Vol. II No. 48 Saturday November 29 - December 5, 2003
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KIDS' CORNER
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Kids' Corner

Thailand’s funniest school events? Not quite ...

Thailand and Japan join forces in education programs

Prem student wins $60,000 college scholarship

Magic Pencil draws students

US education and Thailand’s knowledge base

Classical music in the garden

Changing sides at Wat Jed Yod

Kids' Corner

Marvin went to a ‘thanksgiving’ party last week and he had lots of fun. He didn’t know anything about this special event so I had to tell him all about it. I explained to him that a long time ago in 1620 a group of people decided to move from England and go to live in America. They sailed in a very famous boat called the ‘Mayflower’. It was a very long trip and many people died.

When they got to America they found it very difficult to build their houses and plant their crops. That’s when the friendly Indians came along to help them. They all became good friends and when the first crop was ready to harvest they had a big feast to celebrate their friendship. Every year the people in America remember this time and celebrate ‘thanksgiving’. They remember all of the things that they are thankful for and friends and families come together to have parties.

Have you ever been to a thanksgiving party? Write to Marvin and tell him about it. You can send your letters to:

Marg and Marvin

Chiangmai Mail

156-158 Im-boon Housing Estate

Muangsamut Road

T. Changmoi, A. Muang,

Chiang Mai 50300

Email: [email protected]

Fax: 053 234 145

JOKES

1) Why do turkeys go “gobble, gobble”?

2) How can you send a turkey through the post?

3) Why did the turkey cross the road?

4) Why was the turkey the drummer in the band?

ANSWERS

1) Because they haven’t got any table manners

2) Bird class mail

3) Because it was the chicken’s day off

4) Because he had the drumsticks

Bye from Marg and Marvin


Thailand’s funniest school events? Not quite ...

Security breaches normal nowadays

Sometimes, teenagers want to play a prank without thinking about or understanding the consequences. Everybody who’s been to school knows that, and teachers have most likely been in situations where they had to deal with pranks of their students. Some are harmless or funny and some are not at all. And no school is proud if it has to face one of those situations. In this case the Christian German School Chiang Mai (CDSC) had three students age 14 to 15 who wanted to try out their hacking skills on the school computer.

It started with two of the boys trying to get into the files of different members of the school until they succeeded to figure out one person’s password. As a consequence, a third teenager used the newly gained information from the other two and started to delete hundreds of files and pictures. The damage was done faster than any of them realized.

And it wasn’t too long before the teachers understood what happened and the protocol on the PC revealed some information as of who was in the computer room at what time.

Every school has its own way of dealing with such incidents. As a Christian school the CDSC believes in supporting the individual human being. It also means that nobody has to lose face if they slip and as Fred Hartmann, the school principal explains, “As Christians we are able to forgive.”

This is what the students had to say:

“We were very impressed by the way our school handled the incident. Even though our teachers knew who the involved parties were, they gave us time and allowed us to come forward ourselves and admit the wrong doing. Instead of severe punishment the teachers talked to us, something we didn’t expect. We appreciate very much how we were treated and we would like to apologize to the school for this breach of trust and also to the people who have been put through all the inconveniences that we have caused.”


Thailand and Japan join forces in education programs

November 19, 2003 was a happy day for many needy students as well as their parents. The Buddhist Association of Chiang Mai, the Council of Social Welfare, in cooperation with the Thai Hiroshima Friendship association under the patronage of His Majesty the King sponsored scholarships for 69 youngsters. This will take away the burden from the parents on how to save enough money to enable their kids to receive a normal education.

President of the Buddhist Association Chiang Mai, Supawat Poowakul watched over the ceremony at the Buddhist Center, when Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat handed out the scholarships, which are worth 3,000 baht each.

Students, teachers, sponsors, administrators, everybody assembled on stage for a group photo after the ceremony.


Prem student wins $60,000 college scholarship

Katherine Voll

Naomi Hossain, a twelfth grader at Prem Tinsulanonda International School, has recently been awarded the Rensselaer Medal, a scholarship given to students who have distinguished themselves in mathematics and science. The Rensselaer Medal is awarded by 2,000 schools throughout North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia and provides the recipient with $15,000 a year for four years should they choose to enroll in Rensselare Polytechnic Institute, a technical university in upstate New York.

Naomi Hossain, a twelfth grader at Prem Tinsulanonda International School, has been awarded the Rensselaer Medal, a scholarship given to students who have distinguished themselves in mathematics and science.

“I’m so excited about this scholarship. I really want to study environmental science, so this would be a great opportunity for me,” Naomi said. Naomi keeps very busy at Prem, not only excelling in her math and science classes, but also on the basketball court, where she plays point guard for the Prem girl’s team, and as a leader in the boarding community. Like many other Prem twelfth grade students, Naomi is currently going through the difficult college application process. “I’m still applying to several other schools in the States besides Rensselaer,” she added, “I want to keep my options open, but this scholarship has given me a lot of encouragement.”

Cheryl Keegan, the college guidance counselor at Prem is extremely proud of Naomi’s accomplishments and hopes Naomi will serve as an example for the rest of Prem’s year eleven and twelve students.

Each year, the college application process is becoming more competitive for international students. It is increasingly difficult for many students, not only to get accepted, but also to find funding sources to cover rising tuition costs. Cheryl Keegan, the college guidance counselor at Prem, acknowledges how difficult this process can be, but notes that there are several things schools like Prem can do to increase students’ chances of getting accepted to good schools. College fairs, such as the American college fair that Prem hosted several months ago, help not only to introduce students to different universities, but also to introduce university representatives to Chiang Mai international schools.

“Numerous admissions officers have visited Chiang Mai and the Prem campus this year to meet our students personally and to become familiar with our school and its curriculum. This personal connection is invaluable to students who feel they already have someone at the university looking after them,” Cheryl said.

A strong college counseling program plays an important role in any secondary school, but it may be even more important in an international school. “International students like Naomi often have quite specific needs and wants for their tertiary education. To this end, counselors in all the international schools in Chiang Mai are working hard to try to provide pathways for their students to reach the colleges where they will be happiest and most successful,” added Cheryl.

This March, Prem parents will be invited to an evening to launch the university search program for grade eleven students in which they will receive a comprehensive college booklet and will be given a presentation on financing university education. It is the first step in a long, exciting journey.

Cheryl is extremely proud of Naomi’s accomplishments and hopes Naomi will serve as an example for the rest of Prem’s year eleven and twelve students. The fact that Naomi has won this scholarship is especially significant because her class will be Prem’s first graduating class. “It is exciting as the college counselor to have such a scholarship offered to one of our very first graduating class,” Cheryl commented. In this sense, Naomi’s achievement is also Prem’s.


Magic Pencil draws students

Illustration workshop and exhibition held at Central Airport Plaza

Phisut Itsaracheewawat

The British Council, along with Chiang Mai Central Airport Plaza, held an illustration workshop and an exhibition titled the “Magic Pencil” designed for local students to enhance their drawing skills.

Director of the British Council, David Hopkinson, with Ajarn Somporn Rodboon from the Faculty of Fine Art at Chiang Mai University.

Magic Pencil was an exhibition that invited participants to discover how something as simple as a pencil can create many illustrations for stories, bring readers to magical places and stimulate imaginations to fly.

A workshop participant presents his picture to the rest of the group and Ajarn Chalit.

Many students came from schools in the upper northern region, such as Montfort College, and looked forward to enhancing their skills. “This workshop is very help ful so we came to learn some new techniques to strengthen our skills ... we can apply some of them for our own pictures in the future,” one student said.

The workshop was presented by Chalit Nakpawan, an art teacher and freelance writer.

Participants in Saturday’s workshop proudly display their work.


US education and Thailand’s knowledge base

The intellectual highlight of the US Education Expo 2003 held at the International Center of Chiang Mai University on November 18 was the VIP Roundtable Forum. Moderated by Dr. Damrongsak Bulyalert, chairman of ACE International, the discussion centered on the topic “Leveraging US Education for the Thai Knowledge Base: Perspectives and Synergies.”

Consul General of the US Eric Rubin and Asst. Prof. Dr. Nipon Tuwanon, president of CMU cut the ribbon to declare the US education fair open.

Eric Rubin, Consul General of the United States in Chiang Mai, delivered the keynote remarks. He argued passionately about the benefits accruing to individuals and Thai society as a whole through increased educational linkages and cross-border networking. He reiterated the statement made by Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State in the promotion of International Education Week.

Consul General Rubin emphasized that the networks of friends and colleagues made as a consequence of study in the United States, “promotes understanding and differences across cultures.” He suggested that such understanding, while not completely eradicating future conflicts, could nonetheless prove useful for meeting challenges. Mutually shared assumptions gained through exposure to similar ideas can make a positive difference, he suggested.

Alexei Waters during an interview with a Montfort College student. She and her classmates were obtaining information about academic programs at the US Consulate booth and the Institute for International Education’s booth.

The “War on Terror” has led to misperceptions about the availability of student visas for foreigners. According to Consul Rubin, the war has had “almost no effect on Thais getting student visas. We aren’t refusing more visas than we used to, especially since the application process is more computerized.”

What went unmentioned is whether studying in the United States predisposes graduates towards acceptance of American dominance in world affairs in the current era of America’s preeminence in military power, international politics, the world economy, culture and education.

The events in Chiang Mai were part of a global celebration of Education Week sponsored by the United States, Department of State from November 17-21. Students from high schools as well as different universities were eager to receive information.

The most personal comments were made by Dr. Numchai Thaupon, vice-president for planning and international affairs at Mae Jo University. He discussed the hardships he encountered when studying in America and offered poignant remarks about how they enlarged his perspective of the world. He became a better scholar and has used his knowledge to help raise standards at Mae Jo and promote Thailand’s intellectual development.

Although Dr. Numchai appropriated the clich้ that “one has to think globally and act locally,” he expanded on this sentiment with his incisive comments about how access to the best in basic science, life science, medical science and engineering “allows Thais to open their minds and develop critical thinking.” That’s because “many colleges in Thailand force students into rigid courses,” prematurely foreclosing advanced professional development.

Dr. Rux Prompalit, vice-president of finance at Payap University, suggested that one reason for the rapid expansion of international programs and increase in academic standards at Payap is that over two-thirds of Payap’s faculty with advanced degrees earned them in the United States.

Though at times sounding more like an extended advert for Payap, his comments reflected an increasing trend in global education. The adoption of the American model of undergraduate education with its combination of general education and core courses and major subjects and electives, is striking across Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Western Asia and South Asia. Payap has been a leader in Thailand in this regard.

Dr. Busabong Jamroendararasame, director of CMU’s International Center, emphasized that the university is attempting to expand its educational opportunities for Thai students. She emphasized that the International Center’s affiliation with ACE would provide an important cultural, social, and political bridge between the U.S. and Thailand.

The final speaker was Dr. Chalintorn Burian, director of Southeast Asia region for the Institute of International Education. In wide-ranging comments, she mentioned that American community colleges are viable low-cost alternatives for Thai students. She also lamented misperceptions Thais have about TOEFL scores. “Many Thais think that a high score on the test guarantees them admissions to American universities. High scores don’t. The admissions committee looks at many different things, such as geographic location, which can be an advantage for Thais since relatively fewer study in the U.S. compared with other Asians.”

According to Dr. Chalintorn, over 15,000 Thais studied in America in 1997, which has dropped significantly since the financial crisis. She contrasted the Thai trend with that of India, China and South Korea. In 2003, 74,000 Indian nationals, 64,000 Chinese nationals and 51,000 South Korean nationals studied at American educational institutions. She claimed that one reason for the downward trend among Thai students is that they have decided to “take the easy road,” by studying anywhere abroad that is inexpensive, regardless of quality.

We must “think carefully,” she said. “The U.S. will always be the leader. All the new and bright ideas will come from the U.S.,” she said with resounding vigor. She suggested that if civil society were to emerge as a permanent part of the national culture in Thailand, more Thai students will need exposure to America education since it is “the leader in civil society.”

Despite the intellectual solidity of the remarks, there were some notable lapses. There were no comments about whether an American education necessarily leads to a greater convergence of interest in trade and politics between the two countries. Nor was there any discussion about the problems associated with transplanting ideas learned in the U.S. into Thai social and political institutions. Indeed, at times, the comments echoed those of some prominent American public intellectuals whose triumphalist rhetoric often betrays contradictory historical outcomes.

Francis Fukuyama caused an international stir in his neo-Hegelian tract “The End of History and the Last Man” (1993). He claimed that the world was converging towards a liberal capitalist democratic order. There would be no new fundamental ideas as the decisive winner was clearly a new world order based on the American model. Yet, no sooner had his book become an international best-seller the world began fragmenting, sometimes in civil wars with religious and ethnic overtones as in the former Yugoslavia and in many parts of Sub-Sahara Africa.

While there is much convergence in the world economy due in part to the ways in which global trade is managed by transnational corporations; and from the contours of a tri-partite division of economic power (with the United States, a Germany-led European Union and a Japan-led East Asia), there are still great divergences in the organization of societies. Then there is the North-South divide in wealth and power that has a palpable effect on the dissemination of ideas across borders.

Though a roundtable discussion isn’t the best forum to discuss complex ideas, the role of education and the power of ideas to shape and remake the global order is worthy of consideration. Consider the work of the recently departed polymath Edward Said. In “Orientalism” (1979) and “Culture and Imperialism” (1993), Said persuasively argued that knowledge can just as easily be used to classify and control people as emancipate them. In painstaking historical analysis and clever literary investigation of submerged idioms of domination, he demonstrated the close connections between social theories, literature, colonialism and conquest.

It’s likely that exposure to such ideas may allow Thai students to reinterpret their country’s complicated modern history and current Thai-American bilateral trade relations and cultural exchanges in ways that are less celebratory than would one have gained from the roundtable discussion.

Also not discussed were more pragmatic issues such as how well returning Thai students accommodate themselves towards a more conservative work environment where personal initiative is not nearly as appreciated as teamwork and maintaining strict hierarchical boundaries of authority in decision-making. Thais armed with MBA degrees don’t always have a smooth transition into Thai-owned companies; and those with public policy degrees often find it difficult to convince more senior colleagues to adapt to new theories and technological tools for completing work assignments.

This is nothing peculiar to Thailand, however. In Japan, fast-track managers who are transferred to western countries to gain experience and advanced training are often viewed with suspicion upon their return. In South Korea, it’s not uncommon for tension to arise between workers and managers with American degrees and more polished English skills and their counterparts with degrees from Seoul National University, Korea’s most prestigious university.

Given all of these factors, one possible scenario is that Thailand could eventually face a brain-drain. Ambitious Thais with their American degrees may find the lure of much higher salaries, less political interference in their respective fields and fewer patronage networks to overcome more promising. It’s happening in China and many other countries. This is a situation that will likely gather more attention in the years ahead.


Classical music in the garden

Chin Ratitamkul

Contrary to some widely held opinions, classical music is not difficult to understand. Xavier Pitijet Vichitporn, the director of Baan Chulasai, who gave a solo flute performance at Baan Chulasai’s garden, explained that flute music is a different way of listening to classical music. “I believe that everyone can enjoy the classical music in a friendly atmosphere. That was the reason I held this program,” said Xavier.

Xavier Pitijet Vichitporn played his flute with zeal.

Anothai Pichaiyuth, a 4th year student from Chiang Mai University, one of the people attending the performance, said she previously thought that classical music was boring, but when she attended the garden party she changed her mind. “I think classical music is not too hard to understand, if we relax and just listen,” she said.

The next “Sunday Matinee Music In The Garden - Melodies for Flute” will be held on November 30 at Baan Chulasai at 3 p.m. by Xavier Pitijet Vichitporn. Call for reservations at telephone 053-273746. 10% of funds raised will be donated for scholarships for handicapped people to study at Baan Chulasai.

Ten percent of the funds raised are being used for scholarships for disabled students.


Changing sides at Wat Jed Yod

Cheryl Keegan

Walking along the wooden outside corridor of the small school supported by the monks beside Wat Jed Yod, I passed three classrooms where very small children sat, attention glued to teachers at the front of the room, while a buzz of excitement rippled through their ranks. I felt quite excited myself as the “teachers” were my Grade 11 students doing service work for their IB Diploma programme at Prem Tinsulanonda International School.

Teaching can be fun for teachers, too.

Books were passed along and tiny pupils opened them eagerly to see what was stuck in to do that day. They applied themselves carefully, copying or colouring or drawing what was required. Later, they were answering English questions and running helter-skelter to touch the correct word on the board, from a prompt in English.

The children’s response and their expectation of learning tells me that my students and their supervisors have upheld high standards in this teaching English programme which has been running on alternate weeks since August.

It was serious work but this kind of ‘learning for life’ gives students a lot of self-confidence.

At first, my Grade 11s were not sure they would be good teachers. It took only one visit to the school at Wat Jed Yod, however, to reassure them that they were very welcome and that were being useful to students and teachers alike. The welcome I saw them receive testifies to their efforts.

The second lessons of the afternoon were in the newly opened “senior” part of the school. Here I saw bigger students conversing with their Prem teachers and more than willing to take the chance to speak in the difficult language they were learning.

Young students learn a lot from the Prem ‘student teachers’.

Although it was near to going home time, there were no twitches or yawns, just fun and more fun as lessons finished with fun games of Simon Says or teams racing for points as they identified that day’s vocabulary words.

Perhaps my abiding memory of the programme though, is from one day back at Prem when the Grade 11s arrived back at school at 4:45 after teaching the little ones. One student, who had been struggling to feel she was doing a good job, came to me with a huge grin, eyes shining, and said, “Now today, we were real teachers!”

Fun games, teams racing for points while repeating the vocabulary ... everybody had and used a different method.




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