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Do Thai Students Know How to Think?


Do Thai Students Know How to Think?

Many expats in Thailand feel the need to pontificate on just about any subject that involves Thai people. It seems the longer one has been fortunate enough to live in this wonderful country, the more one has to say about its native population. We talk about the way they drive, the things they eat, the corruption of their public officials and how intelligent (or not) we think they are. Some of these opinions are based on observation and thoughtful consideration of social variance. Most of them are just people repeating crap they heard.

One of the most common piles of steaming misinformation I hear over and over again is that Thai students can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag. Many is the time some bleary eyed barstool sociologist has explained to me, “Ya see, the Thai school system is based on rote learning. They’re just taught to write down what they see on the blackboard and regurgitate it back to the teacher. They don’t have any critical thinking or problem solving skills. They are afraid to voice an opinion for fear of insulting the teacher.” I’ve heard it from literally dozens of crusty old expats who consider themselves experts on all things Thai; Thai kids can’t think.

Well boys, I’m here to call bull*[email protected]! on that. Allow me to spew a little of my own rhetoric and illuminate you all on this subject. Yours truly Orlando Barton is a teacher at a major university in Bangkok. I meet bright-eyed Thai students every day and feel eminently more qualified than anyone I’ve met to speak on the subject of Thai kids and their critical thinking skills.

The picture you see above is my Technical Writing class full of first year students. I’ve split them into two groups to discuss the controversial topic of Casinos in Thailand as a writing exercise. Each group has taken a side and will present me with a concise paragraph offering four reasons why they support their position. They were animated. They were intelligent. They were full of original ideas and approaches I’d never thought of. In the end they presented well thought out cases supporting their position. Then I reversed which side they were to support and repeated the exercise. Guess what? They did an even better job and hardly copied the previous team’s positions at all. What’s more, I sprang the same exercise on my afternoon class and got similarly amazing results.

So, for all you grumbling old-fart expat-experts; before you offer your next official opinion on the state of Thai education, I suggest you get out of the pub and interact with the younger-smarter Thai generation. You just might learn something.

Orlando Barton

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