Breaking down barriers
A programme bringing together children from local and international schools is helping to unlock their hidden potential
The Equitable Education Fund (EEF) is hailing the early success of a programme that is bringing together students from different communities to better understand each other and exchange valuable knowledge.
Students from both Thai and international schools are working together to create skill sets over a nine-month period, the goal being to then use their entrepreneurship skills to sell these products to the public.
EEF deputy managing director Kraiyos Patrawart said the programme had progressed since it was created last year. International school and state school students, he said, had been working together to develop products unique to different provinces that matched the needs of online global markets and in doing so had increased the value of products available on project partner JD Central's e-commerce platform.
This represents a big transformation for schools around Thailand, which previously only focused on making sales within their communities. Project leaders have found that when students from both Thai and international schools work together, they can creatively develop products that are modern, appealing and widely sold on online markets.
"This has led to a second year of the programme, with five international schools on board because of their confidence and their commitment to work with Thai schools in the long run to foster social development, said Mr Kraiyos. "Initially, this product development is a mechanism to bridge cooperation from international students and Thai schools in different provinces, but the main goal is now to bring both sides with an opportunity to work together to create social innovation that expands benefits to different schools in the future."
The 11 schools under the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC) which are taking part in the programme: Thanuawittaya School, Ban Khun Pae School, Anubankokha School, Banhuaytom Chaiyawongsa Upptham School, Bandong Mothong School, Samakompayabanthai School, Bancharoensuk School, Sensirianusorn School, Wattayang School, Banchatfang School and Ban Huai Plao School.
The five international schools taking part are Shrewsbury International School, Bangkok Christian College, Bangkok Patana School, Bangkok Prep and Harrow International School. Greg Threlfall, director of the Outreach programme at Shrewsbury International School, said the project is helping students to learn new skills that can be used in their future careers. Mr Threlfall said students are benefiting by learning more about local communities, adding that if the products they develop with local schools become successful this is sure to increase educational opportunities for students from state schools, helping to reduce education inequality in the long run.
"The goals of this programme are incorporated into learning activities that are distinctive from classroom settings that students from both sides can learn together," he said. "Students are encouraged to get creative and think outside the box beyond their classroom. I hope that this programme will help to bring about sustainable educational equality."
Nadrudee Maiman, a teacher at Bandong Mothong School, said her school was producing indigo-coloured fabric that can be sold online.
Joining this programme would be beneficial to students and the community, said Ms Nadrudee, adding: "Local wisdom from communities can be passed on and expanded while communities will receive more income from selling their products.
"The EEF's efforts to organise Equity Partnership's School Network will open doors for international students and students from different provinces to meet each other, make new friends while learning about marketing and analysing products."
Waritsara Thararuenruedee or Liu, an eighth-grade student from Banhuaytom Chaiyawongsa Upptham School in Lamphun province, was one enthusiastic participant. Ms Waritsara said she had learned how to make new backstrap loom products in a novel way and also how to sell them to communities and the wider market.
She felt that learning from experts and receiving creative input from international students was helping develop new methods for making products that were modern, easier to use and useful in people's everyday lives.