Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Holistic School Opens in Haad Yao

The west coast of Koh Phangan has over the last few years become a centre for yoga, holistic practices and spiritual endeavours. The healing arts of yoga, reiki, tai chi, Pilates and meditation are much in evidence. Agama Yoga has created a New Age university to attract acolytes wanting to teach yoga. And now we have Serenity Residence creating a school in very much a New Age mould. Woolly thinking and commercial interest find another way of joining forces.

The Serenity Residence mission statement reads:

"Each person finds identity, meaning and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world and to humanitarian values such as compassion and peace."

Like with Steiner Schools in the UK, the emphasis is on personal development. There is nothing wrong with that. The opposite, a Gradgrind philosophy of memorising information to deploy in a dehumansing world of profit and machines, is far from desirable. However, a balance must be struck. Children need to learn to read and write, do sums, name capital cities, understand the science of climate change, be able to read the fine print on interest rates as well as discover they like finger painting and playing the guitar.

The world outside of Koh Phangan is interested in academic qualifications, syllabuses, systems for child security, eye checks and the whole panoply of concerns of a parent that has to take responsibility for a child until it can take care of itself.

That is why the spelling mistakes on the school website are very worrying. Even more worrying is the sentence construction that lumps together big ideas of 'self-actualisation' and 'collective responsibility'. Where was the responsibility to put an apostrophe in 'everyones'? Big assertions without details of implementation or the need to spell check should be a red flag for parents. These nebulous ideas might make sense when you are cross-eyed and bristling with pranic power but fail to fly in an educational context where performance can be measured by exams.

The good news is that the fees are reasonable - just 4,000 Thai Baht a month. There is also facilities for school lunches, and there is a school bus. The average class size is just 10.

The name 'Serenity Residence' demonstrates the commercial core to this enterprise. The residences are a group of apartments for short and long term rental. They can probably be bought by anyone with the cash. It is a business geared to those looking for yoga holidays. It is a small step to move into the ex-pat market: those who fell in love with Koh Phangan and higher consciousness and want to subject their children to sunshine, sea and limited educational resources. I wish they had done more to disguise the off-shoot nature of the school. It could have been called 'Serenity School'. Or maybe not - that still sounds like a yoga school.