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Suankularb Wittayalai School
'Tuek Yao' Provides Insights Into Siam's Scholarly Strides
An ancient building featuring neoclassical architecture stands elegantly along a roadside on the outer part of Rattanakosin Island (known as Bangkok’s historic ‘Old Town’).
On account of its long length (200 meters), the two-story building is widely known as Tuek Yao (‘long building’). In addition to its size, Teuk Yao is regarded as being a national treasure due to its historic significance.
“Teuk Yao was built in 1910 as the second home of Thailand’s first systematic academic school, so it’s representative of our nation’s educational development,” says Rachapoom Thachawongwanit, a Grade 11 student at Suankularb Wittayalai School who is a voluntary tour guide at Teuk Yao.
King Chulalongkorn the Great (King Rama V) was happy for the Royal Household’s pages to receive military training and a general education. His Royal Highness Prince Damrong Rajanupab, a younger brother of the king, had proposed the establishment of a school available to citizens from all social classes. As the great monarch placed a good deal of stress upon the importance of education, Phra Tumnak Suankularb School was formally established in 1882.
Rows of roses
Phra Tumnak Suankularb (‘the palace with a rose garden’) originally referred to a residence of the king’s within the Grand Palace prior to his accession to the throne. The school took its name from the palace, which was renovated for use as the home of an educational institution. But by 1893, the building could no longer cope with rising student enrollments and it looked to develop ties with other institutions.
Right up until the final year of King Rama V’s reign (1868-1910), MR Pia Malakul, a member of the school's first alumni, had requested the king’s permission to construct a permanent new home for the school. Teuk Yao was built as a practical response to this request at the temple of Wat Ratchaburana Ratchaworawihan (also known as Wat Liap). Phra Tumnak Suankularb School was then reestablished in its new home, although it was given a new name – Suankularb Wittayalai School.
Tripetch Road ran along the front of the building, so the entrance was originally located there. The rear of the site was unoccupied and so, as the school expanded into this area, the entrance was moved around to the back of the building.
While the original gates to compound remain in place along Tripetch Road, the original entrance to the building was shut and the rear entrance became the primary way of entering the school.
Teuk Yao includes 37 classrooms – 18 on the first floor and 19 on the second. The classrooms are located along corridors that run along the length of the building. The main entrance features a Palladian motif, although the roof over the entrance area features a triangular gable that closely resembles the traditional Thai form.
Teuk Yao was registered as a national historic site under the Department of Fine Arts in 1987, and was bestowed with an award – ‘The Best Conservative Building’ – by the Association of Siamese Architects (in 2000).
Teuk Yao includes many exhibits relating to the kingdom’s rich history with regard to progress in the field of education. There is an engraved stone, for example, which proclaims the king’s intent to provide the kingdom’s citizens with their first school “for the sake of the country’s development”. There are also illustrations showing how various educational formats emerged in the kingdom.
Over time, it was decided to transform the school so that it could also be used as a form of educational museum, allowing visitors to learn how the country's education system has progressed over the years. Students from Suankularb Wittayalai School – like Rachapoom – are given the opportunity to become guides, allowing them to describe the fascinating history of their alma mater with pride.
The Suankularb Educational Museum opens from Monday through Friday from 8 am until 4 pm. For further information, call Tel: +66 (0)2 225 5605, extension 105.
Credit: TAN Network (www.tannetwork.tv)