Gabrielite in Bangkok 

     Brother Bancha Saenghiran, a member of the Catholic Brotherhood of Saint Gabriel religious order, is dedicated to upholding the quality of the Assumption University educational experience and infusing it with compassion 

By : JEN HAU YANG 

      Brother Bancha: Education should be aimed at forming the total person, and not just filling them with knowledge. 

     Heading a prestigious university is a monumental and a daunting task for anyone, but Brother Bancha Saenghiran, f.s.g., PhD, seems to have been born for such a fate. The present rector of Assumption University spent his early years in the province of Chachoengsao, just outside Bangkok. Born into a family with a large number of siblings, when he was young he was quite attached to his parents, especially his father, who encouraged him to dedicate his life to a religious cause. 

      Brother Bancha was a novitiate in the Catholic Church of India, and did his pre-degree studies at Loyola College in Chennai, in South India. 

     In his high school years Brother Bancha was a classmate of Mr Korn Dabbarangsi, a former deputy prime minister in the Thaksin cabinet, and also of Dr Supachai Panitchpakdi, the former WTO chief and present secretary-general of the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

     Later he obtained a Bachelor's degree from St Louis University in the Philippines, and then got a Master of Arts degree in School Administration at St Mary's California College in California.

     After completing his doctorate in Education Administration from Illinois State University in the USA, Brother Bancha returned to Thailand and taught at several schools, including Assumption College in Rayong, Thon Buri and Samrong.  

     Chosen as successor to Reverend Brother Pratheep Martin Komolmas, Brother Bancha was appointed by the Assumption University Council as president of Assumption University on November 1, 2002. 

     Assumption University was the brainchild of Brothers Phillip Amnuay and Bernard, both Brothers of Saint Gabriel, and was one of the private institutions of higher education pioneering the international curriculum in Thailand. The university has been in existence since 1969, name and location changes notwithstanding. Assumption University currently has an enrolment of about 20,000 students. 

DRIVEN BY QUALITY 

     Brother Bancha sees himself first and foremost in the context of his Roman Catholic religion. His decision to join the Brotherhood of St Gabriel was based on the brotherhood's dedication to the improvement of education. There is a phrase he is particularly fond of which goes a long way toward explaining his philosophy in life and in teaching: "Do extraordinary things in simple everyday, ordinary ways." 

     In his job as an education administrator, Brother Bancha has always been driven by quality. He believes that education is best and most effective when it is student-centred, and feels it should be aimed at forming the total person, and not just filling them with knowledge. 

     A testament to the success of his philosophy that quality is at the core of education service is the award for achievement in quality education during Brother Bancha's tenure as principal at St Gabriel School from 1985-1990.

     At Assumption University he has set in place a programme of service for students. He explained that he sees caring for less fortunate, marginalised people in society as an essential learning experience for students, which enriches their lives in many ways. As they compete academically and choose their pathways for success in business, the arts, etc, it gives them a sense of balance to simultaneously experience compassion and purpose in caring for others. 

     "Life, at every stage, is a process of education," said Brother Bancha. 

     In addition to his role as President of Assumption University, Brother Bancha is concurrently the adviser of the College Council in Hatyai City University in southern Thailand. He is a member of the College Councils of the North Bangkok and Mission College. He is on the board of trustees of Assumption College, Darasamutr School, St Mary's Sathorn School and St Gabriel's College. 

     Brother Bancha has been on the Council of Assumption University since 1983. Currently he is the president of the Association of Private Higher Education Institutions of Thailand (APHEIT), and adviser of Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) Thailand Chapter of which he was president in 2000-2002. Brother Bancha also serves on committees with the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning (ASAHIL) and the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA). 

    One positive impact of the economic crisis, Brother Bancha has observed, is a wiser set of attitudes towards spending and consumerism in the general public. Students and their parents increasingly demand a stronger correlation between cost, course, and outcome. They also recognise the need for better structuring of operations across the board. They are becoming greater stakeholders in the educational enterprise than in the past. 

     On the national level, a greater stress upon quality assurance and good governance comes not only from reflection on failed practices, but also from the new national constitution in effect since 1997. Its stress upon the timely values of transparency, accountability, and participation is leading to a shift in models in society that will also affect every aspect of education.

    Brother Bancha says that Thai education has improved a lot but it could be more structured in such a way as to maintain quality while allowing more freedom and decentralisation. He would like to see Thailand rise up the ladder of UNESCO's global educational qualification rankings.  

     Brother Bancha has big plans for Assumption University in the future. Firstly, he wishes to complete the Bang Na campus so that it is a closed, independent system. While the main buildings are completed, some buildings that cater to the leisure and recreation of students are not. Brother Bancha says the latter are crucial for interaction among students, and also for building and enriching the characters of the students. The campus is expected to be completed in five to ten years. 

     Secondly, he wants to see more student organisations, which are important as vehicles for students to prepare for managerial roles in the future. 

     Thirdly, he wishes to further develop the university's departments, and in some cases create new ones, especially research departments, to better prepare the university's students for globalisation. 

     As a Gabrielite, Brother Bancha is dedicated to education, to obedience, to chastity and to poverty, living a simple and hardworking life. He doesn't place value in material wealth, but rather in spiritual and educational wealth. He enjoys playing badminton in his leisure time for exercise.

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