Please briefly describe the initiative, what issue or challenge it aims to address and specify its objectives. (300 words maximum)
Small child development, the most important brain development phase, receives minimal attention in Thailand by comparison to the development of elementary school and middle school students. The PISA results in 2015 shows Thai students were underperforming when compared to the results in 2012, especially in reading (32 points lower) and science (23 points lower). At the beginning of the OKMD Playing Space Project in 2015, the Office of Knowledge Management and Development (OKMD) have come to realize a strong need for a playing and learning space for small children in rural areas in which the environment and needs of the local community are clearly addressed. The project promotes the brain-based learning theory in which a whole child development under the project is being accounted for, maintained, and continuously supported by the community itself to ensure a sustainable development. The objectives are:
1.1 To develop a model for a brain-based play space that helps catalyze multiple aspects of small child (5-8 years old) development i.e. physical, emotional, intellectual and social skills. All of which are vital to the construction of a solid foundation for the next steps toward a whole child development.
1.2 To develop guidelines for a constructive and cohesive work among governmental authorities, private entities, and the local communities in the development of playing and learning spaces for small children in rural areas that align with the context and needs of the communities including management of the spaces to ensure appropriate, effective and sustainable use of the spaces.
1.3 To change the attitudes of teachers, parents, school administrators, local authorities, and the general public about the importance of play in the development of basic skills for small children as it plays a strong role in the development of future competencies.
1.4 To expand the model developed in 1.1 throughout elementary schools nationwide.
Please explain how the initiative is linked to the selected category. (100 words maximum)
The OKMD Playing Space promotes the sustainability policy in which OKMD works cooperatively with the Office of the Basic Education Commission, local municipal authorities, school boards, private institutions and public. The playing space is developed for sustainable learning and effective local management by the stakeholders in mind. The collaboration stems from the management and distribution of knowledge on the importance of brain-based learning that leads to project planning, implementation, and evaluation. Each plays an important role in development of the child-centered playing space; therefore, communication through listening to one another is key to building sustainable and successful ownership and partnership.
a. Please specify which SDGs and target(s) the initiative supports and describe concretely how the initiative has contributed to their implementation. (200 words maximum)
The teaching and learning to the test is deeply rooted in the Thai educational system, while learning for professional development and better quality of living have yet received the attention they both deserve. Passive learning in which too much pressure with little flexibility put upon the learners is unable to develop highly qualified Thai children to face with the changing world. The OKMD Playing Space Project is more than just a relaxing play place for kids, but a space to learn skills other than the academia such as teamwork, communication, critical thinking, hands-on problem solving, self-discipline, self-actualization, and other life skills that are all important in the development of a whole child. This project also promotes equality as well as equity to reduce the disparity in education between children in the city and the rural areas (SDG 4). It aims to provide rural area children with an opportunity to learn and develop just as well as their city counterparts to achieve decent work and be part in supporting economic growth. The project is paving the way toward better health, education and future which are all in alignment with the no poverty, zero hunger, and good health and well-being.
b. Please describe what makes the initiative sustainable in social, economic and environmental terms. (100 words maximum)
Social sustainability comes from the sense of social responsibility to and the joint effort among all stakeholders for their own community development. This includes quality of education enhancement and giving utmost priority to the needs of children and to put the interests of their well-being at the center. Economic sustainability is a result of the realized potential among the children as it helps them to grow up to become highly qualified citizens who are capable of choosing professions of choices and to uplift the economy while being accountable for maintaining sustainable social and natural environments all at the same time.
a. Please explain how the initiative has addressed a significant shortfall in governance, public administration or public service within the context of a given country or region. (200 words maximum)
Due to limitation of funding and personnel at Nakornsawan Primary Educational Service Area Office (PESAO), collaboration among the schools, local authorities both from the governmental and private sectors, and the local community is vital to the OKMD Playing Space Project. The challenge is in the process to convince the community and the stakeholders to change their mindsets about learning through playing. The WatBanMaKlua Temple community in Nakornsawan province, the collaboration among the families, the temple, and the school begins with a meeting of all stakeholders to create a common ground based on the brain-based theory and the design of a playground for small children to closely match with the context and the needs of the community in which the head monk of the BanMaKlua Temple is the center of the network, while the school board attract the parents and villagers for manpower, OKMD support the BBL knowledge, training and design of the space through workshops, the Nakornsawan PESAO issue policy and initial funding for the school, the private sector provide monetary funding and materials for the area construction as well as knowledge and advice to the local community and the local authorities provide manpower and utilities in the space construction.
b. Please describe how your initiative addresses gender inequality in the country context. (100 words maximum)
Women play an important role in the design of the learning and playing space due to better knowledge and understanding of child-care than their men counterparts. However, once the construction of the learning and playing space is completed, both men and women share equal responsibility in the full utilization and maintenance of the space. In addition, all children can use the space to learn and play regardless of gender and/or learning ability since the space is designed for variety of equipment and activities that can support all types of learning and playing.
c. Please describe who the target group(s) were, and explain how the initiative improved outcomes for these target groups. (200 words maximum)
Evaluation of the project through interviews with school teachers and administrators of 4 schools in Nakornsawan province found the target students, children aged 5 to 8 years old, performed better in the followings
1. Physical development: use of main muscles, coordination and relations of body parts have all improved and results in better health overall.
Social development: showed higher level of self-confidence and happiness through physical and verbal communication.
2. Children show better attitude toward attending school on a daily basis resulting in better attendance record for the school, more active, more attentive, show better problem-solving skills, able to make better connections between what they have learned in the classroom and the real world as they put them in practice.
3. Children show a higher level of mindfulness from relaxation activities and exercise.
4. Children with learning disabilities have the opportunity to interact with their friends in a natural learning and playing environment through the space.
5. The positive results as previously mentioned allows for better overall performance of all children compared to the previous academic year. In addition, the love for reading, self-learning and self-discovery have also improved.
a. Please describe how the initiative was implemented including key developments and steps, monitoring and evaluation activities, and the chronology. (300 words)
The OKMD Playing Space Project implementation is based on collaboration among all stakeholders in which listening of ideas from one another is vital to the success of the project as follows:
1. The provision of knowledge and information about the project as well as the benefits to the community as a result from participation. The focus is on creating a common ground for realization of responsibility of the community and the stakeholders through conveyance of ideas, design and management of the space.
2. The planning among all stakeholders covers the identification of challenges and needs in the community, sourcing for appropriate construction area, space design, and organization for campaign funding and materials.
3. The learning and playing space is designed around the natural setting of the space and must be environmentally safe. The space includes areas for all aspects of small child development such as body parts movement and coordination, reading, the 21st Century Skills development, and water playing area to reduce children fatality rate. The activities centers on life skills, daily activities and socialization skills.
4. The construction includes space clearing, foundation laying, and construction of learning and playing grounds and surroundings giving utmost importance to safety and security complying to the Playground Safety Standards set by Mahidol University. The materials are locally sourced and utilized. The areas are laid out in sequence from easy toward more difficult activities to challenge small children with small successes. The space is planned to help boost self-confidence based on pride and joy of learning and playing.
5. The evaluation on management and use of the space is done through observations and interviews of relevant participants on the benefits and changes in learning, skills and attitudes on child development as a result of the learning and playing space.
b. Please clearly explain the obstacles encountered and how they were overcome. (100 words)
The change of policy and turnover of school administrators have a direct affect on the project as the administrators and teachers must respond to the changing policy first. Their energy and time are being spread out. Thus, the full potential of the space have not yet been realized. The rural community mainly composed of small children and their grandparents as the adolescents have left the area for the city. The poor economy affects the project. Community members are forced to put their time and energy on keeping the family afloat first. Thus, the care-taking of the space are neglected.
a. Please explain in what ways the initiative is innovative in the context of your country or region. (100 words maximum)
The project closely follows the Project Management and Design Thinking guidelines giving utmost importance to the child and participation of the local community and its members. The institution works jointly with the national and local governmental authorities in the design, construction and management of the space and the activities involved to ensure a maximum response to the community needs. Everything in the space is based on BBL which is a design innovation for learning and playing space. The space focuses on providing environment of fun, building pride from having learned and played successfully, and learning and playing from real-life experience.
b. Please describe, if relevant, how the initiative drew inspiration from successful initiative in other regions, countries and localities. (100 words maximum)
OKMD is inspired by the Opened Government that gives importance to transparency, public participation, and collaboration to build collaboration and trust. The project is first initiated at a small community for efficiency and effectiveness. When coupled with design thinking, OKMD is able to clearly analyze and closely identify the challenges and needs of the community. The information is useful in alignment and design of the project and its management to fit with challenges and needs. The result is a full and kind coloration to help push forward the project toward successful planning, implementation, and evaluation that is sustainable over time.
a. Has the initiative been transferred and/or adapted to other contexts (e.g. other cities, countries or regions) to your organization’s knowledge? If yes, please explain where and how. (200 words maximum)
OKMD in collaboration with the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), governmental and private institutions, and local community and general public, have expanded and magnified the brain-based learning and playing space to 380 schools around Thailand. The funding for the expansion and magnification come from OBEC, while OKMD provide synthesis of knowledge and information based on the successes and failures of the different schools. A network among 380 school administrators and teachers is used to manage the information that are helpful to future planning and development of similar project in other interested schools. OKMD is able to develop learning and play space models according to size of the space used: Small, Medium and Large. The interested schools may use the models to adapt to the spaces available at the schools accordingly. The content and activities for the space can also be adapted to align with the challenges and the needs of individual communities such as preservation of forest and water resources in the mountainous community, swimming skill for the close to water community, recycling and waste management skills for metropolitan or tourism community, and promotion of health and well-being for biohazardous or infection-prone community.
b. If not yet transferred/adapted to other contexts, please describe the potential for transferability. (200 words maximum)
OKMD has successfully transferred/adapted to other contexts.
a. What specific resources (i.e. financial, human or others) were used to implement the initiative? (100 words maximum)
The resources in each of the project can differ according to the community, size of space, quality of materials, and special needs of each community. With special funding or donation like in the case of the WatBanMaKlua School, one of the four school prototypes, it received material donation from the temple and free construction materials from a private institution, and was able to build a medium size learning and playing space with only THB 200,000. The space also makes use of the local wisdom in the space and activities design which helps with preservation of local practices and community culture.
b. Please explain what makes the initiative sustainable over time, in financial and institutional terms. (100 words maximum)
The realization of the importance of education and its effect on quality of living by the community is most important to the longevity and sustainability of the project. Once the community understands the importance and agrees on becoming a part of the project, the sense of ownership will take place and the community members will take care of and use the learning and playing space to realize its full potential in the development of their small children. School administrators and teachers have changed their perception and attitudes on how children learn and play.
a. Was the initiative formally evaluated either internally or externally?
b. Please describe how it was evaluated and by whom? (100 words maximum)
OKMD has worked with Srinakharinwirot University in 2015 on the project evaluation focusing on 3 areas 1) The playing space development processes—preparation, construction, and utilization 2) Utilization of the playing space to support learning—appropriate allocation of spaces and activities 3) Results from utilization of spaces—ability of teachers in organizing and managing learning activity, impact on children’s learning, appropriate spaces use, and satisfaction. The evaluation processes are 1) in-depth interviews with school administrators, teachers, students, parents, and local administrative organizations members 2) observations during the actual development of the learning and playing space 3) questionnaires for stakeholders.
c. Please describe the indicators and tools used. (100 words maximum)
The use of in-depth interview, observations, and questionnaires are based on the following key performance indicators:
• Space development processes—stakeholders understanding, public and community’s perception and participation, and learning activities organization
• Space utilization to support learning—natural resources and environment management that stimulates self-learning and self-discovery, organization and management of space in alignment with the school context, availability of equipment, and safety in compliance with the safety standards set by Mahidol University
• Results from utilization of space—teachers’ knowledge on the management of BBL and teaching, collaboration among teachers from different subjects in the design of spaces and activities
d. What were the main findings of the evaluation (e.g. adequacy of resources mobilized for the initiative, quality of implementation and challenges faced, main outcomes, sustainability of the initiative, impacts) and how this information is being used to inform the initiative’s implementation. (200 words maximum)
The outputs from the evaluation are as follows
1) Stakeholders understand the BBL concept, especially among school administrators, teachers, and local administrative organizations members. The majority of the general public recognizes the project. The project receives a close and positive collaboration from the governmental entities and community members.
2) Teachers pay special attention to the safety and security of children. Teachers work collaboratively in activities design and management in the learning and playing space. Teachers are happier and more active even with a change of the way they teach through utilization of the space. There is a connection between the content taught in the classroom and the playing space activities. There is time table management for utilization of the learning and playing space for all children.
3) Overall performance and learning outcome of students have improved compared to the earlier year. Children show physical health improvement, are self-confident, more relaxed and happier when they learn, more assertive, express their love for reading and social skills improvement.
4) Parents make use of the time spent at the learning and playing space to develop positive relationship and to create close ties with their own children and other parents.
Please describe how the initiative strives to work in an integrated manner within its institutional landscape – for example, how does the initiative work horizontally and/or vertically across different levels of government? (200 words maximum)
OKMD has signed an MOU with OBEC, who oversees the operation and management of all elementary school nationwide, to develop a model for BBL and playing space with a future plan to expand the project into other schools under the jurisdiction. The project initially starts with 4 schools in Nakornsawan Primary Educational Service Area Office with financial support from OBEC at 50,000 Baht per school.
Local administrative organizations also play an important role in the reception and distribution of knowledge and information on the importance of play in small children to the public. In addition, they help with the networking and attracting community members as well as the private sectors to provide additional support the project. In the construction process, the local administrative organization is very helpful in the sourcing of materials, utilities, machineries, and manpower.
The local community and the general public are also important to the project especially in the promotion to create the correct understanding on small child development. They are the change agents and revere advocates for the learning and playing of small children and the development of a balanced whole child development. They have added value to and showcased the sustainability of the project.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts emphasis on collaboration, engagement, partnerships, and inclusion. Please describe which stakeholders were engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the initiative and how this engagement took place. (200 words maximum)
OKMD and its stakeholders hold meetings to develop general project objectives and principles, the children-oriented approach, public and community participation, collaboration among stakeholders, awareness, and change of attitudes and mindset of school administrators, teachers and parents. These principles aim at promoting basic understanding and creating a common ground with hope for a smooth and sustainable collaboration among all who are involved.
OKMD is highly involved in knowledge and information sharing, building network and relationship and attracting stakeholders to the process. During the knowledge and information sharing, OKMD has raised awareness and pushed an agenda on the quality of rural area education especially for small children by proposing the BBL concept and playing space which is a proven and an easy-to-do solution as a policy of choice. The stakeholders are given ample opportunity to discuss and propose ideas that are most appropriate to the context, challenges, and needs of the community. The planning is done by the stakeholders and the information is always made available to the public. The learning and playing space is carefully drawn out by the school administrators, teachers, school board, and selected representative from the community under a loose perimeter based on the principles drafted by OKMD.
Please describe the key lessons learned, and how your organization plans to improve the initiative. (200 words maximum)
1) The project does not end with construction. The management to achieve the highest potential with efficiency and effectiveness, the maintenance of the space and its equipment, the physical development to continue to address the challenges and serve the needs of the community, the design of learning and playing activities to keep up with the interests and changes of the children, the attention to safety and security are all that must be continuously revisited and revised as needed.
2) The expansion of the project should begin with knowledge and information sharing among school administrators and teachers. This can be done both online and offline with a purpose to share knowledge and experiences that will help with the expansion and magnification of the project to reach a wider audience.
3) The expansion and magnification of the project focus on Professional Learning Community (PLC) among school administrators and teachers through social media. OKMD has developed a playground design game and use it in the workshop to improve and spread knowledge and information. In addition, OKMD is working closely with administrators of governmental entities involved in small child development such as a meeting with the governor of Pichit province to develop learning and playing space for 13 schools and 1 public park in the province and a meeting with regional health promotion center administrators to develop learning and playing spaces for 12 regional health promotion centers.