As time progresses there are always advancements being made. It is no different when it comes to education in Bangkok. However, the recent pandemic has accelerated certain changes in the sector that are noteworthy.
Much like the rest of the world, Thai schools were forced to make online learning an integral part of facilitating teaching due to lockdowns and social distancing requirements. It compelled investment in the necessary equipment and technological infrastructure to support students and teachers to communicate and carry out most of their classroom activity, albeit from a distance.
Besides the surge in online learning, there was more impact from the pandemic in the form of severe staff shortages, increases in mental health challenges, and lost instruction time due to quarantines and absenteeism.
While it appears that the pandemic is now winding down and schools have gradually returned to in-person learning, there are still elements of online learning that appear to have become a permanent part of the landscape.
A need for digital literacy has become a key concern alongside the three pillars of literacy, which are reading, writing, and arithmetic. It seems clear that most careers in the future will require workers that are digitally literate hence a need to incorporate computing subjects from as early on as the primary level.
Digital literacy revolves around much more than being able to set up a laptop or tablet for online learning from home. It also requires an understanding of computing terms and some knowledge of programming language. Schools now need to figure out how they can introduce computing lessons into their curriculum to better prepare students for higher learning and a more digital future in the workplace. These lessons will also help to enlighten students about opportunities they can pursue later on and when deciding what to study in preparation for exams like IGCSEs.
Verso is among the leading Bangkok international schools that are seeking to nurture future-ready students that will be better equipped to take on the challenges of an ever-evolving workplace environment. Computing studies provide an opportunity to better prepare students for a time when digital literacy will be universally required across sectors.
Part of this competency will come from the virtual learning that many schools have been compelled to adapt to during the pandemic. This brings up the issue of online etiquette as decisions will have to be made about such issues as whether students should be compelled to leave their cameras on when learning online. For those from less privileged homes, it may be easier to allow them not to have to switch on their cameras to avoid embarrassment from lacking privacy or living in poor environs.
Even as in-person learning resumes, it is important to learn from this experience with online learning as it is likely that a repeat of the same may be needed should another pandemic or other widespread catastrophe rear its ugly head.
Most Thai students, particularly those taught under the local school system tend to be hyper-focused on academic rigour. They are raised to be respectful of their teachers to an extent it can make them less capable of voicing their opinions and questions freely.
When such students eventually end up travelling abroad for higher education, particularly to western universities, they often find the teaching style to be very different from what they are accustomed to. Their lack of social and life skills can make them feel handicapped and less able to keep up with their peers. This is quite different from students that attend international schools like Verso where the curriculums and styles of teaching give students more confidence and exposure to multiple cultures.
While it is honourable to raise children under the influence of the local culture, if there are ambitions to see them excel while studying abroad, some exposure to a more westernised style of teaching would be beneficial. There needs to not just be a focus on getting good grades, but also on developing social skills that will help them build good relationships with diverse people, learn to cope with adversity, and have a willingness to embrace new experiences.
Verso nurtures students to have a strong personal and cultural identity while actively engaging with others as global citizens. They are also trained to have confidence in their skills and abilities so they can more effectively make decisions and be independent.
The pandemic took quite a toll on the mental health of both students and teachers. Even amongst very young pupils, studies showed that there were elevated levels of sadness and anxiety due to exposure to isolation and financial strain within households. Depending on the challenges being faced, activities such as mindfulness sessions, meditation and group discussions can help fulfil mental health needs. Self-care education should also be adopted for both students and teachers.
Verso places an emphasis on tracking the individual growth of students. This personalised approach to learning allows the teachers to easily identify students that may be struggling and seek to find out why. With detailed profiles of each student, the school is well-placed to spot mental health challenges and find solutions that will get them back on track.
Globally, teacher well-being and mental health also suffered as many felt they were left unsupported and unappreciated as they struggled with the new burden of having to manage classrooms online. Given the important role that teachers play in nurturing Verso students, more resources have been directed towards supporting them in maintaining good mental health. When our teachers are doing well, they can in turn be strong support in ensuring good mental health and the well-being of children.
Verso is determined to nurture its students into future-ready citizen designers with a strong sense of personal and cultural identity. They are also being trained to be confident in their ability to make use of their education and talents to make valuable contributions to the world. Our multicultural environment, design thinking mindset and teaching style, curriculum, learning designers, and facilities all come together in hopes that it will bring about an evolution in the Bangkok education sector for the better.