A little bit of Thailand came to Brainerd Monday.
Seventeen delegates from St. John's University in Bangkok, Thailand, arrived in Brainerd to spend three days with the Brainerd School District and Central Lakes College to learn how schools at all levels operate in the United States.
The Thailand delegates first arrived at CLC for lunch and then Pat Altrichter, hostess of the group and a retired Brainerd School District administrator, led the group to Harrison Elementary School to learn about the elementary school system. The group will tour Nisswa Elementary School, Forestview Middle School, Brainerd South Campus, Brainerd High School Tuesday and CLC on Wednesday.
Samnao Kajornsin, professor consultant to the educational administration program at St. John's University, said Minnesota is known to have quality education and has great school districts so he wanted his class to tour schools in Minnesota. The class also has toured schools in New York City and Philadelphia.
Samnao Kajornsin (right), professor consultant to the educational administration program at St. John's University in Bangkok, Thailand, sat Monday with 16 of his students at the library at Harrison Elementary School. The Thailand delegates are in Brainerd to learn how schools in the United States operate. Brainerd Dispatch/Jennifer Stockinger
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Kajornsin said he learned a lot about Minnesota schools Monday, including the type of equipment it uses and about its teaching styles. Kajornsin said a main difference in schools in Brainerd from Thailand are the buildings. He said schools in Thailand are four to five stories high and they have more windows that open because of the heat. Another difference, Kajornsin said, was Brainerd has a six-member school board and Thailand has a nine-member school board for small schools and a 15-member school board for larger schools. He also said Thai school board members are appointed by the administrators, not elected.
Mantariga Witoonchat, a manager of a school in Thailand, wanted to learn more about the school board and the way it works with the administration. Witoonchat said she works with special education students and in Thailand there are more special needs students per classroom than in Brainerd.
Naridtanan Palakavong na Ayuthaya, 25, said she's not one of Kajornsin's students, but came on the trip because she wants to start a school in Thailand that would be open to students all over the world.
CLC President Larry Lundblad said many of the schools in Thailand are privately owned. Lundblad said CLC sent delegates to Thailand a few years ago in an effort to recruit students and promote worldwide learning. Lundblad was happy that the Thailand delegates chose Brainerd as one of their stops in Minnesota.
"This speaks well of our school system here," said Lundblad. "They want to see how we operate and how we work with the school district. This is a credit to the school district and it is one that they value. We're pleased to have them here.
"The students are interested in the community college. And we're always looking at partnerships with institutions in other countries and we want to broaden our opportunities for our students and learn about other lands."
Kari Frisch, CLC instructor and one of the CLC representatives who went to Thailand, said having Thailand delegates in Brainerd is "a great opportunity to learn from each other and to see the different cultures."
Frisch said in the Thailand group there is a Buddhist monk who is forbidden to have a female touch them. She said not everyone knows this culture so it'll be a learning opportunity.
Siriporn Prommana (front center) was among several delegates from Thailand who visited Harrison Elementary School Monday. The Thailand delegates will be in Brainerd through Wednesday. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Frisch said hospitality is one thing that Thailand wants to expand on with other countries and CLC would like to partner with them.
"We're still looking at ways to work together," said Frisch.
Frisch said this is the second time a group from Thailand visited Brainerd. She said the first group consisted of teachers.
Altrichter said the Thai delegates were interested in learning more about the school district's Literacy Collaborative and Bridges Academy, which is a partnership between the college, school district and the private sector.
"They did a lot of research before coming here," said Altrichter. "They're so appreciative of everything and they're so excited to meet the kids and to share their culture."
Altrichter said the Thailand group told her that they have large class sizes like Brainerd, but their classrooms are larger.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.
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