Student Centered Learning – Thailand

A Centre for Education Reform in Thailand

Letters

Education is not filling a pail but lighting of a fire.”  William Butler Yeats You can comment on any post by clicking on the ‘comment’ button at the end of the post. If you would like to make a general comment or have a larger point to make you can send an email to Dr. Peter Foley at drpeterfoley at yahoo dot com Here is a sampling of letters of interest that we have received this month and in previous months this year:  


.  Letters to the editor

On Thursday, May 22, 2014 11:51 PM, Sofia Stevens wrote:

Pedro,

   Your ol’ worrying tía here hoping that you and Poh and all yours are doing all right, given the news today.
Still smiling over your enormous kindness and hospitality to Taos friend and colleague Agnes. So nice of you!
Greatly enjoyed your most recent article and had a great discussion at my Spanish class comprised of 3 marvelous teachers. Your blog is reaching out to all kinds of people!
Mike and Liz coming over in a few weeks and we will be thinking of you.
Con abrazos y muchos deseos para paz y tranquilidad,
Stef

 


 March 2013 Dear Peter:

I like it. ( the SCLThailand web site)

What I like most is the student centered approach itself. The approaches I work with (and live by) are also very much student centered, which – for me is synonymous with respectful and humane. I truly believe that this is what education is all about. So I’m happy that I found you and your website. We share the same philosophies.

The only suggestion I could make is that it might be nice to have more pictures. I don’t know if you’ve looked at my website (www.pearls-of-learning.com) Many of the teachers from my courses have told me that the thing they like most about the website are the pictures. (You might have to wait a few moments for them to download but if you take a look at the first page, you’ll see what I mean) So maybe you could incorporate something like this on the website.

I think that the choice of articles and comments also very much underlines your philosophy. The website does a good job of quickly letting the reader know what your organization represents. Well done!

Pearl

February 8, 2013 Letter to the editor: Textbook learning/teaching is no longer sufficient in the 21st century classroom. We are now all required to communicate effectively in diverse, multi-lingual and multimedia environments. A focus on creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration is essential to prepare ourselves and our students for the 21st century. Where do we start? Luckily, all the research and resources that we need to transform our classrooms and our curricula are already out there. What we need are tools and forums such as SCL Thailand to help us access the knowledge and share tools for implementation.  SCL’s focus on student-centered learning is key in creating learning environments that nurture these 21st century skills. These are exciting times if we can come together to build the portals that connect us to the knowledge and to each other. I look forward to connecting with you Peter, and fellow SCL Thailand subscribers, to share the resources we need to succeed. Agnes Chavez, President Sube Learning Language thru Art, Music & Games www.sube.com Free wiki-resource: http://www.stemarts.com/sube/21st-century-resource

Dear Peter, I’m so sorry for not giving you comments on SCLThailand website until now. After resigned from NMC Korat, I have been travelling on research activities around the country. But now I have settle down as Vice President fof Academic Affairs at Chao Praya University (private university at NkonSwan) full time start from March 2012.

Now I have tried again look into SCL Thailand website, I can see a lot of positive changes in form and matters. In format, it look Ok in general but not quite attractive for new comer. But in matters, I can see a lot of relevance and good papers and articles about student centered learning. It is also provided a number of knowledgeable resources. However, it is good in general. But I feel it overwhem with texts.

I would like to see a corner of sharing short and sharp opinions on education reform both success and failure. Or may be a form of Web board to post interesting questions and aswers including critiques on Government Policies and Education Reform News. I try to do my best on sharing my views. Best wishes to you and goodluck for your new assignments.

Keep in touch, Suchart Tantanadaecha


January 2012. Letter to the editor.

Dear Dr. Peter, Wow, I really like your student centered learning web site. Hope you have great success! Yours truly, Akai  ( Khazakstan)


December 2011. Letter to the editor.

Tablet PCs for all Thai School Children?

A Cautionary Tale from Australia

Never having used a tablet PC, I am reluctant to enter the website poll. But perhaps if I detail my Australian experience since the Australian Government in 2009 adopted its policy of a laptop for every student in Years 9-12 I might be able to provide some insights into the positives and negatives of the policy from the perspective of one classroom teacher.

Firstly let me say that the introduction of laptops provided me with some of the most amazing lessons of my long career. I particularly remember one lesson about Australian troops landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during World War I. The interactive site the students were using was so good that with the lights off and blinds drawn there was an eerie feeling that my classroom had been transported back 96 years to the pre-dawn landing of the troops. During that lesson I remember that all I could hear was the sound of fingers punching keys on the individual keyboards. So there is no doubt that laptops have certainly added a new dimension to my teaching of History. Additionally I could say that the laptops have provided students with a great way to compose and store important notes. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes our students have a little distance to travel before they reach perfection. So I need to point out that the wonderful learning experiences like my Gallipoli lesson must be weighed up against a set of problems that demand a new range of classroom management skills by the classroom teacher.

The introduction of student laptops has brought great opportunities for student-centred learning but has been accompanied by a variety of problems which can be broadly grouped into two areas: 1. Computer Malfunction/Limitations- We all know the frustrations of breakdowns with computer technology. After about the first month of the laptop roll-out between 10%-20% would be at the repair shop. When a student is without a laptop for up to a month it is very hard to enthuse him/her about keeping notes by a more traditional method. It adds a difficulty to lesson planning knowing some students, through no fault of their own, have no internet access. Additionally for some students a fully charged battery would not last through the 5 hour school day. Then there were students who would forget to charge their batteries at home. Again it has proven difficult to inspire students to seek alternatives when their laptop shuts down part way through an activity. 2. Student Misuse- As mature adults we know the wonderful benefits of modern computers. However we have little understanding of ways in which those who have not yet reached full maturity can misuse a computer.

In Australia, some attempts were made to predict improper student use of the laptops- many inappropriate sites were blocked across the entire educational system. However the variety of student activities that negated effective use of laptops was surprising. They ranged from vandalising other students’ keyboards by removing keys, to having the memory basically full by the number of movies and games downloaded to the constant issue of accessing sites other than those directed by the teacher. In those classes where this latter issue was quite apparent, rather than the laptop being a valuable tool for student learning, it acted as a new area for conflict between student and teacher. One incident completely shocked me – a group of 40 students from Year 10 had their laptops withdrawn after one had gained access to a teacher’s password and shared it with the remaining 39 students. The 40 then proceeded with the higher level access they had acquired to visit sites normally blocked to students because of their having been deemed inappropriate. When the laptops were issued to Year 9 students in 2009 there was great excitement. However by the time this group had reached Year11 in 2011 very few students actually valued their laptops sufficiently to bring them to class.

I would like to emphasise that what I have written is based on what has occurred in just one school but the issues I have outlined were quite common across the whole of that school. It was in a rural government high school in a fairly poor area that I was working. Standardised testing tended to put our students a little below the national average. It may be that, in schools in middle class suburbs in the major urban centres where parental expectations were higher and student performance above average, the laptop experience may have been more successful. From my experience I would argue that if funds were available I would be recommending the purchase of Interactive Whiteboards and a bank of PCs for students to access in a more controlled manner e,g, borrowing on a daily or weekly basis for completion of homework/assignments etc. rather than each having his/her own. A class set for use when nominated by the teacher would also provide more control and I suspect greater respect for the PC from the students as an educational tool.

I realise that this is only one teacher’s experience, though a very common one in my own school. I hope it is of some value in considering the issue in Thailand.

Steve Ward


Dear khun Peter Foley,

Apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mail. I am really quite busy now a day on ICAAP11 works. Congratulations on your recovery from back surgery. Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to you too. We will find time to have lunch together sometime before the end of the year.

I have Google searched your Website and found it to be very interesting and useful information for educations in Thailand and other countries regarding “Student Learning Centered” concept. I browsed through to the page where you wrote about your experiences visiting Mae Chan Witayacom School in Chiengrai, Chieng Mai Demonstration School your article on “Give Thai Teachers a Break”, and your published letter to the Nation Newspaper. I have already written my comments regarding digital pictures of students as you have requested, I dont have them at hand now but will ask Lhun Kaensri of Mechai School in Lamplaimat to send them to me .

Thank you and best regards, Pairojana Sornjitti


Dear Peter, I finally had time to have a look at the web. I think it is a very interesting education platform with a very innovative rational, the student-cantered. It is a long way for China to go… I am not a teacher, just from point of view of a student’s mother. I think it would be good to have a discussion/consultation section for parents, and for students since I notice it is bit teacher focused. And for the page design, it would be more handy to have a click at bottom of each view page for going to the top If you think these comments do not fit in, then just ignore it. Did you move to Chiang Mai?

Take care,

Wang Jing


Hi, Peter. Went to your website to check it out. I think you’re doing good things, and admire you for it.  As far as the website goes, there are a lot of things . . . 

Before listing a few criticisms, let me say that the fact that you have a website at all is wonderful. It takes a lot of work just to put one up there, I know. I’ve done a few myself. And you have some interesting things to read, there, too. So my overall impression is positive. But you’re not looking for pats on the back, but constructive criticism. 

– I agree with one of the other responses that the first page you come to should not be your blog, but a very clear, concise, readable description of what your program is all about.  Even going to the “about” page it’s hard to figure out exactly what you’re “about.” What is the Thai Education Ministry’s reform, anyway? I certainly know nothing about it.

– To be picky, which I am, I think you should be sure to use hyphens in the right places. “student-centered,” not “student centered.” You’re using “student” as a modifier, not a noun, so it needs the hyphen. The unhyphenated formulation invites the question, “So what was the student centering, anyway?” And further, you’re using the two words “student” and “centered” to create an adjective, modifying “learning,” so “student” and “centered” need to go together as a unit. Some folks would see this as pedantic, but it’s my humble opinion that it’s very important for an education-centered website (see, like that!) to be squeaky-clean (another one, different rule!) on syntax and grammar, and very clearly written. Educators should be pedantic—in the sense of “formally perfect”—to some degree, and “Student-Centered” is at the verycore of what the site is about: it’s in the masthead, fergawdsake!

– I subscribe to the school of thought which feels that in English, non-serif fonts are good for presenting snippets, but for long blocks of text it’s better to use serif fonts, such as this one, Times New Roman . . . just easier on the eyes. Check out newspaper websites, NY Times,Salon.com, etc. So, I suggest having another look at which fonts you want to use, where. Use of fonts is a highly subjective question, but serious thought should be given to it, and you should probably consult with some people who have done various kinds of web design for this. I personally would recommend using serif fonts, or one particular serif font, a lot more on the site. 

– You could shorten the Thai tab headers on the Thai version. “การวางแผนการสอนแบบการเรียนรู้โดยมีนักเรียนเป็นศูนย์กลาง” is on the English tab just “lesson planning.” That could simply be “แผนการสอน.” Makes it very unweildy the other way, and why? The Thai literally translates as “The Preparation of Lesson Plans Designed for Learning By Having The Student Be the Center,” which raises red flags to me about the very problems with Thai teaching you’re working to solve! (I’m doing translation of Thai professionally now, so I’m very, very familiar with bad writing habits in Thai). 

When I was in Crisis Corps doing tsunami relief in 2005, I created a database application for Khuraburi District which had all features available in English and Thai, and each screen had almost exactly the same look in each language. That’s what you need.

– Also, when you click on “จดหมาย,” it says the page is available only in English, so the Thai reader who wants to look at the letters can’t go there without going back into the English version. Also it seems that would discourage people from writing letters in Thai, which I doubt you want to discourage. Either

o   just send them to the English page, or

o   create a Thai page with the same content—you don’t have to translate the letters, just give a Thai header on the page.

I could go on. I just gave the site a cursory look, really. There’s a lot there, which is good, and much of what you have there is wonderful stuff. But it could be done better, which is why you asked!  Hoping to see you soon, Peter Montalbano


Dear Peter, My brief comments (since I’m not an education guru these are mostly about the site’s organization and appearance):

1. I think you need some kind of welcome page rather than having blog-style posts on the home screen (although the blog was interesting about different styles of teaching – could you add more photos/videos to illustrate this?).  This will help visitors see clearly what your website is about before they navigate to specific pages.  You can use some of the content from the “about us” page for this, but you might want to add more general information as well.  You could create an additional page for recent news/articles, which could be in the blog format.

2. Perhaps you can reorder the links on the top of the page.  Normally “about us” would be first (on the left) followed by “lesson planning,” “articles,” etc.  I’d suggest that “letters” be one of the last ones, and “pathway schools” should be earlier on…

3. Lesson planning page: I think you need to add some introductory text before the links, otherwise visitors might not understand the objectives of the page.  Ex/ when I saw the link entitled “extinction,” I didn’t know if that was referring to some technical teaching term or otherwise.

4. Articles page:  You might want to delete the following from the page: “Note Bene:  We suggest you read the Lesson Plan page in preparation for reading this article.”

5. Pathways schools: Is there a description of Mechai Pattana School on the page?  If so, I haven’t seen it.

6. Teacher training page: I found this a bit disorganized.  I could tell what the topics were clearly.  Perhaps you could number the different items or create descriptive headings for them.  

As a general comment, I see that you have a Thai language option; how much of the content is available in Thai?  I’d assume that this is critically important if you’re trying to change Thai school administrators’ mindsets about education. As for the photos, I have several of children learning in our target area in Cambodia, but these would look very different from photos of Thai students.  If you still want to include some, let me know and I’ll send some to you. Work is more hectic than ever!  We’re in the middle of implementing a comprehensive water and sanitation program, which has been immensely difficult to plan but effective so far, and villagers in the 3 new villages just elected their VDPC committee to represent them moving forward, so lots of work (Bamboo Ladder, Community Needs Assessment, Eye Opener Trips in Cambodia and Thailand) to plan coming up!  I’m going home for the first time in 1 ½ years on December 18th and I CANNOT WAIT!!!

Hope you are well,

Alissa


Dear Peter, Thanks for including me in your request. I have been teaching international students and at-risk, English-learning students, many with learning challenges, in lower-income areas of the United States for what will soon be twenty years. I think my comment on your formidable project would be to start, however small, with actual hands-on student-centered learning, choosing several pilot schools as you have and starting right in putting your theories to work, videoing the results to share with other teachers throughout Thailand.

I think it is key to develop simple, hour-long detailed lesson plans with clearly-stated aims and materials easily available to teachers online. Specific projects relating to the individual needs, circumstances and interests of the students can be tailored to make these lesson plans compatible and within reach of school administrations and teachers. It is essential for the initial adoption and approval of the methodology by teachers that student-centered lesson plans are very simple, easy to assimilate with other subjects, and that back-up material is available on the web. I envision teachers versed in the method visiting Thailand (at little cost to your program) to offer a short series or even single demonstration of, for example, English language learning that is student-centered. I think in this way your program could measure effectiveness by students and teachers observing firsthand the student-centered methodology and implementing it in their own classes.

I have already sent you contacts with teachers I’ve found are especially creative and innovative in this field (Rafe Esquith comes to mind). I would stress combining academic subjects to spark the individual talents and learning abilities of the students, i.e. doing an environment/habitat awareness project in English. I do not know Thailand, but I am sure that environmental awareness and language learning are needed. I strongly feel that all learning needs to be connected to the community. Usually there are mentors for this type of teaching among the families and school, people willing to share their expertise in a given field. The component of community service is a great tool to enlist enthusiasm for student-centered learning. Along with this melding of subjects, every idea can benefit from students exchanging knowledge on the web, gaining technological experience, sharing to broaden their world. Isolated students in New Mexico have connected on the web with schools in Mexico for life-transforming exchanges of student-centered projects (agriculture, art, language). I will enjoy seeing how your student-centered learning progresses.

All my best wishes for your fine efforts, Sofia Stevens – Retired elementary/high school teacher and tutor.


Hi Peter!  So great to hear from you.  Your website looks great – congratulations! The only suggestion I have is that the home page should not be your blog but rather a place to briefly describe the goals and achievements of the organization.  I think that your blog should be located on its own separate tab.

I also wanted to refer you to a close friend of mine from way back, Luyen Chou. He is the Chief Product Officer for Schoolnet which is now a part of Pearson. Here is their website http://www.schoolnet.com/default.aspx. You’ll see his bio under the Management Team in case you’re interested in getting in touch with him.  I think you may find their work interesting.

My warmest regards, Kim.


November 2011.  Letters to the editor.

Hi Peter, I have had a chance to look at your website and I want to contribute my reactions to the provoking dialogue you have put together: In the United States, reform for public education has time and time again been stagnated at the crossroads of teachers, teacher unions, politicians, and budget constraints. Consistently politicians in the United States have promised real education reform to no avail. The truth of this harsh reality is that the majority of public schools have become failure factories, entangled in the fights that exist between these main players.

In the United States, teachers and unions fight because of their contradictory incentives. Teachers are expected to contribute in one of the most important ways a person can in our society—shaping the minds of our youth—and at the same time they are also expected to strive for high levels of teaching for that honor and privilege alone. They are not compensated fairly and that is why teacher unions in the United States have become what they are. Teacher then look to unions for other things such as job security and protecting the status quo. I believe that accountability has to play a large role in solving the problems we currently see in education.

A school system should embrace a specific set of outcomes that are both reasonable and challenging but also within its control to achieve, and use its accountability to those ends to drive an intensive examination and revision of practice. Successful schools do this by holding themselves accountable for their students and their failure to reach specified goals. They modify their system to optimize results if students come short of their specified results. In my opinion, a shift to this more collective view of professionalism—a consideration of the aggregate student body performance and a concerted effort to revise methods of teaching where shortcomings are encountered—trumps the lackadaisical approach to education we currently see in a many schools. Education in this sense becomes a sliding board, a constant reevaluation of and modification to education. All children can learn; educators and education reform need to figure out a way to motivate children to do so. High performing education reform will require aligning incentives—be it financial, political, etc.—in the pursuit of a high performing schools. This begins with aligning financial incentives with teacher improvement. I am not familiar with the status quo in Thailand, but in the United States’ public school system it unfortunately seems that in a lot of the cases public schools exist for the benefit of the teacher, not the students. Teachers are granted tenure after two years of teaching and provided with lifetime job security regardless of the quality of their teaching. I hope these thoughts are of use and contribute to the dialogue you have put together on education reform in Thailand.

Good luck with your work, and I look forward to hopefully reconnecting with you this summer in Chiang Mai.  

Best wishes,

Joe Lerer ( Cambridge, Mass)


Dear Peter:  Really interested in your posts on Thai education. Lots of it can apply to U.S. educational system as you know! I have a wonderful Honduran student this year and am enjoying him so much.

I’m thinking of Thailand these days and hoping the floods abate soon and recovery begins. So sad.    
(Sophia Stevens,  USA)


October 2011. Letters to the editors.

Hi Peter! This is Angel. We met last summer during my previous job by the docks of Stockholm. I still remember you vividly due to your wonderful character! You made an impression because there are rare instances, at least in my experience so far, in which people show their true personality and are able to relax from the get go.

I was amazed when I got your email and found out you started this site and concept. I felt that I was unable to contribute in any way due to the lack of knowledge in that area, but I am just overwhelmed by your determination and I am going to try and help any way I can. I had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania when I was 15 and discuss the situation of the country with the children of that country and it left a permanent impact on me. The best way of doing this for me is to spread it.

I have made a lot of friends and teachers over the years and I am sure that there is a definite part of them whom are willing to support the cause. I’ll try to shed some light on your site and make sure that they understand the gravity of the situation. Regarding the site: The thing that holds most value in my life is music. And Ill try to help you in the arts and crafts area: http://www.musictheory.net/ and http://www.teoria.com/ Both simple and effective flash based sites that are based around exercises. Both are in English. You should also maybe add some contact information(not sure if there is a link or email, but I am unable to find it), and maybe even a search option. It is great that you’ve added a facebook link. The social medias are growing rapidly these days. I did a simple Google search and found a plethora of pictures. I am am going to ask some of my teachers if they have any old pictures of me and my friends when we were kids. I hope this helps! I’ll try to spread the word as much as I can!

Have a great day my friend.

Sincerely

Angel Krotnev


Hi again Peter, Sorry, I forgot to give you feedback on your website! It looks really good – I like the look of it a lot.  One main thing, though, that caught my eye – I think that the home page should be a description of what SCLT is and what you do – not a LTE or blog or anything. Congratulations – you’re doing wonderful work over there. Much love Kim.


I’ve been sneaking looks at your SCLT website whenever I’ve had reasonable internet access and time. In a nutshell it’s MOST IMPRESSIVE !   I read all the monthly editorials, finally commenting on your latest one about Tablet PCs for 1st graders. 

I liked the way you’ve pasted comments from emails received and I can heartily agree with both Don Johnson’s comments as well as your BangkokBuddy Dhon.  While dumbing down English has never been on my list of priorities, I feel that when writing for non-native speakers of English, contributors should use simpler terminology and shorter sentences than if they were publishing on a University website. I liked the idea of a debate on English being taught in Thailand by non-native speakers of English (NNES) and native speakers (NS).  I have very firm views on the matter having trained both on many CELTA courses over the years.  

Judie Hudson Melbourne, Australia.


September 2011. Letters to the editor.

Dear Dr. Foley, I agree with Dr. Zimmer’s opinion. Thai teachers want to teach in a modern way.  We face many difficulties.  We don’t really have a voice to make necessary changes.  Maybe over time your web site will help us have a voice.  I hope so. Kru Somchai Nakornsithammarat


August 2011 letters. Letter to the editor.

I  have been on the site and really enjoyed it! I responded to a blog comment, not sure if you saw it or not. I know that some teachers don’t understand the Student Centered Class room because of their fears of letting go to the control. I think as teachers we tend to want to be the all knowing keepers of the knowledge and allowing students to follow their own inquiry may put teachers off to the side as opposed to on stage and it also may even encourage the students to learn more than the teacher knows on a particular subject. This scares teachers. IB is all about inquiry based learning  and the more I create lessons giving my students a chance to navigate and control their learning, the more students are engaged and the easier my job becomes! Keep it up!   Maryilyn Kelly ( Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida)


สวัสดีค่ะอาจารย์ ดิฉันเห็นด้วยเป็นอย่างยิ่งว่าเด็กไทยอ่านหนังสือน้อยลงทุกที และส่วนใหญ่สนใจอ่านหนังสือแฟชั่นที่มีขายตามท้องตลาด ซึ่งมีรูปภาพสวยๆ มากกว่าตัวหนังสือเสียอีก เมื่อพิจารณาแล้วพบว่าหลายหน่วยงานในไทยสนับสนุนการอ่านน้อยเหลือเกิน เช่น1. บังคับให้นักเรียนอ่านหนังสือที่ไม่ชอบ และเป็นไปเพื่อการสอบ ซึ่งอาจทำให้เด็กบางคนเกลียดการอ่าน (แต่บางคนก็ชอบ และเป็นจุดเริ่มต้นในการอ่านเล่มอื่นๆ ต่อไป)2. ห้องสมุดที่เมืองไทยมีไม่มากเท่าต่างประเทศ  ส่วนใหญ่เป็นห้องสมุดของมหาวิทยาลัยต่างๆ หากเป็นห้องสมุดชุมชน ก็มีหนังสือน้อยเสียเหลือเกินสำหรับการค้นคว้าทำการบ้าน ส่วนห้องสมุดดีๆการค้นคว้าข้อมูลหรือการนั่งอ่านในห้องสมุดจำเป็นต้องเสียสตางค์หากไม่ได้เป็นสมาชิกของห้องสมุดนั้น3. ตัวอาจารย์ผู้สอนในโรงเรียนเองบางคนก็เป็นผู้ที่ไม่ได้รักการอ่านหนังสือ แล้วเช่นนี้จะสอนนักเรียนให้อ่านหนังสือได้อย่างไร จริงๆ แล้วดิฉันเห็นว่าควรมีการฝึกครูให้รักการอ่านหนังสือด้วยซ้ำไป เห็นด้วยอย่างยิ่งว่าหลายหน่วยงานภาครัฐและโรงเรียนควรมีนโยบายส่งเสริมการอ่านที่ทำได้จริงยิ่งกว่านี้ ไม่ใช่ส่งเสริมด้วยการจัด มหกรรมการอ่าน ซึ่งเป็นมหกรรมการลดราคาหนังสือประจำปีเท่านั้น กิจกรรมดีๆ มากมายที่จัดในแต่ละปี ควรมีการประชาสัมพันธ์ให้น่าสนใจมากกว่านี้ ส่วนภาคเอกชนโดยเฉพาะสำนักพิมพ์ (บางแห่ง) ควรช่วยอย่างจริงใจและไม่หวังผลกำไร จะช่วยทำให้เกิดการเปลี่ยนแปลงที่ดีขึ้นค่ะ รสนา


Hi Peter-loved reading your thoughts about your newest projects.  One thought is to come up with phone apps-all young folks here use their phone like mini computers.  Vet admin using apps to teach relaxing techniques to vets with PTSD.   Jeannie Haugh (Annapolis, MD)


Dear Peter, Thanks for reminding me.  I meant to write to you since last week, but things came up (as always!!).  So … good that you remind me of this.  There are many things I like about this site:

  • You gather resources and pack them in a simple way.  This make it easy to access, and it seems that you have gone through a fine selection process.  However, it will make things easier if you make subcategories, such asI like the articles you posted, both from experts and your own op-ed.  However, it is a bit difficult for Thai.  I also saw that you tried to translate it.  I think at this point, let’s be clear about the target group.  It will be ambitious to target any Thai teachers, who are not equipped with English.  Perhaps, just those who have some English.  I think it will be helpful to make a brief summary, highlight the points (in bold, or italic), or write it on the side of the paragraph, or using keywords and diagram to capture the point each article suggests.
    • Math for G1-3, 6-9.  English for …. group with certain learning style;
    • Or giving a hint about media that teachers will find in this website … such as icons that indicates VDO Clip; Simulations, lesson plans, sample questions, etc. that will be handy for teachers.
    • There are also interesting podcasts that can be of help, too.  I downloaded some for my daughter, Sarah G7, from NPR, BBC, NZ and Australian radio.  Teachers can suggest to students as an alternative to hearing K-Pop, J-Pop or T-Pop.
  • You have gathered an excellent group of senior advisors with various experience.  It would be great to have a ‘feature issues’ say … Yeap Ban Har contributes on teaching math to Pratom kids, or solving misconception about maths in middle school.   Or someone contributes to issues like classroom management; dealing with parents (who raised up an immature teens), how to do real constructionism in classroom, etc.   These are topics should not just rest on the theories or opinions, rather it should come down to ‘how to make those nice theories into practice.’
  • If you focus at the pragmatic approach, the article will become shorter, uses ‘down to the earth language,’ and implementable by teachers.  Then, you will catch a lot of teachers whose English ability is medium.
  • The thing about student assessment that you posted is on the right track.  However, you can add samples of ‘authentic assessment’ which is the key to develop students based on solid information.  People talk a lot about authentic assessment, but HOW to do it?  That is a big question.
  • I see that you have an expert on special education — this will become a vast issue because teachers discover LD, ADHD, depressed and emotional problems in school.  But they don’t know how to handle these kids.  We look at approx. 30% of kids in school with the spectrum of these problems.  They are those sitting at the last row, and always the target of teachers’ yelling, punishing, and wanting to fail them — but must let them pass to the next class.  These 30% kids will disturb class, make other kids and teachers miserable IF you don’t have the right strategies to handle them.  They are the ones who really need ‘student-centered approach’ very very much.
  • There are many issues that you can bring on — for example, a debate between having Thai and foreign teachers teach English to Thai kids; or a debate on teaching proficiency English VS grammar-based English.  Why math seems far away from real life (when comes to teach logarithm, integration or quantum physics).
  • Also … what teachers in other places — schools, regions, countries — do?  That would be fun to read and view as well.

This might be too much of an opinion.  I think you are so brave to pick on this issue as it is a key for social development, but is difficult one.  2 years ago, I gave up my work as a consultant on environmental policy because I realize that no matter how good a policy, if the implementation is done by those who don’t get it, the policy is just a waste.  That brought me to become a teacher …  But getting exhausted at times to feel that … is it the right choice?… ha ha ha!! Further discussions are always most welcome  😉

Cheers!!

Dhon ( Principal,  Bangkok)    


Dear Peter,

Was good to talk to you. I look forward to having lunch! I checked out your website: www.scltthailand.org Your website is well organized and has a lot of great information and discussion on student centered learning. There is a lot of areas that you can develop as well.
I have a friend from high-school (Regent’s School, Pattaya). His name is Pak or (Natthapoj Vincent Trakulphadetkrai). He’s currently completing his PHD at Cambridge University. I believe his PHD is in Education. In any case he started a similar discussion/forum as you but yours is much more specific. In any case check it out you might get some good ideas. Pak’s website: http://www.gseforum.org/about/ I can also introduce you if you like, maybe you two can create some much needed change in the country. :o)
Nikon ( Bangkok)

Hello Peter, I only just had a chance to check out your website, I have been sort of internet-less for a while (relying on my phone for the most basic work emails), and wanted to share my excitement about your project. Although I would not claim to be at all familiar with specific issues that are prevalent in Thai classrooms I would say my limited experience “teaching” there would certainly echo the desperate need for a transition from rote memorization to a more student driven, whole concept approach to learning. As a temporary resident in Chaing Rai, I became a familiar farrang face wandering around striking up absurd conversations with strangers. As someone with plenty of free time and a probable fluency in English, it was not long before I was was approached regularly to teach and tudor. I was eager to make Thai friends and share language so I found myself many times in front of groups ranging from a few faces around a kitchen table to both small and fairly large formal classrooms. Despite the ages, prior experience with English, and degree of formality of a given situation, consistently I was met with an identical reaction. Firstly, a very notable and extreme level of respect for teachers, eyes unwavering, notes meticulously copied from the black board, note pad, or patch of dust I used for examples. Naturally this was a little unfamiliar to me and became confusing as it was relatively undeserved (sure I had a little experience with ESL, but as far as they knew I just a wandering white lady hitting up strangers in the market for a chat) and frankly a little intoxicating. The second thing I repeatedly met was the same scripted conversation. It was amazing to me, almost as if any greeting or basic conversation was actually a mathematical or chemical formula, if altered even slightly would result in a disastrous miscommunication or melt down. Each of these two fundamental elements certainly have value – a genuine respect for teachers and the discipline for deep memorization in the right dose would be assets to many other academic environments. However, I found the combination of these two basic tenets of my experiences made assessing a person’s actual ability nearly impossible, and consequently teaching very challenging.  There was so much wide eyed mimicking-  I was occasionally reduced to pleading questions that were naturally answered with the same questions, repeated back perfectly. I remember once resorting to having a group of neatly uniformed 9 year olds to push chairs and desks from their neat rows to the side of the room, after a little reassuring prodding and a few confused expressions we formed a circle and all did the hokie pokie! It was really silly and fun and introduced body parts and left/right- it was all I could do to get us “out of the box” so to speak and for a few minutes we were dancing, but really engaged.

As for your website, a centralized on-line resource for educators, administrators and policy makers is a wonderful tool for sharing ideas and methods for shifts and new directions in Thai education. I love that there is a connection and respect for how deeply founded the elements of Thai culture pervade the classroom, so that the model is to work with these strengths and challenges and not merely impose an external model over it.  Your website is off to a great start and I can only imagine the positive impact it will have.

Good work Peter!

Rebecca ( Connecticut)


Great to see a site that encourages the Socratic method and the importance of student-centered learning! As a history teacher, it is very useful to see other sites that provide resources for teachers, especially the National Geographic one.  I am also curious to see the examples of good lessons which I have not had the chance to look at yet.

All the best, Vlad ( Brooklyn, New York)


Aloha Peter,

Thank you for sharing your SCL site with me.  I’m excited for you and of course you never tackle small problems. Since this is well outside my area of expertise I’m sure you won’t mind my sharing it with like-minded souls including old friend Jeff Hackler who teaches social studies etc. at Iolani School here.

Delighted to hear you are traveling east soon.  Please advise if you can manage a stopover in Honolulu; it’s been too long.  This photo will have to do for now.  Take good care…

Aloha, Josie and Terry( Honolulu, Hawaii)


July 2011.  Letters to the editor

Hi Peter

I have had a look at the SCLT site and I make a few comments below. First impressive of the site is appealing and attractive to the eye. The tabs are clear leading to the various sections. The editorial board is very impression and important for the credibility of the site.

Mission statement. · I am not sure from the mission statement whether the intent of the website is for the practical guidance of teachers in classroom, or ‘leading Thai and international educators’, which could imply teachers, or whether it is targeted at senior educators and school administrators.

Activities. · Point 1 is very important, we know that any change takes a long time, especially  changes in education practice. Teachers must be supported with mentors, also with very practical targeted student centred classroom strategies and activities, together with  some theoretical understanding as to why such changes are  a powerful way to improve student critical  thinking and learning. · The resource section must reflect those activities that support the desired changes in practice with quality teaching materials. · Point 2.  I am assume  that the planned forum will also include classroom teachers. · Point 3 has huge potential to develop the critical mass of progressive and powerful practice across the Pathway schools network, that will drive meaningful change in teacher practice. I hope my comments are helpful, I look forward to watching the sites development. If I can be helpful in any capacity please let me know.

Regards Don

Dr Don Jordan Education Consultant ( Australia)  


Dear Peter, I had a quick look at your web. It looks very innovative. I have a few questions. Is this a plat form for school education, or for academic exchange, or for capacity building provision? What is the focus? Will this be international or just for Thailand people?

Wang Jing ( Kunming, China)


Hi Peter,

This looks like a fantastic new venture. I took a look at the website and found the mission statement easy to find and inspiring. If I were a teacher or other type of education professional in Thailand, two questions I would have when looking at this site would be:

1) is there a way for me to be involved in the discussion, such as through a list-serve?

2) how can I attend the semi-annual forums?

Best wishes,

Jenny.


Dear  Dr. Pete: The website is a good start to what seems like a breakthrough program. Of course, it is just a start, but conceptually, it seems to be needed and could become something remarkable if it takes off. One of the people who wrote letters had a lot of technical suggestions which sounded like the right path. I do not know anything about that personally, not being a techie at all, but this seems to be the central theme for all on-line programs: get in as many channels as possible and establish a presence in each of them.

My one idea, simple as it may seem, is to make the print a lot bigger. I could barely read it, and it became a chore after a few minutes. I know I am a little older than most of your potential readers, but I think small print suggests a “techie site” rather than a “content site.” I really think this matters big time, and will make a huge difference. Larger type, colors, etc. make the total site, and its “suggestivity” much more appealing. It will make the whole movement seem more established: more important. Good luck with this. I feel a real sense of passion from you about this, and a commitment that could tie in a lot of your life’s work.

Bruce Raines  


Dear Peter:

Not being in the educational field, but having certainly experienced since a very young age different cultural forms of education in Europe, North America and Australia, I can only comment on the general.

My main observation is that your web site needs to have a very very short and succinct statement at the top – clearly setting out your goals.  I had to read through several of the headings to be sure that I knew what you were driving at. I found that some of the paragraphs were far too long and could be abbreviated without loosing the essence. Also, I think that it is worthwhile making it quite clear, however not sure if that is the brief, that the basics of education are not being tossed aside for a more revolutionary style of learning.  I interview a lot of students in Australia for my alma mater in the States and I can assure you that even those coming out of private schools have an issue with writing clearly and correctly. Whatever one thinks about education the art of writing and assimilating ideas in a clear pattern are fundamental in life. Hence, my comment is that one needs to have both forms of education, but I can see that in the Thai culture there is a mega space for improving confidence in thinking and debating.

One other suggestion and I am not sure whether it should feature on the site are a few (anonymous) comments from the students as to their vision for Thailand’s educational future. I thought that the web resources were interesting and useful. Peter, I am always impressed by your immense enthusiasm and capacity for work in the areas where a lot of us would fear to tread.  Thank God that there are people like you in the world.  

Bisous mon cher ami et felicitations!

Alice (Illich).


Hi Peter,

Congrats on the website.  Maybe enough people will read it to begin a groundswell big enough to have an impact.  I just returned from 9 days in CT where most of the discussions centered on ed-related topics. The #1 concern still seems to be creative thinking at the TOP.  Leadership seems to have placed all their eggs in the standardized test basket & they can’t or won’t discuss anything that is unrelated to that specific issue.  On the other hand, my HS colleagues are more distraught than ever over the lack of basic skills students arrive with at the HS level.  I don’t know if this is a U.S. issue only.  I do know that as our lower class grows (split families, parents working multiple jobs, lack of job opportunity, etc.), TV and Video games have become the built-in babysitters.  So when kids begin school they have poor foundations and are immediately turned off by the approach used in classrooms.  We can all share the blame but that does little good.  We must make some changes re: the teaching of basic skills at the elementary level. 

There is software available that makes the necessary “rote learning” more palatable and allows for much more individualized instruction, but we can’t seem to find a way to implement it into the curriculum.  I finally made a suggestion that all at the table were in agreement with:  Make it mandatory that a student meet determined skill levels before advancing to middle school.  If parents and kids clearly understand that social promotion is no longer an option, I believe there will be more support from home and more student motivation to avoid being 16 in the 5th grade!  If we can provide our kids with a good foundation, the critical thinking skills you and I both support as a key ingredient of a good education can be fostered at the middle and HS levels.  There are many students in College Prep classes in our country that can’t add, subtract, multiiply or divide and read at an elementary school level.  Almost all of them have far more intelligence than their skills or grades indicate.  They have simply chosen not to participate in the educational process and have been promoted despite their lack of effort/accomplishment.  I recently read some letters Teedie wrote from Vietnam.  He was a kid who barely got by in school and had to repeat 11th grade English.  But the letters were well written, gramatically and contextually!  Somewhere along the way he was made to learn the “basics”. 

It’s a strange time in a strange world, that’s for sure.  But as we move forward it may be a good idea to look back to a time when basic skills were mastered by almost everyone.  We “critical thinkers” can’t forget that a solid education is the best gift we can offer those who are struggling with bad family or economic situations.  Like Maslow taught us, our most basic needs must be met before we can even think about self actualization.  Our schools, with the emphasis on standardized testing, have Maslow’s hierarchy upside down. 

Good luck with your work and I hope you have a great trip back home.

Peace, Bill


Dear Dr. Peter J. Foley Sorry for late, I am Thanapol Pakdee. Graduate Student : Master of Arts Program in Conflict Management, Kasetsart University. I would like to share some of my opinion 🙂 1. Twitter feed widget is great. Consider a facebook feed widget for website (http://facebook.com/sclthailand) or at least a “like” widget.  Code for a lot of different kinds of widgets are available here: http://developers.facebook.com 2. Keep updating often, Google and visitors like this. 3. Create Link Exchange between organization (including banner) with other website . 4. Use Youtube to broadcast the clips. 5. If you have the words “Powered by…” and a trustmark, the traffic will increase 1.76 – 8.8% (by research).

Best,

Thanapol Pakde


Dear Peter, I have finally managed some time to have a look at your website. I have taken a brief look at each of the tabs, read your blog and the article written by Chutima Thamraksa. Clearly I need to spend more time to adequately evaluate the site but I thought I should communicate some thoughts that have come to mind before I forget them – an all too familiar characteristic for me these days!

These thoughts I guess are not really commenting on your website but rather trying to shed some light on the slow pace of the development of student-centred learning in Thailand To put my intial response into context, I need to make a couple of preliminary comments:   1. I have virtually no knowledge of the Thai Education system. For example I have no knowledge of class sizes.   2. My lengthy experience in education is largely based in one school – 30 years at Taree High School so I have had little opportunity to observe differing appoaches in a variety of schools.   3. As a classroom teacher my perspective has always been that of one who must get the many tasks done that the job entails rather than theorise about the principles underlying my approach. Perhaps this may give me some insights into the reasons why Thai teachers have been reluctant to change their approaches. Of course it is a common human characteristic that techniques developed early in a career are clung to tenaciously.   What I have read about the attempts to initiate student-centerd learning throughout Thailand suggest parallels to the development of what is now the over-riding set of teaching and learning principles in New South Wales, collectively labelled “Quality Teaching”. QT was introduced around 2003. In an effort to avoid intimidating teachers it was sold to teachers not as a new set of guiding principles but more as a compilation of the best practices currently exhibited.  Reading your article and that of Khun Chutima reveals many similarities between QT and the student-centred approach you are advocating. So I think it may be instructive for me to make a few observations from a classroom teacher’s perspective on the process by which QT was introduced in NSW.   Videos of sample lessons taught under QT principles were shown to teachers. But their value depended to some extent on the subject area. For example I can remember viewing a Science lesson. As a History teacher this offered me little direction. Not knowing how a traditional Science lesson looked like I could not tell what differences QT produced. Such videos were presented at after school meetings when older teachers particularly were tired from their day’s teaching and were likely to have had their minds preoccupied with what they had to organise for the next day’s lessons.   While QT was designed to provide teachers with an excellent set of principles to guide their teaching and the learning of their students those administrators charged with its implementation relied largely on the traditional methods of teaching to deliver their message. This to me seems such a contradiction. For example QT has as one of its many principles the recognition of prior knowledge of students. Yet in presentations the prior knowledge of teachers was largely ignored. “Learning by doing”, expressed in more formal language, is another guiding principle of QT, yet we as teachers were just required to sit and listen to the gurus, then go away and implement the principles. I am sure that QT would have been adopted more quickly and successfully had teachers been treated as students exploring a new field of learning and their learning being more student-centred (in this case of course the students would have been the experienced teachers). Similarly had teachers been given time away from their classrooms to explore QT principles, practise utilising those principles away from their daily tasks success may have come more quickly. But of course such free time for teachers requires money.  

In relation to student-centred learning I would argue that student assignments provide many great opportunities. For several decades in giving students assignments I have always provided them with as much choice as possible in both subject matter and mode of presentation. This has always been successful for me and I believe a good starting point for a more student-focussed approach. This leads me to wonder whether in Thailand a gradual transition to more student-based methods could begin with assignments.  

I hope the above observations might be of some value. But before I finish I would like to mention one website that has really impressed me and I believe could be a model for developing a website based on the Thai curriculum which would be ideal for student-centered learning. It is www.historyonthenet.com  Of course it is in English and is dedicated to History so it is the principles on which the site is based that could be applicable to the Thai education system. What impresses me are the interactive games, the interactive “quick quizzes”, as well as the text written in language easily accessible to students.  

In addition, the Department of Education in NSW has developed a valuable resource called Tale, which stands for “Teaching and Learning Exchange”. It acts like a search engine in locating useful websites for all aspects of primary and secondary sources. Unfortunately it can be only accessed by a Departmentally authorised username and password. So you will have to wait till I’m in Thailand for me to show this, if you are interested.  

I hope this helps,

Best wishes,

Steve.


I applaud what you’re trying to accomplish in Thailand by changing the philosophy of education. Your website is illuminating on the weakness  of an educational system in which the students merely regurgitate what the teachers present to them. However I do have 2 concerns: 1.) Are you going too far in the other direction when you propose that the students set goals and objectives? Every discipline has a body of knowledge that should be learned by the students. While students should actively participate in the learning process, the teachers and administrators must set the goals and objectives. 2.) I like the fact that the students hold the teachers in high esteem and would hope that when they are retrained to teach in the Socratic method there is no lessening of that esteem.

Best of luck on this wonderful project. All the best to you and PO.

Dick (Eisner)   


I love it and shared it with other Thai friends. My ONLY suggestion and it may get you more google hits is add a section for ex-pats for exploring educating their children abroad.

Dave Brittain    


The problem with current education is world wide. One can read the same story in England, Germany.Poland on and on. There was a long article in a recent ECONOMIST on the efforts of a movement of independent schools in England similar in a way the the American Charter Schools. To me it seems the “love of learning” has to be instilled long before “schooling” Most rote education stultifies curiosity and imagination. When I entered nursing school i had to supply a school record—when I did the tabulation it came to 13 elementary and 5 high schools in two countries and several states. Oddly the “best” was probably a one room school house in upper New York state. I was 5 and boarded with a farmers wife. I was a proficient reader thanks to two teachers who had rented to top floor of my parents house when I was 4. They delighted in teaching me to read (and make toast on an early electric toaster. )The one room school taught grades 1 thru 8. the Lower grades in the back and the 8th in the front. Every child had the option of listening to all the lessons regardless of class designation. For every child it was a learning opportunity up to each individual saturation point. We build enormous stadiums, outfit huge bands , hand out scholarships for athletic prowess ..but New College in Sarasota (now a State School) was the only college especially for National Merit Scholars. What has happened to the public support of vocational education? World wide with few exceptions we have become a culture of extended adolescence and dependence on public welfare. Enough–off the podium—I am finished with being in the vanguard I did my share for many years. battling school Politics and teachers unions. I wish you well in your new QUEST. I shall just buy history books for the young that I have hopes of instilling with a thirst for more .

Jill (Dennis)


Peter, It was great to see a photo of you after all these years!! I admire your passion for educational reform.  As a former teacher(actually, you never stop being a teacher), it is very dear to me as well. I have no knowledge of educational systems in Thailand, so I wouldn’t presume to comment on the content of the website. But I might suggest that the more visual and attractive you can make it, the more attention you will get. Using a bolder, more eye-catching font, and incorporating video and audio when possible would be my recommendation.

All the best!

Gerry Bonds


Peter, this is excellent, and pinpoints the major problems around learning in the Thai schools.  You might want to talk with Ernie Rebustillo, Right to Play’s Thailand Country Director in Bangkok.  He is leading an initial using play to get students to SCl activities… here is Bangkok Post article about Right To Play’s work in southern Thailand. Be well my friend.  I miss working in SE Asia! George Michael Bedford .North Adams, MA  01247 USA About the web site, can I suggest you to check a web technology called Silverlight? http://www.silverlight.net/ Your current web site is very cool. But if you want more newest technology for real time education, it might help you in the future. US and Thailand should have lots of experts on it. We hope you have a supper happy time in Thailand and you are always more than welcome to visit us in Calgary.

George Pan


Peter, I looked at your web site. It is obvious you put a lot of effort into it and I think it contains some good information. However, I wonder who you think is your audience? English speaking people who live in Thailand and are interested in education in Thai schools? How many of these are there? You say, among other things, that the one of your goals is to follow up on the Ministry of Education goal to improve Thai education. However, a lot of people think the problem with Thai education is the Ministry of Education. How do you plan to deal with this issue? Another problem that I hear a lot about is that Thai teachers aren’t paid enough so it is not an attractive profession for the best and the brightest? How about that? In short I’m having some trouble thinking about how you can accomplish your goals  under very difficult circumstances but I give you a lot of credit for trying.

All the best,

Jim (Fay)  


Peter, I think your website represents a terrific advance in the way you can communicate and disseminate your ideas. I am the least knowledgeable about the format for websites; Please ask someone less than half my age. I do have one comment on content–besides the tremendous importance of the reforms you speak about, there is a very simple-to-apply system for teaching the math and english skills that are the basis for success in the technological world. The Kumon system begun in Japan and used in Korea seems to work, independent from the teachers who may take a generation to produce. It doesn’t make human beings necesarily, but it accomplishes an essential job. It seems especially suited to Confucian societies. At any rate, I feel foolish presuming to tell you anything about this subject, but against my prejudices, I have seen it work. We hope you are well and know you are productive.

Charlie Stacy and family.


Peter, Great to hear from you. I took a glance at your site and it looks good. It feels like it’s created in Word Press or some blog site. You need to have a very clear statement about who you are what you are trying to accomplish in a few sentences at the top. It’s not entirely clear what your mission/vision is and you have to search around to try and find it. Viewers will give you about 5 seconds before they move on. Internet attention span of most is limited.   Sorry to make this short. I’m swamped with work.

A big hello from Scotty, Katya and Irish Joe J   – Steve   *-*-* Steven R. Caron


Dear Peter, Thank you for letting me know, I went through your web site about 30 minute. My first impression is, it is very good. I cannot make any comments since I do not know the field. But it looks very good to me, in term of the organization. I may be able to tell you know more after I read all what you have in the web site. Now, am on the way to Battambang. Chirorn (RHAC)   Sounds like a great project you have underway! …. I don’t know anything about SCL so I can’t be of any help there, but I did go to your website and registered for updates, and look forward to receiving them! As you know the struggle with any site is to break out of the “internet Clutter” and get a following. Getting some prominent people in the field to contribute, who have their own followers certainly can help. I also think the stories on schools that are doing in right with pictures (and even better short videos) of students and teachers is great.

Keep up the good work!

Arthur Bratone  


Peter, I am delighted that you are so gung ho on education. Can you influence the Thai system, How about the US? Which one is worse? sorry but this is not my forte. Lucy Coombs


Hi Peter, Looks and sounds like things are going very well.  The website is terrific!  It’s focused, clear and will serve as the foundation for educational reform in Thailand.  It will also take time.  Remember, EVERYONE is an expert in education and how children learn best!  Why?  Because most folks went to school themselves and therefore have the EXPERIENCE to tell you how best to teach the children, in their safe, prosaic ways!  Of course, I’m being facetious!  However, wherever you travel, education is one of the universals in any culture.  Some do it better than others and have learned to change with the exploding realms of knowledge and information.  Others, find security and safety in the slow, methodical ways in which they were taught.  It’s all part of “Tradition” in many lands.  

I think your approach is excellent.  Surround yourself with the very best educators, who understand that the CHILD IS THE CENTER of education and enable them in every way to be your disciples.  Clearly, a teacher’s attitude. understanding, self confidence and desire to do something different are at the heart of effective change.  They have to trust, be empowered and not chained by standard practices and demands to be able to truly reach children.  Anger and frustration about “LOW” national test scores will certainly not be the impetus for change.  The success of the concept and its implementation in the schools across Thailand will be based on provinces wanting to emulate the process because teachers are having a visible and dramatic impact, children are significantly achieving more and the parents and “Ministers” are supportive and cheering them on.   I also think that folks admire and respect what other, similar countries have done to improve their educational systems and literacy rate for their people.  A good example might be the New Zealand system and its impact on the Maoris’.  Their culture is very family and tribal driven.  Yet the Aston – Warners, over many, many years were able to introduce an educational model that truly focused on the child.  It became part of the Maori traditions and culture.  We both know that people will have to “own it” if they are willing to try it, no less, embrace it. 

The success of a handful of children can make a significant difference in their parents understanding of the “new ways” and their willingness to support it.   I used to turn back to the work of John Goodlad, UCLA, Robert Anderson, Harvard and Madeline Hunter a great principal at the lab school at UCLA.  Their book, “The Non Graded School” (1959?)had significant meaning then and now.  It was a model I used to explain to educators and parents that the lock step education we experienced was certainly not working for ALL students, especially in the inner cities and systems with widely diverse student populations.   Last but not least, how do you change the attitudes and mind sets of the teachers, to accomplish this wonderful goal?  Aren’t they at the heart of the process?  OK!  Alice and I will come as consultants to work with the staffs on implementing this change of focus.  It would be like hiring “Yoda”, from Star Wars fame, to train the new generations of Jedi warriors in education.  If age is respected and venerated, wow, would be be successful!  

Let’s keep the dialog going…. Murry and Alice Blueglas ( Sarasota, Florida)


Pete – No, not being diplomatic!  Vastly improved over when you started.  The test is whether the site draws one in and your does. The second test – I is there a sense  of robust content being available, esp from the links.  Again, Yes!  It is a very credible site.  Now you have to build the traffic.

Kevin (Foley)


Hi dearest peter, my suggestion would be to add photos and/or video content so viewers can “meet” the people that are both doing and benefit from the work described. i like the photo on http://sclthailand.org/op-ed/and if you can add one (or more) to the homepage that’d be a great start.

good luck! 

Amy (Hannes)  


Dear Peter, Congratulations on your website, i’m sure it will help accomplish your goal of moving along educational reform in Thailand.  While I have no credentials to evaluate the content, my only suggestion would be to pump up the visual, especially on the home page, if possible. 

Anne Ulman Foley  


Dear Peter, How are you? Hope you are well. Sounds like you have been extremely busy! I am actually headed to Asia next week but will be across the pond from you come the fall. So perhaps I will get to see you if you come to London =) I took a look at your website. It is wonderful what you are doing with SCLThailand. If I may, I do have a few suggestions to make it more interactive and dynamic.

  • insert more images and video, at least 1 – 2 photos per page.
  • use static pages (if you are using wordpress, this should be easy) instead of a blog form. You can keep one page as the rolling blog but the rest can be static, so it looks like a regular website instead of a blog-site.
  • people tend to skim websites, so a lot of text may deter them. If you have important information, you can upload a PDF version of the text so the viewer can download them and read them at their own convenience on their mobiles or ipads, etc.
  • a Contact Us section (you have your email on the Letters section but it would be better to have a contact form in a Contact Us section as well so viewers can shoot a quick email to you.

Titania Veda  from Indonesia


Dear Peter, How are you?  Guess you are busy with your education business.  I saw your website.  It looks a great and ambitious project in Thailand.  Hope you will make it a success.  You have so much knowledge and experience in education.

Chen Xiaokang 

(Chengdu, PRC)


Dear Peter,   What an impressive website; it is interesting to read about the challenges you face in education in Thailand  which, of course, echo some of the challenges faced by volunteers here.  If I come across the kind of links you are looking for, I will send them your way.

Bonne Thie ( Current Peace Corps Country Director, China)


Dear Peter Nice work!  You have a full rich website, full of info.   I am not in your field so cannot add much constructive feedback about the learning websites or institutions you mention, but I have a couple of small suggestions about  the website itself.  When I open it, it opens up to your blog, so someone who is not very observant might think that it is only a blog and not realize how much other stuff is on it.. I would suggest having it open to the home page, and have “Foley’s Forecastle” as a tab.   Second, on my computer, there is a blank space to the right of the photo which could be filled, but I realize it may just be my system (which ispretty old!)   Finally, I think you might use a different font that would stand out more, perhaps a bit bigger for nearsighted people.   These are all very superficial comments. Content wise, the website looks great to me!   Take care, see you at our next meeting,  Did you and Gary decide on August 21?  

Barbara.  

Barbara A.K. Franklin, PhD All One Communication 33 Soi 3, Chiang Mai Lamphun Road Chiang Mai, Thailand +6681-830-4281 www.allonecommunication.com  


Hi Peter,   Do I know you?  Presently I am not in Thailand, but China teaching English at the University level.   I support your idea; it is very much needed in Thailand.  However, I suppose that you are aware of the tremendous challenge there.  Implementing true educational reform anywhere is not easy, even more so in Thailand.   Perhaps by having a private school / demonstration example, others will become interested.  I taught in Chiang Rai in a combo government / tuition school.  Most students were from well-off families, some quite rich.  They seem to want the best for their children & can pay.  Maybe they’ll lead the way.   Changing government schools?

Chok Dee (Good Luck!)   Dr. Z  


Peter – I’ve almost decided NOT to send this to Ned Seligman after all. It is so tremendously long and repetitive. I dare not challenge him with so massive a chore. Nor do I have the time right now to knock it down and put it back together again (as I once did for you some years back under the spinning ceiling fan on your Florida back-porch premises).  I am instead seeking Ned’s guidance on how he thinks you should proceed.  He might say “send him to see me – he needs help face-to-face.”   Seriously, I’ll do what I can on your text when I can – but it will not be for a while.  How about selecting a strategically selected advisory group of local counterparts (Thai and other) on whom you could count to give you moral if not more substantive support as you figure out what to “broadcast” indeed widely but in much less prolific style?   I’ll let you know promptly how Ned responds. Remember he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, then PC Director in two west African sites, then PC advisor.   Yrs always, dbe P.S.  The fact that you have already distributed your document need not bother you. 

All the more reason for getting them around the discussion table and telling them tactfully you recognize you’ve sent them a statement that some might consider revolutionary, or unfair to them, etc – but pointing out NOW IS THE TIME lest “globalism” swamp their youngsters rather than equip them for the leadership they deserve to demonstrate. And I’ve decided to send your presentation to him after all.   don’t know enough about education to give you insightful opinions, particularly about Thailand’s. My limited knowledge is between myself (Chinese style) and my sons’ (American). I see advantages on both sides. There was a huge discussion on Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom on Wall Street Journal. You probably have seen them already. From the little I read on your site, Thailand’s teachers quality came in doubt. Then the standards — how could there be many medical students with zero’s in Math? It puzzles me too.

John (Zhang)  


Hi Peter,, Always great to hear from you. Congrats on your new teaching assignment & your web page. You and I certainly share the same concerns and solutions re: education, no matter where it takes place.  My only disagreement is that western (at least US) teachers are losing respect at all levels. Young people are shying away from entering a profession that pays poorly and demands more than anyone is capable of giving. The pressure teachers feel re: standardized test scores has resulted in  cheating scandals that focus on staff, not students! One only has to listen to politicians “debate” key issues to see how far we have fallen in the critical thinking area. We have become a nation where success is measured not by what you say but how loud you say it! Obama is a critical thinker who appears to be overwhelmed by what he has found in congress and so far has been unable to have much influence on the process. I’m glad you are in a position to have an influence on people who are either in the profession or about to enter it. I don’t think you could get a job like that over here with the philosophy you have.  I’m at a point where many of the young teachers I mentored tell me they are taking early retirement because there is no longer room for “heart” in the classroom.  They are beaten down by paperwork and sick of being blamed for everything that goes wrong in education.  We will pay a dear price for this in the future.  In the meantime, keep on keepin’ on.  I admire everything you are doing.  

Peace, Bill (DiYeso)  


Dear Peter,  Good to hear from you. And happy to see your efforts with SCLT. I have not yet read the site carefully, but it looks great in layout and content–and in the people you have involved. Where are you teaching? And are you still working some in Myanmar? I am hoping that Nancy will have/take time to give the site a look before we head to New Mexico for 10 days mid-July, as she may know some websites If not, I assume she will later. I think she has a deadline to finish a book on folk tales for intermediate level ESL students.

Roger (Harmon)


Please take a look at http://www.edutopia.org/ – they usually have new and interesting articles on teaching at the K-12 Level …   My favorite right now is http://www.learningtoloveyoumore.com/ since its Summer and a lot of kids are out of school – this gives them a chance to try out these individual “Assignments” Good luck!   –

Jackie (Tingsabhat)  


Dear Peter,   Thanks for including me in your request for a response to your website. I have only had the briefest look at it. I am currently in panic mode – I have only 2 weeks left before I vacate my house and head to Thailand. I will do a TEFL course at Chiang Mai then spend 3 months at the Mechai Pattana School as a volunteer. As soon as I can get a little free time I will have a close look at your website and provide any observations I can. With packing up and carrying out repairs to my home prior to a tenant moving in I barely have time to check my e-mails. But I do look forward to perusing your website and please accept my best wishes for this worthwhile endeavour.

Steve Ward


Hi Peter Loran Davidson, a mutual friend, forwarded your email. I am a Canadian teacher with 43 years experience and presently (still) teaching at Concordian International School in Bangkok. I want to congratulate you on your excellent web site and encourage you to keep up the good work. I see a few of my favourites on your resource web site already. And I will send a few suggestions when I get back to my classroom where I have further resources to share. I particularly like the Khan Academy. Have you seen “Dave’s ESL” web site? Lots of self help tutorials with immediate corrections. Also – www.sciencespot.net has a lot of excellent links. You have a big task ahead to change the Thai mindset on respect for teachers regardless of their effectiveness. International Schools are gaining in popularity partly because the follow the International Baccalaureate Program ( IB)  http://www.ibo.org/ which fosters independent thinkers.

Best of Luck & Cheers Ken Trottier   PS   you might enjoy a Canadian educators web site. Ian Jukes from B.C. , was a curriculum specialist. His web site is called the Committed Sardine. He is motivational and innovative speaker. http://www.committedsardine.com/  

Till next time Cheers

Ken   


Hello Peter, Excellent work on the website!!   My humble suggestion is it would probably work better if there are less texts and more visuals.  The common problem with websites today is that they tend to fill with too much texts that makes it difficult for the users to locate information quickly and sometime end up losing readers in the process.  

All the best

Kevin (Yang)  


Dear Peter – You continue to do wonderful things for the planet! Yours, Dana (Minaya)


Dr. Foley: I tried, unsuccessfully, to leave a comment. Check it out; something is wrong when you click it. One suggestion comes to mind. Create a national committee of educators open to innovative educational approaches and find out what works in those countries and educational systems that are using a variety of methods(the Internet comes to mind as one source and is mentioned in your web site) which are successful.  Giving/loaning students  the $100 notebook PCs pioneered by the Bill Gates Foundation and installing practice and tutorial programs in English and Math; using National Geographic Teaching Guides packages, which are visually and textually excellent materials buying bulk English workbooks from AUA, are just some ways to change the learning methods and expedite the learning curve…  

Len Levine P.S. By the way, I live in Pattaya, a metro area of over 150,000, changing in demographics from an R & R tourist stop off to a retired and family based location. We are gaining in everything except the one thing we desperately need to develop and nurture culture, the arts and enable more young Thais to  further and complete their education and to give back to the community. I have some ideas along this line, but cannot do it alone. We need Thai input, help and direction.  


Dear Pete, Nice to have your message and the web page you have created. I have been on my business trip these days and have had a look at your webpage briefly, it is a great job, and good way to attract more attention and discussion.  I will come back to it and give a detailed reading and offer you some suggestion if any. 

Best, Stan  

(Shi Jian, Sichuan University)


Hi Peter,   I was going to refer you to the Khan Academy , which I just noticed you already have in your educational source list. They are so impressive and everything is easily accessible online.   My feeling about education is that children have a better chance to do well when their parents actively and continuously light fires under them, as they do in China , Japan , Singapore , and India . (Where else in Asia I’m not sure at all) When this type of cultural imperative is absent, as it is sadly throughout so much of our own country, you have an uphill battle to get people to care enough to make education important.

Pam (Pamela Hepburn Fisk)  


Dear Peter,  

Hi Peter, I am flattered to be included in your mailing list. I don’t see Judie Hudson on the list I think she would be worth including  judiehud@yahoo.com.au She might think she knows it all but she is deeply involved in 3rd world education (particularly in Bangladesh) and would appreciate what you are trying to achieve. Feedback I have found asian scientists in Australia to be lacking in initiative. This is almost certainly due to their education system. I have found that in Thailand the respect for ‘custom’ seems to dominate all aspects of life. So it will be difficult to change the education system from Teacher centred to student centred. The input from us Farangs is difficult as we are seen as a nuisance to be used and then dropped. I find that young women have extremely poor education in the country (Buriram and Rayong) and the older women maintain the status quo rigidly even though it disadvantaged them. Geography (no-one can read a map) maths (the Thai time system is very complicated and confusing with the result that most Thais just ignore anything with numbers (like addresses). and English, to people who are pretty much illiterate in their own language is almost a joke.

Paul Marrow

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