The network in progress British Council in Thailand connecting people with learning ideas

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The British Council, the United Kingdom’s international organisation  for educational and cultural relations, in Thailand connects people with learning opportunities and creative ideas from the UK and builds   lasting relationships between Thailand and the UK. Operating in 110 countries worldwide, it now has 4 centres in Bangkok-Siam Square, Pinklao, Ladprao and Sri Nakarin and one in Chiang Mai, after starting in Thailand in 1938. David Mathias in British Council, Thailand talking to Rumi Mallick of Digital Learning on building partnerships and networks between Thailand and the UK, on projecting creativity, and creating opportunities to connect with the latest skills, ideas and  experience.

David Mathias is a DELTA qualified teacher of English as a foreign language. He taught English in Spain and the Czech Republic before plying his trade in East Asia. After joining the British Council, Thailand, David has worked on a number of ICT  initiatives including Access English – an online community for English Language teachers; Montage Thailand – online  collaborative projects for schools, Dreams+Teams Online  Community for Young Leaders, and most recently a joint  initiative between the British Council and the Ministry of Education, Thailand – the Lab  School Middle Leadership ETraining Programme.

? What are the main focuses of British Council initiatives in ICT in education in Thailand?
I suppose there are many focuses, but the main relationship we have with the various ministries and agencies within Thailand is helping them in implementing their education progarmme. That  goes back to revamping the tight curriculum for mainstream  education that happened four/five years ago, the curriculum was rewritten and the main focus to  that is teachers should adopt different approaches, that is studentcentred  approach, integrated to different subject areas within their  own subject. With ICT it became easy for the teachers to adopt  student-centric approaches. One way was by allowing student access to information online and allowing  students to develop project works themselves, where the teacher acts  more as a facilitator of learning. So the focus of our education and ICT initiatives is among  leaders, teachers and students in mainstream education. 

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? What kind of partnership do you  have with the Government in Thailand?
We are working mainly with the Ministry of Education, with the office of Basic Education Commission. For example we are working with them in  one large project- Lab Schools. We hope, eventually there will be 900 Lab  schools in the country. These Lab- Schools will act as community  schools for their region. In these Lab- Schools, we run trainings for teachers  in applying ideas in innovative  teaching, using hardwares, ideas for  putting that in practical use for
curriculum teaching.

? So is the Lab-School focused on  teachers’ training?
That’s one area, but the Lab-School initiative is something about the leaders, how they can deploy computers in their schools. So we  have done some Head teacher leadership training through bringing  leadership trainers from UK and train the head teachers here. And I have  tried to introduce the use of ICT as a

Our trial is developing a teacher as a mentor or a guide and a student as an expert. My experience as a teacher (I was a teacher in English as a foreign language) is great to work with students; I learn use of ICT from the students. We convert to a very good team, and I never feel the lack of respect or loss of face

tool for professional development of the head teachers. So we look at two
things- Head teachers being able to talk to Head teachers in forums, and also Head teachers being able to access resources for self development and professional  evelopment
? Do you have any kind of monitoring or evaluation method? You  work for two/three years, do you have any kind of measurement system of the outcomes?
Yes, for this there are ongoing negotiations with the Ministry of education.  here are number of aims and objectives, also indicators of what is happening. There are ways of monitoring our progress. And when  we say we’ll leave the project at a certain stage, n doubt we will  continue to consult.

? You also promote sports as a means of education!
Yes, that’s one of the very successful projects started in 2003; it’s a global project. It ran from British Council UK  in partnership with the Sports Trust of England and its an initiative that looks to leadership skills amongst 14  to 19 year old and gives responsibility for decision making that might  otherwise come from a teacher. For some reason, to reengage some disaffected learners back into the mainstream education and to give  them the confidence to carry on their education. We started that project in  2003 in three schools in Thailand. Firstly, the head teachers from  Thailand went to meet their counterpart in UK and then some teachers fro there come over to do  workshops developing sports integrated to other curricular subjects, like sport and Math, Sport and Science.

? You still have three schools in Thailand?
The project expanded in to 9 schools now. Five in Bangkok, two in Greater Bangkok, one in North of Thailand  Chiang Mai and one in Sonkla. The ministry of Education is impressed with the success. So its an initiative  they would like the Lab schools involved in.  ? There are several challenges in ICT in education. What are the present challenges for Thailand?  The major challenge is the  eaching  population is quite old. And its  getting people to be willing to change
their attitude give it a go as such and this challenge is compounded by the  fact that we still don’t have very good support teams in some of the schools,  IT teams, Internet access are still quite slow and it’s the same in our  teaching centers where we were trying  to persuade or convince the teachers that the use of ICT might be a motivating factor for a student or  might add a different dimension to teaching. There is also a knowledge  gap between the teachers and the students. If you ask a student to go  on a computer the do that in seconds,
but if you ask that to a teacher, they  cannot. So our trial is developing a teacher as a mentor or a guide and a  student as an expert. My experience as a teacher (I was a teacher in  English as a foreign language) is great to work with students; I learn use of  ICT from the students. We convert to a very good team, and I never feel the lack of respect or loss of face.

  ? But do you think that kind of culture exist when a teacher and student covert to a team? It’s beginning. Teachers are realising  now, they are more of a team now. And that’s another success of Lab school project. ?
You are focusing ICT as a prime medium of deliberating education in schools, or is it more in developing content, training, teachers capacity  building. It’s a bit above. I think Thailand still is in the stage of the custom in  themselves with use of computers in getting familiar with that. Its in a  transitional state than experimenting with the use of ICTs. I think its 50-50.  I do quite a work using multimedia devices with students to create  learning objects, to create mini  projects with series of lessons, to give teachers ideas so that they can have more continuity through out the entire term, rather than from one  lesson to one lesson to one lesson. And also we are bringing in teachers  of other subjects as well, I run a website, where I put on projects,    where I can go an integrate art and  English with maths, that also have an online element, where I can discuss  projects with other people doing it.

So it’s more blended …
Yeah, it’s more blended. But more important here is the learner. May be the teachers ability is quite low, but  they are aware what their students can do and if you are aware what your  student can do, you can use the best of your ability.

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