2009 Thailand: CHILD FRIENDLY SCHOOLS EVALUATION - Country Report
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UNICEF contracted with AIR in January 2008 to conduct a global evaluation of the Child Friendly Schools (CFS) initiative. The evaluation was expected to serve as a baseline assessment that would examine the effectiveness of UNICEF's CFS programming efforts in the areas of inclusiveness, pedagogy, architecture and services, participation and governance, and systemic management. The evaluation was also intended to provide information about the cost of intervention. Thailand was selected as one of the six countries for the global evaluation for several reasons, including the fact that it provided an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of long-term implementation of CFS.
As the country that hosted the 1990 signing of the Declaration on Education for All agreement (EFA), Thailand has been at the forefront of supporting child rights and an early developer and proponent of the Child Friendly Schools model. For over a decade, UNICEF Thailand and Thailand's Ministry of Education have jointly implemented CFS programming in schools throughout the country.
The purpose of this report is to present an evaluation of the effectiveness of UNICEF CFS intervention efforts within Thailand. The core research questions addressed in this report are as follows:
- To what extent has CFS in Thailand created a rights-based and inclusive environment in its schools? To what degree are these learning environments safe, protective and caring?
- To what extent has CFS in Thailand achieved an effective and high-quality learning environment?
- To what extent has CFS in Thailand created a health-promoting and health-seeking environment (i.e., achieved access to safe drinking water, good school hygiene, and a clean school environment)?
- To what extent has CFS in Thailand created a gender-sensitive environment that promotes equity and equality in its schools?
- To what extent has CFS in Thailand increased the democratic participation of students, parents, and community members and forged meaningful linkages between schools and communities to improve the child friendliness of its schools?
- What are the costs associated with implementing the CFS model in Thailand?
Multiple assessment tools were developed for the purposes of the global CFS evaluation. These included a student survey (for use in grades 5 and up), teacher survey, school head survey, classroom observation tool, school-wide observation tool (including both indoor and outdoor areas), and interview and focus group protocols to learn more from students, parents, teachers, school heads, and other key stakeholders.
A sample of 25 schools that had received support from the CFS initiative were selected from the northern region and the southern, tsunami-affected regions. Within both regions, schools were selected based on the duration that they had participated in CFS, location (region, rural/urban setting), and community characteristics (e.g., population, typical household income). The 25 schools were located in the districts of Krabi, Phuket, Chang Mai, and Chang Rae. Individual interviews were also completed with five key informants from across six Ministry bureaus and community-based advocacy organizations that UNICEF had identified as influential and highly involved in the CFS initiative.
In schools implementing the CFS approach, school directors, teachers, and parents expressed a commitment to inclusiveness, to viewing inclusiveness as a key element of the CFS model, and to making efforts to include, encourage, and support all students, regardless of background. School heads talked about inclusiveness as a core principle of the CFS model and cited examples of measures taken to be inclusive.
Results indicate that female students have slightly more positive feelings about the school climate than do male students, although the differences are not large. Generally, students speaking a different language at home and school have a less positive feeling about school than students who speak the same language at home and school. Children with disabilities are often excluded from school, especially in areas where resources are constrained. All school heads reported that students with disabilities are offered equal opportunities to participate in school activities. However, additional evidence does not always corroborate this.
Capacity at the school to identify and support disabled learners is low, with only 28 percent of the schools suggesting they have teachers who have been specially trained to work with students with disabilities. Some school heads reported that physical structures are not accessible to students with physical disabilities. With laws that do not support further education without citizenship, and border monitoring that can actually inhibit enrolment and attendance, Thailand has a challenge of "stateless children".
Over 80 percent of Thai students surveyed in this evaluation said that students are encouraged to participate in class, work together in class, and share their ideas and opinions in class, and that teachers listen to explanations of students‟ answers. Classroom observations also suggested that teachers are for the most part using child-centred teaching techniques, creating organized lesson plans to guide classroom activities, and using “Child Friendly” communication styles and disciplinary practices. Teacher survey data further corroborated these findings. Interviews with teachers and school heads identified challenges in teacher capacity, shortage of teaching and learning materials, and low parental support and/or involvement in their children‟s education.
Stakeholders in CFS, such as teachers and school heads, reported a number of accomplishments in making the school safer, such as building school fences or prohibiting vehicles such as motorcycles on the school grounds, limiting access to school grounds to prevent fights between learners from different schools, and preventing unauthorized adults from being on school grounds While corporal punishment was still used in some CFS schools, teachers ,reported that disciplinary tactics had changed, and that schools were implementing positive discipline approaches such as merit-based reward systems.
Most Child Friendly schools in Thailand supplement the national school feeding program with locally sponsored efforts such as extending the milk program to students beyond the fourth grade and providing food children without a Thai identity card. In addition, a number schools have a school garden, cash crops like palms, or have fish ponds that help sustain the effects of the national school feeding program through food or funds for food.
Through a variety of efforts, schools have become gender sensitive. For example, CFS resources supported the development of the School Management Information System (SMIS) and school self-assessment (SSA), which enable school staff, students, and parents to identify and address gender disparities.
Survey data obtained from students, teachers, and school heads regarding the ways and degree to which students are involved in school events, decision-making processes, and their own learning suggest that only school heads are very satisfied with the extent to which students are involved in Thailand. Teachers were slightly less positive about the degree to which students were involved. The evaluation also found that students are more open with teachers and their academic supervisors when they have problems at home or in school. In addition, the evaluation found that teachers and school heads welcome students‟ observations and suggestions for classroom activities and school events. At many schools, there is now a Student Governing Board, similar to a student council. Interviews also revealed that many, if not all, schools in Thailand have taken great care to increase the level and type of involvement of parents and local community members in school decision-making activities and events.
Thailand has the most equitable distribution of income of any of the six countries visited during AIR‟s global evaluation. The CFS costing model we developed suggested that the expenditures per child showed the most variation in Thailand. We hypothesize that this spending differential is attributable to large amounts of capital available to schools affected by the 2005 tsunami. When funds for tsunami relief end, we expect UNICEF and other donor support to schools to decrease. However, the MOE has demonstrated substantial ownership of CFS and provided almost complete support for another national secondary education initiative– Lab Schools. Given this fact and AIR‟s finding that UNICEF‟s support proportionally increases as school size increases, it may be more appropriate for UNICEF to focus more resources on smaller, rural schools leaving the MOE to continue to provide support to larger, urban schools.
Analysis of the data gathered during this evaluation led to several recommendations, presented below. Priorities among these recommendations can best be identified at the school level. Although there are common problems faced by most schools, each school is unique and may need more support in one area than another.
- Promote inclusiveness in a number of ways that range from community mobilization to teacher training programs. Schools attempting to educate disadvantaged children must broaden the traditional role of the school.
- Continue to train teachers to not only track but utilize the information to support special needs. Thailand has built a culture of inclusion in school; ensuring that teachers can address and support the needs of children will ensure that those who are frequently the most marginalized and neglected by the education system can be properly supported and can thrive.
- Provide training to school heads and teachers on appropriate pedagogical techniques and methods of instruction for children with disabilities so that more schools can provide high-quality education to children with disabilities.
- Provide training to school heads and teachers on assessing the conditions for learning and on appropriate approaches for improving the conditions for learning.
- Support development of a cluster-based, peer support system such that model schools, or those more successful in creating innovative, high-quality learning environments, act as models and mentors to schools in other districts. Given that funding in the southern, tsunami-affected regions has ended or is ending, UNICEF Thailand should work with ESAO supervisors to conduct site visits to facilitate this system. District-wide or regional workshops could also be held to facilitate learning across schools.
- Revisit policies such as not allowing pregnant or parenting girls to come to school and, where necessary, the infrastructure of schools should be improved (e.g., providing private latrines for girls). CFS schools have not been successful in eliminating all policy and infrastructural barriers to gender inclusiveness.
- Focus more resources on mobilizing parent participation to support school feeding programs and encourage student enrolment and continued attendance in school.
- Offer training and workshops to school heads and school staff and parents to build a better understanding of how to engage parents in their children‟s education, involve them in schools beyond labour and infrastructural support, and increase their participation in school governance and decision-making. School staff consistently requested additional support and follow-up from UNICEF country offices to help operationalize the goals of the CFS approach.
- Develop a cost model that involves both the expansion and continued support of CFS. Better understanding the costs associated with developing new CFS schools and supporting existing CFS schools, as well as who potential funders may be, will aid in effective scale-up.
- Use UNICEF's comparative advantage as a coordinator to bring together stakeholders to address barriers to inclusion that are cross-cutting. For example, it has succeeded in making CFS the national school reform model and on focusing the Ministry of Education on the importance of school climate and social and emotional learning. We recommend continuing to emphasize national policy efforts.
- Develop standards for CFS support so the model is not diluted as it continues to go to scale. AIR is not aware of existing standards for CFS support. We also recommend providing better tools to assess pre-conditions for successful CFS implementation for new schools so that readiness to implement CFS is factored into scale-up and technical assistance decisions.
- Continue to monitor and evaluate CFS schools and the implementation of the initiative in Thailand. This can include using the Thai Conditions for Learning Survey and the other tools employed in this evaluation. Subsequent monitoring and evaluation activities can be targeted towards identifying which children and youth are not being successfully recruited and which students are dropping out.
- Identify and address more intangible barriers to the school becoming child friendly, such as negative gender norms, through a UNICEF-sponsored and EASO-facilitated follow-up. Given the fact that our findings (like those of previous studies) find a gap between adult and student perceptions, we recommend that the Conditions For Learning Survey be used, and that it be administered in a manner that ensures individual confidentiality, but produces results for key subgroups, such as male and female students, students with disabilities, and ethnic minorities.
- Conduct a follow-up workshop to allow the school director and teachers to examine whether they have been effective in support children who are at high risk for performing poorly or dropping out and develop strategies to support them, and identify if there were other children who they did not identify through the system who dropped out. Schools currently use the SMIS to identify these groups. Especially as the MOE is considering scaling up SMIS nationally, it is critical to be able to advise the MOE on how the scale-up should proceed and what support schools need in the process of implementing SMIS.
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