A Teacher and a Student
It has been more than 20 years since Lathaw Doi Ra was a student, and she finds that she is older than many of her professors at Hong Kong Baptist University. A theologian by training, she is now earning a master of education degree, with a concentration in English language teaching. Her course of study is an opportunity to bring fresh ideas to her home institution, Kachin Theological College and Seminary (KTCS) in Myanmar, where she is the assistant head of the English department.
“English is compulsory in the Myanmar education system,” she explained in an interview, “but students just learn through rote – they don’t really understand how English works.” When that style of teaching and rote learning is applied throughout the higher education system, it leaves students without critical thinking skills. Last year, KTCS started a Bachelor of Arts and Theological Studies (BATS) program to offer education that challenges students to raise questions, connect ideas, and solve problems. Now, at Hong Kong Baptist University, Doi Ra is being introduced to new teaching methodologies that can strengthen the BATS program and deliver “real education to the Kachin community.”
Doi Ra’s studies in Hong Kong have opened her eyes to other ways to support students. “I can say the most useful thing I’ve learned for my college is the need for student guidance and counseling,” she said. “Young people in Myanmar are using drugs, and this situation calls out for student guidance and counseling.” When she returns to Myanmar, Doi Ra plans to talk with leaders at her institution about ways to offer guidance and counseling services at KTCS.
In the meantime, she savors the resources she finds in Hong Kong, such as easy access to library books, high-speed Internet, and clear phone connections. She also is trying to open connections that can strengthen at KTCS over the long term. Exchange programs offer one avenue for faculty development, and partnerships between KTCS and foreign universities could smooth the road. “It is very difficult to get a visa to study abroad,” she said. “This process would be simplified if a student were going abroad to a university affiliated with KTCS, and it would make it easier for foreign teachers to come to KTCS for short-term placements.”
The United Board Chung Chi College Alumni Scholarship is funding the graduate students of Doi Ra and two other educators from Myanmar. The United Board is grateful to Mr. Albert Hung for his generous support of this scholarship fund.
(First published in Horizons in June 2015)