I’ve been taking a bit of a holiday away from the web-scene recently. It isn’t something I regret though. I’ve done things that have given me new perspectives and insights into the world. I am still “away”, and if truth be told, I cannot envisage myself wanting a regular job ever again, although I imagine in some unfortunate way that I will be driven to such lengths by financial limitations.

Anyway, as should be well known by anyone who frequents this blog, I am currently volunteering in Thailand. Specifically, I am working with Isara, an awesome non-profit foundation based in Nong Khai.

Let me try and shatter what you think you know about Thailand and put across what I know thus far in a paragraph. There are no blanket statements I can make such as “the food is delicious” or “the people are kind, generous and beautiful” because such things would only be as true as if said of any other country in the world.

Isaan is Thailand’s poorest province — this is where Nong Khai is situated. The average farmer makes around 140 Baht each day, which is about £3 ($5), and considering everything, people from this area seem contented with their lives. Farangs (foreigners, specifically white ones) are almost revered for just being white. The locals find novelty in our white skin, our coloured hair and eyes, our height and our language. Children here are demotivated by the government education system which seems to attract dispassionate teachers because of it being one of few jobs with social security benefits. The children, albeit demotivated, are enthusiastic when inspired and willing to learn when shown what they can become. There are struggles. Uneducated people pollute and abuse the environment and each other. Health, safety and true education come second to saving face and appearing calm and subdued. The people here cover every spec of the spectrum — there are all kinds. There are many farang here too… some older folk, some younger. Some looking for their Thai brides, some travelling, and some staying to help. Life here is cheap for a westerner. Life here is hard for a local. Learning English is a way out, an opportunity to become something more, an opportunity to take the world by the horns and do what you will!

I’m currently working on developing a computer-based system for Isara’s learning center, where local people are invited to learn English for free three times a week. Currently all student records are kept in a paper-based system — this includes details about their progress in class. Moving it to a computer-based system will waste less paper, provide a centralised store of student details and progress, enable querying of the data to determine which students are behind and what topics have been taught, and it will provide a wealth of query-able, filter-able, process-able data that could save many man-hours of paper-fiddling and printing!

It’s still a plan in progress, but the DB schema looks like this thus far (all ‘_log’ tables are for auditing). I am going to be using CodeIgniter, just because I remember how ridiculously simple it made a previous project. If you haven’t, you should try it out!

It insists upon separating your concerns into the traditional M-V-C pattern (Model, View, Controller) and has a bunch of auto-load-able helper classes and libraries. It’s very widely used, so finding help online is rarely a problem (Google is your friend).

Got any tips or stories to share about CI? Please share.