Education is an indispensable factor for development and poverty reduction. In order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set out in the Dakar Framework for Action, in addition to primary education for children, Adult Education must also play a crucial role. In the era of globalisation, only through Lifelong Learning can living standards be maintained and can a society remain the competitive. As part of this, a number of Community Learning Centres were set up in Thailand where people can continue their education in the non-formal and informal sector. Srisa wang Leowarin provides an overview. She is a specialist in non-formal education in the Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education in the Ministry of Education, Bangkok, Thailand.
Education is a crucial factor for all aspects of development and poverty alleviation, since we realize that education is one of the effective tools in poverty elimination. Many projects have been implemented to help ensure that all Thai children have access to good quality education. This principle is in line with the Dakar Framework for Action, that by 2015 all children will have access to a free and compulsory primary education of good quality and that there will be a 50 percent improvement in levels of adult literacy. In this regard, twelve years of free schooling has been provided to all citizens. There are several long and short term courses offered by non-formal education centres throughout the country. We believe that our adult workforces also need to keep up with new essential skills emerging from the im pacts of globalization in order to transform our society towards a knowledge-based society. Therefore, we encourage our citizens to access Lifelong Learning through several learning centres such as public libraries, museums, public parks, science and technology parks, and national parks (Chantavanich, 2006). Furthermore, the community learning centres have been established to serve as a focal point for providing non-formal and informal education activities for local people.
After the first literacy campaign in 1940 -1947 and during the period 1971-1982, the functional literacy programme was launched to promote adult literacy. The Department of Non-Formal Education initiated the village reading centre in 1972 in order to promote reading habits and reinforce reading skills for neo-literates by providing 2 daily papers a day for each reading centre (DNFE, 1995, pp. 47- 49). A major survey of village reading centres was conducted in 1981 which revealed that more than half needed improvement or should be closed. The main reason was that the centres’ activities were not properly coordinated with the fight against illiteracy and with promotional and developmental literacy programmes.
Furthermore, we found out that the majority of Thai people who lived in the rural areas love to chat after their hard work in the rice field. They gathered in the lo cal leaders’ house or reading centre as a meeting place. They discussed political, social, economic and personal, issues. They learned how to solve their problems by sharing their experiences and knowledge. Some village reading centres were gradually developed to be community learning centres. Therefore, the Thai adult educator initiated the idea of the establishment of a community learning centre in 1982 by launching the Hill Area Education and Community Development Centre as the first sample of this initiation, but not developed in full. This centre served as a learning centre, a community forum, the community training centre, the com munity reading centre and the co-ordination centre for community development. It operated through the management of the community members to create a sense of ownership and was facilitated and supported by both district and provincial non-formal education centres through the work of non-formal education volunteer teachers (Tichuen, 2004). Later, the Department of Non-Formal Education set up the strategy of “One District One Community Learning Centre” and initiated the Community Learning Pilot Project in Barnkog Village, Supanburi Province in 1991 (DNFE, 1995, pp. 50-51). The community learning centre provides equal access to education for out of school learners through literacy programmes, post literacy programs, basic education, continuing education, and vocational and life skills training, etc. Since then, the implementation of Community Learning Centres (CLCs) in Thailand has begun. The community learning centres have been devised as a firm mechanism to provide Lifelong Learning in the rural communities. It is the turning point of non-formal education provision from bureaucracy-oriented to community-based approaches. The Department of Non-Formal Education (DNFE) has changed its role from organizer to facilitator. CLCs are set up and organized by the community and for the community while DNFE facilitates the implementa tion through collaboration with various community sectors, both GOs and NGOs. (Masaeng, 2006)
The community itself serves as a learning base complemented by various types of educational media namely: Adult Education learning materials, textbooks, hand books, audiocassettes, video programs as well as some CAI programs. At CLCs, literacy and post literacy classes, as well as other vocational skills training are being conducted to respond to the diverse needs of community learners and their ways of life, as well as with the democratic path and conform changing society. In addition, CLCs also provide a venue for conducting public meetings and social gatherings. And as CLCs belong to the community, all community members are encouraged to participate in organizing educational and quality of life improve ment activities in their communities. Thus, the key strategies for community learning centre implementation are community involvement participation and ownership. Since May 1998, DNFE has collaborated with communities sectors to set up CLCs in rural communities throughout the country.
According to Section 14 of the Promotion of Non-Formal and Informal Educa tion Act, B.E. 2551 (2008), the Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education is ordered to undertake a function regarding the community learning centre: to prepare recommendations regarding the beneficial uses of information communica tion technology networks, educational radio and television stations, local radios, science centres, public libraries, museums, community learning centres and other learning resources in order to promote learning and improve the quality of life of the people continuously. Furthermore, in accordance with the administration and management of non-formal and informal education at the educational establishment level it is indicated that in the educational establishment level it shall perform the du ties of promoting, supporting, coordinating and providing non-formal and informal education in collaboration with network parties in which a community learning centre may be established for conducting the learning activitiesŸ. (ONIE, 2008). A community learning centre is a place for providing non-formal education activities in order to improve the quality of Thai people’s lives. Likewise, the Department of Community Development, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and the Department of Local Administration, Ministry of Interior set up a learning centre in the district administrator’s building offering various types of activities such as a culture and art room, library, conference room, internet service room, nature and environment room for providing information and learning activities (Depart ment of Local Administration). In addition, the private sector or non-governmental organization set up different types of learning centres too.
Participants in the Basic Non-formal Education Programme
Source: Srisawang Leowarin
Lifelong Learning was first introduced in the National Education Act (1999) as a guiding principle of education reform but progress has been limited with a first phase of reform focusing on formal education. Hence, the blueprint for a second phase of education reform (2009-2018) will emphasize non-formal and informal systems in expanding learning opportunities for learners of all ages, the workforce and the underprivileged. Consequently, the quality of education/learners and Life long Learning will be included among nine priorities. Furthermore, the National Statistical Office’s latest report on reading rates notes that the overall reading rate among Thais over six dropped from 69.1 % in 2005 to 66.3 % in 2008. The report is based on the results of a survey of 53,000 families throughout the country. Men read slightly more than women, while people in cities read more than those in rural areas. Bangkok has the highest rate of reading at 85.8 %. The northeastern region has the lowest reading rate of 58.2 %. Therefore, to achieve the second phase of the education reform, the Cabinet considered the promotion of reading to the national agenda in an effort to create a Lifelong Learning society. The Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education (ONIE) is to act as secretary to a special committee set up to promote reading. The Committee is expected to work in close collaboration with representatives from the private sector and local administration organizations. Be ing able to understand messages, analyze information, and thus make good deci sions in problem solving provides the foundations for personal development and is the key to the building of a learning society. The Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education (ONIE) will monitor various learning environments such as community learning centres and public libraries. Additionally, the Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education conducts the pilot project to select one of the best community learning centres to be a Sub-District Non-Formal and Informal Education Centre in the area where there is more than one community learning centre. The District Non-Formal and Informal Centre has to set up strategies, a learning development plan, a sub-district NFE committee in order to strengthen and empower the community to achieve self-reliance and a learning society. The non-formal education facilitator will play an important role in conducting Lifelong Learning activities, coordinating with the learning network, mobilizing resources and working with the sub-district committee to support learners to be Lifelong Learners.
Mae Fah Luang Community Learning Centre
Source: Srisawang Leowarin
There are various types of community learning centres in Thailand. The community learning centres have grown rapidly with different backgrounds and are located in various places of the community, namely: district administration office, temples, schools, community hall, local elder’s house, renovated buildings, factory, prison, etc. The sizes of the community learning centres are different according to their location. Some are big and well organized, but some are small and lack facilities. Most of the community learning centres are located on the mainland, but some are situated in the mountainous areas, so-called “Highland Community Learning Centre.” Most of the learners are from hill-tribes and they are poor.
The establishment of “Mae Fah Luang Community Learning Centre” for local hill tribes, also known as the “Ashram”, is used as classroom, multi-media library, as well as accommodation for community learning centres facilitators. They are located within communities where villagers can conveniently access the services and easily use the public property. Learners are all people in the community while the community itself serves as the classroom. The roles of the “Mae Fah Luang Community Learning Centre” will serve as an educational unit, learning sources,
centre for consultation services and centre for development and learning coordina tion in relation with education provision for those target groups, both youths and adults. Education providers are highland non-formal education volunteer teachers acting as “Mae Fah Luang”, community learning centre facilitators. There would be at least one facilitator for one centre who organizes, facilitates and coordinates for encouraging and promoting learning activities in the community. Additionally, he or she will give support for provision of education, as well as encourage new changes and create local teachers. There is a non-formal education supervisor for each cluster, coordinating for implementation and overseeing of activities under taken by facilitators. One cluster comprises 4 – 10 villages. The establishment of learning resources available in various locations within the community where the community people could use it as a source for learning or conduct activities in line with actual conditions. Lifelong Learning is meant to provide education continu ously throughout life. Community-based learning processes with the emphasis on knowledge integration and learner-centred method have been undertaken. Service recipients have also participated in learning by doing in real situations.
The Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education plays a vital role in conducting many educational programmes for various out-of-school target groups, namely: the labour force, the disabled, farmers, prison inmates, slum dwellers, Thai Mus lims, hill-tribes, conscripts, the elderly, local leaders, religious practitioners, Thai people in foreign countries, and those who have no opportunities to further their studies in formal schooling after compulsory education. The general goals of non-formal education are to improve the quality of life and poverty alleviation of non-formal target groups, and to enhance capacity and create Lifelong Learning opportunities for the out-of-school population. Therefore, the Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education provides more channels to access learning opportunities, support participation and cooperation among partnership networks to conduct non-formal education activities across the country, expand and develop various learning sources to provide more channels for all people to access learning op portunities. In particular the community learning centre serves as the focal point for conducting lifelong activities for people in the community, and the place for creating learning opportunities, knowledge transfer, exchange experiences, and local wisdom. The centre will serve as the community service source for providing various activities which are consistent with the social changes in the globalization era, and encourage the development of a learning society, as well as promote the way of democracy and self-reliance development which is the milestone of long term sustainable development. At present, the community learning centres become alternative learning resources for Lifelong Learning for the people in the community. The resource persons, namely: local elders, non-formal facilitators, monks, etc., help solve problems and improve the quality of life for the Thai people in line with their environment and social context.
It is important to note that closer collaborative working linkages and mechanisms between and among grassroots-based NGOs / NPOs is indispensable to enhance and optimize community learning centre contributions to literacy and basic educa tion. Originally, community learning centres served to provide programmes and activities pertaining to literacy, basic and continuing education, training in life and vocational skills, health and sanitation, women’s empowerment, promotion of peace. The community learning centres have great impact on increasing the literacy rate of local people, particularly helping countries attain Education for All goals. The community learning centres should select programmes and activities that can be supported and managed by the resources available to them (UNESCO, 2008, pp. 10 –11). However, community learning centres could be empowered and mobilized for greater challenges, particularly in serving other development programmes, namely: agricultural, community development, health, HIV/AIDS, environmental programmes that are organized and managed by various develop ment ministries and /or departments. New initiatives need to be explored to link community learning centres to national policy and development programmes.
All community learning centres (CLCs) benefit enormously from community involve ment. Discussions with the community members precede the establishment of a CLC in order to assess the community’s needs. In many cases, local materials and labour are used to build CLCs. In order for a CLC to be self-sustaining, community members are mobilized to establish and manage their centre themselves. The guidelines of community learning centres (CLCs) implementation are as follows:
1. Administration of the centre is the responsibility of a management committee, which consists of school teachers, retired professionals, community and
religious leaders, the director of the district non-formal education centre, the non-formal education facilitator, and other community members.
The community learning centre is a dimension of the open education system. People in the community can access and utilize the educational services and facilities pro vided by the community learning centre. Hence, the non-formal facilitators enable the integration of agriculture, community development, health, HIV/AIDS, envi ronment information into non-formal or informal education activities. Non-formal education can be provided for local people and non-formal education learners in various types of programmes as follows in the community learning centres.
1. Literacy Promotion Programme: for children, youth and adults who cannot or do not attend formal school, this programme helps learners achieve literacy skills. It can be provided in the learner’s home or in the community learn ing centre, and sometimes can be scheduled around the work schedules of participants. This programme helps learners learn how to read and write, together with basic knowledge on mathematics. The learners are expected to be able to use their national language for daily communication and for searching for knowledge, as well as information essential for living. The literacy promotion course will be integrated with the basic knowledge about agriculture, community development, health, environment, HIV/AIDS into the teaching-learning process. Therefore, when there is an epidemic of Flue H5N1, learners are able to read and understand the prevention information during and after the end of the programme.
2. Basic Non-formal Education Programme: this programme provides the basic education for adults or workers or local people of 15 years of age or above and children between 7-15 years old who cannot attend normal school and intend to participate in learning activities in their community learning centres, as well as the learners who have completed lower secondary level and would like to further their studies to complete upper secondary level. The curriculum will be designed related to various subjects, namely: social studies, science, public health, nutrition, and the community learning centres facilitator will integrate the knowledge of various areas into the teaching-learning process. Additionally, the non-formal education facilitator provides the information about other programmes, namely: Basic Education Equivalency Programme for people over 15 years of age who need to upgrade the lower or upper sec ondary education level; or the learners are able to participate in the Distance Education Programme by learning in terms of self-study through satellite and other distance education media including self-instructional printed materials, audio and video tapes, slides and other audio-visual materials which are integrated in a self-instructional package; or learners may select Accredita tion / Voucher System through transferring learners’ knowledge, skills and experience gained from their studies, learning, working or life experiences, or from job performance for accreditation according to the course syllabus being studied. In this regard, the educational units would be accredited in accordance with the regulations set forth by the Ministry.
Participants in the Basic Non-formal Education Programme
Source: Srisawang Leowarin
Participants in a vocational training programme
Source: Srisawang Leowarin
The community learning centres provide various kinds of media, learning materials through mobile units and books circulation to people in the communities.
The community-learning centre is a dimension of the open education system. Each member of the community can access and utilize the educational services and facilities provided by the centre. Non-formal education facilitators act as full time staff at the community learning centre with their major duties being to continuously conduct various learning activities. The non-formal education facilitators play an important role in conducting non-formal and informal activities with the emphasis upon learning process management in accordance with the problematic situations and ongoing needs of the community. The concept of a learner-centred approach has been generally accepted into the teaching and learning process to facilitate learner development. Therefore, various learning styles were chosen in line with the experiences of learners: the non-formal education facilitators and learners work together to design their learning plan, the curriculum they want to learn in the basic non-formal education programmes. Learners take more courses to complete their study if they can pass the academic assessment. Before finishing one course, a learner has to conduct a study project alone or in a group in related topics under the supervision of the non-formal education facilitator. Learners learn through enquiry learning, problem-solving or community-based learning, or integrated learning. In addition, accreditation or a credit transfer system is implemented so that each learner can apply for accreditation or transfer credit from existing knowledge or experience assessment of a learner. Furthermore, a voucher system was introduced that enables a learner to select the course or place of learning organized by the government or a private educational institute without a tuition fee (Leowarin, 2001).
Class for new media in a CLC
Source: Srisawang Leowarin
Non-formal education facilitators act as the full time staff at the community learning centre with duties on:
The Maogo CLC is located in Thasongyang District, Tak Province. In 1998, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn visited the border patrol police school and advised that there should be a highland community learning centre for the hill-tribe in the mountain area. Therefore, the community learning centre was established in line with the concept of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, and one community learning centre facilitator had been recruited who was from the native population and able to communicate with hill-tribes at the beginning of the project. Because most of them were Karen, they could not speak Thai. They wanted to learn the Thai language for communication. Now two highland CLC facilitators undertake non-formal education activities. They have to make friends with children, visit them, and they are intimately acquainted with the learning atmosphere. They learn how to approach them. After the learners can communi cate with the Thai language, then they provide educational services, and conduct non-formal education activities. Consequently, they provide non-formal education programmes for adults, particularly the literacy promotion programme. They offer learning materials, and undertake the quality of life promotion programmes. They are poor, and live in a remote area where there is a lack of health care service. They teach people how to prevent an epidemic, particularly the H1N1 2009. They provide various non-formal education programmes, namely: short course vocational training programme such as cloth weaving skill training. They are also proud that their learners, both children and adults, are happy that they can earn money to live on. Every year HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn comes to visit the villagers, the highland community learning centre facilitator and support all staff members. They are encouraged to work with a will, so they do not feel tired though they lack of facilities.
This CLC is located in Watluang Sub-district, Polpisai District, Nongkai Province. It provides a variety of non-formal and informal education activities, namely: life skill training, vocational skill training such as Thai massage, basic computer, the prevention of H1N1. The English Camp for youth and non-formal education learners is quite popular because the American Volunteer Teacher is the resource person. The community learning centre committee collaborate with the district director of the non-formal education centre in coordinating with many networks, namely: the local administration organisation, district agriculture unit, district health care centre, local saving bank, district community development office, district police station, school, temple in mobilizing resource persons, learning materials for the community learning centre in different ways. They persuade local people to participate in the learning activities and they use the community learning centre as a place for a meeting, seminar, vocational advice centre, training, conducting entertainment activities, etc. Additionally, they mobilize funding for computers and learning materials the Buddhist way – that is to leave offerings for the monks. It is a way to earn merit, so local people join to donate money to the monks, but they give it back to the community for buying computers and learning materials for the community learning centres on different occasions such as on Mother’s Day.
This CLC is located in Maelao Sub-district, Chiengcom District, Payao Province. It provides not only non-formal education programmes, but also sport and entertainment activities such as fitness exercise, drawing, song and music for youth, housewives, elderly, the disabled, as well as life-skills training, namely: in democracy education, forest conservation, HIV-Aids campaign, etc. The non-formal education facilitators conduct the action research for solving learners’ problems by using various approaches in helping learners for their study achievement such as guidance, personal contact to reach learners who cannot attend the learning meeting, appointing the learner leaders as the helpers of facilitators to support the learners who were drug addics. The learners provide community learning centres’ services to local people during their free time, such as borrowing-returning books, giving information, displaying an exhibition, cleaning the community learning centre, etc. Most learners choose the project-based method for their learning design. Each learner selects one issue for his or her project and writes the result of the outcome after he or she finishes the project. After the elderly learn how to make brooms, baskets, they can earn some money for living. Additionally, the local networks contribute to the learning process by serving as the resource persons.
Source: Srisawang Leowarin
This CLC is located in Bangtuey district. Ms. Methaporn, non-formal education fa cilitator, is responsible for 13 village learning areas, and provides basic education for 90 learners at three levels. The learners come to discuss their learning problems on Sunday and Thursday. The community learning centre committee contributes facilities to the centre. Many members are former non-formal education learners. In the beginning nobody came to the centre, so she went to visit the abbot during a funeral ceremony and talked to the local people so that they would come to at tend the learning programme. The local people came to ask about the problems of rearing prawns because their prawns had low price, so she invited the district agriculture officer to solve the people’s problems. She conducted the public forum for local people to discuss their occupation’s issues; after that, they formed a group to learn how to make organic fertilizer, environment conservation, integrated farm based on “His Majesty Self-Sufficient Economy Theory”. They started to set up the community operational plan and integrated it with the district plan. After a year, they reduced cost, increased income, and had a better life. Bangtuey community learning centre is not only the academic centre, but it is a multi-purpose centre, so local people come to the centre nearly everyday because they said that they can come to read, discuss, exchange experiences, share knowledge and get help to solve problems.
The records of the supervisory unit reveal that factors of effective delivery mechanisms for Lifelong Learning activities are as follows:
The strong point of a a non-formal education facilitator is being a local person, but the facilitator’s status is not secured due to the contract that the facilitator has to make annually. If they find a good job, they move to the new position. At present, there are 8,605 community learning centres, and 7,475 non-formal education facilitators, 759 highland community learning centres in the mountainous areas and 1,174 non-formal education facilitators because there will be 2 facilitators per one remote or mountainous area. One NFE facilitator takes responsibility for at least 260 learners that divide into 5 categories programmes, namely: 60 learners for basic non-formal education, 20 learners for vocational training, 20 for life skills programme, 60 for social and development programmes and 100 for self-sufficient economy programmes, as well as 300 learners for informal education. Though the non-formal education facilitators bear a hard burden from their duties, particularly the non-formal education facilitators who work in southern, most Thailand where there is violence, they are willing to work under unsecured circumstances. The government should encourage and support them for their contribution by increasing the subsidy for tuition fees, computers and facilities, or mobilizing local resources and funding for undertaking Lifelong Learning activities in the communities.
In a learning society, there are always ongoing dynamic learning activities. Pro motion or creating the atmosphere of a learning society can contribute to Lifelong Learning, and vice versa. A community learning centre serves as a place for conducting Lifelong Learning activities. The community learning centre in Thailand has developed from a village reading centre to a community learning centre and learning resource centre and more in order to create a learning atmosphere and to achieve the learning needs of learners and enhance the quality of people’s live, and now it is in the pilot phase of “Sub-District Non-Formal Education Cen tre”. The establishment of a “Sub-District NFE Centre” will be a new challenge for decentralization of educational power to the local administration in order to undertake Lifelong Learning activities; the sub-district development plan has been integrated with the community learning centre operational plan which is seperate from the public forum conducted by the district and sub-district non-formal education centres. In this regard, such a body can be enriched by local participation and self-management, and the local administrative organization will increase efficiency in providing educational services which will lead to educational quality improve ment. Furthermore, people participation and community committee management as well as the teaching and learning strategies of facilitators will be the important factors that contribute to the success of conducting Lifelong Learning activities in the community learning centres.
Participants in the Basic Non-formal Education Programme
Source: Srisawang Leowarin
Department of Local Administration.(2005). Standard of Community Learning Center. Bangkok: Department of Local Administration. (in Thai)
Department of Non-Formal Education (DNFE) (1995). Lifelong Education Encyclopedia Volume 1. “Village Reading Centre”, Bangkok: Ladproa Publishing. pp.47-49 (in Thai). Lifelong Education Encyclopedia Volume 1. “Community Learning Centre. Bangkok: Ladproa Publish ing. pp.50-51 (in Thai)
Leowarin, Srisawang. (2001). The Development of Supervision Model for Promoting the Quality of Community Learning Centres’ Facilitators. Case study in Nan Province, Thailand. Bangkok: Dept. of Non-Formal Education.
Office of the Non-Formal Education Commission. (ONEC)(2006). The Guideline Framework for the Development of the Community Learning Centre towards the Focal Point of Lifelong Learning. Bangkok: Ministry of Education. (in Thai)
Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education.(ONIE)(2008). Promotion of Non-Formal and Informal Education Act, B.E. 2551 (2008). Bangkok: Ministry of Education.
Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education.(ONIE)(2009). Best Practice of Community of Thailand. Bangkok: Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education. (in Thai). Manual of Sub-District Non-Formal and Informal Education Centre Management. Bangkok: Pignguan Graphic Company. (in Thai)
Ooncharoen Nantana. (1999). Circumstances and Problems of Community Learning Centers under Mahasarakham Provincial Non-Formal Education Center. Thesis of Master Degree of Educational Technology, University of Mahasarakham.(in Thai)
Tichuen Sawat (2004). Policy and Practice in Literacy and Non-Formal Education in Thailand. “International Technical Workshop on Strengthening Literacy and Non-Formal Education Policies in the Framework of EFA”, 21- 24 July 2004 UNESCO, Paris.
UNESCO. (2004). Thailand Country Report Regional Seminar on CLC on 23-27 March 2004 by Tippawan Masaeng. UNESCO. (2008). Community Learning Centres: Country Reports from Asia. Bangkok: UNESCO.
www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/14211/books-push-opens-whole-new-chapter (published: 30/03/2009)
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