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Test yourself – A different school of thought

Photos by Melalin Mahavongtrakul, courtesy of Bangkok Post

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Test Yourself is where you can improve your reading skills. Whether it’s for tests like University Entrance Exams or IELTS and TOEFL, or even just for fun, these pages help you to read, understand and improve your English. This week's text is about a very special school.

Read the following story by Melalin Mahavongtrakul from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.

Mechai Viravaidya believes that school in Thailand is not what it should be. In his view, it’s something used to mould students rather than build them into something greater.

A FAMILIAR FACE

Many Thais will remember Mechai as “Mr Condom” for his work in promoting the use of the contraceptive back in the ‘70s. To others, he is Kobori, the leading man of the 1970 drama Sunset in Chaophraya. What’s certain is that he has been a major figure for social change over five decades.

He founded the Population and Community Development Association in 1974 to deal with the country’s then worrying population growth. In the ‘80s, he played a significant role in combating HIV/AIDS. In addition to this, he has held several positions within the government.

REFORM SCHOOL

Since 2008, he has been involved in tackling one of Thailand’s biggest challenges. That was when he established the Mechai Bamboo School in Buri Ram province. This school, the 76-year-old hopes, will lead the way in reshaping the Thai education system.

The school is very different from your typical Thai educational institution. It focuses not on numeracy and literacy skills, but on life and occupational skills, which Mechai feels are more dynamic and relevant to the society that his students live in.

“There are almost 40,000 schools in Thailand. But they are not properly utilised. People just don’t use school to its full potential — not its land, buildings or staff,” he said.

STRANGE WAYS, HERE WE COME

Mechai hopes that his alternative methods can provide an example to others. Each day, traditional classes following the Thai core educational curriculum run from 8 am to 2 pm. For the rest of the day, however, students spread out across the school’s 100 rai area to participate in different extracurricular activities. These include taking care of goats and chickens, making water jars and constructing solar flashlights.

Such activities also serve as social enterprises. Their self-grown produce is used in school meals or sold to generate income for the school.

WE RULE THE SCHOOL

The boarding school currently has about 150 students from 26 provinces across Thailand.
The school wants them to be able to earn a living without having to leave their communities and families behind to seek employment in big cities.

In fact, the school is largely managed by its students. The student council regulates the school budget, deciding when they need to buy things for the school. They also manage discipline, the environment, communications and business. The process is democratic, and the student body is asked before any big decision is made. They are even involved in choosing new students and teachers.


 
THE HEADMASTER RITUAL

It’s a brave move to put such heavy responsibilities on young shoulders, but Mechai said he has complete faith in his students. He is in direct contact with them, getting constant feedback and suggestions about how to further develop the school.

“We train them to be good people. And there are always teachers to supervise them. We’re like a family. We support and encourage each other. And so far, after almost nine years, I think everything is going rather well,” Mechai said .


Section 1

Read through the story and answer the following multiple-choice questions.

1. How old is Mechai?

a. 70 years old.
b. 76 years old.
c. 80 years old.

2. What was the name of Mechai’s character in Sunset in Chaophraya?

a. Mr Condom
b. Mr Bamboo
c. Kobori

3. Where is his school located?

a. In Buri Ram.
b. In Chon Buri.
c. In 26 provinces around the country.

4. Mechai Bamboo School is a/an ________________ school.

a. bilingual 
b. boarding
c. international

5. What time does the school day end?

a. 4 pm
b. 2 pm
c. The article does not say.

Section 2

Read the story and decide whether the following statements are true or false.

6. Mechai Bamboo School was established nine years ago.

………………….

7. Mechai Bamboo School follows the Thai core curriculum.

………………….

8. Mechai hopes students can better jobs in big cities.

………………….

9. Students decide what subjects they get to study. 

………………….

10. Students grow their own food.  

………………….

Section 3

Rearrange the following groups of words to form grammatically correct sentences.

11. Mechai/to/plans/continue/making/school/the/self-sustainable

………………….

12. direction/right/We/heading/are/in/the

………………….

13. school/not/is/The/just/for/students

………………….

14. job/to/is/make/complete/everything/My

………………….

Section 4

Specify whether each of the underlined words is used in the following sentences as a conjunction, verb, noun, adjective or adverb.

15. The student body’s opinion is sought before any big decision is made.

………………………………………….      

16. Other tasks are usually limited to administrative members.

………………………………………….      

17. He has complete faith in his students.

………………………………………….      

18. Students participate in different extracurricular activities.

………………………………………….      

19. They generate income for the school.

………………………………………….   

Section 5

Write down the simple present tense forms of the following verbs used in the story.

20. held

……………..

21. made

……………

22. utilised

……………..

23. grown

……………..

24. tackling

……………..


Answers

Section 1

1. b.
2. c.
3. a.
4. b.
5. c.

Section 2

6. True.
7. True.
8. False.
9. False.
10. True.

Section 3

11. Mechai plans to continue making the school self-sustainable.
12. We are heading in the right direction.
13. The school is not just for students.
14. My job is to make everything complete.

Section 4

15. Conjunction.
16. Adverb.
17. Noun.
18. Adjective.
19. Verb.

Section 5

20. Hold.
21. Make.
22. Utilise.
23. Grow.
24. Tackle.

SCORE

21-24: Excellent!
17-20: Good.
13-16: Fair.
12 or fewer: You'll do better next time!

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