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Every year my university holds an academic fair, where students have the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in the classroom in a practical way. I always enjoy the three day period when Udon Thani Rajabhat University descends into chaos as schools from around the local area make their way to the various competitions and stalls illustrating the many projects that students have been involved with over the recent semester.


This is the time of year when it is possible to see the practical application of recent class work. Many tents are set up around the grounds for students to show their projects as well as tables full of English books on diverse subjects such as management accounting and social welfare.


This year I was asked to be a judge for the English Speech Competition and was pleased to see that my fellow judges were of the same opinion as me, in that the winning students in all the categories spoke naturally and that they didn’t have to rely on a photographic memory to repeat what had been written for them by their teachers.


Some of these winning students appeared very surprised to win, as they too were under the misguided belief that robotic repetition was what was needed to master the English language, or at least win this competition. It was refreshing to see them rewarded for their efforts.


Unfortunately, some students treat the occasion of the academic fair as an extended holiday and think of it as an opportunity to have a five day extended weekend. I’m all in favour of having a bit of fun; however, “doing a bunk” for three days after the weekend seems a bit excessive.


Of course, it is difficult for teachers to exert control over students at the best of times; however, I believe that students need to be responsible for their actions and that there needs to be more emphasis placed on this by parents and teachers to help our students understand what is expected from them.


Leading by example is one way parents and teachers can do this. Students need to understand their duties and responsibilities to ensure that they maximise their time at school and university.


There is a fine line between having fun and attending extra mural activities. On the one hand, it’s not an excuse to disappear and on the other, it is important for students to take part in these activities to broaden their horizons.


I have a reputation at my university for being very strict. My students will tell you a different story: however, by nurturing this belief, it makes it easier for me to insist on students attending some lessons during this period. I expected teddy bears to be thrown in the corner by my pre-service English teachers, but when I last looked, none were there.


My mechanical technology class were missing two; however, they came to class after finishing their presentations. I found that really surprising and told them so. I would have put money on them making for the nearest exit as soon as they had finished their commitment at the academic fair. I know what I would have done in their situation! Looks as if I have been proved wrong again.

Academic fair


Students and teachers wait in anticipation for the speech competition to start at the Udon Thani Rajabhat University Academic Fair.
(Unedited article published in the Bangkok Post 1st September 2009)

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