From GSSE to Harvard University, Chalisa Kaewla (Jee, cohort 2) has shown her real determination to make a change for Thai education system by pursuing the school of her dream. She is now a soon-to-be student in the class of Harvard Graduate School of Education 2021. Receiving the government’s full scholarship, Chalisa promises to return to Thailand to create an innovation that will elevate education for all; as follows are her interview.
- What has been your inspiration in your path of study?
I realized that the education system needs a reform when I went for an exchange year in Italy. The experience had allowed me to see the actual realms of possibilities and diversities in this world. I became aware then, that the content which we learn in the schools today is no longer relevant with how the world actually functions nowadays.
As a young student, I believed that the only parameter of success in my life was the GPA. However, I eventually came to realize that the 14 years of compulsory education were more of a competition to memorize facts, rather than a continuous growth process that would allow me to see the possibilities in this world.
Born and raised in Bangkok myself, I decided to become an exchange student at an Italian high school in the small island of Sardinia. I became exposed to different beliefs and a part of an international community. Followed by self-reflection, I understood how little I knew about the “real” world, and became aware of how much potential I truly hold once I step outside of my own comfort zone. I felt within these moments a sense of fulfillment that formal education never gave to me. Relating my experience to a wider perspective, formal education has never quite set anyone up to pursue a truly authentic and purposeful life.
This suggests to me that the formal education system might be obsolete, and fails at providing new sets of experiences to connect learners with their latent potential.
From that point onwards, I decided to be in an education that would offer me hands-on experience and active learning. GSSE provided me the exposure and opportunities to understand what the world at large is like. The knowledge and skills I obtained here prepare me for several 21st-century career path(s). Moreover, professors and fellows at GSSE have always been my push, my inspiration, and my very important supportive network so far.
2. What makes you choose and commit to the education field of study?
From my work experience of conducting workshops and educational sessions for diverse groups of audiences, I have seen first-hand the changes, and even transformations within these people.
I really like that I can witness the impact I try to create right away.
In GSSE, the program offered me learning experience which instills leadership and social agency. During my four years of study, I experienced how education can provide exposure and opportunities for students to see what the world looks and feels like. I was able to distinguish between a meaningful educational experience from an obsolete one.
Engaging with social issues and social innovation projects, I observed how education systems play a role in solving each kind of social issue. A child is born as a white canvas, and as it grows come paints and colors that appear on the white canvas as a bright, distinct work of art. Education is the very first and most dominant color painted on the canvas—children spend their first 15 years of life in school, and as they enter the society, they are the outcome of their education. Going to school is a common experience for almost everyone; yet pressing social issues such as poverty and lack of access to quality education persist.
The world desperately needs to produce social change agents.
I imagine a world where education constructively prompts people to discover and utilize their distinct expertise and interests in order to alleviate pressing social issues. The world would be filled with social change-agents whose talent is devoted to uprooting social challenges and providing future generations with sustainability and equity.
3. Why Harvard University?
HGSE offers multidisciplinary courses, including those targeting self-exploration—‘Mindfulness for Inner Strengths and Social Challenges’—as well as courses that cultivate an experiential creative process which stimulates agency in learning, such as ‘Design Learning by Creating Class.’
Furthermore, I look forward to embarking upon a systematic learning journey through researching how technology and learning innovation can be critical tools of impacts and scale through transformative learning. I remember when I did research on Transformative Learning, I came across one paper written by Robert Kegan, who used to lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Education—I was impressed. Plus, I feel like Harvard’s ecosystem and partnership with MIT in research and practice has been an innovative educational tool and community.
Lastly, I wanted to study in the USA as the culture embraces healthy conflicts and constructive discussions. I find it challenging and fun at the same time to talk and learn from people with diverse views.
4. What were the reasons you applied for the Ananda Mahidol Scholarship ?
The scholarship awards a person who demonstrates academic potential as well as a commitment to contribute social impact to the Thai society in the future.
The principle aligns perfectly with my current capacity, including my aspiration to apply what I will be learning from the western discourses, and make changes for Thailand’s development in the future. For this reason, I applied for this scholarship.
5. How do you intend to leverage your position as an AM awardee? What do you hope to do upon your return to Thailand?
As an awardee of Ananda Mahidol-Scholarship, I look forward to sharing with other classmates during the program my experience working in the Thai education system; its opportunities and limitations, and how they differ from education in other parts of the world.
I expect to be giving myself as much exposure to innovations as possible. I am also ready to collaborate with all other participants in the world-class institutes, and to learn from their skills and mindset.
After graduation, I plan on developing an education innovation which will create quality education and democratize it to all parts of, not only Thailand, but in other emerging countries around the world. I am also envisioning that this innovation will help learners to experience not only the most relevant knowledge and skills of our time, but more importantly, how big and inspiring this world is.
Learn more about the School of Global Studies, Thammasat University: https://sgs.tu.ac.th/
Learn more about the GSSE program: https://sgs.tu.ac.th/ba-gsse/