Op Ed

Authentic Teaching – OpEd

Authentic Teaching leads to authentic learning, the Twin Supports of

Student Centered Learning by Peter J.  Foley, Ed.D


This month’s featured article about authentic learning got me thinking about authentic teaching. It occurred to me that both authentic teaching and authentic learning are joined at the hips, both being legs that student centered learning stands on.

It all boils down to a problem we all find hard to pin down: how can we define authentic teaching , that is , real teaching and not just going through the motions.  It is tempting to reply in a similar fashion as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who struggled to define pornography and finally said: “I cannot define it , but I know it when I see it.”

That response is not adequate for educators who must make a judgment on teachers’ job performance.  In an article I wrote in 2012 and is found in the SCLThailand archive , I attempted to give educators a comprehensive quantifiable teacher performance instrument.  An alternative description of what constitutes good teaching is provided on a qualitative basis in Teaching As Leadership by Steven Farr, Teach for America. The following is Farr’s list of the core principles of effective teaching:

  1. Set big goals:   that are ambitious, measureable, and meaningful for their students.
  2. Invest students and families: so all work to achieve these ambitious goals
  3. Plan purposefully: focus on how success will be defined,  path to student growth
  4. Execute effectively: monitor progress and adjust course to contribute to learning
  5. Continuously increase effectiveness: reflect critically on student progress
  6. Work relentlessly: to overcome obstacles to student learning*

Of course, the devil is in the details.  Nevertheless, if teachers keep these general principles in their minds and hearts their teaching will be more authentic and consequently their students’  learning will be more authentic.

N.B. Teach for America has expanded to other countries.  Experts from Teach from America are currently in Thailand for the startup of Teach for Thailand.  Teach for Thailand will be holding a training program for talented Thai college graduates who want to make a contribution to Thailand as new teachers who bring passion and a love of learning to the teaching experience.   See  the Job Opportunities menu on SCLThailand for more information about Teach for Thailand.   *Farr, Steven.  Teaching As Leadership  2010.  page 33.


articles Op Ed

In Education, what do we mean by success?

This month we are pleased to present an article by Mr Wichian Chaiyabang, Headmaster of Lamplaimat Patana School [LPMP] in Buriram province, Thailand.

This school provides a shining light on student centered learning and how a school where “thinking outside the education box” is the norm for all that happens in there. Under Wichian’s leadership, the LPMP team of educators is making a major contribution to the way Thai teachers teach, and the way Thai schools operate. LPMP has become a leading provider of professional learning programs for teachers from all parts of Thailand, through the programs it runs every week of the school year.

Many of those who have attended these professional learning workshops carry the message of educational change and the practical advice on how to do it, back to their own schools where they inevitably have an impact in their own classrooms and, if the conditions are right, they have an impact on a school wide basis. Throughout Thailand there are more schools similar to LPMP springing up. Like LPMP, they are small private schools, but they charge no fees, as they rely does on generating their own funding through donations and their own entrepreneurial activities.

In his article, Wichian addresses some important questions associated with measuring educational success. He argues that success in education is about educators seeing that each child is equipped according to his or her capacity and is able to lead a life of value and contentment.”

I am sure there would be not much opposition for that proposition from thinking educators, but in this Information Age, there is evidence that schools and systems still want to push the acquisition of knowledge as one of the big priorities, and along with this they seek to develop in students the capacity to respond to knowledge seeking questions in examinations and tests which seem to be the norm for judging students’ success at school.

I am reminded of something John Lennon said of his own education; when he was in Year 6 at his Liverpool primary school, John’s his teacher set a task for the children to write, which was a short essay on the topic “What I want to be when I grow up”.

As the children wrote, the teacher wandered around the room looking at what they were writing. When she came to the Lennon, the future musical genius, she saw what he wrote ….he had written When I grow up, I want to be happy” The teacher responded, “You don’t understand the question” Lennon responded immediately, “You don’t understand life”.

I do not know what mark he received for his short piece of work, but I am sure what he had written would have brought him a high score from teachers at LPMP and I would have given him a 10/10; we would have followed with frequent discussion the question on how does one achieve a life of happiness, and what does this mean anyway?  A discussion which should be frequent in classrooms; in his article, Wichian touches on the deeper aspects of how we judge success.

In his third book, Outliers: the Story of Success [published by Little, Brown and Company on November, 2008], Malcolm Gladwell, the Canadian – English author, journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, examines the factors that lead to high levels of success in many fields of endeavour including sport, business and education.

In Outliers, Gladwell poses questions to try to determine how much individual potential is ignored by society. The book has been translated into Thai and is recommended reading for all school teachers.

Another important book on this topic is Paul Tough’s 2008 book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, [published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008 and 2012. This is an excellent study on the types of things that are mentioned in this month’s feature article. Tough argues that the story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions tests, and senior high school exam to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed, the author argues that the qualities that matter most for success have more to do with character; skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

These are some of the things that teachers can help develop in those they teach.

I hope you all enjoy Khun Wichian’s article which has been provided in both English and Thai.

Greg Cairnduff, March, 2014


The Author of this month’s feature, Khun Wichian Chaiyabang.

Wichian is Headmaster and Education Manager at Lamplaimat Pattana School, located in Buriram province, north-eastern Thailand.

He leads the school in the provision of professional learning programs for schools throughout Thailand and is frequently to speak at conferences, universities and other forums.

Wichian is also a prolific author, having written a wide range of fiction and non – fiction books as shown below.


Children’s Literature

“The King on Green Planet” (2005)

“The Boy and the Star” (2006)

“Starfish on the Beach” (2006)

“Everyone Dreams of Being That” (2011)

“The Proud Turtle” (2013)

Short Story Collection

“One Morning before the End of the World” (2006)

Young Adult Literature

“Wind and Prairie” (2008)

–  Outstanding Book, 2009 National Book Week Award

–   Outstanding Book, 2011 Seven Book Award

“Go Ahead and Pray to the Green Fairy” (2009)

–   Outstanding Book, 2011 Seven Book Award

Academic Publications

“School Outside-the-Box” (2008)

“Man on the Tree:  Management and Leadership” (2009)

“Education Miracle (at School Outside-the-Box)” (2011)

“Spiritual Studies and Nurturing Inner Wisdom” (2011

Op Ed

English Learning

This month’s article urges English learners to watch movies with sub-titles in order to learn the English language.

This was one of the four suggestions I presented to seniors recently in a meeting at the Social Science Department of Srinakarinwirot University here in Bangkok.

Here are the four hints to English learning I gave the students:

1 Speak slowly:  this helps enormously in not only helping the listener decipher what you are saying, but it also draws your awareness to how you are using your mouth and tongue to pronounce words.  You are also more aware of the structure of the sentence you are forming.


2 Carry a small notebook around and jot down words you don’t know or are unsure about.  Look those words up as soon as you can, perhaps also looking the words up in your IPod or smart   phone English-Thai dictionary, if you are fortunate enough to own such a phone.

Cognitive research confirms that we learn language much faster when we have a context to draw from. Thus, you will remember the words you are jotting down and reviewing later much faster because you will remember the context in which the new word was used.


3.    Watch videos, movies and TV shows.  This month’s author’s suggests this, he recommends that it is best to watch the movies with subtitles in your native language.  Again, this makes sense in terms of cognitive science research which tells us that the way we learn is by association.  In this case, putting the sound of English with the meaning in your own language.


4 Make friends with English speakers.  This seems so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning, except that many people are too self-conscious or shy to use their English with a foreigner.  This seems especially true here in Thailand.  This is a big mistake of course, since the very best way to learn to speak English is with a native speaker who can encourage you and most importantly, you are learning from the actual context of your dialogue with the native speaker.


5 Some students learn English through music.   They memorize songs and learn the meaning of the words.  This will help, but try the four suggestions above and you will soon be on the road to fluency.  Language learning is all about the snowball effect. Keep the snowball rolling down the hill collecting more and more snow (actually, the metaphor here is more and more English vocabulary) and before you know it, you will start understanding conversations, movies, and songs in English.


Remember, your keys to language learning are grammatical structure and vocabulary.  If you build your vocabulary to 1,500 common words you will understand most conversations. If you learn 2,500 most common words you will be able to communicate effectively.  A native speaker uses about a 3,000 word vocabulary regularly.  So, put your notebook in your pocket and take it out often to jot down new words.  Go to a movie with sub-titles with your new English- speaking friend.  Oh, and don’t forget to speak S-L-O-W-L-Y!

Op Ed

Planning for Professional Improvement

Greg Cairnduff, M Ed, BA, Dip Ed, MACE, Deputy Managing Editor

16 January 2014

On behalf of all associated with our website , I wish all of our readers and followers a very happy New Year for BE 2557 or 2014 AD. In the Chinese Zodiac this is the Year of the Horse. The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – to make unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as ‘Qianli Ma’, a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).

This ethos of unremitting efforts to improve is highly relevant to educators not only in Thailand but universally.

We wish all educators a great year ahead and we wish them great perservence, and resilience in facing the challenge to improve their teaching and learning processes whether in the classroom; in school administration, or leadership of schools and systems.

The start of any new calendar year is of course a time for making “New Year Resolutions” it is the time when we can set personal goals for ourselves and during the year we try to reach these goals.

In my country, Australia, the school year starts quite soon – in most parts of the country, the school year opens at the end of January or in the first week of February. But here in the northern hemisphere, the school year begins during the calendar year, so Thai schools will have been operating on their current school year for some months now. But this should not prevent teachers from making New Year resolutions about the improvements they will try to achieve in the year of 2557.

I challenge all teachers to respond to these simple questions about their own professional growth:

• Do you have a professional growth plan for this year [either for the school year or the calendar year]?
• What targets have you set yourself for improvement in teaching and learning?
• What support are you receiving to achieve the targets you have set yourself?
• If you have a professional growth plan – have you looked at it lately to see what progress you are making with the professional growth targets you set for yourself?
• If you have no plan will you make one?

If you need help with developing a Professional Growth Plan, please contact us at SCLT and we will provide on line assistance for drawing up a plan. It’s not a difficult or time consuming process.

It is very important to the development of the Thai education system that all individual teacher and administrators have such a plan so that all incremental improvements contribute to the improvement of the national education system.
It is a fundamental professional duty of all educators the commit themselves to ongoing professional improvement. Even the Year of the Horse stands for this.
We trust all will have a great year in their particular contribution to the education of young Thais.

This month, two of our regular contributors, Dr Don Jordan and Ms Ellen Cornish provide an excellent article on differentiation of teaching by looking at different ways text books can be used and how one text may be used in many different ways so that different learning styles and stage of learning can be taken into account by the teacher. They
provide examples of how this can be done with text books.

Differentiation of learning is critical in the student centred class room. It is also something many teachers find quite hard to do effectively. I urge classroom teachers to take up some of the plans provided by Don and Ellen.

Warm regards for this New Year

Greg Cairnduff, January 2014
Greg is Director of the Australian International School of Bangkok

Op Ed

Diversity and the King’s birthday

By Dr. Peter J. Foley, editor-in-chief


Tomorrow is the King of Thailand’s birthday. It is altogether fitting that this month’s article is a call to honor Thailand’s diversity and institute wide-spread bilingual education throughout the Kingdom. King Bhumbol Adulyadej, Rama IX,  has spent his life promoting and protecting cultural diversity in Thailand, particularly minority rights.  What the King has always understood is that in our sameness we connect and in our differences we grow.  His Majesty has also understood clearly that the road to peace and prosperity starts with the acceptance and respect for one another’s cultures, religions and languages.


In this month’s article the author is a Moslem whose mother tongue is Jawi.  His article is a call for bilingual education for the minorities of Thailand.  The author, Ajan Bandhit, makes the telling point that teaching reading awareness in one’s mother tongue at the early ages of 3 to 5 years old makes a huge difference as to whether a child will learn to read well. This fact has been well demonstrated in educational research over the last decade.  But less explicitly, the author also makes the subtle point that a lack of formal recognition of the language of minorities causes even more damage than we first might realize. Not just that generation after generations in the south is unable to compete academically as well as Thai native speaking children.  Not just that this lack of competitiveness in Thai education limits the role of Muslim youth in the Thai job market and steers thousands to jobs in Malaysia and the Middle East.


No, what I think is implied in Ajan Bandhit’s article but not stated outright is that if we are to see real peace come to the south of Thailand we need to start by honoring the culture, religion and language of the south .We can start with bilingual education in the public schools.

It is the King’s birthday tomorrow.  Can we not honor him by accepting one another’s differences and thus grow.  Will this not result in the peace and prosperity we all want for Thailand?


Op Ed

Back to basics? ….. No, we cannot go there

Greg Cairnduff, M Ed, BA, Dip Ed, MACE, Deputy Managing Editor

3 November 2013

I have been involved with education long enough to remember what it was like in the days before the Information Age, the era prior to Information and Communication Technologies becoming pervasive in our lives.

Around the world, people’s daily lives are affected by computer technology in one way or another. I was recently told that the Sherpa guides on the high peaks of the Himalayas are able to keep in touch with their families on a daily basis though the use of satellite phones and it’s not hard to find thousands of seemingly incongruous examples of the IT being part of everyday life. Here in Thailand we see monks on their morning alms walks, using smart phones, or on any visit to the hill tribes of the north, the visitor will the satellite discs dotted throughout the village bringing worldwide television into the lives of the tribesmen.

I don’t think anyone would argue with that assertion.

Universal use of ICTs has changed our world. But what about education in the 21st Century? Has it changed? Have the students changed? Have the teachers changed?

Concomitant questions could be:  Has education changed too much? Are changes in students helpful to society and to the students as individuals? Do teachers actually need to change? How can student, school, and national educational performance stand the demands for constant improvement?

These questions make for interesting debate in our society, not just among educators, but among the whole community, interestingly, they are questions that are constantly debated in countries at all levels of economic development.

Here in Thailand educational issues are always evident in the news media,  but the same is true of the news media in Australia, and on a recent visit to the United Kingdom, I was an avid follower of the debate about what is being done to lift educational performance …. “ As Ofsted pointed out, if you are a poor child going to school in some parts of Britain, you’re less likely to do well than poor children, here in Tower Hamlets”[i]  Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg reported in the Evening Standard on 24th October, talking about the success of the London Challenge, a project to get neighbouring schools to work together to push up standards.  

What has this got to do with my opening statement which essentially says “I have been around education long enough to remember what education was like before ICTs changed the world”.  In the 1970s educational policy makers knew the  advent of the Information Age would irrevocably change education, but they were gazing into a crystal ball when trying to predict what life would be like in the 21st Century. They could not have known or truly understood the challenges of change that ICTs would bring to teaching and learning. I can clearly remember a curriculum innovation of the late 1970s in Australia …. It was called “Leisure Education” the hypothesis being that computer technology would endow society with much more leisure time.

Was the hypothesis right?

It is true that there have been massive changes in the nature of work and ICTs have eliminated many mundane labour intensive jobs, but what people having more leisure? Have ICTs brought shorter working days ? Longer holidays? I would not be too sure about that. But we can be sure that they have changed the nature of the way people work and live in the 21st century.

So what has all of this to do with “going back to Basics” or expressed another way, going back to the three time worn fundamentals of education around the world, commonly and colloquially called the “three Rs” that is, reading, writing and arithmetic.

Among the national education debates referred to above there are calls to “go back to the basics” because children cannot read as well, write as fluently, or calculate as well as in the era prior to the Information Age and ICTs are made the scapegoats for such problems.

We should never go back to the “3 Rs” as the basics of education, we cannot, because the world is not the same as the 70s that I referred to above. The crystal ball did not and could not, convey to educational planners the enormous impact of technologies on people’s lives. The kinds of employment and life opportunities that young people face in the 21st Century are immeasurably different  from those of their grandparents and even their parents’ generation. The lamentations heard in the community and the media [in Thailand anyway] are often about the lack of English language among the community, the lack of mental agility with numeracy, the poor grammar and spelling that they have in their native language.

The cries for a return to the “basics” simply do not reflect that the world has moved on.

A large body of research into how changing times and new technologies  require new literacies, informs a much broader approach to teaching and learning in schools.

Commentators on this website have praised the Thai government for its “one tablet per child” program. The introduction of such a universal program, recognises the need for education in Thailand to become oriented to the needs of students and the nation in the 21st Century.

This does not mean that reading and writing have been abandoned, it means that reading and writing are expanded beyond the limited literacy of printed books and paper to a more diverse range of texts using ICTS.

The 3 Rs will not help students use computers efficiently, search the internet, access electronic information and then analyse and synthesise that information.

The “back to basics” approach will not help prepare young people for an uncertain changing world where those qualities quoted in Paul Tough’s book,  How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character[ii] such as adaptability to change, resilience, determination and perseverance , are more important than whether they can use cursive hand writing or recite the times tables.

The back to basics calls are probably as wrong as the 70s calls for “education for leisure “ courses.

None of this is to say that ICTs have made the job of teachers easier – they have made the teacher’s work much more complex.

This month’s article provides an interesting discussion of the impact of ICTs on learning to read. We hope you will find this article stimulating.

[i] Evening Standard, London, 24 October 2013, p12

[ii] Tough, P ,  How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York 2012

Op Ed


By Peter J. Foley, Ed.D, editor and chief

Student Centered Learning Thailand has always supported giving all Thai school children tablets to help them learn. Let’s look at some of the arguments on both sides.

The tablet is a useful learning tool for teachers; it is not a substitute for a teacher. What we are advocating for is what noted education philanthropist Eli Broad calls blended learning. By blended learning we mean using the best information and communication technology coupled with good teaching. The better the technology we use and the better the teacher is, the better the learning results will be.

There is a strong argument, however, that we really don’t need the latest and best technology in the classroom.  A good teacher is enough. And we know from extensive research that the single most important factor by far in getting good learning results rests with the teacher. The problem with this argument is it ignores the 21st century digital world we live in, a world where almost all literate people use digital technology to communicate
and to learn.

Initial learning results in Thailand where the tablet has been handed out to primary students and used by their teachers is good. Measurements of children using the computers has shown marked progress especially in Klong Toey in Bangkok.  Nevertheless, the jury is still out. Much depends on how the tablet and other technologies are used, what the content in the tablet is and how well the tablets will be used by the teachers. What we hope is that the tablet will be developed as a personalized learning tool so that the curriculum can be configured with the help of the teacher so each student can go at his or her own learning pace.

The teacher’s job, therefore, is not to dispense knowledge, but rather to help a child learn at his own pace. In sum, how well students will respond to learning using tablets as a tool will depend on how well the teacher is trained to use the tablet and how well the learning material is presented in the tablet

So this speaks to the need to have teachers thoroughly trained in how to use the tablet and use it to meet the individual needs of his or her students. There are many new programs that enable a teacher to monitor each student and also to organize learning activities for students on the same learning levels.  Without a teacher training program that is thorough in the use of the tablet, the risk of failure in using the tablet is substantial.

Secondly, we need the best minds designing the programs in order to hold the interest of students and move the students to use critical thinking in solving presented learning challenges and problems.  In short the tablet should not be used as just a machine to learn rote facts and figures.

What is exciting is that a well planned programing of the tablet can make the tablet an excellent and exciting guide through Thailand’s core curriculum for teachers, parents and students. Moreover, the programing can be carefully designed so it can be adjusted to fit every child’s need and level of learning.

For those of us who are strong advocates of student centered learning, the tablet can be a powerful tool in giving the teacher immediate feedback as to each individual’s mastery of a particular math or verbal skill.  It can enable a teacher to become a coach and mentor.  In using the tablets student work can be display on the teacher’s master tablet so that formative assessments of each member of the class can be made quickly and individual or group help on a particular problem in learning can be given.  Summative assesments can be quickly organized and calculated too so that scores on quizzes or test can be organized into reports for administrators and parents.

One major concern of those who are wary of bringing tablets into the class room is highlighted in studies conducted by Larry Rosen, a research psychologist at California
State University. His studies show that pre-teenagers and young adults focus for no more than five minutes before becoming distracted. Professor Rosen said that technology tends to overstimulate your brain. This over activation of the brain disturbs sleep cycles that prevent the mind from going into Default Mode Network (DMN) which is the higly creative state that happens between waking and sleep. Simply put, overuse of the tablet can be counterproductive.

There is the counter argument, however.  The tablet can be an effective tool that allow for a quick segue to another subject or problem or activity once the students are distracted and no longer concentrating on a particular activity.

Then there are those who decry the cost of the tablets at 3,000 to as much as 6,000 baht per tablet.  This argument of too high a cost pales when we measure the printing costs of the Ministry of Education for students throughout the Kingdom of Thailand.  Students no longer have to keep track of books for seven different subjects. Suffice to say that over a 1000 books can be kept on one tablet.

The big challenge is for teachers and educators to keep up with technology.  Thai youth are already enmeshed in technology to the point where mindless gaming has become a national problem.  The challenge for teachers and parents is to move the technology to real learning and making it fun.

Op Ed

Do we place too much importance on international test data?

In the course of my work, I meet many people who are deeply interested in education.

Interest in education is a universal one, as people recognise its vital importance to society as a whole. It is well recognised that most people more than an interest in education; they have opinions and views about it. One only has to look at elections in counties around the world – all parties have their education platforms, looking back over time, it is education that has brought about the huge social and economic reforms, while these are not the only factors of great change they are two factors which can arguably make the biggest difference to the lives of human beings. That is why education is never far from the front pages of most newspapers or form the headlines of the electronic media, that is why nations around the world work hard to improve the quality of their educations systems and why they strive to enhance international perceptions of their performance in international tests which compare national performance [PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS being among these testing regimes]

This website has frequently referred to the vast body of research evidence which clearly points to which the most important significant element in the achievement of high educational performance for individual students, schools, and school systems.

This element is evident not only in the research data but also in our own personal journeys in school education. If you ask any person about whom they count as their best teacher or best teachers in their school life, they will quickly identity them. If you follow this up with a question about what it was about those people that made them the best teachers of the person being asked the question, you will get a personal response about what makes s good teacher.

I have asked these two questions of many people, probably hundreds. It is easy to predict what they will say. What responses do they give? First, let me mention what they do not say – almost without exception, they will not say things which directly relate to a learning skill or a mastery milestone. They will not say “because they taught me to read” or “they helped me understand algebra” and so on. What the respondents will invariably say is something about their qualities as people and as teachers, such as “they seemed to know and understand me”; “they made learning exciting”; “they loved their work as a teacher” and so on it goes.

I urge our readers to try asking these two questions to their friends. I will be surprised if the responses you get are much different from the ones mentioned above.

The worrying thing for those who want to improve education is why people cannot think of many teachers to rank among their highest performers.
Do nations place too much evidence on high performance as indicated in the international tests? I am sure at SCLT we would say that what is needed is a balanced approach. By this I mean that nations have their own strengths in their education systems which are not tested by the well known international bench marking tests. It’s good to recognise that some systems do well in teaching reading, Mathematics and Science and it’s good to try to learn something from them, but it is impossible to clone the cultural, social and economic conditions of one country for another. The emphasis ought to be on what can reasonably expected of a school or a system in bringing about improvement based on its own context.

I thought about this a lot during a recent visit to a national exhibition of 2000 Depart of Local Administration schools from around Thailand. As I approached the largest exhibition centre in Thailand I was surprised by the crowds of people that were moving towards the exhibition hall. When I entered the hall my eyes opened at the extent and quality of the exhibitions of these schools. There was art, music, and cultural craft being made by primary and secondary students from all corners of the nation. Alongside the traditional was the contemporary, with students working on robotic models. But my thought was this – what a shame that the international tests do not cover such things as the learning that was going on in these schools and in this form and what a shame that there is no international measure of cultural pride that enables these skills to pass from generation to generation. This pride and these skills were on show here and excellent learning was taking place.

This is why nations should not be over focused on the international comparisons. After all, who really cares who wins the most medals at the Olympic Games? Nations do care though, that they send a team to compete, no matter how large or small the team, and no matter how many medals they take home.

Our job as teachers is to teach as well as we can, learning from assessment experts and use this knowledge to improve student performance in our own classrooms and schools.

In this month’s edition two of our regular contributors, Dr Don Jordan and Ms Ellen Cornish provide an excellent article on student self assessment. I urge our readers to read the article and try some of the processes of student self assessment suggested by the authors.

Greg Cairnduff
Greg is Director of the Australian International School of Bangkok

Op Ed

Homage to the King of Thailand

Homage to the King of Thailand on our 2nd Anniversary

by Peter J. Foley, Ed.D., editor-in-chief
July 2013 marks the 2nd anniversary of the founding of the educational web site, “Student Centered Learning Thailand”. 
When the web site was conceived, we had the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand very much in mind.  The King is a life – long learner par excellence.  He is also a great teacher, and his many humanitarian projects for the people of Thailand have also been learning experiences for the nation.  His lessons through projects involving irrigation and flood control and introducing new agricultural methods and crops come quickly to mind.
But it is the spiritual core of student centered learning that the King exemplifies most profoundly.
Compassion is the essential ingredient for a successful teacher in a student centered classroom.  Every student in such a classroom must receive equal attention and care.  The desire of the teacher must be that every child in the classroom succeeds in learning.
Throughout his reign the King of Thailand has emphasized that he cares for all his countrymen and wants all to succeed.   He has paid particular attention to those who are the poorest and neediest.
We mark our 2nd anniversary by paying homage to King Bhumibol Adulyadej which proclaim on the opening page of the website by stating–
We at SCLThailand will continue to be inspired by this great teacher and great King.
Peter J. Foley, Ed.D.

Op Ed

Why Girls’ Education is Important

 Why Girls’ Education is Important

By Peter J. Foley, Ed.D.

Muslim extremists are determined to prevent the majority of Muslims to continue to participate in modern life.  The 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 symbolized Al Queda’s hatred of Western capitalism and a modern culture that extremists view as moving away from Muslim religious traditions and practice. A decade later the Taliban attack on a Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot in the head by Taliban while riding on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat was meant as a warning to all Muslims that it was wrong for girls’ to seek a modern education.

The day to day struggle of whether the future world of 1.6 billion Moslems will continue to be centered on education, particularly girls’ education is being played out in daily violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Extremists such as the Taliban found both in Pakistan and Afghanistan are aware that economic development leading to competition in global market must include girls to be successful.

The struggle between nation states who are determined to enter the global markets to prosper and the Muslim extremists who want to establish a Moslem state governed by sharia law will be determined in the arena of girls’ education.

The Womanity Foundation has developed models of how girls’ education can be delivered successfully—even in areas where the Taliban has influence.

During an assessment of girl’s schools in Afghanistan in March of 2013 sponsored by the Womanity Foundation, I interviewed student councils at all four of the girls schools I visited.  Forming student councils that are given considerable responsibility for making sure the school runs properly is part of a set of components the Humanity Foundation insists must be in place in order for a girls’ school to receive foundation support. At first it was difficult to believe that the student councils had done so much to improve their schools. These girls were empowered to take action and they did.  They formed committees and tackled problems ranging from getting girls who had dropped out of school to come back; making the school green by planning flowers and trees; inviting the local Mullahs to come to discuss girls’ education through the reading of the Hadiths; helping to solve the lack of classroom space, tutoring younger children who were falling behind in their reading and setting up a teacher evaluation system that made sure teachers were qualified in the subjects they were teaching. These girls in rural communities in Afghanistan were empowered and they showed astounding maturity and ability to take on major responsibilities in helping to run their schools.

When I interviewed these girls they were direct in their answers. They were determined to help their communities. They also were determined to go as far as they could in their education. Most wanted to go on to the university in Kabul . For financial reasons that would be impossible for most since the scholarships provided by the Womanity Foundation were necessarily limited due to budget constraints. In each group there were obvious student leaders who spoke when I posed a particularly difficult question. These young women had poise and leadership skill far, far beyond their teenage years.

Most of the female student leaders were 14 to 17 years old.  Most would be married and have children soon. Most were already promised to a boy in their village or a nearby village. As a teenager they would be soon taking on the responsibility of being a mother and running a household. These students spoke of the confidence an education has given them.

Can these young, educated Afghan teenagers in rural areas be the hope of their nation? Is girls’ education that important?

I was surprised at the answer to this question I got from a group of ten men that represented the parent teachers’ Association of a girls school in an area that has a substantial Taliban presence located about a three hour drive from Kabul.

I asked why these parents wanted their sons to be married to educated girls.  Was not the culture in Afghanistan to prefer that girls not be educated so they would devote themselves to housekeeping and motherhood?

“Yes, those are the old ideas.  However, we want our daughters to be educated,” they said vehemently.  “How can we hope to have our society grow when the mothers of our children cannot teach our children properly?  How can we expect our community to prosper when our women remain ignorant, cannot read and cannot help their husbands solve family and life problems? “

“Understand”, one of the leaders of the parent teachers group said by way of summary, “ we are a poor, agricultural community. Our resources are few. I want my boys to marry educated girls. It is the only hope we have of building our community. It is the only way we will have to build a future for other generations in this mountain area. We are running out of land. We need new ideas. “

Modern social research confirms what these bearded, pious Muslim men from the mountains averred to be about the importance of girls’ education. For illustration, the ability of a mother to read makes it 50% more likely that her child will survive past the age of five. Furthermore, women being able to read also strongly correlated with subsequent lower fertility rates and improved child-health outcomes, including reductions in infant mortality rates. 1

There is a false notion that the majority of men in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan are against girls’ education. This is patently false.  The Afghan Taliban when in power did forbid girls to be educated; it is also the notorious position of the Pakistani Taliban. Yet, over and over, I heard men in the Jalozai camp outside Peshawar say that people wanted their daughters to be educated but were intimidated by the Pakistan Taliban in the FATA region. In the FATA region only eight percent of women are literate. There no schools for either boys or girls in many parts of this FATA region of Pakistan lying along the Afghanistan border. Poverty and illiteracy go hand in hand. FATA is one of the least developed areas Pakistan. Few countries have had such a total breakdown in their economy and social structure as Pakistan. A sure sign of the extent of deterioration of this country with nuclear weapons is that it is ranked number two in countries of the world with the most elementary school aged girls out of school.

The UN Millenium goal 2 is “ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.”

Holding back the Millenium Goals on universal girls’ education are seemingly intractable areas of poverty and of militant insurgencies. Pakistan and Afghanistan are at the top of the list of countries that are lagging far behind the UN Millenium Education goals

Billions of dollars have spent to send vast armies to fight in these forbidding areas.  Real victory will only come when girls and boys receive an education that equips them to meet the challenges of earning a living and raising a family. If the billions spent on wars are used for girls’ and boys’ education, we will create a peace keeping force that will be the most effective the world has ever seen.