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.
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