IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Q&A with Chawin Pongpajon

Chawin is on leave from his positions as a lecturer and researcher in Thailand while he completes his PhD on the role of education in conflict and peacebuilding.

Chawin stands in front of a brick wall wearing a traditional Malay tunic
What was your route into a PhD?

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education (Teaching Thai) from the Faculty of Education, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. After that, I completed my Master’s degree in Education with a focus on Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment at Melbourne Graduate School of Education, the University of Melbourne, Australia, before going back to be both a lecturer and a researcher at Chulalongkorn University in my home country.

What are your motivations for pursuing a doctoral degree?

As a lecturer and researcher in education, I am particularly interested in the role of education in promoting peace in politically unstable parts of Thailand. I would like to develop expertise in educational theories, practices and research methodologies to advance my research so that I can effectively train pre-service Thai teachers whom I have taught and supervised over the past five years.

What made you choose UCL?

With my research interests in the interconnection between (language) education, conflict and peacebuilding, especially in conflict-affected areas, the outstanding research of scholars at IOE attracted me to join them to be able to learn from their global experiences. Also, being located in the heart of London, UCL offers international students and academics opportunities to explore their life experiences.

Being on leave from my lecturer and researcher positions to complete this doctorate at UCL, it is a great opportunity for me to create a strong collaboration between the university where I work in my home country and UCL. As UCL has a wide range of networks at the international level, I received a great opportunity to be selected as a UCL representative by the university and the host university to attend a programme on Peace Education and Lesson Study for Teacher Educators 2020 at Hiroshima University, Japan to exchange knowledge and experience of the issues with other participants (graduate students, researchers and professors) well-recognised in the field.

So what do you find interesting about your field of study and what inspires you?

Education, Conflict and Peacebuilding (ECP) is an important field of study as it portrays how education affects and is affected by social, political and economic environments of a society, therefore, both fuelling and mitigating conflict drivers. Education is thus, not necessarily a positive element for societal peace.

The processes of education are more complex in conflict-affected areas where my research has focused on, looking at the case of conflict in Southern Thailand.

To address the cases of violent conflict, it is vital to examine the process of educational access, curriculum and policies critically. It does not only involve the work on promoting peace education and non-violence, but also requires conflict-sensitive understanding around why and how people resist and the role education plays in reproducing inequalities.

My research experiences in conflict-affected southern Thailand, where basic education has been politicised, targeted and attacked both by the state and the insurgents for decades, drive me to study more in this field with the aspiration of mitigating the conflict and promoting peace through quality learning and critical consciousness.

How do you think the system of learning/researching at UCL differs from that in your home country?

What I have learned about the field of education, conflict and peacebuilding here is a whole new world to me. One can immerse oneself in tonnes of textbooks, papers and other resources, but IOE and in particular my supervisors provide me with new and critical perspectives to understand, apply and critique the information, reaching a higher level of intellectual development.

My supervisors have always respected me as a researcher from the early stage of my PhD, not just as a student. 

We share ideas, discuss and negotiate methodologies professionally to conduct high-quality research that cannot be done by route-learning or instructive approaches where power dynamics between lecturers and students are unequal.

I am grateful for the ways my Global South identity and ideas have been recognised and respected by my supervisors with decolonial thinking, which is about the negotiation/appreciation of southern epistemologies, benefitting my study and my research participants the most.

What is the best thing about your doctoral programme?

Studying for a PhD at IOE has broadened my intellectual horizons more than I expected. Despite being a by-research programme, the university provides me with a wide range of research training in terms of key theories and skills - academic, professional and social-emotional. Learning from and with my supervisors, who are leading scholars in my field, has helped me develop my academic knowledge and professional practice throughout this time. High-quality teaching and learning and a broad range of international educational research in my department always challenge me to go beyond my boundaries; thus, when I look back to my PhD research journey, I have learnt to appreciate a greater value of my work for my country.

Has there been an element that has been particularly valuable?

Despite being a by-research programme, I still have opportunities to develop my intellect by auditing many modules relevant to my area of interest and attending research training offered by IOE, UCL and other universities in London that share learning resources together. With this, I am not alone in my PhD journey as there are friends who always enjoy learning and researching together.

What will your next ventures be career-wise? 

As a lecturer and researcher, I would like to contribute to teacher education in Thailand through my responsibilities in teaching, supervision and research. I also plan to continue my work in education, conflict and peacebuilding in Southern Thailand, where my doctoral thesis focuses on, by conducting further research in collaboration with leading scholars at UCL and other prestigious universities and/or organisations in this kind of work. This could bring me to the stage where I can initiate a research centre of education, conflict and peacebuilding in Thailand internationally working to promote this field of study.

Last updated 29 March 2023.