Author: Maggie Appel-Schumacher, Intern in Education Policy and Reform Unit, UNESCO Bangkok
It is the beginning of July (Happy 4th!), which marks 6 weeks since I first stepped off the plane in Thailand! It’s amazing how fast time goes by when your senses are overwhelmed with new sights, sounds, and smells. Thailand has exceeded all expectations already and I look forward to part 2 of this extraordinary fellowship experience.
Within UNESCO Bangkok, there are several projects underway within the Education Policy and Reform Unit that have opened my eyes to key issues UNESCO is working on in the Asia Pacific region. The first is the ongoing project of the literature review on teacher management in the Asia Pacific. The first few weeks I spent doing broad based research on teacher management challenges and opportunities that have come together in a document describing the general landscape of teachers in the region. The project is still underway! There is more work to do before the EPR team can use the compiled research to shape guidelines for policy makers and school system to use as a reference when creating their own processes and professional development opportunities for teachers. Countries in the Asia Pacific can learn many new ideas from one another about teacher training approaches, community involvement, adequate school leadership and the integration of transversal skills in the classroom. But sometimes the connection between policy and practice is hard to pin down – and sometimes it doesn’t exist!
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Children and Youth Development Conference with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn! The conference was hosted at Chulalongkorn University and brought together Ministers of Education from across the region who have implemented the Princess Project in their countries. The conference offered incredible insights into what schools have done to address healthy nutrition in schools, vocational training, cultural and environmental conservation and other critical issues to improve education. Click here to learn more about the conference!
Secondly, the Technical and Vocation Education Team (TVET) is vigorously planning for an upcoming Asia Pacific Conference on Education and Training (ACET) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This conference will bring together roughly 800 key stakeholders from vocational schools, businesses, university affiliates as well as government representatives to discuss the future of vocational education in the region. In just a few short weeks, the UNESCO team will be headed to KL to run the 3-day conference in partnership with the Ministry of Education of Malaysia.
It is an exciting time to be part of UNESCO Bangkok!
Apart from the internship, exploring Thailand the last few weeks has truly been an eye-opening experience. In an effort to discover the regional flares of Thailand that cannot be found in the bustling city of Bangkok, I’ve taken time to travel to some of Thailand’s most treasured cities and parks: Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, and Khao Yai National Park.
Ayutthaya, also known as the Ancient Kingdom of Siam, is a fascinating city and home to many ancient temples. Among the most memorable is Wat Mahathat, where the head of Buddha is nestled inside a tree trunk.
Chiang Mai, the second largest city in the north of the country, offered an entirely new flavor of Thailand with its mountainous terrain and bustling night markets. I visited an Elephant Nature Park and travelled to one of Chiang Mai’s most famous temples, Doi Suthep.
Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a phenomenal experience to say the least. The jungle is home to wild elephants, gibbons, snakes, spiders, and trees many hundreds of years old. Along with jungle trekking and tree climbing, our group witnessed nature at its finest. In one of the mountain ranges in the Khao Yai region, there is a bat cave that is home to 4 million bats. One night we stood at the foot of the mountain for 45 minutes watching all the bats fly out of the cave to travel across the valley to the jungle to feed- Thailand is full of wonders!