– Visiting ACU fellow Maya Cranitch shares her experiences lecturing the first of the units in the ACU Diploma in Liberal Studies.
It is 8.45 and I arrive half an hour early to begin class at the MMR online learning centre in Ranong. All 9 students are already there, smiling, bright eyed and eager, eating breakfast, reading their textbooks or at the computers researching for an assignment. During the six days of teaching no one misses a minute of class time. There are no complaints, no distractions, only rapt attention and enthusiastic participation. When the access to education is gained through struggle and hardship, it is not squandered but a prize to be valued. What teacher would trade the opportunity to teach such students?
The first subject in the Diploma in Liberal Studies is English Communication. Students are introduced to English for academic purposes. They explore different types of writing, develop reading skills, strategies for research and become familiar with academic referencing conventions. This course was delivered face to face but also had an online discussion board which allowed Ranong students to collaborate with their colleagues: the 30 students in Mae Sot. The first discussion posts asked for a personal introduction as well as a reflection about previous educational experiences. These posts, often highly personal, talked of long journeys from villages to refugee camps in search of education, schooling interrupted by warfare, schools with poorly trained teachers and no resources.
A continuing theme was the belief that education was a source of hope in the future.