‘We are aware that Thai schools are quite different from the schools we know in the Netherlands. But even after three years, we can still be surprised at how different. One morning a teenage boy that lives next door came to visit us. We noticed he had a weird bald spot on his head. First we did not dare to ask him about it. As far as we knew, it could be anything: religious, medical, whatever. But finally we couldn’t hold it any longer and we asked him about it. It was actually the head teacher who deprived this boy from the hair on the back of his head, to set an example for the right hair length allowed at this school. Despite this quite rigorous measure our neighbor boy seems not very much impressed. He just leaves the hair like it is and waits until it will grow back to normal.
When we talk a little further this case seems quite exemplary of the way school rules are enforced. There are some quite drastic measures in place, but they hardly seem to have the desired effect. For the many teenagers that do not come to the lessons for example a specific punishment has been found. Whereas in our home country you would need to stay after hours, or go to school and write the sentence ‘I should behave’ a few hundred times, in Thailand the students are sent off to the local temple. There they have to stay for 3 days and 2 nights, meditate, chant and learn good behavior from the monks. But even with the threat of 3 days meditation in the temple in place, the absent rate on a typical day is still at least 20%.
It is not always fair to compare one country to another, but in this case we think it really pays off that in our home country the parents are also held responsible for the actions of their children. On the other hand we from the Netherlands can learn a lot from the way children in Thailand are taught to show respect to their parents and older people. In the end however, no matter what country we live in, in bringing up our children or teaching our students we should remind ourselves that our own example and input is one of the most important factors in how our children or students will behave.