CATHOLIC HIGHER EDUCATION IN THAILAND* 

Catholic Higher Education in Thailand
by
Br. P. Martin Komolmas
President
Assumption College, Thailand

I. INTRODUCTION
In the context of the Christian mission being inclusive and not exclusive, Catholic education has existed along with the history of Thailand as helping to build the vision of the nation in as much as extending the mission of Christ to “go to all the ends of the earth” and spread “the good news” the “good news” of Catholic education has been encapsulated in the material of the consensus paper of the Catholic Bishop conference. The mission of the Church in Thailand, conforming to the consensus paper is of an evangelization that is, a clear proclamation that is Jesus Christ, salvation is offered to all men. Hence, evangelization is specifically religious. Nevertheless, for evangelization to be integral it must include the promotion of culture, human development and liberation. Education is a culture mediation that leads to human development and liberation, and without it evangelization would be incomplete. The operative principle to this value is in Catholic education itself here in Thailand, The following report will discuss the constitution of Catholic education in Thailand and going beyond, it will point to examples of progress in higher Catholic education missions in the Kingdom of Thailand.
II. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION IN THAILAND
The 17th century was an important era for Thailand. At this period contacts with European powers were made through trade. Ayuthya being well known for his hospitality, attracted Europeans and Asians alike. The first missionaries to come to Thailand were Portuguese: the Dominicans in 1554, the Franciscans in 1583 and the Jesuits in 1606. Then came the French. The first missionaries of the Foreign Mission of Paris came in 1660. Five years later, they had a theological school for boys sent by the King, and a small school for Christians. This school was called General College. It was the first Catholic School in Thailand. Later on parish schools were opened in provinces along with churches e.g. at Phuket, in the South, 1671: at Lopburi, in 1673: at Bangkok in 1674: at Phisanulok, in 1675: at Chanburi, in 1707. The first Catholic School, General College, of Ayuthya period was renowned for its academic excellence. Even pupils of lower grade could converse in Latin while playing marbles. One of the students later went to France to defend his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne. “The whole of Paris was present. The prelates were there in great number and all admitted that one cannot be better satisfied with what this Siamo (Siamese) has done”, (Journal die la Mission, 1685:178). After the Kingdom of Siam was re-estab-lished in Bangkok in 1767, the French missionaries resumed their educational work in the new capital. From the records of the mission, we find new schools opened in 1796, at Santa Cruz; in 1772, at Calvary Church; in 1785, at the Assumption parish; in 1834, at St. Francis Xavier parish, Samsen. (Pallegonix, 1855; 307). In the annual report of the Catholic mission in 1908, we find that there were about 50 Catholic schools with nearly 4000 pupils in all, in Thailand. (Wright, 1908, 214-215, quoted by Joseph van Khoi in Christian Missionaries and Thai Education, p. 70).
III. HIERARCHY AND THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL
In the frame of the Episcopal Conference, there are ten commissions each of which is presided over by a Bishop. One of the commissions is “Catholic Education Council” (Formerly called Comite des Ecoles Catholiques). Its President is Bishop Praphon Charoenchai.
The Catholic Education Council represents Catholic schools colleges and universities of the country. Its members include religious and lay Catholics.
The Catholic Education Council is administered through
1. The Board of Directors which consists of 
  • Bishop
 :   President
  • Chaplain
 :   Vice President
  • Secretary General
 :   Secretary
  • Representatives of all Teaching Congregations
 :   Members
  • Representatives of all Dioceses(The Ordinary of a diocese nominates a Secretary for education)
  :   Members
  • A representative of the Catholic Teachers Association
:   Member
 2. The Administrative Board under the chairmanship of Secretary General which sees to the daily affairs of the daily affairs of the Council.
From time to time the Episcopal Conference issues documents concerning Catholic Education. The most recent one decried the fact that some Catholic children have no place in Catholic schools.
Furthermore, the Bishops have always given their moral support to the schools. Many parochial schools depend entirely on Bishops financial help where governments subsidy is insufficient.
        As an important organization in the Church of Thailand, the Catholic Education Council aims at:
  1. Helping Catholic schools translate into concrete action the underlying principles laid down in the Vatican II’s Declaration on Christian Education and cooperating with the Episcopal Conference.
  2. Helping Catholic schools meet their objectives and the common goals of the Catholic School.
  3. Representing the Catholic schools’ interests before the Ministry of Education, the National Commission for Education, the government, private agencies, and International Organizations.
  4. Promoting a solidarity of action among Catholic Schools.
  5. Providing the role of Catholic Schools in the national scheme of Economics and Social Development by actively working, in cooperation with other agencies, governmental or private, for the common good of the country.
  6. Setting policy on Catholic Education.
  7. Actively supporting the catholic Teachers Association.
IV. TEACHING CONGREGATIONS
The honor of starting Catholic schools belongs to the society of Foreign Mission of Paris. They opened the first Catholic schools General College in 1665. It was the same Society that reestablished Catholic schools in Bangkok when the latter became the new capital. However, there is no historical evidence to prove that the parochial schools that were founded during the 18th and the middle of 19th century are still existing now.
In 1885, Rev. Colombet, MEP. founded the Assumption College, the most famous Catholic school of the modern era, which became the cradle of the Catholic School System later on.
        The following are the teaching congregations at present in Thailand.
Papal Congregations 
Men                                
:  1. Monfort Brothers of Saint Gabriel  
   2. Christian Brothers of St. John Baptist De La Salle   
   3. Salesians of St. John Bosch   
   4. The Stigmatines:  
Women               
   1. Sisters of St. Paul de Charters
   2. The Ursulines
   3. Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco
   4. Sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus
   5. Sisters of St. Joseph of Apparitions
   6. Assumptionist Sisters 
   7. La Salle Sisters
   8. Sisters of Charity
Diocesan Congregations
   1. Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Bangkok
   2. Daughters of the Queen (Phra Mae Marie, Bangkok)
   3. Lovers of the Cross (Thare)
   4. Lovers of the Cross (Chanburi)
   5. Lovers of the Cross (Ubon Rachathani)
   6. Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Rajburi)

                                   

V. VOCATIONAL AND HIGHER EDUCATION
When the first teaching order of men, the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel, came to Thailand in 1901 at the invitation of the Rev. Colombet, they had in mind, besides teaching Christian religion and secular sciences, an idea to teach and prepare youth to work. Thus, in 1917, a Commercial Section was started at the Assumption College, which later developed into a full fledged school known as Assumption Commercial College. It is the first business school in Bangkok commercial schools, founded later, were patterned on its models.
In 1925, the Salesians of St. John Bosco arrived in Thailand. Soon after. They took care of the children of the working class. Thus Don Bosco Technical School was started in Bangkok, giving free training to the poor, mainly. It is now a well known and the most famous technical school in the country.
In 1969, a Private College Act was promulgated, allowing the private sector to establish educational institutions up to university level. Four Catholic Colleges (university education) were founded. However, the right to run a Teacher Training College is still reserved to the government alone, a thing which the Catholic Education Council has been fighting without success.
        Special mentioned should be made of the following:
University Education:
  1. Assumption Business Administration College was upgraded to the status of university on May 22, 1990 and retains its status as an institution of Catholic international higher education.
  2. Lux Mundi Seminary or Sieng Dharma College
  3. St. Louis Nursing College
  4. St. John’s College
High School – Vocational Education
        1. Assumption Commercial College
        2. Don Bosco Technical School, Bangkok
        3. Don Bosco Technical School, Ban Pong
        4. Holy Infant Jesus Secretarial School
        5. St. Joan of Arc Commercial School
        6. St. John’s Commercial and Technical College (run by lay people)
        7. Viriya Commercial College
Special Education*
  1. School for the Blind (government) managed by the Salesian Sisters.
  2. Vocational School for the Handicapped, managed by the Salesian Fathers.
  3. Other non-formal educational works, here and there, are carried out by the Sisters of St. Paul de Charters, the Ursulines, the Camillians, the Brothers of St. Gabriel, and practically by all the congregations of Women.
Others
  • The Jesuits working at State Universities
  • Sisters of the Good Shepherd who look after grown-up girls
  • All diocesan priests (especially parish priests) are supposed to be, at least, nominally, head of parochial schools. Some of them are deeply    involved in this form of Apostolate.
  • Some members of the Society of Foreign Mission of Paris.
  • The Betharamites, the PJME engage themselves in some way in educational work.The teaching congregations teach from kindergarten up to university level.
VI. GENERAL INFORMATION ON ASSUMPTION UNIVRSITY (ABAC)
A. Historical Background
ABAC or Assumption University as it is now known, was originally initiated in 1969. It was formally established in June 1972 and accredited by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of University Affairs in May 1975. The founding father of this institution is Brother Bernard May of the Brothers of St. Gabriel, a Catholic religious congregation devoted to education and Philanthropic activities institutions in Thailand..
Beginning its operation with only 51 students, two classrooms, three administrative personnel, and part-time faculty, the university has grown by leaps and bounds with a student body of more than 9.000, a high-calibered full-time and part-time faculty. The latter are drawn from relevant business circles and government offices. This helps considerably in bring students into close touch with pragmatic aspects of business.
B. The University Council
The university is administered by a Council. The Council provides policy guidance for long-term planning and formulated control procedures. In addition, it allocates funds and screens proposed budgets as well as curriculum design and revisions to the curriculum. Its functions include institution of new academic disciplines, establishment of satellite campuses, installation or removal of chief executives, and approval of degree and diploma conferment. It gives approval to the academicians that the university engages to carry out its academic and research programs and it guards the honor and integrity of the university. The Council members are appointed jointly by the Ministry of University Affairs (Thailand) and the Brothers of St. Gabriel.
C. Motto: Labor Omnia Vincit
1. Philosophy
        In loyalty to its Christian mission, Assumption University stands for:
  • The inculcation of respect for the three institutions of the Nation: Religion, Country, the King and a democratic way of life.
  • the belief that a man justifies himself and his existence by the nobility of his work.
  • the commitment to be a light that leads men towards the true source of all knowledge and life.
2. Objectives and Policies
        Assumption University exists for the main purpose of serving the nation by providing scientific and humanistic knowledge, particularly in the business education and management science through research and interdisciplinary approaches.
        To this end it aims at forming intellectually competent graduates who
  • are morally sound, committed to acting justly, and open to further growth.
  • appreciate freedom of expression, imbibe right attitudes and ideologies through a carefully integrated curriculum of Ethics, Science, Languages and Business Management.
  • achieve academic excellence through hard work, critical thinking, and effective decision making.
3. Accreditation
The University is fully accredited by the Ministry of University Affairs. Its graduates enjoy the privileges accorded to State University graduates. Its academic standards are accepted by the Civil Service Commission of Thailand.
Assumption University is recognized in the U.S.A. and other countries and transfer credits from the university are accepted by foreign universities. Graduates from the university can pursue advanced Degrees anywhere in the world.
        The university is recognized by:
  • The U.S Veterans Administration for full benefits to U.S. Veterans studying at the university.
  • The Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia (ACUCA).
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Institution of Higher Learning (ASAHIL).
  • The International Federation of Catholic Universities.
4. Medium of Instruction
English is the officially approved medium of instruction at the university. Five courses are in the Thai language but only for Thai speaking students. Students whose native tongue in not Thai follow the same courses in English.
Assumption University does not discriminate in its programs and activities against any person of race, color, ethnic origin, ancestry, religion, age and sex.
D. The Programs of study at Assumption University
Faculty of Arts (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Business Chinese, Business English, Business German, Business French, Business Japanese); Faculty of Business Administration (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Marketing, General Management, Finance and Banking, Accounting, Business Computer, Advertising Management, Hotel Management, International Business Management); Faculty of Camillian Nursing Science (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Nursing Science); Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Faculty of Engineering (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Computer Engineering); Faculty of Insurance (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Property & Casualty Insurance, Marine and Aviation Insurance); Faculty of Science and Technology (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Computer Science, Information Technology); Faculty of Law (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Business Laws); Faculty of Communication Arts (Bachelor’s Degree Programs: Advertising, Visual Communication Arts); The Graduate School (Master’s Degree Programs: Business Administration, Computer Information System, Computer and Engineering Management, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Counseling Psychology); Doctoral Degree Programs (Computer Information Systems, Computer and Engineering Management).
VII. SAANG DHARMA COLLEGE
        Founded in 1975, at present the college has two faculties with two study Programs:
        1. Faculty of Divinity, Bachelor’s Degree in Theology
        2. Faculty of Humanities, Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy.
VIII. ST. LOUIS NURSING COLLEGE
The College was founded in 1985 and has just one Faculty, that is, the Faculty on Nursing with one study Program: Bachelor’s Degree Program in Nursing Science.
IX. ST. JOHN’S COLLEGE
        The College was founded in 1989. It has three faculties. The study Programs include:
        Undergraduate Studies in Business Administration
        Undergraduate Studies in Communication Arts
        Undergraduate Studies in Engineering

* CATHOLIC HIGHER EDUCATION IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC REGION [p. 153-163]