Thailand’s Ajarn: Tracing Material-Semiotic Relationships in Thai Higher Education

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Merisa Skulsuthavong
Sara Du Preez
Dylan Scott Low


Thailand aspires to be a high-income nation through higher education global reform. This article explores Ajarn, the entry-level role and venerated honorific title for university academic faculty in Thailand, who, we contend, are key to international progress. It seeks to explain the relational symmetry between their role and the broader challenges encountered in Thai HE. Using a literature review drawn from sociolinguistics and Actor-Network Theory (ANT) semiotics, furthered by Bruno Latour, John Law, and Michel Callon, we adopt a theoretical material-semiotic approach to trace problems influencing Ajarn. We conclude with recommendations to support Thai HE reforms for collaboration on a global stage. In doing so, we offer an appreciation of the cultural complexity, sociolinguistic history, and capital of the Ajarn role. Indeed, greater cross-cultural understanding of this is needed, as we move, within Thailand, towards transformation in a more internationalised, therefore global, educational system.


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