More Than a Knowledge Provider
“Being a knowledge provider and managing a classroom would not be enough,” Mika Shaura realized, if she wanted to bring whole person education into her Japanese language classes at Assumption University in Thailand. As a 2014-2016 United Board Fellow, Ms. Shaura had been introduced to whole person education during her placements at Tunghai University in Taiwan and Gonzaga University in the United States. As she observed their educators in action, she concluded that they played multiple roles: animator, connector, community servant, caretaker, and the traditional teacher’s role as a knowledge provider. They also may need to find willing partners in the offices of the registrar, student affairs, or international affairs.
She brought these reflections and a spirit of innovation back to Bangkok. “After coming back from my placements, I started to seek opportunities for my students to contribute to others using Japanese,” she explained. She invited visitors from Japan to her classes, so that they could share cultural information in Japanese with her students. Assumption University has a short-term exchange program with a Japanese university, and she encouraged her students to accompany the Japanese students when they visited a Thai orphanage. “My students helped the children at the orphanage communicate with the Japanese students, and this experience, I believe, will develop my students’ ethics and appreciation of their own culture and Japanese culture.”
Language learning seems a natural fit for whole person education. “Language is a fundamental tool to provide a variety of services for communities and society,” Ms. Shaura finds, and that belief inspired her to embark on a more ambitious program in the current academic year. She wants to connect students in her writing class with Japanese senior citizens living in senior homes in Japan. “Aged people in Japan who live in these homes often are isolated from their families and neighbors, so interaction with young people in another country may provide good effects both physically and spiritually.” Support from a sponsor company will enable her students to use an IT tool to exchange video chats with the Japanese seniors. “In this way, my students could serve others through their academic activity.”
Her experience as a United Board Fellow also gave Ms. Shaura a Christian perspective on whole person education. “Whole person education helps the individual seek value in serving others, communities, and society,” she said. “I think the mission statement of Gonzaga University’s Center for Global Engagement reflects this well. It says ‘We seek to serve others across the world.’ I thought I could take this approach in teaching my own students.”
In Her Own Words: Defining Whole Person Education
“The definition of whole person education may differ from one context to another. My definition is from a teacher’s aspect. To me, whole person education is teaching how to appreciate being yourself and how to deliver good news to others with critical thinking, problem-solving skills, an ethical heart, and respect for culture and tradition.” – Mika Shaura (Tanasarnsanee)