Regarding two recent posts in the Ajarn Postbox, ‘Thailand So Far Behind’ (by Mr. Russell, 29th June 2012) and ‘Keeping Foreign Teachers’ (by Paul, 3rd July 2012), I concur that Thais are very rude to us for saying ‘farang’ and ‘Hey you!’. After 10 years teaching here, it gets under my skin, too, and makes me question why the rich Thai culture hasn’t really learned to treat non-Thais with respect and politeness. The two aforementioned articles talk about some situations that occur due to the MoE’s inability to implement a practical English program and to treat foreigner teachers properly.
It’s my opinion that the MoE must move away from the policy of ‘English for everyone.’ Of course, this idea conflicts with Thai culture in which everyone must do, wear, and say exactly the same things. With all the seminars that Thai administrators and teachers attend, it’s beyond me why they still don’t understand language acquisition. Receiving one or two periods of English per week doesn’t amount to much with regards to mastering vocabulary and language structures. Very little information will be transferred from short-term to long-term memory. The best classes (every school has them) with the hardest working and most appreciative students should receive multiple periods per week to have successful language acquisition.
Outside of MEP and EP programs, why are government schools fixated on NES teachers doing so much conversation? From what I understand, the English section of the university exams covers reading, comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar. No speaking, no writing, no listening, all multiple choice. The first rule of testing is ‘test what you teach.’ I’m not saying that conversation isn’t important or that conversation should be eliminated. I’m saying the focus should be on making Thai students better readers if you’re going to test them in M6 on reading, comprehension, and vocabulary. But also include conversation and grammar. Good teachers know how to integrate these skill areas.
In a nutshell, the ineffectiveness of the Thai education system is rooted in an archaic (but proud) system of (a) image over substance, (b) top-down management, (c) ‘mai pen rai’, (d) xenophobia, and (e) ‘losing face’, and (f) the lack of any accountability, reliability, and dependability. The MoE keeps putting plasters/bandages, like naming 500 World Class Schools (Was there any improvement? Again, image over substance.), on a huge open wound that needs immediate surgery or the possible amputation of a limb.