Abel Cadias

English for integrated studies

Its implications for Thailand’s foreign teaching industry


In 2009, the Ministry of Education promoted the so-called "World-Class Standard Schools" to 500 pilot schools in Thailand. It aims to encourage schools in promoting critical thinking, creativity and global-mindedness among the students by adding four co-curricular subjects; namely, Theory of Knowledge, Global Studies, Extended Essay and Creative-Action-Services. Some of the piloted schools with English Programs (EP) teach these courses in English. Whether this project proves to be successful or not remains to be seen on its culmination in 2012.

Last year, the Ministry of Education announced the implementation of a new teaching and learning approach called ‘English for Integrated Studies' to 500 schools both at the elementary and secondary levels. The approach is embedded in three paradigms: teach Science, Mathematics and Computer courses in English by Thai teachers; use of multimedia and other technological tools as a support to basic English language learning; and develop English language skills of both students and teachers. It is noted that the inspiration of this learning scheme has been founded from His Majesty the King's Sufficiency - Economy - Philosophy (SEP) plan. Thus it generally aims to provide education equality to students from low-income family status where opportunities to learn English as a metacognitive skill will no longer be limited to those who can only afford of other bilingual education programs. The pilot testing of this project will end in 2015.

Thailand's entire education force is not spared from the educational revolution if the English for Integrated Studies (EIS) project will be successful. If this would be the case then there is a need of a gradual revamp of Thailand's educational framework. The following are the implications of this project:

1. Rajabhat Universities and other institutes shall strengthen their College of Teacher Education program reinforcing the use of English to practicing teachers.

Training the university students well in the College of Teacher Education is the key to Thailand's successful English language education. There are thousands of retiring teachers every year, and it's enlightening to see young minds taking over the teaching industry nowadays. I worked with practice teachers in the secondary school and they appeared very inferior to their critic teachers. They did a year of merely observing the classroom teacher with less actual teaching, marking students' papers, and assisting their critic teachers in classroom management. I was also troubled with these young teachers' attitude towards using Thai to teach the English subject. Practice teachers need to be trained to use English effectively while they have the opportunity to do so. It is, also, no longer a surprise if majority of Thai professors use Thai in teaching English subjects. This traditional chain needs to be broken.

As an implication to the foreign teaching industry, Rajabhat Universities and other colleges particularly in the Faculty of Teacher Education might open their doors to foreign English teachers with specialized fields who will help train their practicing teachers in using Academic English.

2. The Teachers' Council of Thailand (TCT) shall be lenient with their teacher licensing polices by categorizing foreign teachers as either skilled or professionals where both enjoy reasonable and appropriate employment contracts. The strict implementation of the licensing laws in 2008 has caused an impact to the number of English native speakers who wish to teach in Thailand but without education degrees. The Teachers' Council of Thailand shall come up with a win-win situation where highly-skilled and experienced English native speakers without teaching degrees can have equal opportunity in the teaching industry. If this happens, including the banning of the infamous Thai Culture and Professional Standards Training as a business venture, and the revision or termination of the Professional Standard Tests for foreign teachers, there will be a very high chance of encouraging more native speakers to work in Thailand with the right purpose.

3. In five years time, all schools shall require more assistance of foreign teachers in helping them cope with the implementation of the EIS project. The majority of Thai teachers especially those who had attitude problems toward the idea of using English as a co-medium of instruction aren't ready to take the plunge. It is not overwhelming why the EIS project has to be tested in five years time. Thai teachers shall need even more than five years to fully-equip them with the language skills and pedagogical training that come with it.

It also implies that there might be a gradual reduction of hiring full-time foreign teachers starting 2016 due to rechanneling of funds to Thai teachers' professional development training and other benefits. This is very evident based on the EIS plan to open the schools to volunteers through the so-called "Intercultural Programs." Note that the proponent of this EIS project availed for the AFS program.

Language centers that offer teacher placement will find this opportunity as a major income generator. There are some schools that save more money and earn at the same time by availing for part-time teachers, and even without worrying all the nuisances of processing paperwork and taking care of their foreign teachers' demands and concerns.

4. In five years time, all schools shall greatly depend on the foreign teachers to help increase the English language proficiency of the learners. They shall devise a scheme where students shall have a chance to meet not only once but twice their foreign teachers every school week.

If this happens then there will be a higher demand of foreign teachers provided that the school has the budget to hire full-time teachers. It might sound encouraging but a higher number of foreign teachers will bring more tragedy to the already low salary offers of many schools.

Moreover, imagine what students will have to go through when all core subjects are taught in English even by Thai teachers. The majority of the secondary schools heavily rely on the preparation of students at the elementary level. It will be a disaster to go full implementation of the EIS project next school year despite research studies show that the implementation of this project has been a success even in just three years. Nevertheless, the success of the EIS project greatly depends on the Thai teachers' attitudes. And this shall signal the start of strict reinforcement of requiring all Thai teachers who teach English to use English in the classroom at all times.

If there's one major flaw in the development of English language education in Thailand, it's those teachers in the elementary, secondary and tertiary schools that hard-headedly continue to teach English in Thai.

5. Schools at all levels will be seeking for highly trained and experienced foreign teachers to help them achieve their goals. There is no question on the availability of foreign teachers in Thailand. In fact, there are hundreds of them waiting for vacancies. But the prevailing problem that the Ministry of Education has to address is the inconsistency of salary and benefit packages offered and non-processing of work permits by its legions that causes heavy weight on quantity over quality.

6. In the light of language and societal change, the EIS project and its impact to the community will bring a better understanding of Thai societies especially schools and parents to the realities of language change that despite the community's preference to native English such as American English or British English, time will come when Thailand will have its own full-grown indigenized English called "Thai English" which is an inevitable language phenomenon.

(For more discussions on this topic, please visit my personal blog




Comments

The MOE's project "World-Class Standard Schools" is a good move but seemingly a failure because of conflicting principles, processes, and some flaws with professional considerations. As English is just a required subject for the students to pass, English communication competency is not at all a criterion in the grading system. For as long as the student can show his copied work, he passes the subject, or worse, earns the highest possible mark. The English teacher who gives instructions in Thai makes his students expert copycats.

I was instructed not to fail any of my students and give the highest grade to the daughter of the school director's relative. Standing at the gate during enrollment to greet and entertain the parents in Thai language is a perfect exercise. The school manager might have thought this as a very good professional development practice. The student who comes with his parents doesn't want to show up because he might have to greet me with "Good morning" in the afternoon. And the pittance of a salary doesn't make me a happy teacher. While my farang counterpart keeps on boasting of his bounty, I find myself very good at accounting and budgeting my money up to the last satang.

By nestordfermin, Thailand (23rd February 2011)

Just to mention the paradox of the MOE about the so called "world Class standard schools" how could this be successful and plausible if all schools still practice the "No failing students policy"
In Western Countries, giving of grades and improving grading system is very essential element in this process " world class".... another question is about the 4 additional course for the gifted class; theory of Knowledge- very vague , global studies - is there any simpler term to this?
Extended essays- how is this distinct with discursive writings? Students couldn't even construct organized sentences, yet the “extended essay competition” to culminate this subject is writing not less than 2000 words - ridiculous...
And now this “EIS" thing? Its good the school where i am working considered conducting series of training to all Thai teachers who’ll teach those different academic subjects. Trainers of course are legitimate teachers specializing or majoring on those related subjects. Another admiring decision of our school was that they hired qualified teachers to teach the subject while the Thai teachers are on training at the same time to be paired with the hired qualified Filipino teachers (hiring was posted here in ajarn.com date Jan. 25, 2011).
If there is a total refurbish of the educational system, these are also needed to be considered - practice teachers from universities should work with E.P programme teachers and not only the Thai teachers, since the focus is teaching academic subject like math -science and computer, Thai English teacher could probably teach English subject but not math and science or computer in english, thus, E.P staff are vital source of help to improve student- teachers ( I've heared that our school is opening our door to nearby universities accepting "inturns" to have a meaningful practice teaching).
Another is to eliminate the “no failing students policy” students will not strive harder more than they can since they already knew they won’t gonna fail and they will pass anyway…

By ajarn Sojoot, banok banok , northeast (22nd February 2011)

Following comment sent in by Mr E
Thailand’s main obstacle to learning English is Thai teachers, and their master by way of the Thai government's lunacy in the distorted Monster Opposing Excellence, the MOE. Why anyone with good English would want to work for 10,000 baht a month 50 hours a week in overcrowded, third world era, non-air conditioned class rooms should be no mystery. Whilst being so engaged to perform such perfunctory and necessary duties as endless morning ceremonies, uniform inspections, tiresome assemblies, gate duties, etc., ad infinitum. For some, it's just a job for the less advantaged (although there are many who genuinely love educating the nation's youth and have great dedication that make foreign teachers look like spoiled tarts) who depend on the government to provide a guaranteed lifetime employment for them. They have respect and smart uniforms, pensions, free lunches, medical, paid holidays and sick leave and lots of friends around, so why worry about too many headaches with such nonsense talk?

Why Thai teachers who can speak reasonably good English won’t do so with their classes is pure convenience for them and their students, thereby pushing aside the heavy lifting of speaking, listening comprehension/ pronunciation/communication/conversational English in favor of the easier path of less resistance with book/text learning in vocab., reading and writing, not to mention elevating grammar to a level not seen since the Queen’s English died out with the dinosaurs. Thus, the enablement of endlessly translating English into Thai and the gobbledygook of gibberish that occurs in the from of primitive wrting and Thaiglish in speech.
Shall the teachers ever be so inclined to speak their target subject language? Has Khru Pimalai any mutton? Shall we be served tea with biscuits within a fortnight?
Even the half that can, won’t - they have too much pleasure speaking Thai 80-90% of the time. How do you think foreign teachers learn Thai? When in Rome it's free Thai lessons.

Nevertheless, the success of the EIS project greatly depends on the Thai teachers' attitudes. And this shall signal the start of strict reinforcement of requiring all Thai teachers who teach English to use English in the classroom at all times LOL

By philip, (20th February 2011)

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