On Monday, October 1, a group of teachers with the Kohn Kaen Education Initiative (KKEI) from Kohn Kaen, Thailand, visited Southampton Elementary School for a day of learning about the American educational system.
KKEI is a group of educators working to reform education in Thailand and increase the number of qualified English teachers in their home municipalities. As a part of a three-week U.S. tour, the day at SES was their first visit to an American school to observe teaching methods and participate in cultural exchange.
The teachers began their day by experiencing the Pre-K and Kindergarten Morning Program. Supa Manoonska, who has taught English for 30 years in Thailand, expressed her surprise at seeing so many parents at the school that morning and engaged in their children's school. The Thai visitors were greeted immediately after the Morning Program by the SES Student Ambassadors, who led them up to a special breakfast reception hosted by Principal Cookie Richard and Assistant Principal Dr. Michael Grimaldi.
After serving their guests, the Student Ambassadors (Kindergartner Cassidy Phillips, First Graders Thea Morris and Justin Guanga Suin, and Fourth Graders Kealee Gallo, Dreanne Joseph, Kiera Gill, and Mary Frost) shared stories of their home and school lives and kept the visitors entertained while they enjoyed a light breakfast.
Throughout the rest of the day, the teachers visited classrooms to observe SES teachers with a special interest in learning how differentiation and language learning is accomplished in our school. Manoonska remarked how different the Thai educational system is in regards to meeting the individual needs of students. She reports that a typical Thai classroom has 40 or more students per teacher and there are not allowances made for individualized instruction. This has led, in her estimation, to an educational system that is not learner centered and one that is not providing for the needs of all of the students. According to KKEI literature, “until little more than a decade ago learning disabilities were unknown in Thailand. Under diagnosing and mishandling of learning disabilities in Thailand has been cited as a main cause for low literacy levels: in 2010, 8% of grade 3 students were illiterate or had difficulty reading Thai.” Thailand, as of 2009, ranks 50 out of 65 countries when looking at PISA score rankings.
The end of the day allowed for the Thai teachers to share a part of their culture with the SES students. During two assemblies, Sumalee Khwasaen and Chutinton Huttapanom performed traditional Thai dances and Sanya Makarin and Vanessa Moll taught the students how to say, “Hello” in Thai.
The sense of appreciation for having wonderful hospitality and the chance to learn from SES was evident in the heartfelt goodbyes the Thai teachers had for Mrs. Richard, Dr. Grimaldi, and the Student Ambassadors. It is their hope to keep fostering the connection that has now been established. The teachers will visit several other schools in New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana before returning to Thailand.
For more pictures of the day, click here to visit the Southampton School District Information Facebook page.