Thirteen little boys and girls are sitting in a circle and keeping their eye on the pictures depicting different Karen cultural settings that Ms Niphaphorn and Ms Wiyada have posted on the board and the classroom’s walls. The kids raise their hands and compete against each other to answer questions and race to point at the picture. After the teacher gives the correct answer, the giggling children return to their seats. The pupils are having fun with learning whilst the teacher is smiling gleefully along with them.
Ms Wiyada, a teacher of the Karen ethnic pupils, shared about the problem once happened to young learners at Ban Sop Lan School; the Karen-ethnic pupils mainly rely on their dialect as the means of communications. The problem that young children faced when they started going to school was the inability to communicate or understand the Thai language. This was considered critical as it hindered their literacy development, resulting in their sub-standard reading and writing skills.
‘Children did not want to come to school and could not understand what teachers said. As a teacher, I would like them to be able to read and write and gain age-appropriate development’, said Ms Wiyada.
Later, Ban Sop Lan School adopted the Bilingual Curriculum, an instructional processes that makes use of the children’s mother tongue (Karen dialect) as the means of learning, based on their Karen culture, and use the Thai letters to represent different sounds in the mother tongue and link children to the systematic Thai language learning.
The goal of the instruction through the bilingual approach is to build preparedness for preschoolers to be able to read and write and for primary school pupils to achieve standardised listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in the Thai language, with an integration of the teaching of their dialect, culture, and local wisdom whilst ensuring that the instruction conforms to the national curriculum imposed by the Ministry of Education.
World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT)’s Child Sponsorship Programme in Om Koi Project, Chiang Mai province has contributed to the Bilingual Curriculum by providing Ms Wiyada and Ms Niphaphorn transportation fares to attend a curriculum training and instructional techniques workshop, as well as supporting budget to procure instructional materials and supplies for making innovative media that are used in teaching pupils in kindergarten 2 and 3 and grade 1.
Ms Niphaphorn, the bilingual teacher, said that the curriculum has been carried out with the kindergarten 2 class; children have an opportunity to do a range of bilingual-learning activities from Monday to Friday. They mainly learn through the pictures that show the cultural practices in their communities that are held in different months or seasons and how they are related. The class starts with a session of learning from a large-sized storybook and continues with working on a smaller book from which the pupils learn about different stories and practice making sentences and reading out loud. At the end of the class, children get to enjoy colouring cartoon pictures of animals and flowers.
It has been three years since Ban Sop Lan School introduced the Bilingual Curriculum to the class, resulting in the joy of learners and their improved reading and writing skills.
Ms Wiyada also talked about the likeable changes she feels from her bilingual instruction experience. Most pupils have developed confidence and become outspoken. They show creative ideas. They love coming to school because learning makes them happy. The teacher and the learner share some fun every day. As a teacher, she enjoys the bilingual approach. Seeing how much fun the pupils have whilst learning makes her happy too. It is noticeable that – despite frequent absence in the past – children have come to school regularly since the use of Bilingual Curriculum.
‘Children show faster development in learning the Thai language. As a result, the class of first graders this year can read and write much better, comparing to the 1st-grade class in the previous year. I would like to thank sponsors and WVFT for the support that improves pupils’ quality of life, as well as for the provision of the instructional materials, equipment and supplies, bookshelves, and supplement reading that enhances the teacher’s knowledge in making media to teach the bilingual class. Thank you’, Ms Wiyada said with a smile.