LiBeL Column

An A Please Ajarn

Columns from The Nation newspaper

When Thai parents rule the roost

For the last couple of weeks educators, who are fortunate enough to be teaching eager young Thai kids, have been busy checking mid term exams. I had an email for one guy who was asking for suggestions about what to do when he was given the task of thinking of about 150 different comments for his Prathom 4 students’ report cards.

I told him that the length of time a parent spends reading comments is inversely proportional to the grade given. 8 weeks of school summed up by a single letter says it much more effectively and much more eloquently than a mere paragraph ever could. Providing that letter on the right of the subject is is one of the first two in the alphabet, then no further action is required on the part of the parent.

However the fun and games begin when, to misquote Big Bird, ” This term’s report is brought to you by the letters C,D and E.” Blame has to be apportioned and there’s one thing you can guarantee – when the shit hits the fan it won’t be distributed evenly. The guilty parties, or at least those perceived as being guilty, will be left up the creek without a canoe, let alone a paddle.

When one of my sources for this column taught at St Judas’s Academy for the Overfed, herself and a fellow teacher, had the misfortune to write an exam that was deemed too difficult for their students. You can probably guess that nothing was said before the exam was given to the students – although it had to be checked by the Head of the English department before being given the OK. It was only after the results were in and half the kids failed it, that it was decided, by unknown powers, that the exam was too difficult.

Bear in mind the answers to every question were, or at least should have been ( if the fallen angels had bothered to make notes in class ), in the students exercise books. Students were also told which particular areas would be in the exam well in advance.

Parents complained to those in charge – using the traditional Thai method of attaching business cards to their letters just to emphasise, and leave no room for doubt about, exactly how much more important than the recipient the senders were.

Of course, the teachers’ direct superior took control of the situation and confronted the parents about their offspring’s total lack of preparation for the exam and record of less than stellar behaviour in class. Without apportioning blame, the parent was calmly reminded that it was their duty, as good parents, to not only buy their child all that their heart desires but, to also make sure that that all homework given should be completed on time. Other ideas such as chatting to their kids about what they did in class and taking it upon themselves to ensure that their child left home with the vast majority of the books that would be needed for the day’s studies.

The parents, sensing that major loss of face was imminent, quickly backed down and gave their son a jolly good talking to. Shocked into action by this unexpected bollocking, the next semester saw a real change in the student’s attitude and behaviour. He became studiousness (if there is such a word) personified. Come the next exams he aced the lot and his Dad, after leaving work early to share the moment of joy with his son, ‘high five’d him outside the gates before driving into the sunset for a congratulatory slap up meal at Pizza Hut.

Or did something different happen? That did seem to contain a bit too much common sense and the ending did err towards Oprah. Let me try again.

Take 2 – Of course, the teachers’ direct superior took control of the situation and immediately leapt to the parents’ side without even posing the question of their offspring’s total lack of preparation for the exam and record of less than stellar behaviour in class. Without apportioning any blame to the parents or their offspring, the teachers responsible were rather over excitedly reminded that reminded that it was their duty, as good teachers, to not only ensure that kids pass the exam at the first try but to also make sure that this wrong should be put right in double quick time.

Other ideas such as attempting to convince the parent that some blame possibly lay with the child due to the fact that it was rare the kid completed any homework or left home with the vast majority of the books that would be needed for the day’s studies were ignored.

The teacher’s superior, sensing that major loss of face was imminent for the school, quickly backed down and gave the teachers a jolly good talking to. Shocked by this unexpected bollocking, the teachers now realized the error of their ways and the next semester saw a real change in their attitude and behaviour. They became slackness (if there is such a word) personified. Come the next exams all the students aced the lot and the teachers’ superior was spotted ‘high five’-ing the Head of English who was on hand to witness the 100% pass rate for the exam. Pizzas were delivered and self-congratulation was the order of the day in the staff room.