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タイの教育・英語教育におけるキーワードは ASEAN!

Ministry of Education Proceeding with Its Plan to Develop Thailand into an ASEAN Education Hub

The Ministry of Education is going full steam ahead with its plan to develop Thailand into an ASEAN education hub, when the 10 ASEAN countries become a single community in 2015.

Secretary-General of the Office of the Basic Education Commission Chinnapat Bhumirat said that the Ministry of Education would not change the whole curriculum in response to the move toward the ASEAN Community. In fact, it would focus on improving the quality of curriculum, especially the teaching of foreign languages and the introduction of other languages used in ASEAN countries.

For instance, he said, the Ministry will encourage various schools to open an English program, depending on their readiness, since they are likely to face higher costs for hiring native-speaking foreign teachers. Some schools may opt to a mini-English program and hire teachers from ASEAN countries who are good in English, such as those from the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Moreover, various schools will also be urged to open a course in English for Integrated Studies, which emphasizes the use of English in the classes for social sciences, science, and mathematics. Around 500 schools have participated in this project, under which and the Office of the Basic Education Commission will produce a guidebook for effective teaching.

The Ministry of Education has developed new curriculums for three forms of schools – Spirit of ASEAN, Sister School, and Buffer School. It also has a policy to set up ASEAN studies centers at all education zones in the country in order to gather information about ASEAN in all areas, such as cultural, social, and economic aspects. The Office of the Basic Education Commission is translating the central ASEAN curriculum into Thai to provide Thai schoolchildren with knowledge about ASEAN in-depth. The translation will be completed in the 2013 academic year. In terms of supplementary activities, various schools will be urged to organize ASEAN quizzes to encourage their schoolchildren to seek knowledge about ASEAN.

The Ministry of Education expects that the new Thai generation will possess five qualifications. This means that Thai children should achieve academic excellence, be able to communicate in more than two languages, have advanced knowledge and thinking, be able to adopt their knowledge to creative production, and have social responsibility.

A target has been set to reduce study time in classrooms by 70 percent, so that schoolchildren will have more time to learn outside their classes. In addition, Thailand’s academic term periods will be adjusted to conform to other countries in ASEAN. The introduction of the new academic term periods will begin in 2014. The first term is scheduled for 10 June and the second term for 26 November. As for the university level, the first semester will begin between 15 August and 15 September.


English Teaching Projects Inadequate

Thailand has implemented English-language learning projects to improve English skills for students over the past several years, but most of the projects demonstrated a lack of consistency and seriousness, a study has found.

The study also found that Thailand should learn from methods used in China to develop students' English proficiency.

There, Chinese students need to pass College English Tests (CET) as an exit exam before gaining college degrees.

The study on "English Language Teaching (ELT) Policies and Situation" in five countries _ China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand _ was aimed at comparing the strengths of ELT in Thailand and enhancing the English abilities of Thai learners.

The study was conducted by Sa-ngiam Torut, a lecturer in the faculty of education at Silpakorn University.

The study findings were presented on Wednesday at a seminar titled "International Lessons: English Learning Reform," organised by the Quality Learning Foundation (QLF).

Ms Sa-ngiam said she collected data from documents of the education ministries of each country, academic journals, newspapers and interviews with students and teachers in each country.

She said Thailand should also learn from China's English Corners conducted in schools, universities and in the community to enhance English learning contexts; Singapore's extensive reading programme to help primary school learners and their parents gain the foundations of English reading; and work in Vietnam to raise the standards of teaching and professionalism among English teachers.

Malaysia has implemented a policy on teaching maths and science with English as the language of instruction for about 10 years. As a result, their students gained higher marks in English subjects, but their maths and science abilities were worse, so Kuala Lumpur decided to end the project by 2015.

"But Thailand is going to do that [teach maths and science, with English as the language of instruction], so we should learn more from Malaysia's case," she said. Ms Sa-ngiam said Thailand has launched several projects to stimulate Thai students' English-language skills.

"The projects are lacking clear aims, integration into curriculums, professional design and evaluation.

"They are also not consistent or serious. For example, the policy of speaking English in school every Monday _ it suddenly stopped following a change of education minister," she said.

Frequent changes in education ministers had also led to inconsistencies, as each minister held his own vision for the portfolio.

She said valid and reliable instruments to assess English teachers at all levels, especially their English ability and teaching ability, were still needed.

Krissanapong Kirtikara, second vice-chairman of the QLF's board, referred to the 2013 English proficiency index of Education First, an English-language institute, which used English test data from 750,000 adults in 60 countries to show English proficiency trends.

The top three countries ranked for their proficiency in English were Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.

In Asia, they were Malaysia, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan and China.

Thailand, which the report found has very low English proficiency, came last.


Thailand lagging behind in English - The Nation

Fulbright expert details five factors in 'scare' strategy to boost learning here

Educators and experts gathered recently to share their experiences of reform in English language teaching and learning, implemented in Asian countries like China and Vietnam. 

During the seminar, held last month by the Quality Learning Foundation and the Embassy of Finland, much useful information was provided to Thailand's education academia. 

Asst Prof Sa-ngiam Torut, a lecturer at Silpakorn University, said China had already adopted a programme of English-teaching that included comprehensive textbooks and system evaluation. "Chinese students need to take the National English Exam in Grade 6, 9 and 12, with teacher promotion and bonuses dependent on their students' achievements in the English National Tests," said Sa-ngiam, who has published a research paper called "English Language Teaching Reform in Asian Countries". 

Her research reveals that every educational institution in China is required to set up an English corner to offer an environment that enhances English learning. At college level, students need to pass College English tests before they can graduate. The test covers every English skill, including listening, speaking, reading, writing and also translation. 

According to Sa-ngiam, Vietnam has been implementing a 10-year national plan for teaching and learning English, which was launched in 2008 and will run until 2020. 

"The consistency is all there - something that Thailand is lacking," she said at the seminar. Education ministers in Thailand are often changed, which has led to an inconsistency in the country' s educational policies, Sa-ngiam said, 

Speaking at the same seminar, Pattanawimol Israngkura from the British Council said within the Asean region there were indicators that Thailand's standards of English-language teaching and learning were falling behind the rest of the region. Following 9 to 12 years of English studies at school, exit levels for Mathayom 6 students were comparatively low when compared to key competitor nations. 

The quality of teaching was another issue, she said. Limited data collected by the British Council suggested that primary school English teachers in Thailand have, on average, an English level of around "A2" (pre-intermediate) on the CFR (common framework of reference), and those at secondary level have a "B1" (intermediate) level of English. These standards are about one level below teachers in Malaysia and about two levels below teachers in Singapore - though this was only a rough estimate, she said.

"It is interesting to note that even though English teachers in Malaysia are already a step above their Thai counterparts in terms of their own English-language skills, the Malaysian government is currently investing heavily to improve English teaching," she said.

Pattanawimol emphasised that there was a need for wholesale benchmark testing of English teachers in Thailand and to develop a needs-based training response to improve standards over time. 

Sa-ngiam said that in order to develop its English-language educational goals, Thailand should create a national language policy and long-term educational blueprints with the help of educational experts.

Doris Gold Wibunsin, a former director of the Fulbright Foundation and also a prominent figure of Thailand's English-teaching reform policy, said after living in Thailand for 50 years, she was finding there was an increasing number of students and English-language teachers with poor English skills.

"There are many public and private organisations coming out with poor English language materials. It's an embarrassment, and social media is actually helping to expand this use of poor materials," Wibunsin said.

She added that on the positive side, students are braver and more prepared to ask questions, while teachers are more confident. However, a proper reform plan was needed, she said. 

Wibunsin also pointed to misspelled English-language signs in public places, as well as English-language publications with grammatical inaccuracies, as examples of poor English language usage in Thailand, which should not be overlooked.

"People who are making signs should have someone editing those signs. Are we allowing this to happen just because we don't want to hurt the feelings of those who try to speak English?" she said.

To improve English teaching standards, Wibunsin suggested that the reform process hold on to five principles which she called "SCARE". 

The first one is sincerity - one should be sincere and determined in what one does. The second is continuity of the reform process. The third is accountability from government, schools and authorised personnel - as teachers and principles should be accountable if students are doing poorly on English tests. The fourth is the responsibility of - not just the schools and teachers - but of students themselves. 

"Good students don't worry teachers, they find ways to teach themselves," she said. The fifth principle is excellence - meaning that schools and society must put pressure on the private sector, families and the government to make sure all sectors are working towards improving the standard of English-language use in Thailand.

In conclusion, Wibunsin said teachers were the most important link in Thailand's reform process and steps should be taken to make sure teachers were properly qualified to teach comprehensive English-language skills to their students. The government, schools and communities should support teachers so they are comfortable in their profession and have the resources to teach.

Authorities should also consider compensating teachers with the kind of remuneration they deserve as well as raising the standards for teacher certification, which would in turn, boost the confidence of teachers. 

"If teachers become good role models, then they can manage the curriculum and classrooms, and they are going to produce students who are better in English. I hope that all of the support mechanisms will be put in place, enabling teachers to do the jobs they are supposed to do," she said.


Teaching English in Thailand - Sample Activity ...


Teach English in Thailand - YouTube