By Piraya Vittayasing
The common scene at the heart of Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, is mostly middle school and high school students roaming around, going in and out of cramming schools, also known as tutoring schools – day and night.
“At present, cramming schools are proliferating at all levels and there is a saying among parents – the younger the better. The conventional wisdom goes that if they start late, kids would not be competitive…. But most students attend cramming schools to learn how to achieve good scores on their exam papers, which determine the students’ chances of going to certain schools or colleges.” (The Nation)
The pressure from the society on students about their education is very high in Thailand. They are expected to get into a good school, which is usually very hard to get in due to high competition. Then expected to get good grades, graduate with honors, and then continue to higher education. Similarly, in other countries, such as Asia, Thailand has pushed education as its first priority, and a road to success.
Most Thai students are influenced by their families. It is instilled in them that people with knowledgeable jobs are the ones that make the greatest living. As a result, their choices for university’s gravitate towards medicine, engineering, and business–those of which would most likely guarantee a good salary and career after graduation.
On the other hand, American students are not pressured to make education a top priority, but they do learn how to balance studying and working at a young age.
“I was reminded by my parents when I was about 13 years old that I should start finding money, and I felt that I should get a job soon too,” said Kathleen O’Grady, a Communication Science student at Worcester State University.
In contrast, Thai students would never be expected by their parents to start finding any job until they graduated from a higher education, which would enhance the students’ knowledge and ability.
With a faculty-based university system, Thai students are only able to choose one department and stick with it for their four years in undergraduate school. There are separate majors, also known as concentrations for Americans. However, students are restricted to only what they have selected and cannot change their major unless they quit school and re-enter again as a Freshman.
Norrapat Somyanontanagul, an engineering student from Thammasat University said, “I was suddenly granted a scholarship from a company called Triumph Motorcycle by luck, but it’s more like a loan.”
“I accepted it just because all my tuition fees will be paid and I will be given a job right away after my graduation. However, the job is the condition for the scholarship, I have to work with them for five years. Still, it is a pretty great offer, I will get to do every kind of work during my first year and I can choose what job I want my second year. In the fifth year they’ll sent me abroad to England to work at their international branch,” Somyanontanagul told her reason with enthusiasm. “So actually, even it restricted my future plans, I still think it makes my life a lot easier.”
Another similar situation also occurred to, Pichapa Owchariyapitak, a senior from a language and international affairs faculty at Thammasat University.
“I actually was able to choose what I want to study for my Bachelor’s degree because I had a deal with my family. I was to succeed their business anyways in the future, so I wanted to study what I like first and will study business for my Master’s degree,” said Owchariyapitak.
In contrast, American students choose what they want to study, despite the trends of high-salary jobs. With the help of the major-based system, students can transfer schools and credits easily. They can change majors although it may mean that they have to spend more time and money trying to make up the credits they need. However, students do not have to make up the full four years when they changed majors, like most Thai students do.
“I used to be a Childhood Education major but changed to Communication since, I started to felt that it was not really what I wanted to do,” said Mackenzie Crumley, a Worcester State University sophomore.
After graduation, Thai students would most likely be guaranteed stable jobs. However, with an overwhelming number of graduates that increases each year, there have been more unemployed newly grads–similar to the situation in the United States.
The difference is, although American graduates might not be able to find work in their specific careers, there are still alternatives to make a living on part-time jobs and other service jobs. Unfortunately, the same jobs in Thailand would not give enough to make a living, thus, teenagers seeking other options to make money.
In the past few years there have been a lot of city shutdowns–due to political situations in Thailand–people could not physically go out in town to make purchases. As a result, the usage of the Internet has increased and more people started to make online purchases. This has given an opportunity for people to create an online market and since it does not require big budgets, younger people took interest in it. In 2013, e-commerce then became a new trend for teenagers to make money.
“I started my business because I want to make money,” said Laksika Kannasut, a junior at Chulalongkorn University and an active e-commerce owner selling imported bags. “I chose to do an online shop because I found out through my part-time job as a figure skating coach that I wanted to be my own boss.
“Being hired, you will never grow,” added Kannasut. “Owning a business, you take risk and you are responsible for everything.”
Similarly, Chanakan Varasapanont is a full time student at a famous university in Thailand majoring in Communication Management as well as an online business owner that specializes in designed bags and purses.
“I started my own business because of my own favor for bags and to earn more experiences working instead of just studying,” said Varasapanont. “I also learn more about the value of money and I get friendships from other business owners at pop-up stores I set up occasionally as well.”
Varasapanont has also mentioned that she is not as enthusiastic with her studies, as she is with her business. “Honestly, I spent more time trying to run my business than studying.”
Thai and American students, although there are differences in the culture regarding academics and career success, are becoming similar as time passes by. More and more Thai students are thinking about their futures.
Although under pressure and competition, Thai students are trying to break out of their shell and seek something new, something different.
Kathleen O’Grady firstname.lastname@example.org
Norrapat Somyanontanagul email@example.com
Pichapa Owchariyapitak firstname.lastname@example.org
Mackenzie Crumley email@example.com
Laksika Kannasut firstname.lastname@example.org
Chanakan Varasapanont email@example.com
“2013 Was a Year of Booming Social E-commerce in Thailand.” Tech in Asia RSS. 27 Dec. 2013. Web. <https://www.techinasia.com/2013-year-booming-social-ecommerce-thailand/>.
Breitenstein, Dave. “Asian Students Carry High Expectations for Success.” USA Today. Gannett. Web. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/04/asian-students-carry-high-expectations-for-success/2615483/>.
“Cram Schools Should Be Taxed and Controlled – The Nation.” The Nation. Web. <http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2011/01/17/opinion/Cram-schools-should-be-taxed-and-controlled-30146513.html>.
“Thailand Sees Huge Boost in Online Shopping as Bangkok Hit by Shutdown.” Tech in Asia RSS. 20 Jan. 2014. Web. <https://www.techinasia.com/thailand-sees-huge-boost-online-shopping-bangkok-paralyzed-political-shutdown/>.