‘Boot camp’ aims to defuse fights among vocational college students

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Former Royal Thai Navy commander-in-chief Narong Pipatanasai was back on familiar ground in Sattahip, this time as education minister, to open the second military-style “boot camp” for pre-college students aimed at teaching them discipline, morals and ethics.

Eighty-one students from Samut Prakan Technical College, Kanchanapisek Samut Prakan Technical College and Samut Prakan Polytechnic College attended the camp at the Navy Rating School, the second batch of students set to attend their first year at the vocational schools.

Education Minister Narong Pipatanasai walks among the pre-college students who are now going through a military-style “boot camp” to teach them discipline, morals and ethics.Education Minister Narong Pipatanasai walks among the pre-college students who are now going through a military-style “boot camp” to teach them discipline, morals and ethics.

The camp program was developed in the wake of a string of high-profile brawls between vocational school students. The navy and the Office of Vocational Education Commission jointly set up the two-phase program. The first phase was a pilot training course, which ran last month, and the second is the 26-day camp that runs from Nov 12 to Dec 7. In all, 97 students will have gone through the “boot camp.”

The goals are to adjust students’ attitudes and behavior; instill discipline and unity; teach them to live creatively and with good social skills; and to create self-worth and pride.

Narong said having people live together harmoniously is an important goal of the government. He also noted that the labor market has a high demand for vocational-school graduates.

Narong emphasized the “boot camp” is not to turn the students into military personnel. But it is hoped that it will eliminate or greatly reduce the fights that have grabbed headlines this year. There have been so many brawls between warring colleges that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has threatened to close down colleges that don’t rein in their students. Two schools have been closed for a month already.

Attending the camp is not punishment, as many presume, he said. It is to fulfill what is missing in society and individuals so students can be more complete.