During the past week here at school teaching English in Thailand, I’ve been giving my M-1 (7th grade) and M-4 (10th grade) classes a mid-term test. It’s basically a review of everything we have done during this semester thus far. I tried to design the test so the students would do well. I wanted the test to be a form of positive reinforcement for the students. We even did an in-class review session before the students took the test!
So, I was feeling pretty good when I handed out the mid-term test for the first time. I explained to the students that they must put their student number on the test and there was to be No Copying. Wow – I was about to learn a lesson!
In my previous blogs, I’ve done some comparing between Thailand students and American students. In many ways, the students from both countries (and probably everywhere around the world) are similar. They like to goof off at times, they like to talk in class at times, they like to have fun while they learn, etc…. Well, I quickly found out that Thai students have a tendency to cheat and copy – just like American students do from time to time.
Each student here at Kanchanapise carries a school issued black ‘briefcase’ around with them instead of a backpack. They have all their class books and papers and homework in the briefcase. So, before the test began, I asked each student to set their briefcase upright on the desk where they sat to discourage any copying or cheating during the test. I figured each briefcase would be like a little wall in between the students and they would only keep their eyes on their own test – ha! I soon found out they just peer around or over the top of the briefcase to see their neighbors paper.
I remember when I was in Junior High and High School and it was time to take a test…. The teacher would walk around the room during the test and monitor all the students to discourage copying. Well, I did the same thing as a teacher here in Thailand. But, as soon as my back was turned to a group of students they would look at each other’s test paper! It (the cheating) was so blatant that I had to laugh! I even walked up to one boy and asked him where his half finished test was and he just sat there and smiled. It was on the desk of the boy behind him so that boy could write down answers. Wow, I was speechless.
Not every student cheats. They don’t all copy each other. But I think for some students it’s just par for the course. I think that they have been doing it for so long; it’s just accepted as normal behavior. As I walk into school each morning and greet groups of students sitting around, I always notice a gang (or two or three) of kids gathered around copying someone’s homework. You remember, the kid that did the assignment at home and then is forced (or willingly gives it up) to share his work with everyone else. I guess some things never change – ha!
Time for more “You Know You’re a Thailander” moments:
*You Know You’re a Thailander when you realize why National Holidays are so important. It’s because for many people in Thailand, it’s their only time off work. It’s amazing how many people here work seven days a week!
* You Know You’re a Thailander when someone you barely know asks you a very private question and you think nothing of it. Brutal curiosity and brutal honesty are the norm here.
* You Know You’re a Thailander when you reach for your coat or jacket as soon as the temperature drops to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.