Tuesday, August 28, 2007

College in Thailand

I'm almost done with my first (and, for the immediate future, last) semester of teaching college. I like it. It suits me far better than teaching kindergarten. I am fascinated by the English language, and the process of learning language, and I love the challenge of trying to help others master it. Or at least learn to pronounce words ending in "l."

I have realized that there is an entirely different expectation of college students here. I felt, as a college student, that I was an adult, and most of my instructors treated me as one. College students here are still treated like children most of the time. My boss addresses the students as "children" even though I have several students in their early 20s. They don't schedule their own classes; you pick a major, and the university tells you what you will take and when. They don't get homework, unless it's reading, because they "won't do it anyway." It's frustrating to be trying to finish material and run out of time, only to spend the next class period watching them complete a writing assignment they could do at home.

Teachers are accorded a tremendous amount of respect here. Students wai me in the halls (even if they're not my students, they know I'm a teacher because farangs do not just randomly wander the campus). They wai as they enter the classroom, they wai when they leave, they wai before accepting an assignment and they wai after turning in an assignment. It sometimes feels more obsequious than respectful, but that's probably because I'm farang.

At the more traditional of the two universities, the students all stand at the beginning of class and say "Good morning teacher, how are you today?" Then, at the end of the class, they all stand again and say "Thank you teacher, see you again next time." The students are also responsible for unlocking and locking the classroom and erasing the board. This university is very traditional, we don't even wear shoes in the classroom. One of my classes at KKU also does this, but the other two have stopped. I think they can tell it makes me a little uncomfortable.

Universities here also have a lot of control over their students' lives. Students aren't supposed to get married or have kids. I have a student who is married and has a daughter. If I wanted to "turn him in," I could get him kicked out of school just for that. I personally find this ridiculous, and I think a lot of Thais do too.

College students also wear uniforms to class. The boys wear pants, shirts and ties. The women wear skirts and blouses. You couldn't have paid me enough to wear a skirt and dress shoes everyday in college! But they do it, and they don't seem too bothered by it.

You know, I went to a school that told me I could only live in approved housing, and couldn't do a lot of things (drink, smoke, etc) and had a dress code. The thing is, I could choose to go to BYU or I could go to one of a million other schools where no one would care about my life beyond academics. These are government schools that control their students' lives, there isn't an alternative if you want an education.

I have a seperate rant about the curriculum I'm teaching but that will have to wait.

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