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
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
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