SPOTLIGHT: Catholic school in rural Thai village responds to pope’s call for holistic education

A Catholic school in a small village in the northeast part of Thailand has responded, in small but significant ways, to the call of Pope Francis to foster a renewed commitment to education.

St. John’s School is located in Thabom, a small village in Loei province, not far from the Mekong River and Thailand’s border with Laos. To reach the village, one has to drive seven hours from the capital Bangkok.

In the midst of challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic in the past two years, the management at St. John’s Thabom school ensured that its teachers and students are formed in a holistic way.

“Given our social and environmental circumstances, we have decided to teach them ‘relaxation in education’,” said school administrator Chainarong Monthienvichienchai.

The approach is “similar to meditation, a common exercise in Buddhism,” he said, adding that most of the school’s students and teachers are Buddhists.

Now the school is developing this formation further by partnering with Didyarsarin International Preparatory School in Bangkok (D-PREP) to integrate mindfulness and life-skills into the core curriculum of the school.

Students and staff at the two schools have been participating in meditation and reflection sessions via Zoom. The sessions are led by Lady Didyasarin, School Director of D-PREP, together with her students.

“It is such a privilege to start a partnership with educators whose vision and mission rhyme with our own,” said Sr. Deanna Maria Combong, School Superior at St. John’s Thabom school and member of the Religious of the Assumption congregation who have been engaged in their mission at Thabom for over twenty years.

“After experiencing what D-PREP’s staff and students have shared with us, we strongly believe that this is what we need to develop and make it an integral part of our curriculum, not only for the students but also for everyone in our school community,” she added.

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