The perspective of Chinese teachers toward Thai students in learning environment

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1 * Corresponding author. Tel.: ; fax: Available online at The 5 th Burapha University International Conference 2016 Harmonization of Knowledge towards the Betterment of Society The perspective of Chinese teachers toward Thai students in learning environment Pannapat Pruksakit a * and Astrid Kainzbauer b a Burapha Unversity Chantahburi campus, 57 Moo.1 Chon Pratan Road, Kamong, Tha Mai, Chanthaburi 22170,Thailand b College of Management Mahidol University, 69 Vipawadee Rangsit Road, Samsennai, Phayathai, Bangkok, Thailand 10400,Thailand Abstract This research aim to study the cultural differences and similarity between Thai and Chinese people in learning environment. The research is about the perspectives of Chinese teachers toward Thai students and how Chinese teachers adapt their teaching styles to the Thai context. This information was gathered by in-depth interviews with open-ended questions. The author interviewed Thai and Chinese teachers who work at the Language department of Sriyanusorn School, Thailand. This paper identified the aspects of differences and similarity between Thai and Chinese students from the perspective of Chinese teachers. These differences aspects are: inactive in learning, focus on present and a feeling of fun. The similarity aspect between Thai and Chinese students is collectivism. The author also provides recommendations for Chinese teachers on how to adapt to the Thai cultural context Published by Burapha University. Keywords: Thai clasrooms;cross cultural;thailand;china

2 1. Introduction Proceedings of the Burapha University International Conference 2016, July 2016, Bangsaen, Chonburi, Thailand Nowadays the third language is important. It opens more opportunities in the career path for students. Therefore the demand of language teacher is rising, especially the native teachers. One of language that has popularity among Thai students is Chinese language. The parents support their children to study the third language and there are many high schools provide the Art-Chinese course to students. The parents support their children to learn with native Chinese teachers, so there are many Chinese teachers come to work in Thailand. The Chinese teachers have to face with the different culture environment. They face with difficulty to dealing with Thai students. In order to achieve success teaching in Thailand, Chinese teachers have to learn cultural environment in order to adapt to the local context. This Paper focus on how the Chinese teachers utilize cultural knowledge in order to adapt and develop their teaching style and techniques to Thai students. Learning of cultural difference and similarity is the first thing that teachers should realize before prepare the teaching plan. The culture has influence on the way of learning and teaching. If teachers are not aware of this, it would create a problem in the teaching process. The teaching style that works in one culture may not be suitable with other culture (Xiao, 2006). This research find out the differences and similarity of Thai and Chinese high school students. The specific context of this research are Chinese teachers at Sriyanusorn School. 2. Literature review Culture is an important value that expatriates should learn when working overseas. In order to understand and adjust themselves to working in an international organization. There are many definitions to define culture. Culture as a collective phenomenon which could be shared, understood, and expressed by groups of people; it implies that a particular culture can be evaluated through the study of the perceptions and opinions of a group of people that belongs to that particular culture (Gudykunst et al, 1996, as cited in Bunchapattanasakda & Wong, 2010). This means people can share culture to people in their group. So people can learn culture from other societies though their perspectives and opinions. In addition, Culture can be defined as the norms, values and beliefs of a particular group or community in a particular area or geographic location, and shared by its members (Hofstede, 1980, as cited in Rashid and Ho, 2003). This means the norms, values and beliefs have an effect on group s thinking, feeling and acting. School is one of organization that has become international scale. There are more foreigners who come to work as teachers in school. Teachers have to adjust to the local learning environment. There are researches about Thailand and China leaning environment. Learning environment in Thailand In education sector, culture also affects teaching and learning in each society. In Thai class room, the role of learner is to listening. Thai cultural mores proscribe criticism or even questioning of the teacher (Kainzbauer & Hunt, 2014). From this research indicates that Thailand s education has the teachers at the center of learners. In addition, from the research of Vallin and Akesson explain about Thai students learning style that The teachers were typically in the front of the classroom instructing the whole classes. Notetaking was the most common student activity in these classes (Vallin & Akesson, 2012). This is support that learning environment in Thailand, Thai students are not central of learning. 657

3 Learning environment in China The infusion of Confucianism in every corner of Chinese education explains the power distance and collectivist orientations of teachers and students in Chinese college classrooms. Today, successful students are driven by the high expectations of their parents and teachers. The higher level of examinations students can pass, the higher level of knowledge they are presumed to possess (Hui, 2005, as cited in Stork and Hertley, 2014). In China, parents have high expectation for their children to have higher education. Therefore, student study to fulfill parents expectations rather than study for acquire skills. In the Chinese context, where motivation and classroom management are not central issues in the schools, and the uniform goals of high stakes exams and pressure propel students to diligence and hard work. The educational practices exist, such as test- oriented teaching, heavy assignments and physical punishments (Zhang, 2004, as cited in Gao, 2010). This research shows that China education is not focus on students as the central of learning. From the research review, we can conclude that in Thailand and China learning environment, students are not central of learning. This study the author focuses on the culture of Thailand and China by using one of most famous crossculture theories, Hofstede s theory of cultural dimension, to show the differences and similarities of these two countries. Fig.1 The comparing cultural dimension between Thailand and China (Resource: 658

4 Power distance Proceedings of the Burapha University International Conference 2016, July 2016, Bangsaen, Chonburi, Thailand Power distance is level of people in society accept inequality. In high power distance society, people accept a hierarchical order (Hofstede, 2001). According to graph above, Thailand scores 64 in this dimension, so Thailand is classified as high power distance society which means Thai people accept inequality in the society. This is similar to China where the score is 80 which is higher than Thailand, so China is classified as high power distance which mean people believe in inequality is acceptable. Individualism and collectivism This dimension shows the level that individuals involve themselves to be part of the group which is affects how they live with people in the society. Individualists are people tend to focus on themselves and their direct family only. They like to stand out from the group. Collectivists are people who want to be part of the group. The relationship in the group is important for them, so they will support and help the members in the group or family than people outside the group (Hofstede, 2001). From the graph above, Thailand and China have the same score at 20. Therefore, both Thailand and China are classified as Collectivism. Masculinity and Femininity Masculinity and Femininity are dimensions that separate the society based on the fundamental fact of gender. In a masculine society people have high enthusiasm in competition. They dedicate themselves to work in order to success, so the success in working is more important than relationship.. On the other hand, in feminine society, people focus less on competition and success. They focus more on quality of life and caring for others (Hofstede, 2001). From the graph above, Thailand scores 34 which can classify as feminine society. China scores 66 which can classify as masculine society. Uncertainty Avoidance Uncertainty Avoidance is how a society deals with unknown situations. Societies that have high uncertainty avoidance will more worry about the future. They prefer to control everything in order to avoid risks. Societies that have low uncertainty avoidance are dare to take risk more than high uncertainty avoidance societies. They realize that the future is uncontrollable and they are more open to the new ideas. Therefore, laws and rules may be flexible to suit the current situation (Hofstede, 2001). Thailand scores 64 which mean Thais slightly prefer uncertainty avoidance. China scores 30, this means Chinese have low uncertainty avoidance. Long- term versus short- term orientation This dimension shows a society s perspective on time. In long-term orientation, people focus on the future. They prefer to set life goals and plan for the future. They tend to work hard at the present for the future rewards. In short-term orientation, people focus on the past and present. They prefer do the things that get quick results and less focus on long term plan (Hofstede, 2001). Thailand is a short term orientation society with a score of 32. China is a long-term orientation society with a score of 87. The cultural comparison graph shows the differences of Hofstede s score. Thailand and China have both differences and similarities of cultural dimensions. The big differences between Thai and Chinese are long term time orientation, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity which can create problems when Chinese teachers come to teach in Thailand. The Similarities between Thai and Chinese are power distance and Collectivism. This similarities may help Chinese teachers understand some Thai cultural. Studying the 659

5 cultural differences and similarities can help Chinese teachers understand local context and use it for apply and adjust themselves in getting along with the local culture. From the literature review, the following research proposition has been derived: Cultural dimensions such as time orientation and femininity / masculinity are likely to influence Thai and Chinese students to show different behavior in studying. Cultural dimension such as collectivism are likely to influence Thai and Chinese students to show similar behavior in studying. In order to identify the aspects that show differences and similarities between Thai and Chinese students, the author used in-depth interviews with teachers who have teaching experience both in China and in Thailand. The research question of this study What are differences and similarities between Thai and Chinese students in learning environment and how do Chinese teachers adapt their teaching styles to Thai students? Research scope This research focuses only on Chinese teachers who have worked in Sriyanusorn School which is located in Chanthaburi, Thailand. This school is a public school providing education from Mathayom 1 to Mathayom 6 levels. The Chinese language program is for students from Mathayom 4 to 6 only. This research focuses on high level education (Matayom 4-6) and on Chinese language teaching only. 3. Methodology This research the author conducts the information from the Chinese teachers who have experience in teaching Thai students. In order to conduct insight information from Chinese teachers about cultural of Thai and Chinese students and how teachers adjust to Thai education environment, the in-depth interview were used in this research. Moreover, the author also gathered the information from Thai teachers who responsible to consultants for Chinese teachers while teaching in Thailand. In-depth interview were applied in conducting process with the selected teachers. The face to face interview useful for the author gathers massages from body language to support their answer. The Open ended questions are used in this interview in order to conduct diversity of information and open opportunity for participants to think and speak out their thinking freely. 3.1 Target samples This research collected the data from 6 teachers who currently work at Sriyanusorn School in the language department. The Interview was divided into 2 different sections. The first section consisted of interviewing 3 native Chinese teachers who have more than one year experience teaching in Thailand and have experience teaching in China. The second section interviewed 3 Thai teachers who have more than 2 years experience in teaching language. 660

6 Table 1. Participant s information Participant Participant A Participant B Participant C Participant D Participant E Participant F Nationality Thai Thai Thai Chinese Chinese Chinese 3.2 Questions for Interview Do you have any problems in communicating and teaching Thai students? What is differences and similarities between Thai and Chinese students Which strategies that successful when teach Thai students? What you would like to suggest for foreign teacher who teaching in Thailand? 4. Research finding After had in depth interview with 6 participants, there are 4 aspects of Thai students characterize from the perspective of Chinese teachers. These differences characterize of Thai students as: Inactive in learning, Focus on present, A feeling of fun (Sanuk). The similar characterize of Thai students as: collectivism. During the interview, the participants expressed their opinions and feeling based on their experience. Chinese teachers also pick some examples of differences and similarities of studying in China compared with Thailand. 4.1 Inactive in learning From the interview, Thai students are lower enthusiasm in learning than Chinese students. For example, Thai students talk and play during the class which different from Chinese students. Most of Chinese students pay attention to teachers during the class. Participants D said that The high population of china which cause of the high competition in the society. Chinese students have to compete with others to enter the famous university. For the last year of high school, students is very stressful. So, when they have free time, they will prepare for admission exam which it different from Thai students. I have not seen Thai students prepare for admission exam in free time From the Chinese teachers perspective, the last high school year of Chinese students is the stressful time because students they have to get ready for the admission exam. Thai students look relax and less worry about the admission exam. The behavior of Thai and Chinese student about enthusiasm in studying is different. Thai students more spending time to play than studying for exam during free time. Moreover, Participant A (Thai teacher) said that Some Chinese teachers have problem about managing the class. They come and consult me how to manage Thai students when they don t pay attention in the class. Chinese teacher they expect that Thai students will pay attention during the class similar as Chinese students. Chinese students are quiet and pay attention during the class but Thai students sometime they do not pay attention and talk during the class. Therefore Chinese teachers have to adjust teaching styles and techniques in order to attract attention of Thai students. 661

7 4.2 Focus on present All Chinese teachers agreed that Thai student have less pressure on studying than Chinese students. Thai students looks more relax and enjoy their lives more than Chinese students. They live for happiness at the present which is different from Chinese students who focus on future. Participant E said that Chinese students really strain about scores more than Thai students. If they get low scores, they will get pressure from parents and school. In China they believe that if their children have good grades, they will have more opportunity to get a good job and good life in the future. Chinese students were pushed by parents to be very diligent in order to get good grades. So, they study to fulfill the expectations of their parents. If they get low grades. This means they disappointed their parents. Therefore, they will study hard and expect to get the good life in the future. Furthermore, participant D said that because of high population in China, so the competition is also high. Chinese students have to compete to get offer from a famous university. These pressure cause Chinese students focus on studying, they have less free time to do other activities than Thai students. Participant C said that Thai students they look lively and happy, they are not focus only about grades and studying like Chinese students, they like to do other activities such as singing and dancing. The characteristic of Thai students from the perspective of Chinese teachers are Thai students are enjoy the present life and lively. From the interviewed we can conclude that Thai students are focus on the present more than the future. They like to enjoy their life at the present and less worry about the future. In the contrast Chinese students are more worry about the future, so they study hard and expect for a good opportunities in the future. 4.3 A Feeling of Fun (Sanuk) All participants agreed that Thai students like to have fun when studying. Participant D said that Thai students will pay more attention, if I let them do activities or play games that involve the lesson Thai students they prefer to have fun teaching during the class, so Chinese teachers have to adapt their teaching style to attract students attention. The style of learning of Chinese and Thai students is different. Participant F said that Chinese students no need to apply games and activities while studying. They normally pay attention to listen to teachers. When I come to Thailand, I have to adjust the teaching style. Chinese teachers have to adjust their teaching to match with Thai students because the behavior of students in the class is different. Participant C shared her opinion that In China, students study only from textbooks. I think teaching in Thailand is more fun because I have to prepare movies and games to make students interested. Chinese teachers have to new teaching techniques for suit with learners. Thai students prefer learning with fun, teaching by have activities that involves the lesson can stimulate Thai students to study. Although this teaching technique is effective, Chinese teachers have to learn how to balance content and activities in the class too. Teachers emphasis on content only, students will lose interest. If teachers emphasis on fun, Students will not use their full potential to improve their skill. 4.4 Collectivism Chinese teacher said that Thai students they will feel comfortable to do things in group. Participant E said that Thai students do not like to show their different opinion in front of their group. Thai students will feel comfortable when do or think the same way of friends do. This perspective shows that Thai students they are collectivism which mean they do not like to be different from the group. In addition, Participant F shared her experience that Thai students are shy, when I asked them in the class, are you understand, even they do not 662

8 understand they will say yes. When I test them, the scores are low because they do not understand what I teach. Thai students scared of losing face in front of their friends which is problem for Chinese teachers when they come to teach Chinese language. This problem is prevent Thai student from learning Chinese language. If they really do not understand and let it go, they cannot improve their Chinese language skill. One thing that shows Thai student is collectivism is sharing. Thai students will help their friends in their group. Participant F said that there are problems about copy homework of Thai students and they do not think this is wrong. They think this is the way of sharing which is the same as Chinese students. They let friends copy their homework because they are friends. From this explanation, we can conclude that both Thai and Chinese students are collectivism because they emphasis on the relationship, so they will help friends first even sometime is not correct to help them that way. 5. Discussion According to the research results. There are differences and similarity between Thai and Chinese students. Therefore, Chinese teachers who work in Thailand should understand Thai values and culture in order to achieve success while working in Thailand. The first aspect that shows Thai and Chinese students have similarity is collectivism. From the interview both Thai and Chinese students focus on relationship. Sharing is an important value of Thai and Chinese. This is related to cultural dimension of Hofstede s theory. Thailand and China classified as collectivism. Collectivists are people who want to be part of the group. They think that the relationship in the group is important, so they will support and help the members in the group or family than people outside the group (Hofstede, 2001). Three more aspects related to short term time orientation are Focus on present, inactive in learning and a feeling of fun (sanuk). From the interview Thai students focus on present which mean they focus more on happiness as the present more than the future. The aspect of inactive in learning shows that Thai students have low determination to learn. The last aspect is a feeling of fun (sanuk) which Thai students prefer to learn in fun environment. These three aspects related to short term time orientation, people focus on the past and present. They prefer do the things that get quick results and less focus on long term plan (Hofstede, 2001). 6. Recommendation 6.1 Learning local language and culture As foreign teachers, understanding of Thai language is important to teach Thai students more effectively. Moreover, learning Thai language is useful in helping to make living their life on a day by day basis easier. Most of Thai students have never been to China. They do not have opportunity to connect with Chinese people and culture. In order to build the inspiration of learning Chinese language, Teachers should relate or blend two cultures to stimulate students interest. For example, teaching Chinese etiquette, Relating Chinese history or legend to learning lesson in order to attract students attention. In Thai class room where have 40 to 50 students per a class, the skill of Chinese language of each students is different. Therefore, sometimes students talk or ask teachers in Thai because they cannot speak Chinese. If Chinese teachers understand Thai language and communicate to Thai students, it can help to create productive teaching environment. In addition, using more visual can help to reduce barrier to clear communication and understanding for students who have low skill in Chinese language. Besides understanding the context culture of the language that they are teaching, foreign teachers also have to learn and understand the culture of Thailand in order to adapt their teaching style to fit with their students. Language is a part of culture, so in 663

9 learning Thai language teachers can also learning Thai culture. Chinese teachers should learn Thai culture in order to relate or blend the two cultures to motivate students to study. For example, one of the aspects Thai culture is A feeling of fun which means Thai people like to do the things that involve fun. So, teacher should adjust their teaching techniques to match with Thai students such as create fun environment in the class. 6.2 Adjust attitude From the research result, there are differences between Thai and Chinese students. For example, Thai students are inactive in learing. Thai students are not enthusiasm in learning as much as Chinese students. So they may lose interest or talk when teachers are teaching. Some Chinese teachers have expectations when they teach Thai students. They prepare teaching plan well, but students do not show interest. This can disappointed and create strain to teachers. Therefore, teachers Thailand should decrease their expectations Thai students a bit by adjust their attitude that the learning behaviors of Thai and Chinese students are different. 6.3 Teacher training The school where Chinese teachers work for, can help teachers adjust to Thai culture quicker by provide training for teachers before teaching Thai students. The training should be about the Thai school culture. For example, Thai teachers should share experiences by tell about Thai classroom atmosphere and Thai students behavior. The first couple of weeks, Thai teachers should attend the class with Chinese teachers to help them during the class and show them how to manage the class. This will help Chinese teachers become familiar with the class. Moreover, the training should provide basic Thai language course for Chinese teachers. This help Chinese teachers familiar with Thai culture quicker and they can use for their daily life. 7. Conclusion This research identifies the cultural differences and similarity between China and Thailand from the perspectives of Chinese teachers who have experience teaching in Thailand. These differences aspects are inactive in learning, focus on present and a feeling of fun. The similarity is collectivism. The interviews allow the respondents show their opinions about their teaching experiences both in Thailand and China and express their thinking about differences and similarities. Chinese teachers also show how they have adjusted themselves to the Thai culture. The recommendations are for both schools and Chinese teachers. Chinese teachers should prepare themselves before coming to teach in Thailand by learning Thai language and culture which can help in living and teaching in Thailand. Moreover, they should adjust their attitude toward Thai students by adjusting attitude, so teachers can reduce their strain from working. The school also has to help and support teachers by providing a training course to new teachers. This will prepare them to be ready for teaching in a different culture and reduce their culture shock. 8. Limitation of research The limitation of this research is the limitation of sampling in this research. The sampling comes from one school, so the information that we get from the interviews comes from the perspective of teachers who teach in Sriyanusorn school only. This cannot represent the majority perspectives of Chinese teachers in Thailand. 664

10 Acknowledgements Firstly I would like to thank all participants who devoted their time for me and gave me useful information in their interviews. Secondly, I would like to thank you my advisor to give me suggestion about this research. Lastly, I would like to thank my family who support me in every way. References Bunchapattanasakda, C., Wong, P., Management practices of Chinese managers in Chinese MNCs operating in Bangkok, Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 17, Iss 3, p Gao, Y., A tale of two teachers: Chinese immigrant teachers professional identity in US foreign language classrooms, p. 3. Hofstede, G., Culture s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organization across nation ns (2nd edit), p Hofstede Centre. Access on 28 March 2016, Retrieved from Kainzbauer, A., Hunt, B., Meeting the challenges of teaching in a different cultural environment: Evidence from graduate management schools in Thailand, p. 12. Rashid, Z., Ho, J., Perceptions of business ethics in a multicultural community: The case of Malaysia, p. 76. Stork, E., Harley, N., A Comparison of Chinese and American college student perceptions od professors behaviors, p. 2. Vallin, M., Akesson, S., Learning environment in Thailand: A case study regarding teaching methods and motivation in a Thai school. Xiao, L., Bridging the gap between teaching styles and learning styles: A cross-cultural perspective. Vol

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