2020, What A Year!

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The year 2020. How do we describe it? The Washington Post recently asked its readers, and the top 3 words given were: “exhausting”, “lost”, and “chaotic”. These are relatable for everyone, everywhere else in the world. Amid this chaos and feeling lost and exhausted, we often forget the little ones, the children who are suddenly faced with ‘quarantine’, ‘restrictions’, ‘online learning’ and many more stress factors.

In Thailand, the Academic Year 2020-2021 started in July postponed from May. The previous school year ended in early March when the virus began to spread in Thailand, so the students had about 3 months of school break. When they came back, the children were all very excited to be in school, albeit with the new teaching and learning set-ups to ensure their safety.

There were certain limits on what we could do in class, but the students learned to appreciate and utilize their time in school more efficiently. They became more attentive and self-aware. They learned to value the time with their classmates and friends in school and showed more empathy, kindness and compassion. They were concerned if one of them was absent, reminded each other of their homework and projects, volunteered for in class activities, did peer tutorials in and outside the class and became more engaged in class discussions. We observed this across Primary 1-6 classes.

One of our greatest joys was seeing that the students remembered most of the things they learned from the previous years. They would share their thoughts in class, relating them to the lessons we had years ago. Looking back, these are the students who came to our EIS programme with no or very little English language skills. They still have a lot to learn, but seeing their confidence in communicating their ideas and asking more relevant questions is awe-inspiring.

At the end of the academic year in March 2021 the Primary 1-6 EIS class garnered an overall average of 84.36%, 1.04% higher than the pre-pandemic year average. Not just that, our first class of students in the EIS programme also graduated with flying colours and achieved phenomenal English results in the Primary Year 6 national (ONET) exam.

I have been in the teaching profession for 2 decades now, and this is my 6th year working with Phuket Has Been Good To Us. Every year comes with new challenges, and for me, each of them is an opportunity to learn, give back, and make a positive change. If I described my 2020 with the foundation, it would be “impactful”.

I am more than grateful to be with the PHBGTU team, for what we were able to achieve together in 2020. To ensure the children would continue to have their learning routines, their education, and their chance to dream bigger dreams- is beyond all of us. It’s a miracle, and we all know it would not be possible for us to continue doing it without the help of the people who believe in our cause. A huge THANK YOU to all our supporters for helping us impact these disadvantaged children’s lives, most especially in these difficult times.

Senior Teacher Jerlin Balais


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