September 2010

Web September

Insights into the 20-hour Thai Culture and Ethics course

The educators and administrators at Thailand Educators Network’s Wednesday, 8 September meeting were taken on an informative journey into the history and present state of the Thai Culture and Ethics course by Dr Nikolaus Mische responsible for providing one of the more professional options in Thailand.

Why is the course needed?

For a number of years, reports became increasingly prevalent concerning non-Thais employed as teachers in Thai government schools breaking rules of etiquette, demonstrating poor behaviour, lacking in professionalism and creating highly embarrassing situations for Thai schools, their teachers, students and administrators.

Placing immense pressure on MoE to address the situation quickly and thoroughly, they replied with Clause 5 Section 2 of BE 2547 Teacher Council regulation stating that any non-Thai seeking to obtain a Thai teaching license is required to pass an examination and assessment procedure set by the Thai Teacher Council.

The now ‘famous’ 20-hour Thai Language, Culture and Professional Ethics course was arranged to fulfil this requirement.

Reactions by teachers

While there have been numerous complaints from non-Thai teachers in Thailand, Thai schools continue to be plagued by many unresolved issues with non-Thais hired as teachers.

However, concerns about the course continue to surface, perhaps recycled, about the fact that an immense amount of money has been generated by organizations teaching the course to hundreds of participants at a time.

However, a closer examination of the objectives behind the course and its mandated content, if conducted properly, would appear to offer non-Thai teachers a solid, albeit short introduction to important aspects of Thai culture in which they are or will soon be teaching.

Course objectives

The objective of the course is to train non-Thais in various aspects of Thai society and instructional ethics to be better equipped with the knowledge and experience needed to work effectively in Thailand.

The mandated syllabus structure includes Thai Society (four hours), Thai Language and Culture (six hours), Thai Manners (two hours), Thai Arts and Music (two hours) and finally, to round out the 20 hours, Professional Ethics (six hours).

Mandated content

Although, many stories still circulate about teachers spending 20 hours learning Thai dancing, the proposed content includes some interesting topics I would want a teacher to know about my culture (Canadian) before they started to teach young, impressionable minds.

A more in-depth overview of the five modules clearly identifies areas that, to varying degrees, should be beneficial to any one teaching in Thailand.

  1. Thai Society includes the state of Thai society in the past and at present including social structures, way of life and Thai wisdom.
  2. Thai Language and Culture, consists of Thai language needed in daily life along with beliefs, values and characteristics of Thai people, dress codes for various occasions the food and Buddhist life styles.
  3. Thai manners, perhaps the most important if taught correctly, involves standing postures for formal and informal occasions, walking, sitting and how to rise from a seated position, how to Wai to individuals of different social strata, and encountering, receiving from and handing articles to higher-ranking individuals.
  4. Thai Arts and Music examines Thai art, values and beauty, along with the uniqueness of Thai art in each region, characteristics and features of Thai musical instruments, Thai dramatic arts, literature, sports and games.
  5. Professional Ethics places its central focus on The Association and Educational Personnel Act, which includes the significance of professional ethics, personal behaviour along with ethical standards towards service recipients and colleagues and social ethics.

How the UEC course differs

Dr Nik explained how the course he offers is different in that they first examine the teachers’ culture in terms of background, values, mores and biases so they can then better understand other cultures and their associated beliefs and mores.

The aim, he continued, is to create ways to follow the ‘middle path’ in both cultures. He then spent a few minutes providing some very perceptive and informative observations based on Hofstede’s classic study in terms of how the East and West differ.

In particular, he examined and had most teachers present agree that the way we see Collectivism versus Individualism, Relationship Orientation versus Outcome Orientation, and Conflict Avoidance or the Art of saying things indirectly- or not at all varies considerably between our culture and those of the students we teach.

Course Availability

While Dr Nik did not want to appear in any way commercial, I see no problem in mentioning that United Educational Consultants offers a course each month that requires one weekend in class plus a written completion of a project, which takes about eight hours.

When successfully completed, a teacher will have a Teacher Council Thailand issued certificate and can earn one graduate credit with the State University of New York (SUNY).

For more information,

Managing Director
Dr Nikolaus Mische
United Educational Consultants Co
Buffalo State, SUNY, Graduate Program
The TEFL Institute
United Language Schools
491/31-32 Silom Plaza Building
Silom Road
Bangkok 10500
02 233 2388

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