Prestige interviewed Kim Chongsatitwatana for our January, 2015 cover, along with a beautiful photoshoot. Here are our favourite images and excerpts.
She wants to help cultivate a scientific mindset
“The foundation for social change is education. If people know to ask questions and to question the norm, we would progress to better things… whether it’s the working of a school, what you see about the rice scam, or when you hear news or propaganda. But the skill of asking questions must be nurtured first and practised,” says 31-year-old Kim Chongsatitwatana.
“One great way to practice this skill is science. That is why we’re doing so many science projects; it’s not to produce as many scientists as possible. We want Thai people to have a scientific mind,” says Kim.
Her mother challenged the norms of her time
A student activist in the 1970s, Kim’s mother, Suwadee, lived in the jungle with communists fleeing persecution, and returned with a conviction that social change could be created through education. Under her care, Nanmeebooks became one of the largest publishers in Thailand, specifically targeting children and young adults and with a focus on science.
As a young adult, she also questioned the status quo
“Even though I was motivated, I was a bit bitter. I questioned the injustice of the world, and why it was so unfair. Why is it like that? Why was it like this?” It weighed heavily upon her, particularly as a person who believed in social change.
“It was like I had two personalities, because no one knew I was seriously doubting the system inside,” she confides.
She found hope in Cambodia
One year, she travelled with World Service Team to southeast Cambodia, to a Christian orphanage in Kandal province. Amidst the recounting of Khmer Rouge regime abuses, in the most unexpected of places, Kim found hope. In many cases, there was not only hope, but happiness.
“There was a man who wanted to run for the position of village elder. He was telling us about his hopes and plans to be elected a village elder, so he can do this or do that. It woke me up. ‘Hey, stop feeling angry at everything. Who are you to question life when it is so precious and there’s so much that you can do?’ That was the turnaround point for my frame of mind,” she says.
The publishing industry is transforming
“Publishing is a changing industry. You can’t just be a publisher anymore… That’s why we talked a lot amongst our team and decided Nanmeebooks was going to reposition itself from just being a publisher to being a learning service provider.”
Actually, the company had been heading towards becoming a learning service provider for a few years, thanks to partnerships with outside organisations that saw Kim working with schools to create programmes, rather than merely supply learning materials. The shift away from being printed media-only is ironically a move back to the publisher’s original aim: to educate.
Striving for Meaning
“I see teachers’ frustration because Thailand puts so much focus on attainment, and not much on the effort or the process,” she explains. “A lot of times, kids sit in the classroom, listening to teachers, taking notes and memorising everything, learning to take tests. But what they learn is not meaningful.”
Photography: Vatcharasith Wichyanrat
Styling: Saranya Ariyakul
Makeup: Natalie Lorence
Hair Stylist: Narongsak Yiamlaengamkool
Venue: The Okura Prestige Bangkok