Ella Frazer ’18, CES Career Peer Advisor in the Arts and Humanities, recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Nirund Jivasantikarn and his colleague, Patricia I. McCotter, about the benefits and challenges of the Teach Thailand Corps program. Dr. Jivasantikarn’s accomplishments across Thailand and the United States are numerous, as well as his recognition from institutions of higher education such as Harvard and Baylor University. He has championed higher education in Thailand through partnership with American institutions and professionals, including the Teach Thailand Corps.

I was joined by Dr. Jivasantikarn and his friend, Pat McCotter, on a cold and rainy Wednesday afternoon in the CES Career Resource Library to talk about the benefits and challenges of the Teach Thailand program. Dr. Jivasantikarn, founder of Teach Thailand Corps as well as the American-Thai Foundation, which oversees this program, had a lot to say about the value of American-Thai educational partnership. Ms. McCotter and Dr. Jivasantikarn have been friends since Dr. Jivasantikarn’s early college days in the United States, and she remains a strong resource for connecting Thai and Washington-based communities.

Throughout the interview, Dr. Jivasantikarn expressed the mutual benefit that a program like Teach Thailand can provide to both American teachers and Thai students. Teachers gain a “sense of making a difference in the world,” Jivasantikarn noted, and that after graduating from an American institution, these American students “have so many blessings, and now it’s time to give back to a country [like Thailand] – particularly the children, the students, and the school.”

Teach Thailand offers support to American teachers as they enter the program, as well as after they complete their year in Thailand. Jivasantikarn and his colleagues at the American-Thai foundation and the Thai schools that accept Teach Thailand volunteers, take an interest in the lives of their American volunteers and support them in their transition into graduate school or the professional sector after their time in Thailand.

For Jivasantikarn, the real benefit he sees in this program is the ability for teachers and learners to connect and share ideas. American volunteers bring their American experiences and culture to Thai students, but they also bring firsthand knowledge of Thai culture and people back to America. They “help to get the word out,” said Jivasantikarn, especially surrounding common misunderstandings of Thai citizens and culture.

The aim of Teach Thailand Corps is to expose both American and Thai people to new ideas and ways of learning. During their year of service, American volunteers learn just as much from the students they teach and the culture they are living in as they are able to teach primary and secondary school children English language skills, and Jivasantikarn has seen firsthand the lasting effects this program has on all involved.

As Jivasantikarn and McCotter described, there are many advantages for Americans within the Teach Thailand program, but Jivasantikarn also expressed the benefits that the American teachers can bring to Thai students. Many Thai schools, Jivasantikarn noted, struggle to find people to teach English to younger students, but being able to provide English language classes to students at a young age can set Thai students up for greater educational success in the future. English skills are very important for Thai students as they take their entrance exams for college in Thailand or abroad, and native English speakers can help give a “boost to the morale of the school,” Jivasantikarn said.

Confidence with English can also help Thai citizens in their personal lives, as they encounter foreigners or reading materials written in English. Jivasantikarn also mentioned that in schools, American teachers bring new “tools, games, music, song,” and other teaching methods that are new to Thai students, which can help bring the “joy of learning language” in a new way into the classroom.

For those interested in applying to this program, applications for 2018-2019 full-time teachers will be accepted until December 31, 2017. Applications will also open again in the spring, with a deadline for applications on March 31, 2018. Volunteers chosen from both applications cycle will arrive in Thailand in May and begin teaching in June.

Want to learn more? Here’s more information about Teach Thailand Corps, including the application. If you have questions about the application or program, or want to get in contact with Puget Sound students that have completed the program (like Jesse Lehrman ’14!), CES is here to help.

Photo Credit | Teach Thailand Corps
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