ภ.อนุรักษ์ นิธิภัทราภรณ์
Montfort Home for Education 1
Montfort Home for Education 2
From the "Montfort Way" to the "Cooperative Education Way".
Gallery of Montfort Home
Communal Life of Love and Unity of the Mountain People
ภ.อำนวย ปิ่นรัตน์
ภ.อำนวย ยุ่นประยงค์
ภ.มีศักดิ์ ว่องประชานุกูล
ภ.อนุรักษ์ นิธิภัทราภรณ์

Montfort Home for Education 2

Montfortian Education in Thailand :  An approach


Apart from the known Formal Educational Institutions we have had in Thailand, Montfort Home for Education (MHE), in search of alternative forms of Education, is a pilot unit of the St. Gabriel’s Foundation of Thailand which began the process of integration of education with life, faith, community and culture in 2003 at Chomthong District, Chiangmai.


After almost ten years of operation I would like to make some observations on “Education” as it is experienced by the people with whom I work.


While discussing the state system of formal education, a couple of farmers ruefully said, “We hardly completed our primary four, thus classified as illiterate, and yet we managed to raise our children and also to buy more farmland. Now, we have to sell our beloved land so as to send our children for their schooling. It is understandable that we have to live from hand to mouth because we have low or no education. But why is it happening like this? Education is not making our lives better as it should. It only seems to make us poorer and our lives more miserable. Hopefully, with their education which will be much higher than ours, our children will be able to earn some new land for themselves and enjoy better lives.”


“Do you really think they will be able to?” came a sudden quip from a neighbor.
“Nay,” groaned another member in the group, “I am afraid your hope might never come true. My daughter graduated five years ago, got married almost right after the graduation day. She could never afford to refund the huge debt we loaned for her studies. And now, her four year old son is living with us, the old man and me. Last month, the bank already issued us a warning. The confiscation of another plot of our land is in sight.”


“I would like to sound out if any of you here would disagree with my statement that the Education Credentials our children earned from their schooling are nothing but an official resignation letter, after attaining higher level of education at the cost of (the Thai term could also mean plundering) our little wealth and welfare, to rightfully go away from home?” was a statement a village leader seriously asked on a stage assembly organized by the National Science and Technology Development Agency, held at a hotel in Chiangmai on January 27, 2012. “I, a graduate of a primary school, am challenging graduates with any degree, to reason against me.”


“Where Has All the Education Gone?”  is the question Lant Pritchett from The Kennedy School of Government asked in the World Bank Economic Review (2001 Vol. 15 Issue 3: 367-391.) 


Cross‐national data show no association between increases in human capital attributable to the rising educational attainment of the labor force and the rate of growth of output per worker. This implies that the association of educational capital growth with conventional measures of total factor production is large, strongly statistically significant, and negative. These are “on average” results, derived from imposing a constant coefficient. However, the development impact of education varied widely across countries and has fallen short of expectations for three possible reasons. First, the institutional/governance environment could have been sufficiently perverse that the accumulation of educational capital lowered economic growth. Second, marginal returns to education could have fallen rapidly as the supply of educated labor expanded while demand remained stagnant. Third, educational quality could have been so low that years of schooling created no human capital. The extent and mix of these three phenomena vary from country to country in explaining the actual economic impact of education, or the lack thereof.”
Both the groups of farmers and Lant Pritchet are, in their own ways, questioning the formal educational system as it has developed in the last few decades. I would like to describe an alternative system of education which is being developed by the MHE. 

The MHE unit has, to date, initiated, co-created and continues to coordinate 10 other independent entities. The following information gives glimpses of how the MHE is performing.


The CLUMP Foundation. 

The Communal Life of Love and Unity of the Mountain People Foundation (CLUMP) was registered in 2005. Members and coordinators are all from tribal races. I applied my educational experiences to educere (bring, draw, lead), in order to further empower the marginalized people within my reach, with the objective that they, in turn, will reach out to educate people beyond my reach to empower themselves. The nature of our operation falls in line with the famous principle of Self Sufficiency of Life. The other 9 entities of MHE are sequential factors and have and continue to occur as a result of the same principle.


The Mountain Women for Development Foundation.
The group of local religious Sisters, all of whom are from the Karen tribe, was founded by the Episcopacy of Chiangmai Diocese some 49 years ago. Up to 2005, they never had a place called home. The CLUMP offered them an attached plot of land. The Sisters gladly accepted. For the first time, the Sisters dared dream of having their own Mother House. Since then, I have been the main instigator of bringing their dreams of construction to fruition.
One day, also in 2005, the Episcopate and his Vicar visited and asked me to help out with the registration of the group as a Foundation. Ten months later, the Foundation Credential of the Sisters was officiated as “The Virgins of God”. However, in 2010, the Sisters handed everything of “The Virgins of God” to the Diocese and then the sisters asked me to help them to register a new Foundation. Eight months later they were registered as “The Mountain Women for Development Foundation” (MWD).
The MWD operates independently, works regularly with me on their new construction matters, and occasionally seeks my services during their difficult times.

The two Agricultural Groups and one Community Enterprise.

As the strength of each chain is as strong as its weakest link, so the strength of each group is as strong as the communal unity of its own facts and forms. Though ordinary people in the rural areas are usually simple and cooperative by nature, if they are to be genuinely empowered to being self-sustained, certain forms of factual realities to regulate their organization and operation are needed. Official structural procedure will enhance their self-sustainable development. Thus, two agricultural groups and one community enterprise have been established.


The Integrated Farming Group of Mae-win, Mae-wang, Chiangmai has been formed out of dire need. These grass-root tribal peoples need bargaining power to operate in the midst of hostile and unfair authorities. So far, the group has served its needs, while threats and tricks have been common in the pushes and pulls of most of their dealings with the authorities. In this constant tug-of-war, I have to serve – to educere - them closely and timely, but invisibly enough to remain an educator. If I am seen as a social activist, many more layers of complications could only hamper my efforts for the self-sustainability of these poor tribal peoples.


The “Group of Farmers and Fruit Growers of Doi Kaew, Chomthong” and the “Doi Thong Group of Community Enterprise for Development, Doi Kaew, Chomthong” had their original inception around the same time as the CLUMP and were meant to be the main earning channels for the CLUMP. While the two agricultural groups were meant to be the primary producers, the Community Enterprise (CE) was meant to proceed to the secondary and tertiary chains of the CLUMP’s sustainability i.e. the processing phase and the marketing sector. Up to now the CE has been slowly learning its trade and the agricultural group has been establishing its structure, coordination links and management.


While the CE continues to progress, the agricultural group is facing a major stumbling block. “The bureaucratic red-tapes are driving us mad.” indignantly expressed Lek, the chairperson of the group. “We have done our every possible best and they have happily earned their credits out of our work. Yet more and more demands are being made for endless extras at every meeting. I shall request for the vote of ending the operation of our group in our next general assembly.”


As a facilitator for the growth process of these marginalized yet living entities, I will only be able to voice my opinions and reflections, but respectfully leave the final decision to them.


The two Louis Marie Scholasticates.(LMS)
The LMS at Hang Dong caters to students attending study courses in Chiangmai, while the other one houses students in Mae Hong Sorn. (My hope is that the Mae Hong Sorn LMS will become the spring board of our mission to Myanmar.) These two extensions branched out from Chomthong 2 years and 10 months ago respectively. Holding the same principles as their mother house, residents work, play and learn, aiming at being self-sustained.
“I struggle for myself, by myself. Here, we don’t beg even from our families. Whenever possible even on holidays, apart from my studies, I work hard on vegetables, fish, chickens and pigs. CLUMP has taught me to create my own chance together with and also for other people.” said Nattanont Hwang-poa, a second year student of the vocational school.


The first year diploma vocational school student, Phiroon Methapornwongs, clearly described his thoughts when he said, “I am glad I have the chance to be with the CLUMP. I am convinced to be myself and to walk on my own legs. This is not only for me but for my village, my parents, my younger ones, even for my children. In the future, even if no one cares for my parents, I am sure I can help them. What I am learning here is forever. No one can take it from me. The quality of my life is up to me.”
I can almost imagine St. Louis Marie smiling.


The Non-formal and Informal Education (NFE) Office and the Local Radio Station.
It all began with a few concerted efforts between the Village Headmen Club of Doi Kaew sub-district and the MHE to take better care of the discouraged, drop-out youths. The vicious cycle of ignorance, resulting from lack of education and leading topoverty and sickness has been very real among most rural and tribal peoples. With limited resources I am managing, the MHE, the NFE Office, and some local leaders have operated a local radio station for the past 9 months. We have linked villages and broadcasted news, information, health and educational programmes. On January19th, 2012, we conducted a two-day seminar which attempted to equate local knowledge to levels of formal education. We will hold one more camp on February 23rd – 25th hoping to assist about 80-100 youths to be certified to the primary, lower secondary and higher secondary levels.


If we can continue to develop more concerted efforts to enhance community unity we will be able to educate, previously average members, to become leaders. We can offer more chances to the young people who otherwise would be deprived of opportunities to develop their potentials.



The House of Compassion. (HC)
Causes for juveniles to turn delinquent are numerous. Once fallen, their whole life changes. MHE has tried to offer chances to the desperate, the unwanted, the rejected persons. “House of Compassion” is the name I called this centre. The HC operates under the mainstream of a Therapeutic Community Model made holistic with educative and re-formation supplements. After 7 months of operating this re-habilitation centre, we have gained recognition and appreciation from the authorities, the communities, the parents, and most importantly the residents.
The following are just a few examples of many quotes from residents and parents of the HC;


“At first, I did not want to be here. I now love this new home of mine.”
“I was in hell. I was a devil. I tried to stay in many houses. Here, I am a human in my home.”
“My parents and relatives now count me as one of their own, unlike many years of loneliness in the past. They are happy and assured after their last visit. Now I am proud of being able to be myself and live with my friends here.”
“When I made my home visit last week, all my village members said that I am more handsome with trustable characters. Though I seem to be able to socialize myself back to anywhere, I feel I need to spend more time here so that I can regain my confidence.”
“We are grateful to you for bringing our son back from hell to us. Then, we did not know what to do or where to turn to. You are our refuge.”

I can imagine St. Montfort smiling broadly now.


For over nine years, another approach to the Montfortian way of education has been introduced into this tiny corner of the world. Though the work of the MHE might appear to some to be having very little impact, the fact is that peoples’ lives are being changed for the better and, for me, it is always fulfilling as well as liberating.



Bro. Anurak N. (nose321@gmail.com)
February 18th, 2012