Buddhism teaching

The Importance of Teaching Ambition – OpEd – Eurasia Review

In a recent discussion, I heard the question: “why do some people succeed and others don’t?” A very important factor is ambition. Success is having positive results upon accomplishing a goal. This desire to succeed is a trait found in most ambitious people. But can ambition be taught? The answer is yes; by stimulating this innate dynamism in each of us, we foster and encourage ambition. Identifying and promoting student self-interest and the benefits of ambition leads to greater engagement among graduates who will seek more education to accomplish more in life.

What is ambition?

Ambition is a strong desire to do or achieve something; it’s a desire and a determination to succeed.) Every child is born with a natural curiosity and develops their brains and abilities through it. A child watches and tries to copy as he learns the behavior of everyone and everything around him. Success comes from seizing the opportunities that ambition presents.
But ambition is both positive and negative. With a positive ambition, the person and society benefit. With negative ambition, the person is selfish and greedy, and society suffers.

Why is this a concern?

There are many opportunities for students to succeed, but few are taken and even fewer reach their full potential.
Successful start-ups and companies succeed because the founders are determined to succeed. This ambition is stimulated and nurtured by families and schools (mainly outside of Thailand).
Some international schools in Thailand place a high value on ambition. This disparity in school approaches partly explains why some families seem to be successful; Expectations and ambition start at home. Therefore, schools must foster and develop the ambition that already exists and instill it when it is not.

Many Thai students seem to choose the first option presented or do as instructed, and the rote learning continues. Or they wait for someone else to take charge and bullies take advantage at the start of the school year. Yet when things go wrong, they blame someone else. The teacher is too harsh, cannot teach and so on, even if the student has not read the course material, prepared in advance or done the required work. When they are in the workplace, they do not accept any responsibility as they are just following what their supervisor or boss has told them. There is little will to do more.

Many countries encourage ambition, hence their academic and professional success. Americans boast, “If you have a dream, you can make it here with hard work.” Ambition in the workplace has changed as the pandemic redefines success. However, ambition is still considered an essential trait in the workplace.

What can be done?

We must ask ourselves why ambition must be taught. Family life, and life in general, has changed. Thus, education needs to be more holistic as developmental gaps previously filled outside of school may no longer receive the attention they need.

Simply urge learners to ask themselves, “If someone else can do it, why can’t I?” contributes to the learning process. Schools should encourage students to ask questions about the things around them. Research shows that stimulating early ambition leads to career success. Questioning builds awareness, stimulates curiosity and hopefully inspires learners to do more, explore and push their limits.

Ambitions require interaction. Schools should provide examples for students to follow. Some of these interactions are already happening with exchange and international students. But there is still a lot to do. For example, in 2018, while teaching at another university in Bangkok, I conducted a group interview with international students. They mentioned that most Thai students were not interested in interacting as it meant using English. English was the second language for many of these visiting students, but Thai students preferred to engage only when international students wanted to practice Thai. To be successful and ambitious, students must seek interaction with diverse people, disciplines, and languages ​​to seek opportunities for improvement.

The continued identification and development of individual motivation (and self-interest) helps students think more about what can be achieved.

Can you teach ambition?

But how do we teach ambition? Critical thinking, curiosity, engagement, project-based, concept-based or simply active learning methods are all part of the toolkit. There is no one way to teach ambition. We start by raising awareness of the environment through reading, observation, exploration and constructive discussions. Next, we encourage questioning. Ask the questions of – why is it, what else can one do, how others do it, that’s all and so on. We can also show how things can change by using small class projects outside of the classroom, such as community projects. Possibly, share these results at inter-school and national competitions or public relations events. Create an environment where students become aware of all options, participate fully, and act on their curiosity to become more ambitious. Schools should be laboratories open to exploration so that students are encouraged to succeed in the way that best suits them.

Example of how ambition can work

As a result of COVID-19, some college students have been pushed to be more curious. Scholarships are increasingly sought after, although an accessible national database is lacking. Students are not fully aware of the different scholarships offered at different universities. The possibility exists for these ambitious students to create a database and use the database as a springboard to entrepreneurship. Parents and students will benefit. Opportunities abound for the ambitious.

Call to action

Ambition is a natural ability that family, school and culture help nurture. Hard work is good, but combining that hard work with ambition can lead to even better results. Therefore, schools must play a greater role in identifying, nurturing and developing student ambition by creating an environment and programs that support motivated individuals and encourage others.

If Thai students are more positively ambitious, society will benefit from the growth of innovation, achievement and opportunity.

As US Senator Bill Bradley said, “Ambition is the road to success. Perseverance is the vehicle in which you arrive.

*Dr. Mariano Carrera, Lecturer in Business, Dhonburi Rajabhat University, Bangkok, Thailand