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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


Creative Chiang Mai

I recently attended a seminar on Creative Chiang Mai given by the Chiang Mai Chamber of Commerce. Two issues ago I interviewed Martin Venzky-Stalling, one of the driving forces behind Chiang Mai Creative City initiative and it got me to thinking how does one encourage and develop creativity exactly?

And while seeing local companies and businesses being encouraged to develop their creative side, surely it must start much, much earlier than that? The fact remains that Thailand’s education system does not encourage creativity and often, the more creative the child the more difficulties they find themselves in since they usually do not fit into the rigidly structured Thai system.

The rigid hierarchy among teachers and students, the insistence on conforming to the norm, these are all barriers to creative growth in both children and teachers. Although not the way I grew up, I do understand the need for uniforms and I am glad to see that hair lengths have been relaxed. But I must say, when I first came to Thailand, it did perplex me why the insistence that all the children look exactly the same, even down to the hair. How can anyone feel creative when they are forced into a box?

The American classroom was not all that much different when my parents were growing up and frankly, this “no child left behind” program of testing, testing, testing seems like a throwback to an age when kids were forced into fitting into the roles given them. Left handed kids were forced to use their right hand, for instance. My mother learned to write cursive using the Palmer method. And while her handwriting was beautiful it lacked personality or individuality of any kind. I recall when in college I started a job and one of my co-workers sent me something handwritten, I could identify that she had learned the Palmer Method also since her handwriting was eerily similar to my mother’s.

Encouraging teachers to be creative, encouraging them to allow creativity in the classroom, these are all starting points. Another starting point would be in providing higher salaries to encourage a more diversified teacher base. Making sure that every school has well educated and qualified teachers, not just tablets or free uniforms. And finally, the government should make use of the huge base of native English speakers who have retired to this country and just want to help. I fail to understand why allowing a retired person to volunteer to speak English with students is harming anything in any way.

Education must be a priority in Thailand, the future of a nation lies in its children. But, again, not just rote learning, memorizing facts without understanding their meaning or their purpose, but real learning.

The children of Thailand have such great potential with their spirit, friendliness and potential for innovation, they should be encouraged to grow that.

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Creative Chiang Mai