I came across a remarkable story i.e article about the Thai government (Ministry of Education) which is looking to recruit another 10,000 English teachers to boost up the level of English proficiency of the Thai.
You see, despite of many, too many efforts in past years, Thailand keeps dropping on the global English Proficiency Index, currently listing number 74 on a list of 100 countries, and ranking with “very low” competence.
That’s of course deplorable for a top tourist destination, the ASEAN integration, world economic trade, and moreover, for a country that has poured so much money already in attracting and employing English teachers.
What’s interesting about the article are the remarks of the Thai Minister of Education, which give us all the reasons why Thailand doesn’t succeed to improve English proficiency among the Thai, and why it will not succeed if it continues like this.
First, the Minister states that “Foreign teachers must have some professional training to qualify for the job, and a language teaching certificate will be preferred.” Well, this is exactly one of the problems—the majority of schools in Thailand basically hire any foreigner who speaks English well and has a TEFL/TESOL Teaching English certificate (which is very easy to obtain in a few weeks time).
The schools are simply desperate for years already (for appearances to the government and parents they need to have an English teaching program), and foreign teachers come and go quickly, too often stay just a few days or few months, because—the main objective in Thailand (for the greater part that is, with exceptions) is that classes (whatever class) need to be fun, and all the rest, such as organization and education quality, being highly unimportant!
You might think I exaggerate, but I don’t. As the Minister states: “… accents do not matter, as long as the lessons are fun.” As a former English teacher in Thailand, I know this all too well… one needs to be a clown, the kids need to have fun, it doesn’t matter at all if they learn English, and moreover, Thai students pass anyway, always. In fact, you’re obliged to pass them, by law. The latter has much to do with the concept of “losing face” and the (Asian) idea that teachers (i.e. the school) are deemed responsible for failure or success of a student and not the student responsible for his or her own efforts.
Thailand is a country of appearances, things need to look good, no matter what the price, and it looks good if there are foreign English teachers, despite the fact that there’s simply no real will to actually learn English. And why should they? Thailand is doing well, year after year, the tourists keep coming, the exports and economy keep growing, and it’s hard to convey the message of “We need to be more proficient English” in such a scenario.
The problems with learning English in Thailand are deeply rooted, it needs a complete change of attitude of the Thai people, and the statements of the Minister of Education don’t give any hope for any change at all. Just screaming that you want more teachers and pumping billions in English teaching programs will simply not do the job. It’s a waste of time and money.
Tagged: English Teachers, Teaching English, Thai Culture, Thailand, Topic Teaching English Thailand, Working in Thailand