Thai delegation studies American university system on visit to Indiana State

April 11, 2014

A group of doctoral students from Thailand will leave Indiana State on April 13 with background on the American educational system they hope will help formulate a new concept for education at home.

The delegation, which includes a dean, professor and doctoral students from Roi Et Rajabhat University in Thailand, took part in two weeks of morning workshops focused on a variety of topics around educational leadership, such as traditional and non-traditional scholarship and innovations in classroom teaching.

Each afternoon was set aside for students to use Cunningham Memorial Library to prepare PhD dissertation research presentations they will deliver at Indiana State today (April 11).

Dr. Kriangsak Srisombut, dean of the College of Education at Roi Et Rajabhat University, said his role on the trip was both as an administrator representing the university and as a student observing his surroundings.

"My responsibility has been to learn the concept of educational leadership," he said. "In Thailand, we're focused on redesigning the educational system, so I'm learning more about the U.S. educational system, scholarship and behavior of students to help us get ideas on how to reimagine our educational system and university."

Likewise, Srisombut hopes having the delegation on campus will strengthen the collaboration between Indiana State and Roi Et Rajabhat University, where administrators keep in contact year-round.

"It was exciting for us to be welcomed to campus by the president of Indiana State and to meet the dean of the College of Education (at Indiana State) and faculty and staff at the university," he said.

The partnership between Indiana State and University Roi Et in Thailand began several years ago when a group of Indiana State professors attended two conferences at the University Roi Et.

"The university president put together a bus trip, where we got to know the faculty and university president and had an excellent time," said Dr. Will Barratt, who's spearheaded the Thailand delegation's visit to Indiana State since the beginning. "The next year, they wrote us and asked if they could bring a group of doctoral students in educational leadership to Indiana State, so three years ago they brought two professors and a group of students to our campus."

This year's delegates, who include a monk and two parents that brought their children, are all from the Province of Roi Et, which Barratt described as one of the most rural areas in Thailand.

"In Thailand, sometimes finding electricity is an issue. In a similar way, in Indiana, we have teachers working in high poverty areas, so it turned out to be a wonderful match of our students and theirs," Barratt said. "The Thai students are a lot like students at ISU, where about 50 percent of our enrollment is first-generation students. "When I asked the Thai scholars how many of them had parents who went to college, no one raised their hands."

The Thai delegation's annual visit will be handled next year by Dr. Ryan Donlan, who will assume responsibility after Barratt retires from Indiana State this year to take a teaching position in Thailand.

"What we try to do is an educational experience in the morning on subjects that are of interest to educational leadership, no matter where we are in the world," Donlan said. "We have PhD candidates from all over Indiana on campus on Wednesdays, so last week the PhD candidate's from Indiana got to meet PhD candidates from Thailand. Their conversations were really interesting, as we asked them to think more deeply about educational leadership from a cross-cultural perspective."

In addition to an introduction to Indiana State, the delegation also experienced an American K-12 education at the Vigo County Public Schools, which opened its doors to the Thai students to tour elementary, middle, and high schools and an alternative school.

"One thing we're conscious of is not to tell them to do what we do," Barratt said. "We're not going to tell them about high-stakes testing because it's not a concern for them. While education is critical to them just like for us, Thailand is a developing nation and they have different ideas about education. In part, this seminar is a social justice piece for Indiana State, as we help with nation building in a place that values education deeply."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or Betsy.Simon@indstate.edu