‘Sawasdee’ for Students in Need in Thailand

Just a few decades ago, universities in Thailand were reluctant to admit students with disabilities, partly due to a surprising historical legacy of Buddhism.  But with new laws guaranteeing education and access for all children, U.S. and Thai researchers are now looking at how schools are meeting the challenge for a new generation of students. A feature for the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Northern Vision, the magazine of the University of Northern Colorado.

Phuttamonthon Buddhist Park, near Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand.

Phuttamonthon Buddhist Park, near Mahidol University, Salaya, Thailand.

I reported this story while living in Thailand in Fall 2013. Here’s an excerpt:

Thailand has made great strides in the field of disability support services (or DSS), since passing national laws guaranteeing education for such students over the past 15 years — following examples from the United States and elsewhere. Since 2008, UNC faculty, including Silvia Correa-Torres, have also played a role through formal partnerships with the Thailand Commission on Higher Education and the Ministry of Education that have established trainings, exchanges and professional development that rely on UNC’s experiences and expertise. The visit to Phitsanulok is part of a research collaboration among Silvia, Piyarat and Tum studying the advances in DSS across the Thai higher-education system. (Full disclosure: I’m accompanying Silvia both as husband and freelance writer.)

Just a few decades ago, there was no DSS office at Pibulsongkram Rajabhat, and administrators were reluctant to even admit students with disabilities, says Siriwimol “Pia” Jai-ngam, the dean of the faculty of education who established the university’s DSS center in 2005. “Now, that’s changed,” she says.