Monday, November 8, 2010

Thai Kindergarten (a little rant)

         Now I myself am going to go on an expat rant!  (I know it’s hypocritical since I just talked about how obnoxious foreigners who complain are, but I generally keep a positive attitude, I just gotta let this rant out!)

         My biggest challenge in teaching here, which I may have mentioned before, is adhering to the methods used here for teaching such young children.  At home, kids go to kindergarten when they are 5 or 6, then to first grade.  Here, there is Pre-K, K1, K2, and K3, and then first grade.  So K3 is basically equivalent to “kindergarten” at home.  Kindergarten is when children are first faced with some studying of letters and sounds and handwriting.  By this time, children have already picked up on a lot of this knowledge and ability through other means, such as singing and playing.  Here, they don’t seem to think “playing” can be educational at all. SO, starting in Pre-K (which at home would be pre-pre-pre-k), they have kids tracing lines and are yelling at them for not tracing and coloring inside the lines.  This is what is difficult for me: not only forcing 2-4 year olds to sit in a desk for a lesson and a boring assignment, but also telling then its not good enough and making them do it again.  I neglected to be strict with my K1 students’ tracing and coloring for one semester and was informed that they were behind and I needed to take it up a notch.  It breaks my heart to be tough on them for something I personally don’t believe matters.

        All this bookwork makes for a lot of marking (yes, we have to take a red pen and correct every little wrong slant in every letter) which leaves the teacher no time to engage in play with the students.  Without close monitoring and planning of playtime, it isn’t educational.  A bucket of broken mixed up toys is dumped on the ground and the kids go nuts.  I have put a lot of effort into keeping the toys sorted and only offering one bunch at a time, so that the students see how the toys are to be used correctly, something that is not clear when they are mixed up.  I worked at a Montessori school at home where preschoolers play with one set of toys at a time and are asked to clean it up before moving on.  Broken toys are not acceptable as there is nothing to learn from a toy that can’t fulfill its own purpose.  “Kindergarten” here is a Montessori preschool teacher’s nightmare. 

Teaching Healthy Foods
        Anyway, the kids here, even in a private school setting, are either doing work, which they may or may not understand, or going wild, practically unmonitored, while playing with pointless toys.  They have no scheduled daily recess, only 1 PE class per week.  If the whole class finishes their work in a lesson, the teacher can take the kids to the playground (also containing an excess of broken toys) for a few minutes.  On top of that exhausting day, some kindergartners stay for the extra English lesson from 3:30-4:30 and some even stay for an extra Thai lesson from 4:30-5:15. We try to make class as fun as we have time for.  We try to use crafts and clay etc, and the students also attend two Song and Drama classes per week, one Art class, and one Computer class.  The kindergarten teachers stay busy during that time doing the marking, planning, and escorting.

        I hate that I find myself so upset when 20 three year olds aren’t sitting still in their desks or doing their endless pages of tracing. These kids don’t know what they’re missing and still manage to come to school with huge smiles on their faces.  They are so precious and so smart. I could rant about these methods all day (as I mentioned that some expats do) but the truth is, I love my students and at the end of the day, that’s why I have stayed.  I didn’t come here to teach Montessori school.  I came for the learning experience of teaching not in America and for the opportunity to interact with children of a different culture.  I have found all of these things here and wouldn’t trade my time here for any job at home.  That said, I could not do this job forever, but it is nice to explore. 


  1. Hello! I just tripped across your blog (which is great, by the way!) because my wife & I are looking for good daycare for our awesome 4 year old while we visit Thailand for 2 months. We are traveling in SE Asia for a year, and we find it very challenging to find good daycares!

    Might you know any good schools, anywhere in Thailand (or SE Asia in general)? We'll happily go to a place with a good school and live there for a month! We prefer full-day programs so Jesse can have a good time & make friends.

    Thanks for any tips, if you have 'em!

    Jasper & Kristin

  2. (Oh meant to mention we're flying to Phuket this weekend!!!)