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A comedian who appreciates the value of lifelong learning

“Mum” is widely popular in Thailand.

Mum or Petchtai Wongkamlao is a veteran Thai comedian with more than 20 years’ experience. There is no need to elaborate on how successful and talented he is. However, not too many people know that Mum is actually a fierce champion of lifelong learning. Having finished the equivalent of Grade 6 from a non-formal education centre (Community Learning Centre or CLC), Mum is a proud product of the non-formal education system.

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When you were younger, why did you not want to study?

I was born into a middle-class family. We were not poor, but I was a lazy and stubborn boy who didn’t care about school and getting a good education. Now as an adult, I realize that it’s never too late to continue learning. For those who have never had a chance to study, CLCs offer various programmes that can enhance your knowledge and skills. The 21st century requires a different set of skills than in previous times. So if you wish to continue your studies, you can still do so. It is never too late for education. Education is for all ages.

What made decide to continue studying?

I usually have a lot of free time during the weekend. Time is precious and should not be wasted. As much as possible, we should attend classes or take courses to upgrade our skills for work. We should continuously acquire new knowledge.

At CLCs, there are now new learning methods that are very different from traditional ones. Moreover, it’s a good opportunity to meet new friends. It’s fun!

For my Bachelor’s Degree, I am keen to take up law because I like law and reading. Recently I received an honorary Master’s Degree from the Faculty of Humanities (Mass Communication) of Ramkhamhaeng University. Given the chance, I would certainly go to university and study law.

How do you apply the knowledge you acquired from the CLC to your everyday life?

I apply what I’ve learnt to my work as a comedian. In my profession, it’s useful to know how to concretely apply the skills you learnt from school or CLC to the context of work. For a comedian, constant studying is vital to improve your craft.

Can you elaborate on this further? Many people might be wondering why it is necessary for a highly successful person like you to continue learning and consistently develop your skills.

Everyone must keep learning and improving. We must never be complacent and think that we are already experts in what we do. Those who think that they already know everything are silly.

The world is rapidly changing. Knowledge from previous decades may no longer be relevant in the next decade. The skills requirements of the future will be very different.

Given your age, did you feel ashamed to study in non-formal education system?

Some people may feel ashamed, but studying is not a shameful thing. If you are taking classes, you learn various skills. You meet new friends of all ages and backgrounds. Attending a CLC gives you the chance to share knowledge and experience with others. You will learn a great deal from the diverse experiences of your peers.

Can you give some advice to people who are feeling discouraged?

I always tell myself that if you are faced with a problem, don’t run away from it. You must face your problem, analyze it well and develop suitable strategies to resolve it.

For example, many people say that they don’t have enough time to attend classes. However, it is impossible for you to not have any free time in a week. At the end of the day, it all depends on your level of commitment.  CLCs provide flexible timetables for part-time learners and you can choose to attend either morning or evening classes. It’s really not that difficult.

Some people may think that they are too old to learn. Many who have already found good jobs and made enough money see no value in furthering their education. These people have no interest in self-improvement and personal development.

For those who are losing hope, my advice is for you to not waste time. Attend classes, take courses and meet new friends. It‘s fun! You will definitely gain many new experiences and enhance your knowledge and skills in the process.

What advice can you give to non-formal education learners?

I would like you to focus on your studies. Be thankful that you have this opportunity to study. Don’t go to class just for the sake of getting the certificate. Don’t do it just for fun. Please take your classes seriously because it is not a game. Education is a critical part of your life.

As I keep reiterating, it is never too late to learn. Some people graduate from CLCs at 60 years old. Education is good for you.

By Rojana Manowalailao and Panisara Paireepinath, UNESCO Bangkok

UNESCO Bangkok is implementing the ‘Youth Empowerment through Mobile Learning’ project in collaboration with the Office of the Non-Formal and Informal Education, Ministry of Education, Thailand to encourage youth, especially students in Non-Formal Education to build self-motivation and essential life skills, gain competencies, purpose in life and internal peace, and to introduce to them the concept of lifelong learning. 

UNESCO has been sending SMS messages in Thai language following last year’s workshop on Hopes and Needs of Youth in Thailand to over 100 Non-Formal Education students in Bangkok and Chiang Rai. A youth network has been created in Facebook. The fan page called ‘Youth Empowerment in Thailand’ and the Youth Empowerment Group were built as a platform for youth to find useful information, clips on life skills and inspirational quotes, welcoming all comments and exchange of ideas. The page is maintained in both Thai and English. There are now more than 1,500 Youth Empowerment fan pages that receive text messages daily. 

Facebook page: Youth Empowerment in Thailand

For more information, please contact Sowirin Chuanprapun (s.chuanprapun[at]