Sanitsuda Ekachai, editor, in Bangkok Post (July 13, 2020)
Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Cpl Jessica Olivas/US Marine Corps)
A teacher in Si Sa Ket decided to punish a female student for wearing her hair longer than her earlobes. He cut her hair to length but only halfway – not just to humiliate her but also to warn other students to not challenge school authorities.
Social media has been rife with photos showing students' partially-shorn heads. These examples debunk the teachers' oft-repeated rhetoric. Their mission of selfless giving for the future of the nation? It's all a lie.
Here's the ugly truth: schools are the main pillar of Thai authoritarianism. They train young minds to be submissive to power, starting with total obedience to teachers who act like little dictators. By killing a questioning mind and focusing on punishment via public humiliation to extract docility, schools nurture the culture of fear to make children conform with the militaristic system.
Schools are the microcosm of Thailand's totalitarian society. Thai teachers run schools like despots ruling over small kingdoms. But winds of change are coming. Today, students no longer accept abuse. In May, the Education Ministry announced a new hair rule, allowing students and parents to have a say.
As schools increasingly become militarized, students' academic performance continues to take a nosedive, remaining far behind other countries regionally and internationally. Unperturbed, teachers continue to teach the ultra-nationalistic curriculum dictated by the centralized education authorities, because their salaries depend on years of service, not performance.
If we want education reforms, if we want teachers to respect human rights, we must decentralize the education system. We must make teachers accountable for their performance. We must also give local communities the power to hire and fire teachers. Resistance from those clinging to power will be fierce. But as people's values change, a system which refuses to adjust will soon become obsolete.