Our school was chosen as one of the pilot schools for the Ministry of Education's project in implementing the so-called "international standard curriculum" by adding courses from the IB Diploma Programme and intensifying the English language development courses. The curriculum plan that we submitted for the school's approval initially passed the evaluators from the provincial district education area office two weeks ago. The local committee recommended for its final approval to the Ministry of Education in Bangkok. It's another ‘wait and see' denouement. In any case, we were delighted.
I appreciate the Ministry of Education's policy on recreating two traditional English language learning courses called "Reading and Writing" and "Listening and Speaking" in secondary education by allowing every school's curriculum developers to come up with suitable and challenging courses that will bring out the language teachers' creativity in teaching and the students' competence and performance in using the target language. Secondary schools with mini English or English programs can facilitate other curriculum changes which include offering courses by semester and designing appropriate learning materials instead of subscribing to commercialized textbooks. If this campaign continues to reach all secondary schools in Thailand, academically speaking, I see more reasons why qualified and dedicated foreign language teachers may opt to teach in the secondary schools under the English programs rather than in the universities.
Typical university curriculums are stuck with the common English foundation and English daily conversation courses for the first two years of the students' higher education. There has never been real language learning development for all students with different language proficiency background. The worst part is that university language teachers continue to be slaves to recycled language textbooks designed by the so-called "language experts" and in exchange of quality learning, there is the additional income they get from selling them. It's a great pity.
Some after-school activities that were used as "extras" and taught to only a few interested students are now open to all language learners who will now have a chance to improve their fluency by learning them as credited courses like poetry reading, News writing and listening and speaking through drama, to name but a few. These course titles may appear tough and intimidating but with proper planning of behavioral objectives and selection of the appropriate materials, language learning can be more meaningful, challenging and fun.
Meanwhile, lesson plans can be useful in developing your own set of learning instructions and materials. Schools are fond of requiring every teacher to submit daily, weekly or monthly lesson plans for the purpose of fulfilling a responsibility. In reality, lesson plans are merely papers waiting to be compiled, stocked in a damp room and then recycled after the end of the school year. Nevertheless, there are well-designed lesson plans worth considering. Why not transform them into modules?
Unlike lesson plans, creating modules can bring you a higher sense of accomplishment in terms of your ability to design your lessons, choosing your materials, and testing and evaluating their effectiveness on your students. It's not as easy making your lesson plans but when completed, you feel much more than just a classroom teacher. It also measures your tolerance to academic scrutiny and your ability to work as a team with your colleagues.
Making modules follows an arduous yet self-learning process. First, ensure that your course syllabus passes thorough scrutiny from your colleagues, curriculum developers or evaluators, and administrators. Next, design your modules according to the different learning factors that you want to emphasize. For instance, you may want to prioritize concepts (knowledge), student tasks and even add more reading materials for comprehension. Third, learn to simplify concepts, provide specific examples and choose effective student tasks. Simplifying theoretical-based concepts and providing examples, choosing effective individual and group student tasks and adding "value" to your module take time and patience. After completing a set of learning module, prepare yourself for another round of scrutiny. It is always best to consider your colleagues' suggestions especially when they will be teaching the same course. When all those involved have their final nod, your module is now ready for testing.
Modules can be modified and updated after the end of a school term. Unlike modules, commercialized textbooks can only be replaced with new edition yet contain the same learning experiences. Teachers who use their own modules know very well the advantages they bring to classroom teaching and professional development.