I spent the week proctoring tests, which is always interesting. Ours is an “open” university, there are no admission requirements, so our students tend to be those whose earlier education did not provide them with the foundation necessary to ace the entrance exams for the more prestigious schools. Ram is a giant institution, we have over 850,000 students all together, all over Thailand, we award something like 45,000 degrees every year. At our school, anyone who fails the final the first time around gets a second try, and there’s no requirement to actually attend classes. Almost all of our students work jobs along with school, so we try to be accommodating. Most of our students sign up for about ten classes per term, many never go to class, and actually studying the assigned materials is very rare, they prefer to buy the ubiquitous outlines before the finals and hope for the best, or, more like, see what’ll happen.
Interesting things happen on the day of the test. Many just don’t show up, and there’s no penalty for that either. There’s no “Incomplete-F,” a result that will be familiar to American readers. It doesn’t go on the transcript at all. An easy subject may get a good turnout, let’s say twenty-six out of thirty-four; the harder subjects may get very few, fewer than ten out of thirty-four is common. Of those who do show up, some are completely unprepared.
Some tests are handed in very quickly. On a multiple choice test, some will take the “Hail Mary” approach, filling in the answers at random. On an essay type test, there are three popular shortcut hand-ins:
1. Blank book;
2. Blank with an explanation. “Not doing this test” is popular. Some apologize, “Sorry professor, the test is too hard;”
3. Brief, hopeless gestures at the questions, or only some of them.
Please don’t think that I am being critical, no way! Ours is a very good university, and we’re helping these students. They get a good education, and the degree has value. In my subject, Law, it is particularly good, most of the prosecutors and judges in Thailand are our graduates. We teach Law in twenty-seven provinces. I approve of Ram’s academic policies in every respect. And I admire our students greatly. They come predominantly from a background where no one has really cared about them, or tried to help them, perhaps no one has really tried to teach them anything. They went with the flow in their youth, either in country-side schools where it was all-recess-all-the-time, or in Bangkok schools that were poor and rough. They are young men and women who want to have a better life. They woke up at some point and realized that they needed higher education to escape from a life of dead-end underemployment. So they came to my university, the “open” university, and God bless them, they are in my heart and I wish them the very best of luck.
Teaching them, even proctoring their tests, is endlessly fascinating, and I am grateful for the opportunity.