By Wannapa Khaopa
Meeting former British prime minister Tony Blair in person yesterday was an exciting and inspiring moment for a number of Thai students.
“We were really excited that we had a chance to meet him in person,” a group of 10 secondary students from Potisarn Pittayakorn School in Bangkok told The Nation after they met and learned from Blair how to greet people in English.
Arisa Sittichokkananon, a Prathom 4 student (fourth grader) from Bangkok Bilingual School said she was impressed with his English language teaching. “I like [the way] he taught us to greet in English. He was friendly.”
Arisa was the luckiest student as she was the only one among 80 students from eight schools in Bangkok brave enough to ask for and receive Blair’s autograph.
The former British PM visited Education Minister Woravat Auapinyakul at the Education Ministry and received a warm welcome from the students. Upon his arrival, Blair taught them to greet in English: “Hello. Thank you, it is wonderful to be with you today.”
Blair praised the ministry’s English Speaking Year 2012 policy that is encouraging teachers and students to speak English the whole day at least once a week.
“It is really a brave decision for Thailand’s education system to do this. It is a very sensible decision. It is a very great idea. Thailand is a wonderful nation. It’s got huge potential and a great future. Speaking English is going to be a help to people in Thailand. We are very proud that you in Thailand are learning to speak our language,” he said.
A secondary student asked him if English should be the main language among Asean nations.
“It is an easy common language for people to have. For Asean, it makes sense. The world today is more and more one community so how you communicate with people is very important. For that reason, English is important. It’s also important for English people to learn other languages,” Blair told the student.
He also answered a question from a six-year-old student named Nicky: “Do you like Thailand?”
The former premier answered: “Yes, I do. I like Thailand for many reasons. When I got married, we had a honeymoon in Thailand.”
Although it was hot and humid yesterday, the students were enthusiastic to learn and practise English with him.
However, Panisa Supatadarut, 14, Nawindaran Sakityanyong, 15, and Thananya Panyasin, 14, from Potisarn Pittayakorn School said they had many questions to ask Blair, but as it was so crowded and they were far from him, they did not have a chance to talk with him.
Woravat said after he met Blair, his foundation – Faith Foundation – would help Thailand to develop English among Thai students. A committee would be set up to discuss how to work with them. The foundation would also pass on other knowledge and give other assistance to Thailand.
“It was a good opportunity for Thai students to meet Blair. His visit would encourage them to learn English after we set the English Speaking Year 2012 mission,” Woravat added.