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