21st Century Education

How a Change in the School Unleashed One Girl’s Love for Science

Jan 26,2023

Scientist in the Making Explains Why Rote Memorization Doesn’t Work

student stem thailandDing! Ding! The bell sounds, and Nopparat and her peers settle into their chairs. She spends the next hour staring sleepily at her teacher who steadily copies bewildering physics formulas on an aging blackboard. The teacher tells the students to memorize half-a-dozen formulas. Why? Because they are important. Why? Because they are on the test.

Suffice to say Nopparat loathed science class. As she says, “It was boring and pointless. The teacher would tell us to open the book, read it, and memorize some formulas. I learned nothing and found no practical application to real life.”

She’s right, and yet we wonder why not enough kids want to become scientists, engineers, or mathematicians!

For kids like Nopparat who attend disadvantaged schools in Thailand, rote learning and sluggish classrooms are the norm. In 2016, however, Nopparat’s fortune changed when Kenan began transforming the learning methods at Wat Laem Fah Pah School in Samut Prakan province. Like the hundreds of other lower-secondary (7th-9th grade) schools in Kenan’s nationwide STEM education network, Wat Laem Fah Pah’s principals and teachers now undergo continuous professional development training in which they learn innovative teaching techniques, such as inquiry-based learning, and receive fun, engaging materials and equipment for their students to use as they bring theory into practice.

Kenan’s blueprint for success is simple. Based on our fundamental belief that Thai kids and teachers are capable of producing great outcomes, we build teachers pedagogical knowledge and confidence to deliver high-impact, student-centered lessons. As we have proven in schools across the country, when you transform a teacher-centered classroom into a student-centered classroom, amazing results follow.

Today, rather than staring at her teacher, Nopparat works with her fellow ninth-grade students to perform experiments, solve real-world problems, and challenge preconceived notions about the physical world. Her teacher advises and guides instead of asserts and insists.

“After our teacher began using the new teaching methods and materials, the classroom atmosphere changed completely,” said Nopparat. “We spend our time conducting science experiments, having group discussions about what we learned, and presenting our ideas and assumptions to the class.”

Remember those tricky formulas? A funny thing happens when students are actively engaged; they finally learn the very formulas that old-fashioned pedagogies dictate must be drilled into students’ heads. Nopparat remarked, “I now learn and actually understand those formulas that I used to find so dull.”

Nopparat and many other kids at Wat Laem Fah Pah are now keen on studying STEM fields as they embark on secondary school and beyond. To make Thailand 4.0 a reality, the time is now to empower the next generation with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

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