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Although acute educational disparities exist between rich and poor schools in Thailand, one teacher in Samut Prakarn is proving that, with the right strategies, disadvantaged students can reach the same level of achievement as their more affluent peers.

For years, Mr. Ratanasak Thongpunya (Tae) toiled to find the best tactics to raise the achievement of his students at Watlaemfarphar Middle School (an extended school participating in the Chevron Enjoy Science Project). As a new science teacher, he struggled to get his students to understand complex topics, such as energy, mechanics, and motion. After joining the project, Tae was introduced to several pedagogical techniques that have proven effective in contexts around the world. Once he started using these techniques in his classroom, he quickly realized that if you use the right strategies, any student can learn.

Tae’s new strategies emphasize student-centered learning, where children are asked to apply content knowledge to solve project-based problems. This allows students to experiment with the subject matter and interact with their peers to answer challenging questions. One strategy Tae now uses, the Gallery Walk method, asks small groups of students to visit stations around the classroom and work together to solve the problem presented at each station. Gallery Walk promotes active student engagement and allows the teacher to evaluate student understanding of the subject matter. In addition to being more time efficient than traditional teaching pedagogies, Tae has found that his students learn more when they discuss topics with one another than listening to him lecture. Moreover, he believes student-centered learning develops the critical thinking skills of students, and gives them confidence to express their opinions and ideas with others.

When Tae began teaching five years ago, the average Ordinary National Educational Test (O-Net) score of his students for science was an unsatisfactory 29. Utilizing techniques taught at Enjoy Science workshops have proven effective for Tae as his students’ average score shot up to 37 (the average score out of the 656,463 students who took the test this year was 37.63). Furthermore, the percentage of his students that go on to pursue vocational or high school education has risen from 70% to 90%. Tae’s story illustrates that applying proper teaching methodologies can accelerate student learning rapidly. Now an Enjoy Science Master Teacher, Tae hopes to share the tactics he has found so effective with other teachers, enabling more students in Thailand to receive a high-quality education.


October 23, 2017