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USC Rossier students get a taste of Thai education

by Olivia Niland
EdD candidate Jim Feigert with traditional Thai dancers (Photo/courtesy of USC Rossier School of Education)
Photo: EdD candidate Jim Feigert with traditional Thai dancers (Photo/courtesy of USC Rossier School of Education)

Forty-nine EdD students — the USC Rossier School of Education’s largest international study tour to date — took the field trip of a lifetime to Bangkok, Thailand, in August.

The trip, which is a component of the school’s International Studies Seminar instructed by Michael Diamond and Mark Robison, was also attended by two faculty members and three staff members, along with EdD students from USC Rossier’s Hawaii cohort.

“This was our largest trip by far,” said USC Rossier Assistant Dean for Research Cathryn Dhanatya, who played a large role in organizing the excursion, noting that most of the school’s international trips average 10 to 12 students.

Planning for the journey, which was led by USC Rossier faculty members John Pascarella and Larry Picus, was set in motion more than a year ago.

“I was invited to dinner at the house of the Thai Consulate General,” said Dhanatya, who is of Thai ancestry and who had previously visited the country. “The Consulate General expressed interest in improving U.S.-Thai relations and finding sponsors for the trip.”

The trip included a visit to the Thai Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC), the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, multiple universities in Bangkok and several K-12 institutions. Students also attended Thai cultural shows in Bangkok and were welcomed to one of the elementary schools by student performances of traditional dances and Muay Thai boxing, an experience that Pascarella referred to as one of his most memorable from the journey.

“The trip to Bangkok was one of the most rewarding opportunities I have experienced as a faculty member,” Pascarella said. “Through the university and government presentations, we were provided with a broader context and deeper understanding of the K-12 and higher education system in Thailand, including its history, the cultural values and beliefs informing decades of reform, and its relation to greater economic and political trends.”

Prior to the study tour, students attended orientation sessions to familiarize themselves with Thailand’s educational system. The goal of the International Studies Seminar course is to help improve students’ understanding of international education, and to allow EdD students to compare and contrast American education with that of other Pacific Rim countries across different education sectors.

Dhanatya emphasized how Thailand’s culture plays a large role in its educational system, making the experience especially informative for American students. The trip coincided with this year’s 180th anniversary of U.S.-Thai relations.

The students were able to meet with prominent guest speakers and policy officials, including Thai Deputy Secretary-General Aporn Kanvong and officials from Chulalongkorn University, Mahidol University and Bangkok University (Rangsit).

“The trip to Thailand was an amazing experience, and I am so glad Rossier gave us the opportunity to have such an adventure,” said EdD candidate Tanaz Farzad. “The highlights of the trip for me were definitely the visits we made to the elementary campuses. It was amazing to see how kids are kids no matter where you are, and good teaching and learning can happen anywhere in the world.”

The EdD candidates were able to utilize the trip as an opportunity to familiarize themselves with Thailand and to create valuable connections with their peers and colleagues.

“The trip enabled me to get to know my colleagues on a different level, for which I really was grateful,” said EdD candidate Ryan Eisenberg. “Networking and developing professional relationships is an important part of educational leadership and development within the educational community.”

 

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