Panyotai – The First Waldorf School in Thailand
Thailand: Panyotai Waldorf School in Bangkok is the country’s first Waldorf School and its first alternative school ever. The school has grown steadily since its inception in 1996, from a few children to currently almost 300 ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. The school’s first grade 12 graduated in March 2010. The majority of the students come from disadvantaged financial backgrounds. Furthermore, one third of the students are being sent to Panyotai by the “Child Protection Foundation”, a well-known organization, which cares for children who have been abused in their families or picked up on the streets by the police.
When the Thai doctor, Porn Panosot, looked for a suitable school for his children, he found that there was no alternative to the national curriculum, which he felt was too much oriented towards rote learning and competition. But he had no choice. Finally, he learned about Waldorf education and found that it was a school of this pedagogic concept he was looking for. As a result he terminated his medical practice and completed a Waldorf teacher training in the United States.
Back in Thailand Porn Panosot organized lectures, discussions and weekend and summer programs. In 1996, Panyotai Waldorf School opened its doors with very modest financial means and at first very few children. Only after a successful campaign for freedom in the educational system, was its existence recognized on a political level, by a new law, which approved of alternative schools for the very first time.
First, the success of the initiative – now there are six Waldorf Schools in Bangkok – was only possible thanks to the commitment of teachers who worked without pay at the beginning and up to now handle the administration and management of the school. Second, enormous and intensive supportive activities of the parents where an indispensable part of it. In addition to organizing car pools for kids and volunteering as cooks in the school kitchen, the parents also take care of donations and other fundraising opportunities for the further expansion of the school.
The close cooperation with united forces continues until today. Therefore it was possible to construct a new school building - designed by a former student - thanks to the parents individual commitment and the donations provided by the "Friends of Waldorf Education", obtained through fundraising and to some extent by there own means.