Alternative Education

Principles of Alternative Education
Moo Baan Dek is the first educational institution of Thailand run according to an independent philosophy. We believe that a good educational system must accept, understand, and respond to a variety of learning differences and personalities. For this reason, the Alternative Education Network, which is a series of other independent schools supported by the Children's Village, had evolved. All schools in the Alternative Education Network adhere to these principles:

"The principle of local management of education. 
We believe that all children have a right to attend alternative education programs, run separately from the government, private sectors, and local authorities. Alternative education can respond to the learning needs of students with different skills, interests, and needs. It creates a unique opportunity for children to develop into contributing members of society and lifelong learners. 

The principle of participation. 
Obstacles that prevent children from participating fully in society and in determining the kind of education best suited for their needs must be actively abolished. The role of the government is to support the local and independent management of education. 

The principle of independence. 
Alternative education programs must have the ability to construct and adhere to their own philosophies and practices without the threat of government interference.

The principle of equality. "
The alternative education schools must be granted the same rights and statuses as the schools run by the government and the private sector.

Alternative Education in Thailand
Moo Baan Dek has initiated the People's Council on Education (a coalition of home-schoolers and other interested and involved parties in alternative education). This was to campaign for the inclusion of alternative education in the draft of the National Education Bill. So far, the Council has organized seminars and discussions to raise awareness of alternative education among the general public in Thailand. 

The current National Education Bill does not recognize Moo Baan Dek and its system as a viable alternative of education. What is worrisome is that the educational curriculum approved by the government is increasingly designed to equip students with skills that serve the corporate sectors. This only serves the drive for the mechanisms of consumerism, rather than knowledge that can helps the children to understand the meaning and significance of their life. 

Through the People's Council on Education, Moo Baan Dek is taking part in shaping an education, which accepts and embraces the diversity of children, and one that is ultimately aimed at assisting each and every child to become a sensible and responsible citizen of the world. 

Moo Baan Dek: A Working Model for Alternative Education
Moo Baan Dek has shown some success in catering to a variety of children. As alternative education gains momentum in the education scene, Moo Baan Dek has been visited by an increasing number of individuals and organizations from both within and outside Thailand, with more than 1000 visitors in the recent years. This consists of university or college students, teachers from government and private schools and other communities who want to learn from Moo Baan Dek on how they preserve their own unique culture. For instance, students from Japan come every year to live with children at Moo Baan Dek for a week or so where they learn from each other. Visitors introducing themselves

Moo Baan Dek's Philosophy

Learning outside the classroom

Moo Baan Dek is a living example of alternative education. Its environment is arranged to help children from the most difficult backgrounds to learn to love themselves and their society. 

By the River KwaiThe children learn from nature and their immediate environment. They grow up in a warm and loving atmosphere in which they find understanding and freedom plentiful. Their learning is not confined to the typical classroom. It can take place at any corner of this natural school, 70% of which is covered with cultivable land and forest. The River Kwai which is a landmark of Thailand, flows past Moo Baan Dek, and the children are able to swim in it. They learn amongst themselves, with their teachers and with Mother Nature, gaining sufficient self-confidence and awareness before re-entering the wider community.

So how do the children change? When first admitted into the school, they are allowed to live out their emotional stress and repressed feelings resulting from their harsh living conditions previously. By giving them a chance to naturally and freely express themselves, the children will be able to adapt into a new society and develop a healthy personality regardless of the former cultural or moral values forcibly imposed on them. 

Origins in Neill�s Summerhill
The school's underlying philosophy is very close to that of A.S. Neill's Summerhill School in England, although Buddhist elements are incorporated in the system of Moo Baan Dek. Opposite to the prevailing thesis of Christianity in that time, Neill believed that children are born with good nature. However, as a result of the way they are brought up, their behaviors are deviated. If the children had grown in freedom from the beginning, this distortion in nature can be avoided and the children who are already scarred by their upbringing can recover in an environment of freedom and love. Thus, their behavioral problems are not incurable, and the environment can be arranged in such a way that their suffering can be eased. The emphasis is given to creating a living atmosphere that nurtures the spirit and the creativity of children. 

The Concept of Freedom
Freedom!At Moo Baan Dek, children can choose whether or not to attend classes or any activities. It is up to their readiness of which varies amongst different children. On the contrary, conventional education holds that every child is universal, and provides just a single competitive learning process. This school does not force the children to attend classes because the community here respects the fact that these decisions are a personal matter. Furthermore, the teachers do not punish them if they are absent from class, because it is believed that learning can take place in every corner of the community life, including during their playtime, not just in classrooms. Rather, the communal way of living enables them to learn and live life interactively, and also to solve problems in their daily lives nonviolently. These are fundamental life skills that the children can learn through this �education�. 

Role of Teachers
A Haircut by a TeacherTeachers do not play dominant roles here in Moo Baan Dek. They are not authorized to force children to attend class, nor can they threaten them in any other way. Their role is to motivate the children to learn through encouragement, enabling them to take ownership and interest in their education through letting them decide on the activities they like to pursue. This is based on the Buddhist teaching of being a "good friend" (Kalayanamitra). The teachers behave as good companions for children, and assist them without suppressing them and stifling their creativity. 

The Community and Self-government
Moo Baan Dek abides by the principle of "self-government" where each individual is given a say in the rules and regulations which they all agree upon, as the children themselves construct the laws that they live by. This can be seen as an idealized democracy. 

While the students are allowed personal freedom, it should not infringe upon others' rights. This idea is exemplified through the system of School Council. Every Friday, the entire student and staff body gather in one meeting, where they can raise issues about how the school is run. In Moo Baan Dek, it is normally loosely categorized into 3 sections, where firstly you raise complaints or accuse others when they break rules. After this, the people gathered discuss how to resolve this problem, which may be a punishment and this is where they may even end up making new rules so that it further facilitates how the community is run. 

Another example of "self-government" is the assignment of children and adults of different ages and backgrounds to live together and share the same houses. Both have to learn to embrace each others' differences, and collectively decide on domestic matters, such the disbursement of monthly budget for food, house cleaning, cooking meals, or even planting flowers around the houses. Altogether, there are 13 houses in this community. 

Buddhism, besides giving an emphasis on self-training, mentions the importance of the external environment (Paratokhosa). Moo Baan Dek functions in such a way that children are exposed to good influences. This means that books, films, and any other kinds of the media are screened by the adults before the children view them. 

Also, the atmosphere of Moo Baan Dek reflects its Buddhist philosophy. It is welcoming towards all children who are admitted. The ones who are already residing in the village are friendly and hospitable, and they help these newcomers adapt to the environment. 

Moo Baan Dek also follows the principle of Bramavihara Dhamma in the Buddhist teachings. This comprises of firstly Metta meaning loving-kindness, which can be applied in everyday situations. Secondly is also the concpet of compassion - Karuna- which is crucial in helping the children recover from the emotional wounds incurred from their previous experiences. Thirdly, Mudita which means sympathetic joy is a quality which helps them to appreciate one another's achievements. Lastly, Upekkhawhich in essence is equanimity draws a parallel to that A.S Niel's concept of non-interference in the children's affairs. In other words, the adults do not intervene unless the children themselves express a need for help and guidance. In this case, Karuna should be applied immediately. 

Buddhism as a way of life

The Buddhism way of respecting the environment is also shown in how the school undertakes agricultural methods which minimizes damage to the environment. Moo Baan Dek follows the methods of a Japanese ecologist and natural farmer Masasnobu Fukuoka, which basically avoid the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers. Furthermore, machinery is not used in the planting of rice.

  Children's Village School
Moo Baan Dek, Latya-Srisawat Rd., Kanchanaburi 71190 Thailand
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