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.