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Be Creative at Toa Tau Classes

Toa Tau (train carriage) is a small but special school located at 632 Dien Bien Phu, Binh Thanh District, HCMC.


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In one corner, a group of children arranges cubic boxes into a human skeleton and then draws on those boxes the human body. In another corner, a group of students discusses strange and new writeups by their friends while members of the Origami paper wrapping group share experience in creating a paper flower.


The atmosphere is friendly, pleasant and informal, making all students feel at home and therefore, they have the motivation to gain new knowledge in the most natural ways.


Outside theses classes, parents wait to pick up their kids. However, instead of spending time at coffee shops, these parents can freely register for some classes of their interest.


A man named Lam who has two kids taking classes at Toa Tau says: “Before coming here (Toa Tau), my son did not love painting at all, but ever since he took classes at the school, things have changed and he has been able to draw a painting about a world where there are only entertainment areas for children, while my daughter seems to be happier whenever she comes to Toa Tau.”


The school is named after the title of a story in the book “Totto-chan, the Little Girl at the Window” written by Japanese author Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, said painter Do Huu Chi, also known as But Chi (Pencil), one of three founders of Toa Tau.


Tetsuko Kuroyanagi told the story of herself – Totto, a little girl who studied at Tomoe elementary school, a special school which was built and developed by Principal Kobayashi Sosaku, who had introduced new activities to interest the pupils at special classrooms created from train carriages.


“Parents tend to expect too much from their kids and force them to study hard, study to become someone, study to do something, study to gain some achievement. Why do we have to do so? I think the first conditions for studying anything should be interest, happiness, creativeness, and independent thinking instead of reaching some goals which are set by someone,” says But Chi.


Phuong Huyen, translator of some renowned books for children and co-founder of Toa Tau, says classes that are held in an informal and friendly atmosphere will help set up connections between people, between people and society and more importantly, help learners find out themselves and find happiness when being freely creative.


Taking a look at the presentation course which includes six different titles, a parent who has a kid studying at Toa Tau says the course has been scientifically and carefully prepared.


The lecturer of this class is Nguyen Thu Thuy, who earned a doctorate degree at the University of Texas in Austin, the U.S., and her Bachelor of Engineering degree with First Class Honors from the University of Adelaide, Australia.


“The first thing which should be done is to equip each student with necessary soft skills so that they can feel confident and interested in their own stories. That is when they can use their stories to inspire others and create a connection with people,” said Thuy.


With different classes in various fields including painting, presentation, story-telling, photographing, and music, Toa Tau classes so far have attracted 350 students with most of them aged between 20-25.


The fee of a course lasting two weeks to one month for an adult ranges from VND1.5 million (US$70.4) to VND2 million and is VND5.5 million for a four-month course for a child.