Thursday, July 18, 2019

Thinking out of the English-teaching box 

Nov 08. 2018
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Re: “The push for better English”, the ASEAN Post, September 24.

“Sometimes when I get so depressed, I look elsewhere, outside the system. Education in Thailand is very difficult to change, so what do you do, you go outside the system to, maybe reform from the back, the side, the top, but not directly frontal, because that is very difficult”. 

So said Prof Thitinan Pongsudhirak at last year’s iSis Meforum, explaining why foreign experts like Prof Kevin Colleary had been invited to the Thai education forum at Chulalongkorn University.

Thitinan’s words reminded me of my own unconventional efforts to seek ways of pulling English teaching in Thailand out of the rut. 

The ASEAN Post report referred to above laments Thailand’s performance in this year’s Education First English Proficiency Index. Thailand has plunged 11 places in the rankings, which will likely impact the country’s competitiveness in the long run.  

Nobody needs to be reminded of the need for better English fluency in Thailand. But a huge barrier to proficiency lies in the country’s rural-urban education gap. Students in rural areas score on average far lower grades than their urban counterparts, meaning millions of kids are being left behind in the Thai education system.    

In my own village, the community loudspeaker system seems a great means to give rural kids an opportunity to experience the “sound and feel” of the English language beyond the classroom.   

I myself have experienced the benefits of being exposed to a second language in everyday life. I’m now seeking to test this out in my village by transmitting the audio version of a short newspaper article at the weekend.

 Let’s see how it goes.

Dirk Sumte

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