English proficiency tops Thai student agenda

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BANGKOK, Sept 27 – Thailand’s Education Ministry is set to overhaul English language teaching given a setback in the skills among Thai instructors and students.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng said English is vital in the digital era and a springboard to knowledge in many other fields.

Chairing a workshop on “How Thailand should reform English teaching,” he admitted that the country is short of qualified teachers for English language and urged the use of information technology in English language classes.

“We should rethink if the Ordinary National Education Test, or O-NET, is sufficient in assessing Thai students’ English proficiency. What is the indication of success?” said Mr Chaturon.

The education minister’s attempt to revamp Thailand’s teaching system–particularly the subject of English–is mulled in light of an international rating of educational proficiency in which Thailand was ranked last in Southeast Asian countries, behind Vietnam and Cambodia.

He said the teaching system should aim at enabling students to communicate like native speakers, instead of rote learning.

The 2009 assessment of English-language teachers’ proficiency was displayed in the workshop. It showed the proficiency of 60,732 teachers at medium level, 29,838 teachers at basic level, and only 3,701 teachers or 3.92 per cent at a high level.

The 2010-2013 strategy emphasises improving the proficiency of English-language teachers and increasing English communication classes more than an hour a week.