Nethiwit “Frank” Chotpatpaisan, 16, started a group called the Thailand Educational Revolution Alliance, whose Facebook page now has over 14,000 followers. Since then, he’s been on prime-time television and quoted in The New York Times, as he crusades to reform the Thai education system, which he considers too strict. Despite being elected Student President of the Nawaminthrachinuthit School, in Bangkok, this July, the school recently banned him from the position.

How did your fight against the system begin?
I was always a good boy in my school, Nawaminthrachinuthit Triam Udomsuksa Pattanakarn, and hardly ever got punished. But I saw a lot of my friends getting very harsh reprimands. Being publicly ridiculed in front of not only your classmates but in front of the entire school is torture for a lot of people. Getting your head shaved because your hair grew half a centimeter during the week is absurd. Our hair grows. We cannot help it. Some parents can’t take us every day to get it trimmed. Why do they want us to all look alike? We are all different and should be allowed to show our uniqueness. Appearances aside, students only learn by rote and then vomit it back out on their exam paper. They don’t actually learn anything in the process. So I took advantage of being a writer in my school’s newsletter to get my viewpoints across when I was in the 8th grade.

Did you get in trouble?
The principal at my school could not tolerate my writing, so I decided to change schools. But my marks were too low for the schools I wanted to join; and my parents could not afford to send me abroad or even to an international school. Home schooling was never an option because I wanted to be in the Thai education system and be able to rant about it and hopefully bring about change.

You have a lot of followers, but what about haters?
Believe it or not, I have never had anyone come up to me personally to abuse me regarding the student movement. Of course, on my Facebook page, I often see a lot of negative comments with people cursing my family and wanting to burn my house down; but I simply ignore most of them. I do not pay attention to them. I have more than 10,000 followers. I don’t have time for the haters.

What do you wish to achieve?
What have rules and regulations in schools brought to Thai people? Are we advancing in any way? What good has this education system done for us? I don’t see anything. I want to not only reduce the strictness level in schools but I want to elaborate on changing the way Thais think. Teachers are supposed to be the ones who help us make a brighter future for ourselves. They’re not here to order us around. Thai schools need better interaction between students and teachers. 

What are your future plans?
I am still very unsure about whether I want to pursue my bachelor’s degree here or abroad. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to study here, actually. There are many things I want to be in my life but primarily I think I want to become an activist for all the right causes.
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