Rajalakshmi Pillai – IBDP and MYP Math teacher – Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Thailand
Rajalakshmi Pillai, with 21 years of teaching experience, is the current MYP and IBDP mathematics teacher at Prem Tinsulanonda International School, Thailand.
PTIS is an IB accredited residential as well as a day school in Chiang Mai, Thailand that offers all the four IB programs – PYP, MYP, DP, and CP.
3 Core Components of the IB Program
The IB program looks at developing the students holistically and has three core components- EE, CAS, and TOK apart from the subjects that the students opt for. The EE prepares the students in terms of research and essay writing, CAS develops the social responsibility towards the community & self while TOK develops critical thinking and reflection skills. The skills developed while doing these three core components are transferable to all aspects of life.
Teaching Mathematics and more…
I like teaching any topic as long as I can help the students relate it to real life and show them the practical application of the same. I love the fact that when students problem-solve, they end up “discovering” the formulae or applications. They, then, develop a sense of ownership and thus retain the concept for a longer period of time as there is conceptual understanding. This prevents them from rote learning and they are more enthusiastic about learning Mathematics as a subject. I also find opportunities for them to “visualize” like relating arithmetic sequences to linear equations and plotting them on a graph or using spread-sheets to show how rich they can be if they invest money in compound interest and so on.
The serendipity of teaching on the basis of concepts and not on the basis of topics is that you cover a wide range of topics and can inter-relate them, making Mathematics more relatable and enjoyable.
As a Mathematics teacher, we get many opportunities to appreciate the international-mindedness in class, especially if you are in an international set up. The use of a comma in place of decimals in some cultures, the way multiplication is carried out differs from culture to culture. These can be given as activities to students to help them figure out the methodology as this will make them understand that there are many approaches to solving the same problems and its okay to use any of the methods.
Tackling the fear of STEM subjects
Students fear or not fear STEM subjects based on how as teachers and adults in the community approach it. We have to remember that children are like clay and we mould them based on our opinions. When we, as adults, voice our harsh opinions regarding their intelligence and abilities on the basis of their performance on these subjects, students fear that kind of public failure and hence start hating the pressure associated with taking these subjects rather than the subjects themselves. As a community, if we stop these harsh judgments, children will not fear failure and will try to learn from their failures and succeed.
Education in Thailand versus India
My current school has a good number of students who do the CP program as well as the DP program. And all are treated at par. However, in the Indian Education system, we are still not very open to the CP program and its philosophies. These prejudices are transferred from the adults in the community to the students as anything related to vocational training is not considered very important. There is a constant mad rush for either being an engineer or a doctor or an MBA. There has to be a change in the outlook and how we approach different branches and be open that all students are different. But I am happy to see these trends changing with the current crop of students.
Working as a teacher abroad
The market is an open place for anyone who is open-minded and eager to learn. You have to be willing to learn and re-learn and not be closed about developing professionally. This means you have to constantly upgrade yourself and put in efforts to join courses and professionally upskill yourself. Also at the same time, you should have international-mindedness and be open to other cultures and enjoy the journey as you move from country to country.
For more information on Prem Tinsulanonda International School, please visit https://ptis.ac.th/