Each year, students write testimonials on their Symposium experiences (either in their native language or English). Read on to learn about how Symposium affects their students inside and outside of the classroom.
SYMPOSIUM IN THAILAND
Piyawatchara Mahattanadul wrote:
To me, Symposium is discussion-based learning, which emphasizes on expressing one’s thoughts, as well as clashing ideas and opinions with others. The ability to formulate ideas on very sophisticated issues, along with listening to others’ perceptions and articulate whether one agrees or disagrees and why are all very needed skills for high school students. Despite its importance, discussion-based learning is hardly found in Thailand or in other Asian high schools. Most high schools in Asian countries centered their curriculum on STEM and more often than not leaving out liberal arts subjects together with critical thinking. Even when schools do focus on the branch of liberal arts, we rarely see students sitting in social studies class discussing the concept of equality or in history class discussing what lead to the fall of Tsarist autocracy in 1917. Students are often fed and tested on facts such as the name of the event and the year in which it took place and less on conveying their point of views. This is problematic from many perspectives, for one as these students mature into adults they will lack the skills to successfully express their thinking and accepting other points of view in a reasonable manner.
Not only does Symposium give students the chance to learn through the means of discussions, it also introduces us to profound questions and concepts about our lives. These are philosophical concepts that enhance our level of critical thinking. These are also super thought-provoking questions that, unless brought up to us, we tend to overlook. It allows us to think and to look at issues from the different lens. Notions of filial piety, the freedom of choice, the three thinkers and their concepts from the enlightenment period, and the concept of equality and fairness all helped us to think deeper and ask questions about our lives. As for the two books that we have read — Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies — were really interesting. Although our discussions were not entirely based on the book, they are still valuable resources to help us based or discussion upon and to keep the discussion from being too abstract, given that many of these concepts are new to many people.
I really like the all of the activities that were done in class in order to contextualize certain points, especially the one where we divided the room into a spectrum of agree and disagree. I think that this illustrates something very important which is that for most instances there are not just two opposite sides that one has to take. It could sometimes be in the middle or leaning towards one side. Another activity that I really enjoyed was equality versus equity where the students sat in rows and threw paper into the basket up front. I think that it really helped the students to grasp the concept of equality vs. equity a lot better than just reading it from the paper. There are a lot more activities that we did, from ice breaking to writing the Constitution, all of which helped us to better comprehend the abstract concepts of the different branches of philosophy.
I am super delighted and grateful to have to opportunity to be in symposium class, and I think that it had helped me a lot in listening to others and formulate ideas based on others’ opinions. Major thanks to Po, Myra, Claire, and Ton for making this course such an enjoyable course.
Thawin Techapongsatorn wrote:
Discussion-based learning is quite unconventional in Thailand. As a Thai student, I have yet to become familiar with the particular style of learning when it was presented to me. Nevertheless, I am wholeheartedly graceful to be the part of the symposium and be able to grasp the concepts such as philosophy, politics and the abstraction of equity and equality. Since me and most of us never had a seminar-style class before, I and a few others have troubles adapt to the flow of the class at first. However, we were able to develop a critical thinking and speaking skills. I have learned to respect others’ opinions, have a courage to speak up and to used efficiently.
One of the qualities that I have learned from the symposium is responsibility . During the weeks of symposium, we were assigned to read two books; Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm. With the combination of tiring school activities, we also needed to read up to a good 30 pages per day. For me, it was exhausting to keep up with the story at first. The reading really took a lot of responsibilities and is a good practice for time management. Talking about books, I am at ease reading the Animal Farm rather than the Lord of the Flies. This may due to the difference of the language level used in the two books. All in all, both books were well-chosen as roots to several applicable questions.
The discussions we had in the class were valuable. After I had experienced the full courses of symposium, I was amazed at the number of subjects I had assimilated. I have learned about many new concepts Through sharing ideas and listen to others’ opinions, we are learning from both our teachers and our classmates. For that reason, I think that symposium could effectively teach most subjects. However, through experiencing it directly, I felt like symposium would not suitably work in matter of Mathematics and some field of Science.
Apart from the book assignment and discussion, the symposium also has in-class activities. The icebreaker, which I personally like, from the first few classes or at start of new topics acts as a very good introduction. Since it is interactive and engaging, the activities progressively improve us as a group. One of the distinctive activities was from the discourse about politics, when the whole class works together to create a constitution for a country. We were left out by the teachers to have a conversation. Eventually, without being aware of it, we elected a conversation leader. I have learned to occasionally start up a conversation or follow and support other opinions; To become a leader and good follower.
Throughout the two weeks period, I have gained a lot of life experiences and knowledge. I am grateful to be a part of this class. The atmosphere created by all the students and teachers make the class comfortable to be a part of. At last, I am relieved that the symposium had come to end and thanks to all the teachers, who gave us advice on university preparation.
Benjamin Neammanee wrote:
Symposium, to me, was very valuable because it does not only teach me how to think critically/freely but also think about conceptual questions, how to speak up and see other people’s perspective that I might overlook or might not be aware of. Overall in this class, I felt that activities that were used in Symposium were very effective because it encourages everyone to interact and state their opinions on things. The course was well organized by having the ice breaking activity in the first class to some activities before starting the class discussion. As the class got along we can see that everyone started to speak more and more but sometimes the topic can be quite complex that not everyone could catch up to. Activities like drafting a constitution also really got us thinking about what is essential for living and what rights are. This class also really got me thinking that there are tons of questions out there that have no exactly right or wrong answers but sometimes we are not used to it because we always ask questions that are full of bias which then leads us to believe in a certain way.
The atmosphere of the class was sometimes stressful and sometimes fun. Sometimes when discussing certain topics and some friends noticed that some person has not contributed that much they just asked them openly on how that person thinks. Some may think that others are trying to pick on them and if they can’t answer the question then they are going to feel very bad. But if you look at it on the other side they can think that it is a good opportunity for them to speak up more and a chance to express themselves if they haven’t got any chances to. As for the teachers, I would say that everyone was very impressive! I several times was intrigued by their answers and the reasoning behind their answer.
On the very last class, we all got to do a presentation on each section of the books that we were assigned to. From this group work, some of us may face challenges like communicating with each other in the group especially for people who are in different classes (Math-Science & Math-English class). Planning for interactive presentation can be quite challenging because we need to think about whether or not our friends knew about the information and how much they are willing to cooperate with our exercises/games. We also have to choose how we are going to do the presentation in a limited time frame.
About the books, I prefer Animal Farm much more than Lord of the Flies mainly because it is easier to read and vocabularies are newer than Lord of the Flies. Symposium tends to focus a lot more on Lord of the Flies. When we were discussing about Lord of the Flies at the very first class it was completely different from what I was expecting because I thought we were going to discuss about how the story goes but what we did was much deeper which was discussing about the core concept, about what the author is trying to tell us.
Joining Symposium was one of the best activities that I have ever done and I will definitely integrate the concepts and ideas that I’ve gotten from this class in the future. I would like to thank Po, Myra, Claire and Ton for giving us this valuable opportunity to attend the symposium.
Suthima Rojvirasingh wrote:
Two weeks of Symposium have taught me so many things that I wouldn’t be able to learn from any class at school. Symposium wasn’t exactly easy for me and it consumed a lot of my energy. This is partly due to how I had to do the reading along with the homework from my school classes. However, it was worthwhile. I had a really good time and I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about before.
I liked how the class was carried out in a way that encourages everyone to speak up. I always felt like I needed to speak even though I must admit that sometimes it was quite scary. The atmosphere of Symposium was really open. I felt like I can say what I think without people judging me and labeling my ideas as right or wrong because it’s just a bunch of people trying to help each other get a better understanding of something.
I liked how everyone in Symposium agrees to disagree. There were a lot of times when a person disagrees with another. However, there was never a problem. People in the symposium get to say politely that they disagree for whatever reasons and others will accept that respectfully. I really enjoyed the freedom I was given and I think that this freedom contributes to how productive the discussions became.
I felt like the topics that were used are really well-thought. The topics are related to Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm but they are based loosely enough on the books so real world connections can be made. I thought that this is what makes the symposium unique and beneficial. I especially liked the time when we discussed socio-economic classes because it got me really thinking.
Overall, Symposium was something that I’m really glad I chose to take part in. It did an efficient job of making me think then speak. It created a great atmosphere of learning. I’m thankful of Po, Claire, Myra and Ton for bringing the symposium to Patumwan. It was just great and I really liked it.
Nattawat Pornthisan wrote:
After experiencing Symposium, I would say that forgetting the knowledge from this class is simply not an option. Personally, I favored this class a lot as far as it consisted of many critical thinkings, philosophical concepts, and conceptual questions. Those, the branches of knowledges, are really useful and logical. Yet in this — the reflection — I will include what I favor and what still can be improve.
Firstly, The Lord of Flies and Animal Farm were well-chosen and they were extremely good books. It represents many political figures which can be actually seen in a real world. The lessons that Mr. Po brought up were related to the books. He, for instance, asked the question about the situation that we are left in the abandoned island. Also, I have learned how important it is to have a leader. The lessons about the politics and form of government can be applied to many situations, even in the small group.
I, too, have seen both disadvantages and advantages from each represented political figures.
Secondly, the way that the three teachers taught was effective. It gave us to think and freely express their ideas. It maximize and allow the students to use all of their abilities. For me, I have also learnt from other students’ perspectives. There is no right or wrong answers in the discussion. Things are totally have it own benefits and disadvantage; yet it depends on which perspective do you take.
Thirdly and most personally, I favor about the concepts of Trolley Phenomenon and those the three ideas about the human nature. It is because all what made us be in today were interesting and compelling. One of the three that I believe the most is the one mentioned about animalistic instinct which appears to be a bit abstract. It reminded me a series of psychological stuff that I have read in the past that I could link into this topics.
Yet there is a thing that I thought can still be improved. It is when you asking the question you may state it in a single sentence and optionally write it down somewhere. This would make the students who get lost can easily catch up as it is simple and can be clearly seen. Personally, I thought that 1 or 2 times of the whole symposium that the question were hard to understand. However, the overview was extremely professional and efficient.
All in all, the topics were critical and important. They made a lot of sense. The overview of Symposium is tremendously great. Furthermore, you guys were also friendly and respectful people which made us enjoy the class with happiness. I would not forget you guys as well as the knowledge that you taught.
Kavin Mechuchep wrote:
My first glance at Symposium was it is going to be tough class for me because my English skills are not strong, and to participate in class critical thinking skill is required. But after just some icebreaking I could expressed my own ideas, knowledge and emotions about topic to class discussions. I improved many English skills from symposium include critical thinking, reading and teamwork.
Critical thinking was a skill that I gained most. I think that this skill is a skill that hard to learn and develop and also hard to teach. I would rarely use critical thinking skill in my daily life because in Thailand one classroom mostly there are more than 20 students and that makes teacher don’t getting in touch with all students. And students have no chances to use their critical thinking skill and express their own ideas. Students were given 2 books to read which are “Lord of the Flies” and “Animal Farm”. Lord of the Flies is the book that symbolize creating kingdom, and to create a kingdom there need to have a leader first. We have discussed about why Ralph have been chosen to be a leader of the group, there were many reasons include he can blew couch, he looked handsome and his personality was brave. Po also asked about can Jack be a leader and if jack been a leader will the situation be better in some way. Jack symbolizes the power and strength for real life example military.
Lord of the Flies changed my perspective of human in many ways. When people were forced to lived in danger and lost their civilized it made human human. When I was reading at first I don’t want to read because the book had been written in long time so the language that author used were kind of hard to read and understand. On the other hand, that made this book unique which the ways author used words or expressed his ideas of human.
In last class, the feelings of everyone in symposium were happiness and sadness at the same time. During 2 weeks of symposium I thought that when it will end but when the time really came I just don’t want it to end. As the course ended we got our time back but it came with felling that what have I done to waste these time by something that we called them “entertainments” and not looking out of our country that there are many interesting books that we haven’t read it and we can balanced our time to read novels and also entertainment too.
Siwat Boonmee wrote:
Symposium has been one of the most interesting activities that I’ve attended this year. The course was unique than any other courses that I’ve seen so far since when I started grade 7. This course, not only gave me a new perspective of how I look at an object or a matter, but also gave me a review to how I think about what I do everyday.
The first day was the day that our nervousness just went through the roof, sky-rocketed through the atmosphere, orbit the planet then came back again. That may be too much of an exaggeration as we really had no clue what to expect from Po, Claire and Myra. The class went wonderfully with us starting to bond with one another and have an idea what to expect from the course.
Lord of the Flies had been one of the best book I’ve read since grade 7, with Sherlock Holmes and Animal Farm. The book was told through a narration of how each character express their ideas in each paragraph, with many keywords to contribute the image of how it would be like in reality, not just on paper. With the amazing detailing in the book, the core concept of the book was magnificent. The core idea of how humans were without civilization was for us to see “Will we change from how we are?” The book also illustrate some interesting facts to them that I’ve noticed. The way that each character was doing really represent the way oneself could have acted in a new society or a new country. For example, Jack had shown his body strength and bravery that represents an army of a country to fight each other.
Animal Farm had to be the book which I’ve understood the concept clearly and could illustrate them to how our society had changed to how us as a person is the most important. In the book Napoleon and other pigs after the takeover started to ask as to humans with high power. They both act as them are the most important that others are just someone in their command who are stupid enough to be in their control. This book also gave an idea of what is fair and equal. The idea of which matter is fair and which is equal are just the microcosm of what a real society is facing as the world tries to find the “correct” answer to the never-ending-problem.
In our last class as a whole, the impressions of us not studying this course is just purely excitement and sadness in the exact moment. The course was finished, making us able to leave the school as the usual time and are able to complete our work on time. But with the course ending, it just left us with what we have learned and the course has gave us so much that we felt we are the ones who are wasting time. With the valuable knowledge in mind, the course gave us a great experience as a whole and served its purpose of educating us how we should change the attitude of laziness as it’s not ideal if we are walking forward. If we are lazy to continue, we will stay the came, irrelevant in the society. If we pushed ourselves to the limit, our potential just showed that we are able to do them, we are able to make the change if wanted to.
The course just refreshed my idea of what a symposium is. It’s not just a course. It’s a better way to help communicate and exchange the idea of others to see what people really think in a society since we are all unique, not the same heritage, culture, habit, and personality.
Parichaya Amornpimol wrote:
My first thought about the symposium in EPTS was that it was going to be a really good program. However, I got nervous at the beginning of this program because I was afraid that I would not be able to perform good critical thinking. As the program runs, I started to feel more comfortable to express my ideas. I learned a lot from the symposium. I gained critical thinking skills, knowledge, and teamwork skills.
Critical thinking is the big part in Symposium. We did a lot of critical thinking and expressing the ideas to classmates. I would not have a chance to do critical thinking at this quality outside Symposium. The students were given two books which are Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm. We then discussed topics based on the two books. We talked about politics, leadership, and human nature. Po brought up topics that required deep thinking skills. For example, students were asked to think about characteristics of a good leader, equality and fairness, freedom, and cruelty of humans. Throughout the program, I developed my critical thinking skills as I was forced to think and listen to others opinions. I observed myself and realize that I could process my thinking skills more logically after the program.
One obvious thing I learned from the symposium is new knowledge. As the class discussed about each topic, Po would bring the related content up. For example, we learned about filial piety, social contract, philosophy from the Eastern confucius, and psychology. I also learned new vocabularies like de facto and de jure. There was also a college panel in which Po, Claire, and Myra gave advice about universities in the United States. I found it very helpful for me and every other students. The symposium gave me important knowledge that I had not known before.
My teamwork skills also benefited from the symposium. We were required to do group presentation and several group activities. Students were assigned to their groups to present about the given parts of Lord of the flies and Animal Farm. We had to brainstorm about the stories and analyzed them. We then agree on the roles. Throughout the program, we also got to do other activities in group. For example, as the whole class, we pretended to build a new country and had to make the constitution. We brainstormed and assigned roles to everyone. We once did the activity in which we divided the class into two groups and listed the traits of men and women. From group activities during the program, I learned teamwork skills as I had to work with classmates systematically.
The symposium was one of the best programs I have ever attended. I benefited a lot from the symposium. I developed critical thinking skills. I gained knowledge which I had not known before. I also got to practice group work skills.
I am sure that would be able to apply what I had learned from the symposium to my future.
Rawiphutsagorn Chaiphairojn wrote:
On the first day, the introduction of class, I really enjoyed doing an activity which called agree or disagree activity.I liked this activity because it showed different of people perspective.Then the following class, The discussion in class based on The Lord Of Flies.The book was about the group of schoolboys who stuck on the island during the war that mostly involved with the leadership.I learned a lot from the classes about the Lord of lies from the discussion.
Moreover, We discussed how the leadership works different between in the book and in the real world. Our teachers connected the story with 5 items of philosophy that I had never known before.really like the discussions about human nature, for example, the question that how would children be without being raised under the laws in society.
To my mind, most of the topics that our teacher brought to the classes were very interesting.On the last 4 days of classes, Our discussions based on Animal farm that was about 2 pigs and animals that took over a man’s authority to control the farm. We had a discussion about types of authority, types of leader and types of government related to the book. Also, Po made a really good example to introduce the government system that was communism, we sat at different distances to the box and tried to throw balls into the box. It illustrated that high-class people in society have more opportunities which are very true.Also, we talked about equality and equity, and what makes people equal because each individual cannot choose to born so what can we do to make them equal.
Overall, The classes were very wonderful. I learned to think and analyze many things about life that I hadn’t thought about them before. Also, Symposium developed my speaking, thinking and participating skills which are very useful to me. Symposium gave me very good experiences.
Jitrada Prapakamol wrote:
I’ve to admit that it was a few very tiring weeks. With all the school activities, homework and books, it was a bit frustrating. By the time I got home, I could feel the energy draining from me. However, I was still almost always looking forward to the after school symposium. The activities were very fun and I’ve also learned a great deal. I’ve learned about various philosophies, politics, human as well as how to communicate and express myself effectively.
Learning in a symposium format was the first for me and most of us. I think we all have become better at talking in the circle. I got the chance to express myself more. Trying to speak up and being understood by everyone was challenging. Conversely, I’ve also learned to give an opportunity to the other. You guys have taught us to respect others voices, loud or quiet.
We have improved a lot in communication and teamwork, which I think is one of the most valuable skills we learned from this symposium activity and will come in handy in the future. In the activity where we were trying to decide which object is the most important for survival, all of us participated. We communicated a lot and tried our best to present our ideas. Even the less talkative students talked. It will be great if we can apply this to when we normally work together as a group. Many different thoughts came up and helped fasten our thinking process. It was my favorite activity.
Looking at the two pages question we were given at the end, We have gone through surprisingly many topics. I like the fact that they are something that I do not normally take notice of but common enough for us to relate to ourselves. Filial piety, government contract, obeying the law, and ethics, I struggle with these topics the most as there seems to be no right answer. They were intriguing and also very conflicting.
The topics I most enjoyed were human nature and equality and fairness. It has always been interesting and challenging for me to understand more about human kind and myself. Discussion about equality and fairness was worthwhile because it is something we see so much nowaday. People usually claim and go for equality even when it's not really fair and even emphasize the fact that we are not equal.
The discussion we have had about three ways used to approach inequality was great. Removing the barrier, I learned about this for the first time. "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" I really like this phase from the Animal Farm. It was a very good representation of how the word equality we've been seen as important can just be a beautiful facade the ones in power use to take the benefits.
Though way more political for my taste, the two books Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies were great. I struggled a bit with the Lord of the Flies as the language was a bit old. Both of them were fun and served well as the reference for the topics we discussed
Overall, I like the way the symposium works as we get to think way deeper than usual. It was very engaging and force me to try connecting things together. Regularly when learning with the teacher in front the board, it was like the path has been set for you and all you have to do is follow. However, in the symposium, it was like a blank paper where everyone possesses a pen. Together, we draw and connect each dot according to what we like.
Although it's a bit time consuming and not effective in all areas of learning, I favor this kind of education over the traditional one I usually receive. It required me to use what I have learned, in this case: sociology, and apply it to a real situation. I was forced to recall the most boring and almost meaningless concepts the teachers had babbling on and on years ago and connected it to myself and the books. It was much more interesting and meaningful.
The symposium gave me enjoyable and fruitful weeks. I've gained lots of experiences.
Sukrit Sangvong wrote:
Symposium was a part of my life that I won't forget. The classes contained a lot of things that the curriculum needs. The discussion based class is something that Thai's schools are lacking; therefore, Thai's students including me are hardly experienced that type of class.
Symposium not only gave me chances to speak up and to listen to my classmates' opinions, but also forced me to read books. I got a problem on finishing the book, but since I attended the symposium, I was forced to finish those books. Moreover, the books were very interesting and contained a lot of implications that show us the world in a difference lens.
By the fact that students in the class were on the different grounds, the activities in the classes did fit our standards;even though the topics were very complicated. I felt that no one was left behind and, furthermore, everyone seemed to be able to catch up with each other showing in the discussion. Most importantly, the classes were not boring at all. I felt energized throughout the classes and did have a great time.
It will be very interesting to have classes in Thai's school run like the symposium. The symposium allowed us to teach each other in our own ideas. It developed not only our listening skills and speaking skills, but the critical thinking skills which are something that most students need. I am looking forward to be in part of this class again.
Virunpat Vilaichone wrote:
Symposium gave me tons of things. It was one of the most precious moment in my life as a student. We read 2 books including Lord Of The Flies and Animal Farm. The activities also were fascinating too. We spent most of the time discussing Lord Of The Flies.
Before we diving in to the deep of secret of both book, we had kind of like icebreaker which warm up our brain tp start thinking critically. In my opinion, It also make our members more comfortable to express ideas too.
At first I thought that Lord Of The Flies was a boring book and not going to intereted me. However, after we held many times of discussion, I found out this book has a lot of secrets in it such as human nature and government stuff. Furthermore, the remarkable question which led me to change my way of thinking of Lord Of The Flies was "Do we always need to have a leader?". At first, I think we must have a person to control the mass. Nonetheless, after throwing ideas and opinions, we can have the community without a leader too by everyone single individual is a leader to control on their own too.
I also learned some new stuff too such as 5 themes of philosophy and 3 types of authority. We applied these skills to analyze Lord Of The Flies in different perspective. I wish I could apply these great skill in the near future.
Animal Farm was much more fun compared to Lord Of The Flies. This book gave me a lot of political data which I am not quite comfortable with it. Despite this fact, symposium provided me an easily explaination of political information that required for this class. For instance, Consequentialism was the moral which prioritize outcome more than other factors.
The activity was well done in my opinion. The one which I favored the most was standing in either side of a room to express our own idea to an particular argument. Moreover, there is a interesting choice which you can stand in the middle to express soso to the argument as well.
All in all, symposium was tough and also fun at the same time. On the one hand, the advantages of taking this course is it developed my critical thinking skills and also my speaking skill as well. On the other hand, I felt the schedule was squeeze a bit and not providing enough time to prepare.
SYMPOSIUM IN CHINA
Discussion Leader (DL) Grace Gu wrote:
当初加入会饮沙龙是觉得对比中西文学著作非常有意思。在短短的一周内，我不仅作为参与者读到了很多好书（例如余华的《活着》和Virginia Woolf的To the Lighthouse、苏格拉底和庄子等等），也组织了探讨存在主义、艺术以及自传式写作的工作坊。我希望学生讨论的中心问题是–––生活的意义是什么？在会饮，我认识了许多很有意思的人。在课堂上，有时候学生会提出一个我从没想过的视角，让我对读过的书又有了新的见解。我也很享受与会饮导师和学员们一起讨论苏格拉底和哲学（以及各种nerdy的inside joke）。会饮的在课堂外组织的话剧和美术展参观等活动也更好地让我连接了书本和现实。如果你想度过一个充实的假期，我非常推荐会饮——既可以发扬光大人文学科，又可以让你脑洞大开。
DL Yun Ling wrote:
DL Yaoyao Fu wrote: