Claremont, Calif. (April 8, 2022–updated July 13, 2022)—Pitzer College student Kyle Greenspan ’23 has been awarded a 2022 Projects for Peace grant for $10,000 to help facilitate Thai literacy education for elementary students in Isaan, Thailand’s largest and poorest region.
The concept for Greenspan’s project, “Linking the Chain of Upward Mobility: Reducing Political Conflict in Thailand by Teaching Students How to Read Thai,” stemmed from the challenges that Greenspan faced in Isaan as an English teacher at Kamplapha Natawee School, where approximately one-third of his students could not read Thai. According to Greenspan, “allegedly, about half of all students in Isaan do not graduate from high school because they cannot read Thai,” and the elementary school system has limited infrastructure to teach students how to read Thai if they have not learned at home. He says that the average per capita monthly income of a Bangkok resident is more than double that of a resident of Isaan, a region covering nearly 65,000 square miles and composed of 20 provinces. Furthermore, he found historical ethnic, socioeconomic, and political divisions have distanced Isaan from central Thailand.
“In noticing these local economic challenges, I also identified attainable solutions,” said Greenspan, who is majoring in environment, economics, and politics. “In my view and the view of those who I taught with in Isaan, a linchpin of upward mobility is teaching these elementary school students how to read Thai so they can graduate from high school.”
Thanks to the Projects for Peace grant, he will collaborate with a Bangkok-based nonprofit and the Kamplapha Natawee School to provide more opportunities for young students and create a new path of education at their school and other schools in the region. He intends to initiate the program for several schools in the region during the summer.
The Projects for Peace program invites undergraduates from more than 90 US colleges and universities that participate in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design grassroots projects that promote peace. Pitzer became a Davis United World College Scholars Program partner in 2014.
Last year, Pitzer College student Isabella Jacobs ’24 received a Projects for Peace grant for her project RainScales, a rainwater capturing device created to address inequitable water distribution in South Africa.
UPDATE: Greenspan is documenting his experience in implementing the project on his website, “Linking the Chain of Upward Mobility.”