Historical background of the need for Buddhist Wisdom Education
Up to the twentieth century, education in Thailand took place in Buddhist monastery schools. Boys were sent to monasteries in order to acquire basic education and to be taught about personal development and life skills from monks. The success of the system may be seen from the fact that in the nineteenth century the literacy rates of Thai boys exceeded that of Western boys. However, it was a system that neglected girls and was tied to a pre-modern age.
Starting in the early twentieth century and as part of the country’s unification and modernization, the western educational model was adopted. As a complement to the government educational system, private schools began to be established mostly run by Christian groups. With liberalization of the educational system, many international schools were also set up and have flourished particularly in Bangkok and in major regional cities. With all these changes, the influence of Buddhism has steadily declined.
Surprisingly, given the fact that 95% of Thai population consider themselves Buddhists, until recently there has been no real interest or effort to integrate Buddhist developmental principles into the educational system. This is largely due to the unfortunate tendency of the authorities to see Buddhism as a belief system, and therefore overlook the unrivalled system of human education that lies at its heart.
However, during the past ten years or so, initially through the teachings of Phra Brahmagunabhorn (P. A. Payutto), there has been a growing movement to create a Buddhist educational system. Thawsi School, founder of Panyaprateep Foundation and Panyaprateep School, has been in the forefront of this movement and has seen the need to provide Buddhist Wisdom Education at the secondary level, giving rise to the first Buddhist Boarding School with special emphasis on ecology from academic year 2009.