Graduating high school or secondary school in any country is a big deal for the students and the faculty that helped them get there. It is an accomplishment that they can all be proud of and help towards their future goals by educating oneself. It’s celebration that illustrates their achievements and the teachers let them go wild for doing it. Graduation in Thailand is seen in the same way but differs in who graduates.
Who Graduates and Who Pays
In 2009, the Thai government added an extension to their constitution that they will pay for kids to attend school up until matthayom 3 (M3) at the age of 15. After they hit the age of 15, the financial responsibility falls on the parents of that student and it is then determined by them if the child can continue to M4, M5, and M6 or if they go to work with their family. From what I was told, the fiscal amount that the family pays comes out to be 4,000 Baht a semester but, is more if they are in AP or IEP classes. These classes cost more due to the resources that are used. The AP and IEP cost more due to the teacher’s time, better class facilities, and more advanced classes.
After passing the standard national test of ONET, the two graduating matthayoms (M) consist of M3 and M6. M3 consists of students that are 15 years old while, M6 is 18 years old. I had the privilege of teaching M3 students in Thailand and constantly asked them if they were going to continue the education after M3. I was very pleased to find out that most of them were going to continue which, made me extremely proud and relieved that they still had the chance to learn more and possibly go on to attend a university later after they graduate M6.
Graduation starts off with a morning assembly where there are speeches and performances by students while, the students being honored are decorated by either themselves or by other students with necklaces, cards, keychains, sashes, and flowers. After the morning performances, the graduating students follow the student band and take a walk around school grounds while, their fellow classmates from the other matthayoms give them presents in recognition of them moving on. This walk is quite memorable and leaves a lasting impression on all those that partake in it. I have never seen anything like this and it was truly an honor to be a part of it. The teachers can either walk with the students or stand on the sidelines and give presents to their likeable students. The walk leads the graduating members to their two separate class halls where a celebration and lunch is provided. Prior to the lunch being served, there is a blessing done by a monk with all teachers seated in a circle surrounding him and a rope is draped from teacher to teacher. After this blessing is completed, the students then line up in front of the teachers and we tie a piece of the rope around the student’s wrist while, stating what we hope for their future. Some of the blessings I offered, included long happy and healthy life full of education and peace from within. This is a part of their culture that leaves your heart thumping full of the love surrounding these kids.
Subsequently, when the blessing is completed, all students are seated around the individual where they are then fed symbolic dishes of delicacies such as pig nostrils, soup, papaya salad, and seafood. While this occurs, a live band takes the stage and students can then dance. I took part in dancing with my students to celebrate their accomplishment and the year we had together. These activities continue until midday and are remembered with school photos and smiles being shown. I encourage all those that teach in Thailand to take part in this accomplishment that occurs at the end of February. It will leave you speechless and touched in numerous ways. I am beyond proud of all of my students.