Early Years Education Development in Rural Thailand Village with Finnish Methods
My visit in December to our Moomin Language School pilot school in northern Thailand, outskirts of Phetchabun, was an eye opener. I have visited several schools in Thailand before and only now realised the huge gap between small rural schools and big schools in cities.
The primary school of 100 students have only 4 teachers. Most of the classes are based on “school TV” program broadcasted MoE and teachers’ role is to facilitate the classroom session and write reports. This is completely opposite of many big schools which are relatively autonomous even with the school budget.
Our pilot project in Phetchabun is carried our with wonderful retired couple. It is part of their “zero-to-hero” program which has holistic approach in learning and wellbeing from pregnancy to 18 years olds young adults. They have done remarkable job with their very ambitious project, which aims to improve the lives of children in Thai countryside.
The project has taken place for couple of years and has been initially funded by a Finnish expat and philanthropist Dan Rubinstein and his wife Jo. Last year they incorporated a foundation (http://www.z2h.fi) to enable fund raising and have been able to get CSR based funding with the help of the Thai-Finnish Chamber of Commerce and particularly the elevator company KONE.
They have developed a “3 step program” where the first step is now implemented. First step is aimed to children at the age of 0-6 years old.
This first step is based on three modules:
– Baby Club
– HighScope Kindergarten
– Moomin Language School (https://www.moominls.com)
In addition the foundation has hired two primary school assisting teachers to initiate the second phase. They are helping out in the primary school, which have only 4 teachers (and 100 students).
Baby club for grandparents
Baby club is targeted mostly for grandparents who typically take care of toddlers while parents are working outside of the village – often for extended periods, even months or years. Baby club aims to teach grandparents skills to support children’s growth both physically and mentally. It is also often only social event for grandmothers to interact with others outside the home.
Grandparents with children between 0.5-2.5 years old, gather twice a week in the school premises for play activities guided by an early childhood pedagogy team. They will unlearn from bad legacy (like guiding a child with a stick) and learning about proper nutrition and brain development stimulating play activities etc. We saw some active mothers and fathers helping the teachers to implement the program.
At the age of around 2.5-3 years, children start the kindergarten. The curriculum follows the “HighScope” kindergarten model, which is based on the Finnish Early Childhood learning principles and adapted to the Thai culture.
All children at kindergarten start their day with 10-15 minutes session of Moomin Language School learning application. It is an English language learning service for early years (before children can read or write). They have 8 Huawei tablets to conduct the sessions. Children play it first thing when they arrive at school and wait for their turn in case all devices are occupied. We witnessed amazingly well self steering procedure, where all children seemed to know and follow the procedure exactly without teacher guidance.
MLS application is used every day in the beginning of the day, where children learn the vocabulary. This is supported by weekly playful wrap up lessons, which have a detailed lesson plan as part of the MLS program license.
Based on the feedback of the program head and teachers, MLS helped the children not only in learning the language, but they also showed fast progress in self esteem, presentation skills and problem solving skills.
As all NGO initiated development projects, also this one is really in need fro more funding to continue and to expand. If you want to help, you can contact them on the website http://www.z2h.fi. You can also get in touch with me for more details.