Let me confess right at the beginning that I am over 60 years old. I have taught in several countries and have taught within several different areas of study (Psychology, Business, English). I have two advanced degrees. I consider myself to be, above all else, a good, possibly talented, teacher. I am writing this to express some personal feelings that may or may not have general import. To be honest, thought, I feel I am pointing to problems that are having a serious impact on the teaching/learning process in Thailand.
After 15 months in Thailand I have reached some surprising conclusions. I now see that the image of a very astute and, some would say, inscrutable people, have, in fact, developed some habits that put them in a light that is not so bright and shining. Such details as the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of the land and water they use and the business practices they generally employ display an approach to everyday life that is short sighted and, I’m afraid, crassly money driven. However, I am speaking outside my “chair” in making such comments. I know education and teaching and learning and I know for sure that Thailand is sorely lacking in their approach to the educational enterprise.
Now, though, I want to home in on one very specific aspect of education within Thailand – namely, the prevailing approach to utilizing teachers. From what I have observed this country has moved strongly toward what I perceive, again, as an essentially money obsessed , cheap is better hiring scheme. I have seen this in public universities as well as private, and, most glaringly, in the language schools that dot the land.
One sign of this is the employment practices that, in effect, block out more experienced teachers for obvious reasons of age, but, I believe it also comes back to the obsession with a bottom line. As to the age question, it has been shocking to experience the “ageism” present here, in a part of the world where the concept of veneration of age and experience has, over the years, been presented as endemic within the various cultures. The specific example of a law that requires all faculty and staff at public universities to retire at 60 is so patently counterproductive to a society as to strain credulity. But, no one blinks an eye about this policy, a policy that flies in the face of utilizing wisdom – that is, the gathered benefit of living long enough to have gained training and experience and then the ability to put that into a context that benefits those being taught. I find it just amazing that this policy and attendant attitude is present in a country such as Thailand. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the deliberations about this law were taking place.
Education is unique in its requirements as to the need for both artistic (teachers are performers) and scientific (teachers must know what they are talking about) abilities. Experience is, within this context, irreplaceably valuable. Thus, when combining the philosophy of cheaper is better with a diminished appreciation for potential wisdom, Thailand is getting the short term hit of a lot of teaching but they are thereby missing the true value of a real education.