Originally published at Ajarn.com on 18th November 2014

Term 2 at schools in Thailand seems to be more about activities and celebrations than actual classroom teaching.

No sooner did we come back from the October holidays and we had Halloween – which was followed by Loy Krathong – we are now in the middle of our annual performance – then early December has Fathers’ Day and the King’s Birthday celebrations – followed by Constitution Day – then it will be Christmas – New Year’s – Children’s Day and Valentines – throw in Sports Day, an Open Day, a student-exchange programme and an academic competition, before you know it the year will be over.

Varee School students prepare for Annie performance at Kad Theatre international education

As a subject teacher tied to Thailand’s rigid curriculum with a seemingly infinite number of indicators and standards for which multiple summative and formative assessments are required, it can be pretty frustrating when classes are cancelled and students go missing for activities and pre-activity preparations.

But while school activities may not be covering the demands of the Thai MoE curriculum, they can however be useful opportunities for the development of life skills.

Students growing up in the 21st Century no longer need be burdened with memorizing facts and figures. These days all that information is just a google away. Of course a strong understanding of core subject knowledge is essential but the skills that will enable today’s students to succeed are; team work, problem solving and creativity.

These are the skills which they will need to apply on a daily basis if they are going to successfully navigate their way through the 21st century. School activities, if organized well, can be an excellent platform for students to develop these skills.

Over the past few weeks the students at Varee School, where I work, have been busy preparing for this year’s annual performance – ‘Annie’. This performance is a pretty big deal at our school, the city’s theatre is hired for the week and each department needs to organise and prepare an entire performance. The departments are responsible for everything- story, script, actors, dancers, music, costumes, stagehands, sets, lights, props, tickets, programs and posters

rehearsal Varee School performance

In the EP Department we apply a student-centered approach to this activity. The teachers provide guidance to the students but the emphasis is on the kids to get involved and contribute to the success of the show. The students this year were great and it was really encouraging to see them working together in groups, sharing ideas and tackling problems as a team.

Different students were involved in different areas – we had the younger students performing dance routines and older kids assisting with choreography – the upper primary students played the main roles – two wonderful young divas sung the hits songs from ‘Annie’ – Mathayom EP students designed and created the backgrounds, the sets and the props – a couple of Grade 6 boys controlled the music – a group of M4 girls directed the lighting – a fashion-conscious teacher prepared the costumes – some mums and older sisters took care of the makeup – a couple of foreign teachers raised and lowered the curtains and sets – and a team of dedicated Thai teachers pacified parents and made sure all 150+ students were where they needed be.

backstage Varee School performance Kad Theatre Chiang Mai

Of course it wasn’t all plain sailing, in the weeks leading up to the big day it was often chaotic, there were disagreements, disputes and even some tears but it was the ability to overcome these difficulties, pull together as a team and get the job done that really made it a valuable learning experience.

The shows over now and on Monday it will be back to the classroom, back to what’s really important – grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, standards, indicators and assessments – after all that’s the real business of education, right??

M4 ENG prepare the back stage resources for annual performance

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Daniel is an English Literature graduate from the University of London who has spent the past 20 years living and working in Southeast Asia. Passionate about education, health care, sustainable development, equality and human rights, Daniel is a regular contributor to Asian Correspondent, Ajarn, The Educator and Bangkok Post.

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