Former ASEAN secretary-general Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, was added on the list of high profile people who visited “English for All” project here in Phitsanulok.
The veteran Thai politician arrived at about 9 am at Sapanteesam School on February 2, 2017, together with former MP for Phitsanulok Dr. Warong Dechgitvigrom.
When Dr. Surin came out of the car my palm started to sweat. It’s not every day you get to shake the hand of a person who is known in the global arena, right?
After a bit of formality, we all sat down to watch the show students prepared. One student who delivered a short story caught the attention of Dr. Surin.
“I learned English thru storytelling,” Dr. Surin said whilst clapping his hands after the performance.
After the presentation, Dr. Donnapa the school director presented a brief background on how English For All continues to change the lives of students under the program, and how the school’s name is slowly being recognized in the area.
“Every year the number of students continue to rise, she said.
The project’s initiator Dr. Warong, also presented as to where he got this idea. He told Dr. Surin that he visited Singapore to talk to school teachers and saw first hand how classes are being taught in one of the most advanced education systems in Asia and the world.
“This idea came from Singapore. Students in this school are taught at least 2 hours of English every day,’ Dr. Warong said.
“I want to see Thailand’s future where English will be widely used across the country, where English will be available to poor kids who cannot afford to study in schools that offer English program, the former MP added.
Dr. Warong also let me speak. I simply told Dr. Surin my personal struggles in teaching the kids. I admitted that during the onset of the project, I also thought of quitting as I didn’t have experience teaching kids at the time. I also added that students who are under the program are now confident and are getting better by the day. They can’t carry a very good and long conversation yet, but I believe we’ll come there in time.
And finally, Dr. Surin was called to share his thoughts about the project. He admired Dr. Warong who pushed this idea to came to reality. He said he was glad that a project like this is currently being implemented to help less fortunate kids.
“I am passionate about education,” Dr. Surin said.
“I used to ride my bicycle going to school which was 10 km away. There were lots of times I was soaking wet. But had it not for education, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am happy these kids are learning English. I hope their future will be bright as mine, the Harvard educated politician added.
The visit wouldn’t be complete without the class observation, of course. We led Dr. Surin to all four classes being handled by four Filipino teachers. Judging from his reactions, I’m pretty sure he was impressed with the teaching styles of the teachers.
“Are they all trained teachers?” he whispered to me. To which I replied, “yes they all are, Dr..”
After the observation, Dr. Warong invited me to have a coffee with them. It was overwhelming talking to these people as they share their stories on how they started from nobody to somebody. And before we left the coffee shop, Dr. Surin invited me to visit Nakhon Si Thammarat. Currently waiting for some other info from him. If this goes well, I’ll be in Nakhon Si before the end of the month to help him find teachers in his school. That means 2 Filipino teachers will have a sure job in the south.
I believe Dr. Surin saw the gravity of this project’s potential in shaping Thailand’s next generation. And I’m hoping he will be there to make it happen.