Benito Vacio

How's the project doing?

A progress report on the Nonthaburi Project

The Nonthaburi English Teachers Project (NETP) in Thailand began in 2005. It has existed for nearly 9 years now but I haven't yet read a personal account from someone who is a part of it. Having an opportunity to do this, I would like to give it a place in my blog as I highlight the numerous factors that have contributed to its success.

Last month, I was invited to an English camp in Saima, Nonthaburi. It had an ASEAN theme. Fourteen Filipinos and a Nigerian were invited to teach 180 students. During the break, a bespectacled 11-year old boy asked me some questions. Being there to help and develop students interest in English, I entertained him, asked some questions which I usually ask my students like name, age, grade, address, favorites, family members, etc. To my surprise he was able to answer me. He even asked questions too. The talk lasted for a few minutes but I was able to tell myself that the NETP is indeed a success.

Four years ago, I met also a 17 year old student waiting for a ride at a bus stop at Tiwanon Road. Being curious whether the student could speak English, I talked to him. According to him, he was good at speaking because of his English foreign teachers in a Nonthaburi high school. Another astonishing success of the NETP was when one Thai teacher transferred to our school in Pak Kret and a number of students sent her off. While taking their snacks, I asked questions to test how good they were. My goodness, I was surprised that they could converse with me in English. They were so confident. Not only would they answer but would race to answer as if speaking English was real fun. I was a little bit taken aback because those students compared to my students that time at the same level, were better than mine. They said they were good because of their Filipino English teacher whom I did not know for I was only new to the project.

My American friend who does volunteer work in one school in Pak Kret shared his recent experience with grade 6 students inside a classroom while waiting for English Club to begin. Teacher Pat, for the first time in 6 years was surprised when the girls asked a lot of questions about him. Normally in the past, they would remain silent and hesitate to answer when asked. So, what does this scenario tell us? More stories can be told about the significant contributions of the project to its recipients but all of them tell us one thing - the project is indeed sailing ahead.

It has been achieving the purpose for which it was established. I am not a clairvoyant but I foresee Nonthaburi government school students surpassing the expected outcome of those who conceived it. They will excel or succeed even more after the project has ended. Undeniably, the NETP has tremendously transformed the once passive, shy, and uninterested students into more confident, more enthusiastic, and more motivated learners. That's why I firmly believe that the Nonthaburi government has not wasted its millions of Baht on such a project.

But, you may ask, "What factors have contributed to the success of this project?" I have gathered some of them and I have the pleasure of sharing with you.

1. Good funding - Every year, hundred millions of Baht is being spent by the Nonthaburi government on the project.
2. Laudable leadership of two agencies - Ramkamhaeng Institute of Languages (RIL ) and Unisearch of Chulalongkorn University
3. Well-selected, highly qualified, creative, remarkable and well-trained foreign teachers (Nearly 400 Americans, British, Nigerians, and Filipinos in the two agencies)
4. Very supportive directors and coordinators of schools
5. Concerned Parents who enroll their children in English language centers or in private lessons to enhance their children's English learning
6. Better motivated students and their growing interest in English

Other factors that have also contributed to the success of the project are:

1. Regular monitoring of students' performance through pretests and posttests, pre-onet and O-net exams, midterm and final exams.
2. Monthly visits of inspectors that insure excellent performance from teachers
3. Regular in-service training of teachers given by the two agencies
4. Enriching and varied speaking opportunities like English Speaking Day, Word for the Day, English Day and English Camps
5. Prestigious scholarship grants for English coordinators and top students of Prathum and Mathayom to undergo training in England for 20 days all expenses paid by the Nonthaburi government
6. A shift from speaking and listening to the integration of four language skills
7. The teaching of Math and Science to all levels in English by foreign teachers
8. Holding of literary, writing, spelling, and speech competitions
9. Provision of ready-made lesson plans from Kindergarten to Mathayum 6 to ease the burden of teachers and enable them to spend more time on effective teaching

As teachers of the project, we must sustain the best things we have done for our students. As one teacher said, "Yes, let's go an extra mile, be more innovative and reflective in our teaching or continue what the pioneer teachers started. They have nourished the seeds that have now grown to be big trees and are at the stage of bearing fruit.

Afterall, Nonthaburi visionaries, were never wrong in investing in the project. No other province has ever prepared more for the coming ASEAN Community in 2015 but Nonthaburi. Hats off then to the Nonthaburi government for having implemented a most enviable project. Congratulations.


I worked with the Nonthaburi teaching project for one month in 2009,though i opted out by my own free will and travelled back to my own country, i had much to learn during my short stay in The Land of Smiles about the overall teaching of English Language to the Thai Students.

The piece by Benito is a bit flowerly although its far from the reality. Majority of the teachers are non English native speakers and worse still, very few of them are trained teachers, majority are high school graduates with fake college diplomas, for them to scale the heights being glorified afore remains nothing but a dream.

Yes, the project does provide lesson plans, but does it provide relevant and sufficient teaching materialks? I was posted to a school in Pakkrhet, i was expected to teach from kinder one to grade six, amazingly there were no text books and the few which were available " according to my own judgement" were quite irrelevant to the Thai context.

Maybe the thsi government needs to develop an appropriate curriculum, have their own teachers trained, or better still train the foreign teachers basic Thai if they are determined to succeed in this quest. For real, teaching someone your own language when you know absolutely nothing in their own language is quite a nightmare. Thats what prompted me to board the next flight home back to my job as an high school English grammar and literature teacher.

By Joan Kemunto, Nairobi, Kenya (15th June 2013)


“Comments about a particular project (NETP) seem to have been taken personally “By Sensei Aijin on 2013-06-04” who I believe is the same person as “By Sensei Aijin, Philippines on 2013-03-04” who starts earlier comments on the same topic with “Congratulations” which is certainly “judgmental” but here descends to insults such as “fools like you”. One wonders why Sensei Aijin has dropped “Philippines”. Is it to try to appear impartial and objective, or has a friend got him or her a job so he or she has now escaped from the Philippines?..."

By Sensei Aijin, (12th June 2013)

Comments about a particular project (NETP) seem to have been taken personally “By Sensei Aijin on 2013-06-04” who I believe is the same person as “By Sensei Aijin, Philippines on 2013-03-04” who starts earlier comments on the same topic with “Congratulations” which is certainly “judgmental” but here descends to insults such as “fools like you”. One wonders why Sensei Aijin has dropped “Philippines”. Is it to try to appear impartial and objective, or has a friend got him or her a job so he or she has now escaped from the Philippines?
As I think the post is off topic, albeit targeting me personally, I will respond only briefly and invite Sensei Aijin to post an item on the quality of teachers as a separate topic.
In paragraph 1, Sensei Aijin claims I reported “Not even one Filipino teacher was effective in teaching English”. This simply proves Sensei Aijin (we will guess she is female) cannot read English accurately. My evidence was “those I have witnessed” although I suspect her sweeping “not even one” is probably correct. In answer to her question, I think most school administrators, like most of us, buy by price, and availability, not quality even though we know we would be better off buying quality goods. Cheap and available “teachers” usually means a Filipino.
In paragraph 2, she raises the issue of students “buying essays, job application letters and so on from Filipinos.” This happens I know, but it is cheating! Students are trying to deceive teachers, employers and others that they (the applicant and candidates) are better than they are. If Filipinos are doing this then they are colluding in the cheating, just as drug users and drug sellers are both culpable. It it is something we (teachers in English universities) are trying to stamp out, but I have never seen such students actively searching out Philippines nationals. That would be a bit like a thief driving a car with a red flashing light, a siren and the word “ROBBER” written on the side.
Considering the unfairness of “repatriating the foreign teachers in her paragraph 3, that is yet another miss-quote. What I said was “all the ill-trained, poor English skills “foreign” teachers back to Manilla, Nairobi … London” which is quite different. If anything is unfair, it is Sensei Aijin stating that Nonthaburi students “have a slow learning capacity”. Thai students - all students – have pretty much the same learning capacity. It is the opportunities (mainly SES) that make the difference. She is demonstrating the well recognized self-fulfilling prophesy which if she were a trained teacher she would not do.
To answer Sensei Aijin’s question in the last paragraph, I want teachers who have some training and proven knowledge of the subject they teach. Teachers who care more about their students than about their own wage packet and their escape from poverty and a dull job in a call centre. I do not want teachers who care about an easy job and the status of “teacher” - even though domestic helpers get paid better, free flights and protection in other jurisdictions. I do not want teachers who teach weird intonation and pidgin grammar. I am glad workers from poor countries can earn money in rich countries to improve their lives. Saudi, Hong Kong and Merchant Shipping are full of seamen, cooks, maids and drivers who do a good valuable job. But when it comes to teaching children, those masquerading as “teachers” can do long term harm to the students’ future prospects.
On teaching web sites, there are a significant number of Filipino teachers who claim to be “Native English Speakers”. It is “very rare” to find a person of ANY nationality whose L1 is of a different nation. Check any decent linguist e.g. Crystal, Malinowski, Krashen, and learn your subject. Why do they do it?
It is the deception that is most unforgivable and another word for deception is “cheating”. Hopefully, the cat is out of the bag – it will not be easy to get it back in.

By John Millar, United Kingdom (12th June 2013)

John's comment is very judgmental yet his conclusions are not supported by any concrete evidence. Not even one Filipino teacher was effective in teaching English? Whoa! What do you think of the school administrators who have been hiring Filipino teachers? Fools like you?

John asked, "why are non-Thai non-English native speakers being employed to teach Thai children?" Let me ask you this...are you not aware that MANY students of America and Britain have been paying Filipinos just to help them answer their examinations, prepare their thesis, essays, and even school and job application letters? Why are they doing this? Apparently, because these people believe in the English knowledge of the Filipinos.

Now, do you expect the Thai children to learn so much in so a short time during the NETP? Have you not realized how far the Thai language is from English? We're talking about learning, not mere enhancement. It is quite unfair to judge the success of the project based on the slow learning capacity of the students who might have had encountered English education for the first or second time. It is also unfair to accuse the author of using this blog for mere "propaganda". But it is all the more unfair to insist that the Thai people will not learn excellent English unless the government repatriates the foreign teachers!

Who do you want to teach them? Teachers like you? Teaching is not just about having the knowledge about the subject and the ability to teach it. It must be borne in mind that teaching also entails good moral character of the teachers...possession of the value of respect, inter alia.

Glaringly, John doesn't have this value. You may be a better English writer but you doesn't seem to be a better teacher in the real sense...

By Sensei Aijin, (3rd June 2013)

Having taught college students in Nonthaburi from the end of 2012, to April 2013, most of whom were be products of “the Nonthaburi project”, I was amazed to read this glowing report. All my students were incredibly weak in English even though they were well, if not highly motivated and delighted with the opportunity or to be more accurate, encouragement, to speak. Many of them reported their school teachers “just let us to sing a song”.

I didn’t know about the “NETP” but a very quick check on the Internet showed some very bad press for it including allegations that it was just a public money junket, and verifiable information that “teachers” had to spend money on dubious training. I then recalled attending a meeting myself on a University campus in about 2008 to check on an English project and found it was the same project. The person running the recruitment drive I attended was a native English speaker but clearly selling the “training” was the main purpose of the event, and there were very few native speakers of English attending.

The progress report on the “NETP” by is nothing more than a PR effort for the NETP and by association, for Philipines ”teachers”. It presents no evidence, qualitative or quantitative to suggest it has been successful. It lists six plus nine “factors” which are also unsubstantiated.

One of the factors listed as responsible for the highly questionable performance of the project is “5. Prestigious scholarship grants for English coordinators and top students of Prathum and Mathayom to undergo training in England for 20 days all expenses paid by the Nonthaburi government”. One may surmise that this confirms the value of exposure to “native speakers” which if justified begs the question, why are non-Thai non-English native speakers being employed to teach Thai children. It is most unlikely that 20 days “training” in England will produce a measurable improvement in anyone already employed as a supposedly qualified practicing English teacher.

When one sees unbridled propaganda or flattery, it is wise to check the author’s motive. One blog noticed on my cursory Internet search stated that 90% of the teachers were from the Philippines with a few Africans. The author of “How’s the project doing?” has a Spanish sounding name so, the Philippines being a former Spanish colony, he may be from the Philippines and the motive for this glowing report could be simply to market the Philippine export of labour. It is patently clear from the poor grammar and unusual lexis that Benito Vacio is not a native speaker.

Of the many Philippine Nationals I have witnessed working as English teachers, not one has been effective in helping the students with English. Their English knowledge and proficiency is too low, and their teaching methodology and motivation skills are sadly lacking or more usually absent.

The success of the “Nonthaburi Project” can best be judged by investigating the English performance of students who have been passed through it and the present evidence is that it has not produced any better outcomes than the run-of-the-mill English education in Thailand.

Until the Thai National Government repatriates all the ill-trained, poor English skills “foreign” teachers back to Manilla, Nairobi and sadly (some – not all backpackers) to Berlin or even London, and brings in trained NETs whose remit is to spend at least some time working with the many excellent Thai English teachers who really care about Thai students, there will be no measurable improvement in English standards.

By John Millar, Hong Kong (27th May 2013)

.....only problem about Teaching here in Thailand is that NUMBER 1 is DISCRIMINATION is it because your brown you got a very low salary wage while Falang Germany,African etc... and just a high school graduate ...has the highest salary rate...? there is a problem about the system?

By patpong, Bangkok (21st March 2013)

Congratulations too for you are a part of this successful project. It is quite evident that the government plays a big role in the enhancement of education of its citizens, particularly the students. Because of the seeming dedication of the government to raise the standards of the English language awareness of the students within its jurisdiction, other stakeholders were likewise encouraged to do their part. Hence, the parents did their part by allowing their children to attend the schools involved and spending time and monies for it. Likewise, the students themselves dared to explore what used to be so difficult to learn.

Thank you for taking the time to discuss this matter in your blog. Articles like this are really necessary, not really for self-laudation for being a part of the project, but precisely to encourage the concerned authorities or sectors to imitate the same for the sake of the nation.

By Sensei Aijin, philippines (3rd March 2013)

That's great to hear Ben. It sounds like the teachers have done a terrific job on the project. If memory serves me right, the project got off to a very shaky start inasmuch as the agencies brought in at the beginning found the task too big for them.

But it certainly sounds like it all sorted itself out in the end.

By philip, (3rd March 2013)

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