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With all the methodologies and approaches available for English language teachers to adopt, some teachers may be confused as to what is best for their students.  The 1999 Education Act stipulates that Thailand is to move away from a teacher centred to a learner centred approach to English language teaching.

 

 

Unfortunately, our students don’t know what this is and neither do some of the teachers.  It has been nine years since the Education Act was passed, showing the way forward for Thailand’s education system. I am not too familiar with all the statistics; however, just looking at the newspaper will give you an insight to the problems facing Thailand’s students.

 

Recent results in the O-Net examinations were nothing to write home about, compounding a trend where students fail to gain good grades in the subjects tested year after year. These tests are multiple choice and do not seem to conform to the communicative way of teaching or testing detailed in the Education Act and subsequent curriculum.

 

Multiple choice tests are easy to administer and mark, however, do they measure if students can do the job in reality? In the case of English language, do they measure that a student can use English effectively? I think not.

 

You only have to look at the teaching of English at primary school level to see a glaring hole in our present system. Our children are being taught English by Thai teachers, who by their own admission do not possess the required teaching or language skills to do the job.

 

Controlling a class of fifty primary school children is hard enough, the government expects these unqualified teachers of English to adopt methodologies they are unfamiliar with in the classroom in a subject they are not competent in. This is not fair by the greatest stretch of the imagination and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

 

It is not as if we can stop overnight and start from scratch the next day. Some form of transition needs to take effect if we are to bring our education system in line with government directives. This is where some form of collaboration between teachers and students is needed to ensure that both understand what is expected of them.

 

The teachers need to know how to teach and need to possess the required English language skills to do the job. This will take time and money to instigate as a quick two week training course is great for morale; however, this feeling of euphoria soon disappears once teachers get back to the reality of the classroom.

 

The students themselves need to be trained in how to learn. The old fashioned teacher centred method is a difficult method to move away from when you are not motivated and have got used to it over the years.

 

This was demonstrated to me recently when I was at a primary school and witnessed two classes, one class was Prathom one and the other Prathom three. Both classes coped well with communicative activities delivered in a learner centred way; however, the Prathom 1 class seemed to be much better at it.

 

In my opinion, this was due to the fact that they have not succumbed to any particular style of teaching as they have not even completed one semester yet. They were not so set in their ways and were open to new ideas. Their age plays an important part, though the difference between the two classes is only two years. Obviously this is an area for future research.

 

I brought some of my students with me on my visit to the primary school and had them help with the teaching and management of what was going on in the hope that by working together, these pre-service teachers of English and the primary school pupils could find some common ground.

 

I witnessed many different methodologies taking place and more important than classifying the different pedagogies was that what we had were pre-service teachers and primary school pupils working together with the normal class teacher to deliver English lessons in an eclectic way.

 

I believe that this is the only way in which the transition can take place from a lock-step, teacher centred system which stifles free thinking and language development to a system where learners use the language in communicative activities in line with the learner centred approach detailed in the 1999 Education Act. Only time will tell.


 

Getting the job done


Pimpa Prompitak, a student at Udon Thani Rajabhat University working with a class of Prathom 1 pupils from Bantatprachanukoon School in Banphue District Udon Thani, demonstrates how teachers and students can be trained to embrace new methodologies.

(Unedited article published in the Bangkok Post 14th October 2008)

 
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