Pornprom Chaichatpornsuk looked up from her plate in the upstairs cafeteria on Thursday and pronounced her lunch, “Very delicious.” She’s become a fan of Chartwells during her month-long visit to Worcester State.
The associate director for administration of the demonstration secondary school at Chulalongkorn University , she has spent the month of April visiting middle and high schools in Central Massachusetts, observing education and science classes at Worcester State, talking with faculty about education philosophies and practices, and visiting the Pipeline Program at University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Chulalongkorn, in the heart of Bangkok, is the highest-ranking university in Thailand as well as the country’s first university. Professor of Chemistry Margaret Kerr was a Fulbright Senior Scholar there last fall . She is the faculty host for Pornprom, who also teaches education courses at the university.
The similarities between Thai and U.S. education systems outweigh the differences, Pornprom said. Thai schools offer science, mathematics, art, health, physical education, and professional and technical skills. The Thai system groups grades 7-12 in secondary schools. There are no middle schools.
The students in her demonstration school are similar to those in public schools in higher income areas of the United States. Half the students in the demonstration secondary school are children of university faculty. The other half are from Bangkok. Its very competitive, she said. There are 20 applicants for every seat in these classes.
Pornprom noted one difference in the education of teachers. In Thailand, university students pursuing careers as teachers spend four years studying teaching and spending time in elementary or secondary classrooms each semester. They then must pass a licensing examination before spending another year doing supervised teaching.
“They spend one semester as a classroom teacher at the university demonstration school,” she said. Then they spend a second semester at another school in Bangkok or elsewhere in the country.
This is Pornprom’s first visit to the United States. It’s unusual for Thai women to travel alone, particularly abroad. She has missed her family, but thanks to the Internet and the telephone, she’s kept in touch.
She’s made the most of her time here. In addition to classroom observations, she’s visited New York City twice and Boston. She’ll make a week-long stopover in Chicago on her return to Bangkok to visit a university colleague conducting research.
Maureen Shamgochian, associate vice president for academic affairs, and Steve Chao, director of international programs, helped with arrangements for her campus visit.