Failing students and the failing ESL industry
Failing young students is simply a poor strategy
Giving students an "F" grade.
Failing young students, especially those in prathom and mathaiyom, is simply a poor strategy. Extensive research has been done in this area and it clearly indicates that there are numerous negative emotional consequences to failing a child and holding them back a grade while their peers move forward. Additionally, there are virtually no academic benefits that result from keeping a child back a grade level. Hayhurst (2007) notes, "Leaders in the education community cite definitive research that shows failing struggling students in elementary school provides no academic advantages; researchers in the 1930s first reported negative effects of retention on achievement. Meanwhile, many studies show an association between retention and dropping out of school." I can go on and on with citations to substantiate the point, but I think you get the picture.
Furthermore, is it really a critical issue that all Thai students develop competency in English language skills? Regardless of the lofty ideals of the MOE's Key Stage and General Stage Curriculum Outcomes, the fact is few Thais will ever really need to have command of English in order to succeed in life. Sure, those who are motivated enough to want to excel in the language, or those who have a God-given talent for language acquisition, may very well end up with better employment or educational opportunities in their lives. But at the end of the day those who do not gain competency in English during their younger years can endeavour to do so later in life once they gain the motivation to do so. The door is never closed on learning.
As educators we must endeavour to nurture all aspects of a child's development. We must focus on their strengths and ensure that they excel in these areas. In areas where they are weak, we must provide educational support mechanisms such as peer grouping and employ teaching strategies such as Piaget's and Vygotsky's "Social Constructivism" which allows for students to gain competency and skills through group learning. Failing students is simply not the answer here.
ESL Industry Failings
Without a doubt the ESL industry around the world is primarily a scam that is governed by unscrupulous business people that rarely have any pedagogical knowledge or academic backgrounds in the field of education. Worse yet, are those with the actual pedagogical training and educational qualifications who choose to employ their expertise for monetary gain without actually delivering the quality education they all-too-often proclaim to offer. Academic pursuits that are not rooted in altruistic values of dedication to student learning are simply immoral and unethical.
Apart from the heinous acts of the so-called language institutes and school administrators that see English as an easy "cash cow," the other side of this industry that is acting completely irresponsible are the pseudo wannabe pretend English teachers that are using this industry as a tool to earn fast and easy money so they can travel the globe. Real educators take upon themselves a huge responsibility when they take a child into their care. Those of you who are in the ESL industry, and the education sector in general, need to ask yourselves one very simple question, "If it were my child that I was sending into a classroom to develop their intellect and knowledge, would I trust and believe that the teacher who is responsible for my child's education has the dedication and competency to actually teach my child effectively?" If you are true to yourself it is all-to-likely that when you look in the mirror you will recognize that you are not competent enough to stand in a classroom. So, DON'T DO IT! You are acting irresponsibly and having a deleterious effect on the development of an innocent child who has been entrusted to you by people who believe that you can educate them.
The ESL industry should not be a tool for people to travel the globe and make money to support their wanderlust. Find another way to support your travels and leave the development of a child's education to people who are qualified educators and dedicated to the child's learning.
The ESL industry is long overdue for some governance and legislation that will protect the education of innocent children. Perhaps part of the reason why students fail at language acquisition is that the classrooms are full of hacks that have no idea how to actually teach language. And for this there are those out there who proclaim that students should be held back a year for not achieving the KSCO of that academic year. Ridiculous! The onus is on the teachers to deliver a quality education and set up strategies to ensure that the weaker students are provided with the support and tools they need to succeed. Grow up people. If you want to teach English, then be an educator. If not, get the hell out of the classroom and stop blaming students, bad school administrators, and scamming language institute business people for all the failings of students. At the end of the day it is you, the teacher-mentor-educator, that has within your hands the capability to change the lives of your students. Regardless of all the external forces outside of the classroom, if you are truly a dedicated educator that cares about your students, you will succeed in helping them to learn.