Fine Arts in Thailand: TVET Produces Skilled Goldsmiths
A sculpture of Thai Deva made by graduates of Kananapisek Royal Goldsmith College @UNESCO\S.Chaiyasook
The gold sculpture of Thai Deva decorated with gold jewelry and ornaments is a sophisticated piece of Thai fine arts that requires skills of an advanced craftsman to produce. Previously, only royal craftsmen had the opportunity to learn and work on these valuable handicrafts. With the opening of the Kanjanapisek Royal Goldsmith college, graduates of the four-year vocational education have proven that they could develop skills similar to that of royal goldsmith and produce masterpieces as well.
In ancient times, gold jewelry, ornaments and other gold decorative items were made mainly for the monarchical institution as only aristocrats and noblemen could afford to buy the raw materials (i.e. pure gold and precious stones) and to employ goldsmiths to work for them. Some of these old items are now being preserved as priceless antiques in royal museums at the Grand Palace with some being reproduced as souvenirs and export products from Thailand.
In response to the growing demand for skillful goldsmiths and jewelry craftsmen to work on conserving and promoting national arts and culture, the Kanjanapisek (Golden Jubilee) Royal Goldsmith College (KRGC) was established in 1995 at the Grand Palace, with support of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirinthorn, as a technical and vocational college under the Department of Vocational Education, Ministry of Education.
Following the success of KRGC, the KRGC Salaya Campus in Nakhon Pathom was established in 2002 with curricula for different levels (i.e. upper-secondary, post-secondary and undergraduate levels) for full-time students as well as part-time students in cooperation between public and private sectors.
Unlike the craftsmen in the past who had to learn by trial and error, taking many years if not their lifetime to become a skillful goldsmith, the students of KRGC can develop needed skills within a short period of school years by means of a well-designed curriculum and modern technology.
For example, in the four-year undergraduate programme, students study specialized subjects such as basic arts, Thai motif art, lapidary science, jewelry industry management; and get hands-on training in computerized jewelry design, jewelry fabricating, gemstones cutting and setting, metal welding and casting, etc. Before completing the course, they also have an opportunity to be an intern in a workplace and produce a masterpiece for their project realization.
On 29 May 2013, a UNESCO delegation including participants of Training Workshop on Education Policy Formulation and Monitoring visited KRGC, Salaya Campus. Ms. Nualanong Thumjaroen, the Director of the Campus, shared with the delegation her management experience in the College and expressed her satisfaction on the level of school-to-work integration as most of the graduates were employed right after they completed their study.
She also recalled difficult times when the costs of gold and gems were getting too expensive for the College to buy them for students' practice. KRGC had turned the crisis into opportunity by seeking cooperation with several gems and jewelry companies in order to develop special programmes that meet their needs for skilled manpower.
Selected students for this programme receive hands-on training and practice at the partner company in the course of their study at the College, during which students earn stipend. This programme has proven to be a win-win solution for the school, the students and the companies.
The experience of Kanjanapisek Royal Goldsmith College is one worth sharing. In developing technical and vocational education and training programmes that respond to the needs of employers and students, they also preserve and promote the rich tradition of Thai fine arts. With a suitable and relevant skills development in the arts, KRGC is preparing their students well for decent jobs as craftsmen and royal goldsmiths.
For more information, please contact Ratchakorn Kulsawet [r.kulsawet(at)unesco.org] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit.
credit by UNESCO