Fellow Since 1995
This profile was prepared when Abhisree Jaranchawanapate was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1995.
The New Idea
Abhisree Jaranchavanaphet has created the first preschool in Thailand where "educable mentally retarded children," including very slow learners, hyperactive children and children with Down's Syndrome, are integrated into normal classrooms. She confirms that in this mainstreamed setting, the children with learning disabilities develop at a faster rate than if they remain isolated or are taught only with other slow learners, and that "normal" children also benefit. In today's rapidly modernizing Thailand, where children learn to value competition and achievement at any cost, she has managed to create an atmosphere in which pre-schoolers learn patience and understanding. Having changed the composition of pre-school classes and the atmosphere in which they are run, Abhisree is also educating the children's teachers. By creating multiplying agents who understand her philosophy of preschool education, Abhisree is guaranteeing the sustainability of her work. What distinguishes Abhisree's work from mainstreaming practices in educational systems elsewhere is how she has crafted it to succeed in the Thai context. She systematically relates her new curriculum to the Buddhist philosophy, which attends carefully to personal development and is commonly associated with Thai identity; and she introduced her idea within the Buddhist "temple schools." Despite the fact that mainstreaming is a concept alien to the culture, she has convinced parents to participate and has attracted the support of the Ministry of Education. With a team of trained monks, nuns and teachers from government schools, she is now utilizing her curriculum and ideas about early childhood education on a broader scale.