BBC Education Correspondent Mike Baker wondered whether aspects of Thailand's schools offered an example for those in Britain.
We had a very large number of e-mails on the subject.
Mike, now back in the UK, has selected a sample of the responses.
Any system where respect is taught from early years has the same potential. The US culture was once one of much more homogenious roots based on faith in God and the subsequent teaching of respect as a component of the nature of God. As the culture moves further from respect for religious beliefs and subsequent practices, the likely outcome will be a self-focused society rather than a respectful other-centered culture. It is time to return to Biblical and Christian principles that we were once grounded in and from this base a respectful society can once again be raised up. It begins in the early years of life, however.
Debby Carter, M.Ed, Parker, Co.
The success with regard to respect, kindness and discipline in Thai schools comes from a lot more than an excellent system, it is the care of parents and warm values of the Buddhist religion that reflect upon children. In the UK, with extremely mixed and varying values amongst citizens, our "blame" culture, conflicting religious beliefs (or none at all), jealousy, poor parenting and a shallow consumer-based "plastic" culture, our problems in schools area lot deeper than teacher skills and facilities.
I was born and educated up to high school education in Bangkok, Thailand. It was such a pleasure to read such as positive article about students and schools in Thailand. I for one can't help being proud of my culture. Thai tradition and culture are always the tides that keep Thailand humble and unique on our own. It is wonderful to see such a country like England who at the colonial time sought to "unsavage" Siam, named before it became Thailand, and other countries such as India, another subject of the British Empire, during King Rama IV's reign. It was vividly described by Anna of her account and experience of teaching the royal children in the palace during 1960 to 1962 (The King and I).
It is an ironic thing to see the British's point of view about Thailand is being reversed that now the British wants to learn from the Thai instead of trying to teach us to be like them.
Gemmie Kwok, Arcadia, Ca.
I found the article both interesting and telling. It is interesting we get a summary impression of the changes that are taking place. It is telling because the total community is involved. Culture and history are a part of education and students are given power by having them play an important role in the educational process. It has been said many times that it takes a whole village to raise a child. Thailand is practising that belief.
Whether the current momentium can with stand history and enertia remains to be determined. Politics, business support as well as finalcial support is so crutial to achieving success. Each of the above conditions are very dependent on the bounce the effort can get from early success. And success, well to many times there will not be a reliable assessment system in place leving the determination of success to existing power at that time. Healthy educational beginnings will wilt on the vine. I wish everyone involved much success.
Leonard C. Beckum
Leonard C. Beckum, Oakland, California
It was my honour to visit Thailand this summer as a Fulbright scholar. It is true! Thai students demonstrate a great respect for their teachers and for each other. We witnessed some university students honouring their professors and teachers for their excellent teaching! Students take learning seriously. My colleagues and I believed that the respect demonstrated by students and teachers was a result of most people being Buddhist. Could the carry over from religion be integral to education? We think so!
Rosemary Baron, Salt Lake City, Utah, US
What utter nonsense is this? The British education system is leaps and bounds ahead of the Thai system. Your guided tour no doubt neglected to mention how the Thai education system is plagued by a culture of plagiarism, absenteeism, institutionalised racism towards foreign staff, chronically low wages for teachers, and yes they have Wai Kru or teacher's day but it's nothing more than a superficial ceremony that the students are REQUIRED to do by the school. The pledges they make are nothing more than empty promises. These kids don't even have the respect to sing their national anthem when asked to every morning.
Sure the behavioural problems have not yet become as bad as those in the UK, but when the threat of the cane still hangs over their heads (despite official government policy), it's no wonder they still have a little fear for a system which otherwise will pass them no matter how hard they study; it's not acceptable to fail students under ANY circumstances, even after 2-3 re-tests, and despite over 40% of scheduled class time being summarily cancelled for frivilous activities it's the teachers who have no say in this that get the blame when curricula are not completed on time.
I suggest next time the BBC wants to see the Thai education system, they come to provincial Thailand, get a job as a teacher in a standard government high school (and let's face it any journalists could manage that) and see what the REAL Thai system is like outside of Thaksin's Ivory Tower showpieces. At this point you might realise that you've been conned.
A Teacher In Thailand, Thailand
I was a primary teacher in a Bangkok school and was asked by the school administration to explain their English lessons in Thai. The concept was so outdated whereby the parents started requesting me to teach them English at my home. During the weekends my home was full of students who wanted to learn English. Unless Thailand is willing to accept that without English-speaking people, no matter what strides we make in our economy, we will still be lagging behind in the global world.
Chuthathip Kositangoor, Texas, USA
My wife and step-daughter are both Thai, and after getting married in Thailand we had to decide whether to live in Thailand or the UK. One of the considerations in making this decision was our daughter's education. Being subconsciously a little jingoistic, I assumed that she would receive a better, more rounded education here than in Thailand.
This illusion was dented a bit when she started school in England at the age of nine and we found that, once she started to get to grips with English, she was ahead of her classmates in maths and science. A frequent comment being "I did this in Bangkok last year!" She was also pleasantly surprised by how little homework she was given, compared to school in Bangkok. (Although, five years later and in Year 9, she complains about having too much!)
She was also a little bit shocked by the indiscipline and lack of respect shown generally to teachers, and this was in a primary school!
Nick Weeks, Woking, Surrey
I don't think that the parallels beteween British and Thai schools are as similiar as portrayed. As a teacher and having travelled in Thailand I would say that Thai schools are in general considerably better to teach in then English schools. Also, if British teachers taught the pride in British culture that Thai teachers do in theirs, then the British teachers would be branded fascists, thrown out of their jobs and would be out of the teaching profession forever. I think we have to accept that in British schools we are operating under a policy of shame/embarrassment and self-flagellation as regards British history and culture. All segments of history are taught with the constant theme of our wrongdoing and exploitation towards others and other cultures. To exhibit pride in British "achievement" would be beyond the pale. The only children in British classrooms not growing up self-embarrassed and hating their ancestors are our ethnic pupilss who just learn to hate Brtain and develop a chip on their shoulder that they have been so historically abused. No, we are not like the Thais, we are a shamefaced nation.
Sarah Howard, London
As a British native-speaking English teacher in a large secondary school, I would have to agree with many of the points in this article, though I strongly disagree that the respect the students have is anything more than a superficial fear of their Thai teachers in a system where corporal punishment is still widespread. The respect also stops when the native speakers come into play and students, while not violent, can be as insolent and lazy as any other country's teenagers. They also don't respect certain Western maxims of politness such as punctuality or not talking in class, or doing homework (and when they do, not copying it entirely).
There is also widespread acceptence that students will cheat in tests and the educational culture currently supports the notion that students no matter how badly they perform can fail, which has led to many of the conditions listed above. Far from the Thai education system being a role model for the West, it in my view leaves a lot to be desired.
Louis Minson, Songkhla Southern Thailand
You can't equate a top class school in Bangkok with a comprehensive school in the UK. Don't bring in Buddhism as motivator of good manners.People are either good mannered or they are not. There are fewer Buddhists with good manners as there are who kill, lie, and particularly cheat. Not worth a BBC article.
Sunida Kitiyakara, Bangkok
Being non-British, I know very well that I have no right (and no insight) to offer any comments on British education, but the article, intellectually so stimulating, motivated me to think about our own (Japanese) education. Just contrary to what the article describes as "the positive attitude of students, the absence of discipline problems, and the strong focus on Thai culture combined with deep respect for other cultures" is for the most part the pathetic reality in Japanese schools. New "bilingual schools" is equally our problematic attempt, which I just pray for its success. The Thai system may not offer an example for education of evey country, but we can learn so much from it.
Hiroichi Kawahira, Japan (Nishihara-cho, Okinawa-ken)
As a Thai student who used to be educated in one of the traditional Thai schools, I personally don't think that it is going to work here, in UK. There are so many differences in culture and many things. I have to say when I was in my old school in Thailand I used to be really scared of the teachers because if you do anything wrong there will be a punishments like caning or go and sitting on your knees in front of the class. This is not always true for every teachers but it is very normal and usual to get punishments like that in Thailand. I think this makes pupils pay more respect to the teachers, partly because they scare of the teachers, so they won't answer back. Although as you grow up there are less punishments from the teacher because then you can take care of youself without needing someone to force you. I don't think it will work here unless you bring back the punishments which are already been stopped by Child Act.
Chayawin Sriprasert, Shrewsbury