Schools told to use Thai numerals and Buddhist calendar

Bangkok Post, 10th March 2003
Sirikul Bunnag

In an attempt to counter Western influences and preserve cultural identity, the Education Ministry has ordered all schools to use Thai numerical figures and the Buddhist Era calendar when teaching the national curriculum.

All agencies under the ministry's control would also be required to use the traditional numerals and calendar in official letters, said education deputy permanent secretary Savitri Suwansathit.

``Thai numerical figures are part of the national identity,'' Ms Savitri said. ``The ministry must play a role in preserving them and promoting their use among students, before they forget what they look like.''

The Curriculum and Instruction Development Department would ensure schools use Thai numerals during all lessons given in Thai language, from first to final grades, to counter Western influences, she said.

Pranee Prabripoo, of the Thai Language Institute, welcomed the move.

``It's time to take seriously the way in which we teach Thai students,'' she said. ``The use of technology such as calculators and computers has encouraged students to abandon Thai numerals. They have become influenced by Western culture.''

Ms Pranee said the trend took off three years ago, when exhibition organisers began adopting the Christian calendar to name events such as Education Fair 2000 and IT 2000, in what she labelled ``the cultural invasion.''

The Education Ministry shared its concerns about the national identity with the Culture Ministry, as well as the House committee on religion, culture and arts.

Culture Ministry official Sucharit Buapim said learning and practising how to write Thai numerals could help students increase their concentration and improve their handwriting.

Unfortunately, though, many students graduated without being able to write Thai numerals as they were not used in universities, he said.