Sunday, July 14, 2013

Back to School

A girl gets off a "school bus" at a private Muslim school in Pattani. The bus is a pickup truck with a couple of bench seats in the bed

The gap between Muslim and Buddhist in Thailand's deep south is perhaps most visible in the schools. More and more private Muslim schools are opening in the south and parents are sending their children to those schools. 

Muslim parents in southern Thailand send their children to private schools for the same reason many conservative Americans send their children to private religious schools. They want a good education for the children but they also want their children educated in accordance with their religious beliefs. 

A boys hands move over the script in the Koran he's studying at the Pattani Muslim school. 

A boy reads the Koran during religious instruction at the Pattani Muslim school.

Most of the schools are licensed by the Thai government and teach the official Thai curriculum. Their students have to take the Thai standardized tests. The biggest academic difference is that the Muslim schools teach a curriculum that meets Thai government standards but fulfills Islamic requirements. 
Girls pray at the Muslim school. 

Students pray on the regular Islamic schedule in the Muslim schools, but only at lunch or recess in the public schools.
Students at a public school raise the Thai flag. 

All Thai students, whether they go to a public school or a private school, wear uniforms. Girls dress modestly in both public and private schools, but in the Muslim schools they dress very modestly - long sleeves, longer skirts. Boys in the Muslim schools wear prayer caps. Almost 100% of the teachers in the Muslim schools are Muslim. In some of the public schools, fewer than half of the teachers are Muslim, even though the student body might be 100% Muslim. 

One of the reforms Muslims have won in the south is the right to dress their daughters the way they choose. Before the current unrest started, students in the south dressed like students elsewhere. Girls in the public schools didn't wear the hijab and they wore the shorter skirts used elsewhere in Thailand. 

The women who teach in the Muslim schools dress in accordance with Muslim culture. Very modestly with floor length skirts or slacks and hijabs. Muslim teachers in the public schools also dress in accordance with Muslim culture but Buddhist teachers in Pattani dress like young women in Bangkok or elsewhere in Thailand, which is not at all in accordance with Muslim principles. They wear short (hemlines above their knees) skirts and high (4+ inches) heels. Many of the Muslim parents find their attire inappropriate. 
A Buddhist teacher walks among the students at a Pattani public school. 

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