with Dr Sarawut Rachasrimuang, Director of World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT), on his visit to the school about its turning point. Due to a wide range of responsibilities teachers needed to bear, an unofficial teacher dialogue, locally referred to as “So Le Cycle” (an informal gathering to promote information exchange) has been initiated to establish Professional Learning Community (PLC). The approach has proved beneficial for the teachers and instruction development. Throughout the past two years, the school was filled with laughers and happiness of children, teachers and parents. This teachers’ cycle of dialogues has also contributed to solution to illiteracy crisis in early childhood, through reinforcement and collaborative efforts from WVFT’s Mae Sariang Area Development Programme, Mae Hong Son province, which has driven “Child Sponsorship Programme” in this high mountain top area.
With the kickoff of the instruction technique called “5 experiences and 4 steps to master literacy skills” (spelling exercises, pronunciation drills, writing practice and dictation), applied in teaching students as early as in kindergarten and grade 1 to solve the illiteracy problem, all school students have shown improvements in their reading and writing skills.
“At first students could not spell words. They would run to ask the teacher. But now they can spell simple words and read better and love to read. Thank you WVFT for the support of learning materials,” Teacher Fang, or Ms Prangthong Jainoi, talked about the development taken place.
From children’s point of view, the activities applied in the school’s teaching do not only help them learn, but also make going to school one of their favourite things. “It’s really fun and easy to understand. I love Teacher Fang’s class,” Pitchapha, a 1st grade girl said while giggling. “It is fun. I love reading the story about the fairy,” Chindanai, a young boy, added.
“It’s noticeable that children have become eager to do things as assigned. They’ve started to show self-management and self-planning while having fun doing them,” said Mr Sayan.
Dr Sarawut has also had a chance to visit Early Childhood Nutrition Promotion Project and Student Life Quality Development at Ban Huai Phueng So Lo Khi School, Mae La Noi district. Parents, caregivers of the child care centre, and community leaders have expressed rejoice and gratitude toward WVFT for supporting the children and community. For example, 100% of pregnant women have received antenatal care due to maternal and child care knowledge supported; young children in the child development centre have had breakfast to eat to promote their complete growth and age-appropriate development. “Children used to have malnutrition. Now they have gained proper development according to their age. Thank you WVFT for supporting breakfast, child development promotion, learning materials, toys and other supplies,” Pranormphorn Aroonphana, a teacher at Ban Huai Phueng Child Care Centre, said happily.