Trip Start Nov 02, 2006
Trip End Jun 21, 2007

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, April 20, 2007

Assumption College, which is a Catholic school, is well-known throughout Thailand, as well as having a presence internationally.  In Bangkok alone there are seven Assumptions (including Assumption University), and each school is overseen by a head Brother.  Although the schools are tolerant and sometimes welcoming to Buddhist traditions and values, they do not think twice about displaying statues of Mother Mary and Our Lady Assumption throughout campus grounds.  In fact, on my application for employment there was a place in which I was supposed to disclose my religion.  This, coupled with the lack of equal opportunity in Thailand, leads me to believe that they give preference to Christians during the hiring process.  The schools are also usually found situated near a large Catholic church which allows the faculty, brethren or not, to worship on a regular basis. 
In reality Assumption College isn't a college at all, but a preparatory school that can guarantee a persons acceptance into Assumption University if they complete both their primary and secondary schooling at the College.  There are twelve branches throughout Thailand, making it easy for students to do so even if a situation arises that forces their parents to move.  Numerous locations have done much establish Assumption's presence in Thailand, but the school has also been favored by the Royal family.  The King and all of his children and extended family have been educated at Assumption, not necessarily due to the quality of education (although it is better than most for reasons I will explain later), but because once you have made friends with a Thai they become very dedicated to you. 
Let me explain...  Although Thailand has never been colonized, its still been affected by the World Wars of the 20th century.  During World War II the Japanese forced its way into Southeastern Asia before being defeated by America and its allies.  When the Royal Family found it necessary to flee Thailand it was Assumption that they turned to, which in turn used its Western religious and political ties to evacuate the family for safekeeping.  As a result the King has declared that the Family will be forever in Assumption's debt.  Since the Thai people are so dedicated to the King, his opinions become the majority consensus; therefore securing Assumption's reputation.

Since Assumption is a satellite of the Catholic church, it does not consider itself a for-profit organization.  Any money that the school collects, from tuition or otherwise, is put back into the school, rather than in the pockets of the higher-ups.  As a result the education provided by the school is both affordable and of the highest quality.  If Thai teachers express interest in learning English or Chinese the school will pay for them to travel abroad for language immersion.  Once the teachers return to their home school they are then eligible to teach other, more lucrative, classes.  Individual campuses annually sponsor groups of students as well, allowing them to travel abroad to Canada for language and activity programs.
There certainly is a level of quality that each Assumption campus strives to maintain, but the schools still vary greatly from campus to campus.  Assumption College Rayong (ACR) is supposedly one of the better schools to work for, which I'm sure affects the education that students receive.  Staff morale is extremely high.  The school funds semi-annual retreats that teachers may take part in for free.  Classroom sizes are kept to a reasonable size, and the rooms themselves feature whiteboards, TVs, and air-conditioning (none of which are guaranteed in Thai-schools).  ACR also allows teachers to tutor after hours, so that they may supplement their income if they wish to.  Foreign teachers are provided free on-campus housing, complete with a maid and laundry service.   The benefits just keep going on and on, making so teachers stay for more than just their salary.
The perks provided by ACR are amazing, but not as much as its devotion to providing an excellent education to the community.  The school is situated on 60-acres of land, all of which was donated by the local government.  (Before ACR inherited the land in 1901 it was the site of a leper colony.  Thais are so superstitious that the local government refused to do anything with the land besides give it away.)  There is a separate building of Anoban (kindergarten) complete with its own library.  The primary division is split between two buildings and the Mattaum (high school) division has two buildings as well.  There is an entire four-story building devoted to technology and information, and each classroom within has over 50 computer stations.  In addition to the Ban Farang (Foreigners residence) there is also a village for the school's laborers.  Finally there is the dormitory, which houses students that come from various backgrounds.  Many where either abused, abandoned, or found in horrible situations (such as being the child of a bar-girl) and so Assumption takes them in and provides their education and housing for free.  The school also allows children of the laborers (even the gardeners) to attend at no charge, which allows the parents to provide an education for their children that they couldn't otherwise.
Being involved with Assumption has been an amazing breath of fresh air after working for Nantawan Thawipas, the money-grubbing school in Samut Prakan.  It may be harder to communicate with the students, but their smiles are a constant reminder of why we chose to teach in Thailand.  
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