Sawatdee ka from Bangkok!

By Melissa Glynn | Bangkok, Thailand

Hello from Thailand and thanks so much for taking the time to read about the 2017 UNESCO cohort’s adventures throughout the summer. As I complete my third week working in the UNESCO Bangkok office, I can affirm that “The Land of Smiles” is living up to its reputation. Thai people have been welcoming, kind and forgiving of my abysmal efforts at conversing in the local language! Bangkok is an international, thriving metropolis and I spend every moment of my free time exploring the various culturally vibrant neighborhoods. The city serves as a hub for many multinational corporations in Southeast Asia, which has resulted in rapid modernization, but with a vibrant street-food scene and multiple ornate temples, Bangkok manages to maintain its old-world charm.

Famous Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho Temple!

After recovering from jetlag and learning to navigate the city via the efficient Bangkok Transit System (BTS), I went into full tourist mode my first weekend in the city. I convinced a fellow recent GWU grad, who is also a Thai national, to be my tour guide (thanks, Alice!) as I visited the Grand Palace and the famous Wat Pho temple! Thanks to those strong GWU connections, Alice and her friends exposed me to all the local benefits complete with traditional Thai massages, fresh mango juice and dinner overlooking the sunset on the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). Experiencing the Grand Palace as the Thai people are still mourning the loss of their beloved monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, felt especially poignant. There are beautiful tributes to the world’s longest reigning head of state outside the Grand Palace, as he was known for his compassion to the country’s most vulnerable communities. Despite his limited official role, as Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, the King provided tranquility and comfort to the country, especially during times of political strife and uncertainty.

Floating Market
Floating Market at Amphawa

I’ve also traveled outside Bangkok with some UNESCO co-workers to explore local well-known markets. Within one Sunday, I was able to visit the Maeklong Railway Market and the famous floating market at Amphawa! The market at Maeklong has fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood all along the railroad tracks and several times a day, a full trainload of people pass through the market. As the train rolls through, the stall owners pull back their goods off the tracks just in time! The Amphawa floating market featured lunch on the riverbank with multiple long boats selling fresh produce and cooking delicious meals directly in front of visitors. We concluded the day with a relaxing boat ride at sunset and the captain stopped at certain points to let us view amazing fireflies lighting up the night in the forests along the river. Given that it’s currently rainy season in Bangkok, the weekend wouldn’t have been complete without a massive thunderstorm quickly passing through the area as we headed back to the market – it was still a beautiful first weekend exploring the city!

Unesco Office
UNESCO Bangkok Office

Each morning, I jump on the back of a motorcycle taxi (took me about a week to build up the courage) to head to the nearest BTS station, helping me to avoid the notorious traffic in Bangkok. The UNESCO Bangkok office is located in the heart of the city, between the Ekkamai and Thong Lo BTS stations, and each morning I’m greeted by smiling, saluting security officers (still getting used to that). As the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, the Bangkok office works on projects in multiple sectors with governmental, NGO, private and academic partners to promote the organization’s post-2015 agenda. I currently work within the Educational Innovation and Skills Development sector on the Non-formal Education and Literacy team. As a cluster office, UNESCO Bangkok is responsible for the implementation of all UNESCO programs in Lao PDR, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand, along with collaboration with field offices located in Cambodia and Vietnam. The team currently focuses on two separate projects. One is a three-pronged approach at getting out-of-school-children (OOSC) enrolled in schooling in Myanmar, Lao PDR and Thailand following the signing of the ASEAN Declaration, through which several governments and heads of state within Southeast Asia committed to inclusivity, equity, accessibility, continuity, quality, flexibility and sustainability in education. A separate project sponsored by Microsoft focuses on getting tablets into the hands of teachers and students in Migrant Learning Centers on the border of Myanmar and Thailand in order to increase English Language Learning, engagement in the classroom and data driven learning.

EISD Non-formal Education and Literacy Team after our stakeholder meeting!

Given my interest in ICT use in the classroom, especially for marginalized populations who are often far-below grade level, my supervisor and team have allowed me to explore this project in more depth. I will be prepping a brief report based on the assessment results to determine student growth as a result of ICT access in the classroom. I may have an opportunity to visit one of the learning centers in the coming month to witness the frequent teacher trainings that are sponsored by UNESCO. In two weeks, I will present my experience with online adaptive learning programs as a teacher in the U.S. and the potential implications for the use of such programs in the Southeast Asian context to the regional office. Additionally, I’ve been given the opportunity to present on behalf of UNESCO at the EdTech Asia conference in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam at the end of the month. The conference is geared towards Ed Tech start-up companies and I will be presenting on education inequality in Southeast Asia and the rich potential for the education technology industry to be involved in solutions surrounding these issues. In addition to these specific projects, our team has been heavily involved in engaging stakeholders in the private sector along with the planning and execution of the Asia Pacific Meeting for Education 2030 which will be held in Bangkok this week. APMED2030 will focus on Sustainable Development Goal 4.7, which will ensure that all learners acquire the skills and knowledge required for sustainable lifestyles. I’ve gained an incredible amount of knowledge and exposure in just a short few weeks at UNESCO Bangkok and it feels great to finally be putting all my graduate work to use! I’m excited to keep you all updated on my adventures moving forward and hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend! The American Chamber of Commerce held an Independence Day BBQ this past weekend so I managed to celebrate America’s birth with a hot dog and some new expat friends!


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