Darunsikkhalai School for Innovative Learning (DSIL) was founded in 2000 as an educational sandbox to rethink how learning could take place in the 21st Century. DSIL founder Khun Paron Israsena Na Ayudhya who formerly served as CEO of the Siam Cement Group (SCG), Thailand’s largest industrial conglomerate, is internationally renowned for his advocacy of educational innovation. As CEO, Khun Paron strongly believes that “An organization must be driven by smart employees with good ethical manners” in the sense that “human capital is the most valuable asset of an organization”. After his retirement in 1992, Khun Paron then realized that “Thai youth is the most valuable asset of the country” and has since dedicated his life to bringing fundamental changes to Thai education in order to help Thailand’s new generation thrive in a rapidly changing world.
Over the past two decades, DSIL has earned its reputation for the development of “Thai Constructionist Learning”, an innovative interpretation of a learning philosophy developed by Professor Seymour Papert of Media Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The relationship with MIT started in 1996 when a group of Thai MIT alumni had gathered and formed the Suksapattana Foundation, a name granted by King Rama 9. The goal was to utilize the group’s connection with MIT to address important issues in Thailand. Water management and education were the two main themes. As an MIT alumnus, Khun Paron took on the education mission, called the “Lighthouse Project”, together with Khun Bangkok Chowkwanyun, a former leader of Thai Oil PCL and an MIT alumnus. This was when they met Professor Seymour Papert who first introduced Thailand to Constructionist Learning.
Constructionism is a learning philosophy that, building on Jean Piaget’s Constructivism, believes learning is less about teachers transmitting knowledge but more about children constructing their own understanding. Specifically, children learn particularly well when engaged in creating a personally meaningful “project”. Teachers act as “facilitators” nourishing an environment conducive to learning. Through projects, students not only learn the principles at hand but also become problem solvers, fast learners, and critical thinkers.
The MIT collaboration created pilot projects spreading across vastly different contexts including rural communities, industries, and education institutions. For schools, it became clear that the major obstacles were the strict curriculum controlled by the Ministry of Education and the mindset of education leaders. Khun Paron and Khun Bangkok then realized that they needed a model school which could have the flexibility to fully explore the Constructionist practices. Darunsikkhalai School for Innovative Learning (DSIL) was then conceived and established in 2000, operating under King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), which at the time had just become Thailand’s first self-governing state university.
DSIL offers bilingual (Thai-English) elementary and upper school education. Project-based learning is a core activity with special emphasis on learning process, information technology, foreign languages (especially English), morality, arts and culture, Thainess, and personal development integrated with domain knowledge, which are instilled through mindfulness practices. The school management follows the concept of Learning Organization, which was developed by Dr. Peter Senge at the Sloan School of Management, MIT. The learning process at DSIL aims to nourish “passion for learning” from day one. Such passion allows students to act as a change agent who wishfully utilizes his/her own passion for learning without reluctance to cultivate a lifelong learning culture in their community. This principle fully aligns with the National Education Act B.E.2542.
Since its conception, DSIL has served as a premier pilot project and a continuously improving organization. DSIL has contributed to furthering education reform in Thailand and other countries. As a Constructionist school and a Learning Organization, DSIL’s pride comes from developing qualified global citizens while maintaining Thainess and fostering a commitment to creating a better world with intense passion for learning.