The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration or BMA, the governing body for the city, has over 428 schools under its management, with up to 15,000 teachers and 350,000 students. BMA is responsible for providing health and human services. For education, this includes daycare center, primary and secondary schools, adult schools, community colleges and one university.
“Entrepreneurship, financial literacy and citizenship are the core life-skills that these students need”
For the primary and secondary schools, they are run separately to those under the authority of the ministry of education, and often serve the poorest communities. The children who attend the schools are in economic difficulty so they often unlikely make it to higher education. They are expected to end up joining the blue-collar work base across the city.
The teachers work under difficult conditions due to the nature of students, and need to be creative to engage the students in teaching and learning, especially the fundamentals. It is with some of these teachers and their students, most aged between 14 and 16, that we spent a Saturday, working with them to build an awareness of what might be possible. We did this as part of the Education & Skills Committee of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of Thailand, under the leadership of the Chairman, Professor Kongkiti Phusavat.
“Building self-confidence in these students is essential”
From our initial discussions, we decided that helping students understand entrepreneurship at this stage in their lives, could potentially open doors that they may not have access to otherwise. This entrepreneurship together with financial literacy and citizenship represents the life skills that individual students need. Professor Kongkiti’s long experience with this group of students and teachers, made us realise that along with basic business tools, something really important that was required to help the students, was to build their self-confidence.
Another key aspect of engaging with this group was to not only teach the students, but to give their teachers the pedagogical tools that they could use to spread this knowledge across their schools. Because the students level of English was not strong, the professor and I worked together to deliver in both English and Thai.
“We used simple leadership development tools to help these students engage”
Over a period of five hours, we used some very common leadership development tools, including icebreakers and self-awareness techniques, to get the students to self-reflect and begin engaging with the own strengths as individuals and as groups. The energy and enthusiasm with which the students jumped into these activities was inspiring, and the visible increase in their confidence about how they could move forward was energising. Following this we got them to grapple with some simple business tools such as a SWOT Analysis.
One of the things that made this process easier than expected, is that most BMA schools have at least one item or product that they produce as part of their curriculum. In the group that we work with, this ranges from handmade soaps, to traditional scents based on cultural literature, and bags made from recycled material. This meant that they already had a base for a business, despite their lack of knowledge about how to move from producing something, to selling it profitably and sustainable. It was in this area that we were probably able to help most, as the tools that we shared, what useful for the students immediately, and at the same time help the teachers understand what was required to build additional capacity at their schools.
I have been invited to visit one of the schools that we worked with, and I look forward to that as the next step in a continuing journey of collaboration and development with the BMA.