Teenagers and Milankovitch

On my last day here in Bangkok I visited the National Science High School of Thailand, called the Mahidol Wittayanusorn School.
Dr. Yavadee Nakapadungrat, the principal of the school, had invited me to give a lecture about the Asian Monsoon Project. Students aged 16-19 from all over Thailand attend this school. Out of more than 25000 applicants, the school selects, based on tests in many different subjects, 700 students with highest scores. The students obtain a complete science education, but also have language and dance courses, and a lot of sport facilities. All students also live on campus. Pare and Koy joined me to the school, because I wanted to introduce two successful young university students to the science high school students. Dr. Yavadee Nakapadungrat showed us around the school, explained the background and the international exchange, which the school has with many countries, among these Germany and France, but not Sweden! Moreover several universities from abroad come to the school each year to offer specific scholarships to students who would like to study for their undergraduate education abroad.

The students had organized the whole venue by themselves. 250 students were assembled in the lecture hall.

The girl, who acted as chairperson, introduced me. She had in advance checked my homepage, so she had a complete overview on what I had been doing; and three other girls made a short summary of my lecture (which dealt, surprise, surprise, with lake sediments and what we do in Thailand). Pare and Koy explained in Thai more about their MSc projects, and we showed “Under the Eyes of the Buddha”. How glad I am that we have made this film (thanks Hywel!!), it is such a great way to explain and show what we are doing, so much better than just giving a lecture. It is drama and action, disappointment and success, and beautiful pictures.

Koy and Pare explain in Thai what their MSc thesis is about.

We got many questions from the students, among others “How does the Milankovitch forcing relate to our study”? Sixteen-year old kids know what Milankovitch is? I am sure Milutin would be extremely happy to know that his theory has made such an impact.

After the lecture and the video, many more students approached us and wanted to know even more. One of the girls wants to study environmental science at Stockholm University for her undergraduate degree …. Let’s hope she can get a scholarship! Just the thought that SU has decided to demand tuition fees for non-EU students starting in July this year, makes me upset. Sweden has been a country where all students could get free and good education, independent from their country of origin. And now all this will end! How ashamed I feel that I have to tell my colleagues in Thailand or Indonesia that from now on, their students will have to pay fees. Should Sweden, and Stockholm University in particular, not be proud to offer free education to young talented students, who then go back to their country of origin and spread their new knowledge? Sweden for me has always been synonymous with free education for everyone, but the winds of change have now also reached us, unfortunately!

After a nice lunch offered by Dr. Yavadee Nakapadungrat, I am now back again in the centre of Bangkok and will soon need to pack my suitcase. My plane will leave in 12 hours, and tomorrow morning I am back.
Dr. Yavadee Nakapadungrat (right), the principal of the National Science High School of Thailand, and her husband Assistant Professor Dr. Somchai Nakapadungrat (left) who is lecturer in Earth Science in the Department of Geology at Chulalongkorn University.

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