Connecting Students Across Cultures

Connecting Students Across Cultures

By Liz O’Sullivan

In late January 2020 Liz O’Sullivan began her mentoring role to assist local Thai and Karen teachers at Klothor and Umphang Public Schools in developing English basic proficiency, global citizenship awareness through teaching, and specific outdoor activities. Liz has chosen to stay in northern Thailand throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

During Covid times across the globe people have been increasingly relying on communicating and learning using online platforms. However, some people don’t have reliable access to digital technologies. At Klothor School the students from Year 6 don’t have computers and have very limited access to the internet. We decided to start an ‘old fashioned’ pen pal project, pairing up with the Year 6 students from St Mary’s school in Bundaberg. I was teaching at St Mary’s before I came to Thailand.

The students from Klothor spent ages painstakingly creating beautiful handwritten letters to send to Australia. They were excited and eager to get a response. The postal service is slow because of Covid and there were lengthy school closures in Thailand. However months later when the students were able to return to school they received a happy surprise: a parcel including letters from their pen pals in Australia.

Their class teacher Jin commented:

When the letters had not arrived yet they asked the teacher, “Teacher Teacher, Have we got the letters from Australia yet?”

When receiving a response from their foreign friends from Australia, they were so excited and happy. They had huge smiles on their faces and shouted with joy when we opened the parcel.

The students in Grade 6  learned about  writing letters and how to tell a story about themselves. They learned how to exchange and learn cultures with native speakers.  

Teacher Toni Gahan from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Bundaberg also commented:

Year 6 students from St. Mary’s School, Bundaberg, Australia received pen-pal letters from a school in Thailand, facilitated by their English teacher, Liz O’Sullivan. The students learn English at school but, for most of them, it is their third language. They did very well to write in English about their family, pets and hobbies. They also drew beautiful artwork to decorate their messages.  The Bundaberg students were so excited to receive these and immediately started writing letters to return. They enjoyed sharing details about their own friends, families and interests.

The letters were posted to Thailand, along with some books, puzzles, Christmas activities and treats which would help to teach the Thai students about the Australian culture. Many students wrote that they hoped to stay in touch with their new pen-friends into the future.

You can support the education of students at Banklother Public School by giving a recurring or one-off donation to the project here.