I'm not surprised that the Education Ministry found that of its 43,000 teachers of English as a second language, only six are fluent in English.
If we are finally serious about improving the English competency of our students, I suggest that we do the following:
(a) Make remedial classes available for teachers nationwide, perhaps using distance learning, to bring them up to par within, say, five years;
(b) Evaluate and promote teachers strictly on merit, especially based on their competence in teaching English as a second language;
(c) Require all Thai ESL teachers to sit the TOEFL exam annually, with the average scores of ESL teachers in each school to be posted on the Internet.
Using the TOEFL as our standard will prevent the ministry from setting a deliberately easy exam to save face.
For the first year, we could set the bar at, say, 300 points, increasing it to 400 for year
two and 500 for year three –
still not enough to be considered for graduate programmes at many better American universities.
Publicising the average scores would enable parents to track the progress of each school so they can see what they are paying for.