Kindergarten military uniforms reinforce authoritarian ideas: academics

Academics have condemned a school in the Northeastern Province of Khon Kaen for requiring kindergarten children to wear military uniforms, saying that it reinforces authoritarianism. A parent pitied her daughter wearing such uniform despite the hot weather of Thailand. A high-ranking education official, however, admired the school for enhancing student discipline. 
 
 
The kindergarten kids of Dun Sat Community School dressed in soldiers’ uniforms (source: Workpoint TV)
 
The news story about the requirement of Dun Sat Community School for kindergarten students to wear military uniforms once a week has triggered a public debate.     
 
On Monday, 30 May 2016, Anusorn Unno, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University, told BBC Thai in an interview that he was highly concerned by the school’s activity, saying that uniforms are widely used as a tool to discipline individuals into obeying higher authority without question. 
 
“The question is what is the ideal education system. Of course, it is to teach and encourage people to use their potential and knowledge as freely as possible. Therefore, this mechanism aiming to manipulate the individual’s person is undoubtedly a contradiction to ideal education,” BBC Thai quoted Anusorn as saying.
 
Anusorn also told BBC Thai that Thai society has always familiarized children with the military by various methods and events. However, this school’s activity has gone to the next level by making it a part of daily education. Theoretically, this might be a consequence of the military regime, since schools were an ideological apparatus of the state aiming to pass the state ideology onto children.
 
BBC Thai also interviewed Charnvit Kasetsiri, a historian and former Rector of Thammasat University. He said that apart from soldiers, other professions such as engineers and teachers also have uniforms. If the school really wants to use uniforms to discipline students, it should let students experience other kinds of uniforms as well. Otherwise, people might think that the school was trying to admire the military regime.
 
However, Karun Sakulpradit, Secretary-General of the Basic Education Commission, spoke to the media at the Education Ministry saying that he admired the school’s activity since it helped enhance student discipline and public spiritedness. This policy would make children become quality adults, Khaosod reported on 27 May 2016.
 
The activity of Dun Sat Community School goes along with the Education Ministry’s policy, as well as the government’s policy,” said the Secretary-General. “Apart from making students feel proud and strong, the uniform is also good for energetic activities”
 
In a related development, Siriphon Phinitmontri, a 27-year-old farmer, said that her five-year-old daughter, who is currently enrolled at the kindergarten of the controversial school, always complains about the uniform since the weather in Khon Kaen is very hot, adding that she has never seen other schools in Dun Sat Subdistrict with this kind of activity. Her daughter immediately takes off the uniform once she gets home, Khaosod reported on Monday, 30 May 2016
 
 
Siriphon Phinitmontri talking to Khaosod’s reporter (source: Khaosod)