Stamford International University
As technology evolves and smartphones have more power today than any supercomputer did 30 years ago, important shifts in society take place. For developing economies like Thailand’s, technology is a wonderful resource. Many working adults who were not able to receive a proper education due to family responsibilities, or education simply not being an option for them, now have the opportunity to access education to obtain better opportunities for themselves, without having to compromise on current job security or family well-being.
In less than a generation, Thailand has moved from being a largely agrarian low-income society, to an upper middle-income nation and a key contributor to the economic growth of the Southeast Asia region. Education has played a very important role in this transformation. Since 1999, the government has made several reforms to its educational system to improve the quality of their teaching professionals, as well as to implement different curriculums and assessment systems to improve student’s attainment of skills and knowledge. Basic education has been free of charge since 2009, and only up to a few years back, the government has also recognized the importance of Information and Communication Technology in the exchange of knowledge worldwide.. Thus, they have made ICT competencies a major component of the education curriculum1.
Thailand’s government is keen on delivering personalized education for all citizens, as well as teaching about the importance of lifelong learning. These are the statistics:
* 30 million people (out of the 67 million population) have internet access
* 50% of the population live in urban areas and this number is expected to grow dramatically
* 8 million working adults say they want to continue studying their undergraduate degrees, as well as completing a postgraduate degree to move up the job ladder
* 2 million say they are interested in receiving a master’s degree
Stamford International University has decided to seize this opportunity and deliver educational options for everyone in the country. Stamford has around 4,200 students learning how to use technology as an educational tool, and it has the goal of teaching students theory, as well as practical knowledge that will be invaluable to them long after they graduate.
Apitep Saekow, President of Academic Services at Stamford International University, says that e-learning in Thailand has increased in the last five years, but that it still has a long way to go if we compare it with countries like the United States. However, the perception of e-learning has improved greatly, even though there are many who still think the face-to-face approach is better. Apitep explains that at Stamford, they want to give students the best of both worlds, so they have embraced the blended learning approach.
Stamford has the following objectives: to give its students the very best education, an alternative educational option to what is currently offered in Thailand, and to understand their needs. For this, they came up with the Four I’s.
Stamford has the word international in its name. This is because they understand that Thailand is a country with international influence, abundant international tourism, and that overall, the Thai people always appreciate an international component in their daily lives. Thus, it is important for the university to give its students a taste of what it means to be international and to interact with different cultures so they may succeed in any part of the world by becoming global professionals. The university currently has students from 110 countries around the world, and 70% of the teaching staff comes from abroad. As a result, Thai students are constantly interacting with peers and staff from different cultures. Additionally, Stamford has partnered with universities around the world for students to do foreign exchange programs and have the option of graduating with double degrees. This is thanks to Stamford being part of the Laureate International Universities Network, the largest education network in the world, serving more than 1 million students around the world, and over 70 partner universities in 25 different countries.
2. Industry linkage
All Stamford International programs are designed along with CEOs, managers, and other high profile industry players, so that students come out with the skills set these industries look for when hiring, and have an employability edge. Additionally, they have important guest speakers allowing students to project themselves onto their future – to see what is possible and to understand the work and knowledge needed to reach a similar position in the future.
The university aims at using the very best in technology and tools to achieve student engagement. Stamford International uses Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate to offer students flexibility in their learning. Apitep explains that since most adult learners are employed, they must commute to work, while others live in rural areas of the country. With Blackboard Collaborate, they can join classes from anywhere, spend time with their teachers and peers and are able to participate easily – all without having to compromise other aspects of their lives. The university embraces both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments, each with its advantages. Synchronous learning is used via Blackboard Collaborate 30% of the time, and the remainder is asynchronous learning. In short, technology and innovation grant easy access to education, enabling all types of students to login from anywhere in the world.
Stamford International believes that a successful professional needs to have integrity. Since they aim to train entrepreneurs, they have made it their mission to teach students about morals and ethics and how to effectively negotiate and compromise. In Apitep’s words, a person “who takes, takes and takes, cannot be a successful professional.” They need to know when to give back, when to work with and for the community, and when to think of the social component that surrounds them, in order to become successful.
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Stamford International University won the Blackboard Catalyst Award in 2014, and Apitep explains they received the award thanks to the way they utilize and implement Blackboard to improve flexibility and accessibility, along with high quality teaching and learning methods for working adults. Apitep explains that every class has a very well-defined learning outcome, with a different discussion and topic. Their three most popular programs are: International Business Management, MBA and International Hotel Management.
Even though 70% of Stamford students are young adults completing their undergraduate degrees, nearly 30% of working adults are also students that have been given the chance to rethink their lives, to grow, to learn and to become lifelong learners.
Thailand is a great example of how much technology has done and can do for education, and how it has given everyone in the country equal opportunities – despite growing up in rice fields, or in the city – the ability to acquire a quality education and aspire to do more. Thailand is setting an example for third world economies all around the world, and governments could look to them as an example and replicate it – because an educated population makes a civilized and strong country.
Apitep Saekow, Assistant president of Academic Services. Photo: AFP Borja Sanchez-Trillo.
1 Reviews of National Policies for Education. Educatioin in Thailand. An OECD-UNESCO Perspective. Secretary-General of the OECD and UNESCO. 2016. OECD Publishing, Paris.