I have been really interested in learning more about what special education looks like in Thailand and seeing how it compares to my knowledge of special education in the USA. It’s been really interesting to go to the various schools so far in Thailand and ask them about how their special education system is set up. I have been surprised at the variety of answers of how schools work with special education and students with disabilities. So far, I have found that students with special needs and disabilities in general are worked with differently in Thailand and the USA. When I asked more specific questions at schools, there seemed to be a disconnect of the definition of disability. From my understanding, how they view disability is more on a physical level than a cognitive level. It has been a little frustrating that some of the question I have tried to ask have been lost in translation in a way. There just seems to be a disconnect when I ask about the special education supports in schools.
The first school we went to was the welfare school and when I asked them about special education, they said that they do not really have any students in special education. They said that when students are slower learners that they will spend extra time with the teachers after school to work on the subjects they need help with most. The second school I inquired about was the school in the Hmong village we visited. When we talked to the chief of the village, he said that students born in the village with physical disabilities are often sent to specialized schools in Chiang Mai where they can receive the individualized supports they need. The third school I ask about was in the Karen village. I asked our host from the Hill Area Development Foundation about the supports in the village elementary school and what she told me was that they don’t really have special education in the village elementary school. She also mentioned that if a student has a physical or severe cognitive disability, that they will not even go to school but rather stay home and their families will take care of them. Sometimes these children will learn a trade or help their family around the house but will not compete a formal education.
So far, I have noticed that the special education systems in Thailand does not seem as developed as the systems in Minnesota. I do recognize that Minnesota is well known for being a leader in special education and special education research. However, I have been surprised at the seemingly lack of supports in place to help students, specifically in smaller cities and villages. I am curious to visit more schools and see how the special education systems and supports look in those schools and comparing that to what I have seen and observed so far.