We have been TACEd

January 1, 2010 at 3:14 AM

We have been TACEd

 

Jim Stellar and Rick Porter

 

TACE is the Thailand Association of Cooperative Education.  It aims to spread co-op throughout Thailand and is doing a pretty good job.  We just finished a 4 day in-country Institute with them, working practically 24/7 with 40 dedicated professionals in Bangkok and are posting this from Hong Kong where we will attend the World Association of Cooperative Education meeting (WACE).  WACE, you may know, is now the world-wide parent organization to the Global Institute on Experiential Education that we and Tim Dononvan run with other faculty on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the early summer.  That program has helped 39 Colleges and Universities design and implement plans for experiential learning.  We two brought a lot of that collected experience to TACE to further their train the trainers program. They brought a lot of experience too having been at it for more than a dozen years.

 

But that is not why we write.  As you know, we are both devoted fans of learning from experience and see cooperative education where the student works full time for pay for at least a semester as the most authentic and substantial of all of the forms of experiential education.  It was lovely to be with a group of people, representing a Nation, who operated with the same basic belief.  We all worked very hard, prying into concepts, but they were so polite and open that we became friends.  This happens too on the Vineyard, but not with 40 people at a time.  That it happened there for us is a testimony to the genuineness and dedication of the participants and the wise strong leadership of Professor Wichit, the driving force behind the introduction of meaningful cooperative education in Thailand.

 

But that is not why we write.  We write because we were both blown away by the model.  It is very different from anything we have seen anywhere.  TACE operates under the wing of the government.  Indeed the Minister of Education for the country hosted a dinner for us on the night of our arrival and attended the closing ceremony.  We are used to universities and colleges cooperating at the Vineyard Institute.  But back at their home institution they compete.  Private universities compete for students, for faculty, and for prestige.  It even happens to some extent in publics.  I can see that now from having switched.  Yes, universities will do joint programs, but only with a government so involved as Thailand can one get such depth and potential power.  That is why we say we were TACEd.  Co-op, study abroad, and other forms are supposed to shift the student’s perspective and give her/him a chance to examine their chosen field and career path and even knowledge itself from another perspective from the one they know – being a student all their lives.  The same perspective shift has just happened to us.  Coming from America with its emphasis on individual accomplishment and on outdoing —rather than supporting—others, whether the person or the institution, it is just impressive how working together, trading best practices and testing new ideas across institutions and regions of the country has filled us with hope for co-op in Thailand and for the country itself.  Any place, town, state, or nation has its people as its best asset.  Thailand is trying a powerful experiment using the collaboration of academics and industry in a co-op program with the organization of a national effort, TACE, to try to leverage this most important resource.  We will certainly follow them with great interest.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “We have been TACEd”

  1. Mary says:

    This is very interesting especially given Obama’s shift towards embracing international assessment of student learning outcomes and the recent buzz around occupation-related training in the U.S. Thanks for highlighting this program and I will definitely read up on it.

    Mary Churchill
    University of Venus

  2. Jim Stellar says:

    Mary,
    I had not thought of it in terms of America, but rather in terms of other countries around the world where the government takes a strong role in supporting most of the universities. But you are right. Our experiences in Thailand apply to the US as well and not just to the cooperative education schools but to all aspects of enhancing learning outcomes where a little experience outside the classical academy would be useful. Occupation is one place, but so is training entrepreneurs and other high-end professionals. Much to discuss.
    Congratulations again on the launch of your blog.
    -Jim

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