Mark Brown

Expensive desk ornaments

Let's figure out how to fix the education system


There are lots of problematic issues associated with old age. One of the less serious but more annoying issues is that you tend to start of lot of one-way conversations with the phrase "I remember..." I remember a nice old guy at the Berkeley Physics Department who once told me in a very serious tone of voice "Don't get old". Sagely advice indeed. He's dead now.

Unused and unloved

I remember when Sun workstations were the coolest computers in the world. I helped Berkeley Physics get a grant from Sun for a couple dozen of their latest machines. Sun workstations were described as personal supercomputers the size of a color TV set. Back in the late 80's they were technological status symbols. They had magical powers because they connected to each other through this thing called The Internet. They took advantage of remote resources on other machines called "servers". Wow.

I eventually got a job at Sun Microsystems as a SysAdmin. I remember someone there told me about another charitable grant Sun made to a research institute in Moscow as a way of getting a toe-hold in the Russian market. Sun gave one of their top-of-the-line workstations to this prestigious institute with the expectation that it would be used for all sorts of cool projects.

In return Sun hoped to get good PR collateral and a few glowing testimonials. So a couple of months after the workstation was delivered a Sun Sales Rep visited this institute to see how their baby was being used. As the story goes, he was shocked and bewildered to see the brand new machine sitting on the desk of one of the institute's administrators, unplugged and unconnected to the network. It was just sitting there like an expensive desk ornament.

So the sales rep asks the administrator the polite equivalent of "WTF?" The administrator replied that it was very important for him to get respect from the scientists who worked for him. It didn't need to be turned on - it's mere presence was enough to generate gossip throughout the entire Russian scientific community he worked in. "Did you hear about Sasha Koralof? He has a Sun workstation!"

"We're superficial"

Last Friday I was drinking beer with a couple of farrang teachers and we agreed that our role is similar to that superficial Sun workstation. We're expensive desk ornaments. We were hired so word will spread throughout the local community about the school with a valuable resource - native English speakers.

Our mere presence enhances a school's reputation but that's about as far as it goes. We're superficial. We're non-functional. We feel this way because the grades we assign to our students are trivialized. It doesn't matter if we want to flunk a student because he or she will be promoted to the next grade anyway.

We're not invited to participate in planning meetings. The established Thai teachers and administrators would never think about asking our advice about curriculum. (I'm referring to public schools now; the situation may be different at the hundreds of private schools that have proliferated to meet the demand for quality education.)

What makes a good farang teacher?

Thai teachers are quite sure they know how to teach English even if they can't speak it very well. Their idea of a "good" farrang English teacher is an older man who wears a jacket and tie, someone who speaks softly and politely.

It's all about respect: men get more respect than women, older men get more respect than younger men, and well-dressed older men get the most respect of all. The advice I would give to any new ESL teachers in Thailand is to dress nicely and don't make waves. The Thai educational system, like most of Thailand's social institutions, is not a meritocracy, it's an oligarchy.

Unlike that lonely Sun workstation, we farrang teachers are not "unplugged and unconnected". We communicate with each other, while drinking beer on a hot Friday night and on the Internet through blogs like the one you're reading now. Many of us have worked for companies where performance, not appearance, was rewarded.

Why are we frustrated?

Those of us with any sort of technological background are problem-solvers. Many of us have degrees in education from English-speaking countries. We're frustrated because the Thai educational system is badly broken and although we could be part of the solution we're being ignored. Well, I for one am not willing to sit back and watch another generation of Thai school kids graduate with sub-standard educations. I don't want to be part of a totally dysfunctional system. Despite what I wrote in a previous blog, I want to fix things. That's who I am, that's what I've done my whole life. I fix things.

Over the last year I've written an entire set of courses for teaching English at primary schools. I've focused on building vocabulary that can be used in routine conversations. I'm not a proponent of the "just teach ‘em some simple phrases" strategy; I believe (and all the farrang teachers I've talked to agree with me) that students need a solid base of vocabulary before they can engage in conversations.

My approach is constructionistic but I reject all the educational strategies I've read about, including the so-called reconstructionistic philosophy. I plan to use the same general strategy used in Silicon Valley to build new products. I saw that approach work time and time again and that's what I'm familiar with. I advocate an engineering-centric approach to education.

Before I go any further I suspect I may have just kicked over a hornet's nest. I remember a long time ago when I took a few classes in education I observed what I call the miasma of education.

Briefly stated, it's the all too common phenomenon of N educators having N+1 opinions about how to educate. Teachers are notoriously stubborn when it comes to the topic of teaching strategies. I'm surprised a group of more than three teachers can agree on anything, including where to go for lunch.

Admittedly I'm fulfilling that stereotype by disagreeing with everyone and going my own way. Well, that's one of the advantages of teaching in Thailand. I couldn't do this in the U.S. but out here in Isan no one's gonna care.

The master plan

The first step in the engineering development process is the product proposal. Here's what I propose: let's develop a curriculum for teaching English that is demonstrably better than the current system. In other words, let's put our heads together and figure out how to teach English. We can ignore educational strategies for now but let's focus on the goal: making something that works.

I'll capture this high-level goal in words over the next few weeks. I'll present it to the ajarn.com community next month and solicit feedback. I'll iterate the wording once or twice as needed, then call it "version 1" and move forward. In Silicon Valley version 1 is not expected to be perfect, it's just has to work reasonably well so it can be used as a base to develop version 2. This is called iterative development. It works.

The second step in the engineering development cycle is requirements gathering. This is where I could use some help. It's common knowledge in Silicon Valley that a diverse team of reasonably smart individuals is more effective than any one individual, even a genius. Or even a sub-genius. I'll assume the role of Requirements Analyst during this phase.

Your feedback welcome

I want to break this effort into two components: first, let's capture what's wrong with the current system. Second, let's address each of those shortcomings with a proposed solution, or else decide to defer that feature until the next version. So here's what I'm asking: please send me your observations of what's wrong with the current Thai education system, specifically but not exclusively to teaching English. Send your statement of the problem or problems to me at khun.mark.brown@gmail.com.

I fully expect the majority of farrang teachers to disagree with me and the approach I'm advocating. This is normal behavior for a population of educators and is a manifestation of the miasma I referred to earlier. "It won't work." "You're a complete idiot." "They'll never listen." "You need to read this before you can do that." "It was tried before and failed." I'm not a complete idiot; I'd like to think I'm only a partial idiot.

If you don't want to participate, fine, go drink a Chang and reflect upon your superior knowledge. Think how smug you'll feel when the project fails! However, if you want to do something other than drink and gripe, consider helping me at least describe the problem.

If all that comes out of this effort is a reasonably complete problem statement that's still a step forward. If you're a fixer, let's work together to fix this colossal problem. I know how to proceed with the next few phases in the product development process. I'll describe how to develop, test, and rollout a new product in subsequent blog articles. I am not content to be an expensive desk ornament. I'm a fixer.


California Accent offers free training materials (courseware) which can be used to teach English to Thai students. These training materials are free for parents and teachers to use as long as they are not resold or used for commerical purposes. New materials are being added to this site every week as they are developed and tested by the author.




Comments

Tracy, Jack
We need to put a line under this now and move on before it goes full-blown expat discussion forum.
Cheers!

By Philip, Samut Prakarn (27th November 2017)

Oye, Phil... pass the popcorn, mate!

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (27th November 2017)

Jack,

"I do not have any special qualifications or expertise in the field of education"

My reply about 'professional educators' was in response to Mark Newman. Not you. I literally never once said or implied I thought you were a professional educator. What on earth gave you the impression I thought that? I said that I've met professional educators in Thailand who I wouldn't trust. I didn't say they were 'all' bad. My point was alluding to the amount of money being spent on English programs and and the very little they often return. This has been going on for a while. The stats don't lie nor offend. They're stats. So if the pros haven't worked it out, what harm does it 'cause if the very teachers who teach the subject try their own thing. A+ for trying.

"I am not sure having strong, stereotypical and simplistic negative attitudes towards entire groups of people, whether they are professional educator, Thais or ESL teachers is helpful in having a successful time working in Thailand in the field of education"

Ehm, good? Thanks? I never once said any of these things, but it's great advice all the same. I could offer you some advice like; don't deny the Holocaust ever happened if you want a successful time working in Thailand. I mean you never said that, there's no reason for me to imply you may have, but someone reading this might now be mislead to believe that you did. But that would be disingenuous, right? So I won't do it.

There was zero anger in my argument. I took my hat off to Mark and you felt compelled to tell everyone that the key to happiness was to not do what Mark was doing. I said for you to do your thing and let Mark do his. That couldn't be any more civilized or diplomatic.

By Tracy, Normadicway (27th November 2017)

Tracy

I don’t really understand your hostility, but you seem to be under a wrong assumption about me. I do not have any special qualifications or expertise in the field of education and I would not considered myself any more qualified than Mark to design and implement an overhaul of the entire Thai educational system.

I am not sure having strong, stereotypical and simplistic negative attitudes towards entire groups of people, whether they are professional educator, Thais or ESL teachers is helpful in having a successful time working in Thailand in the field of education.

A little bit of advice for you Tracy- if you want people to listen to you try for a little more sophistication and less anger in your arguments and don't divide the world into groups of good guys (groups you are part of) and bad guys (groups you are not a part of).

By Jack, In front of a beer (26th November 2017)

Oh, I've come across a few 'professional educators' in Thailand who I wouldn't trust with a bucket of water if my underwear were on fire. Once you overhear them lying to fellow teachers you quickly lose any trust or respect. "I'm not mad that you lied to me. I'm mad that I can't believe you anymore".

So if Mark is trying something new or his way, I applaud him. Even if he achieves nothing he's already done more than many teachers have. If Mark is banging his head against a wall then so be it. I'd rather work with him than someone who just talks a load of old bollox.

A little bit of advice for you Jack - if you want people to listen to you, to take on board your advice, don't condescend to them. It rubs people up the wrong way.



By Tracy, Normadicway (26th November 2017)

Tracy

I am sure Mark is a great guy and I would probably enjoying having a beer with him and shoot the breeze but he is very misguided in this attempt to change the entire country and its educational system.

How many attempts have we seen on this site over the years attempting to change the entire country and educational system by English teachers? (Thousands at least?). How many have succeeded? (To the best of my knowledge not one normal English teacher in Thailand has been invited to design and implement an entire overhaul of the country and its educational system)

Why would you think this time would be different?

He was hired to teach English at a single school, not to tell everyone at his school and all the administrators in the Thai government how they are all wrong and they do not know as much as he does despite his lack of training in the field or experience.

I was trying to give the guy some helpful advice which might prevent him from spending years making enemies and banging his head against the wall.

He might sincerely believe farangs (himself), farang culture (his culture) and farang ways (his ways) of doing things are better than Thais, Thai culture and the Thai way of doing things, but his ability to convince everyone in Thailand about this is doubtful.

Despite this advice, if he thinks it is worth his time to continue to try to change the entire country and educational system of Thailand from his position as an IT dude turned ESL teacher, I can do nothing to stop him.

I think he would be better advised to work to be the best English teacher he can be, and if his method is so wonderful maybe everyone else in the country will see the success and use it too.

By Jack, In front of a coffee cup (25th November 2017)

Professional educators should listen to people who come from 'Nomadicway'. Their wisdom and knowledge can only make our lives better!

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (23rd November 2017)

To Jack

"Choose your path. Try to completely change the country and culture you are living in or adapt and hopefully make an incremental but positive difference in the life of your students and yourself. (Try to change your environment or try to change yourself to fit into the environment)

I made my choice, and I feel it has worked out pretty well"

We know Jack. You've said this in about 357 posts on here already. You do what makes you happy, and let Mark, who seems like a decent dude, do what makes him happy. My hat goes off to Mark.

By Tracy, Nomadicway (23rd November 2017)

Been living in Thailand 10 years. Taught at high schools, universities and language centres. If you think foreign teachers can influence Thailand Education system then youre not in the real world and frankly dont understand Thai culture!

By Mark, Bangkok (20th November 2017)

@Jack

I can't see any Thai bashing. I mostly see people talking and engaging in a civilized manner. I think Phil allows comments from all kinds of people because these are the very people who teach here; all kinds of people. Most people who comment on here aren't fully qualified teachers like you'd find back home. They're teachers who teach English as a second language with a TEFL cert and/or a degree in philosophy, etc. Take their comments with a pinch of salt and move on.

I love to chat with my friends and fellow teachers about teaching English as a second language. We can talk openly and freely. We debate ideas and try to counter bad ideas with good ones. Not once have I felt the need to brag about my qualifications. In fact, I simply don't trust people who feel the need to brag about how qualified and experienced they are. If you can't put forward your ideas without having to mention your qualifications, you can't be very convincing when expressing your ideas.

As with many qualifications (unless you're a hedge fund manager, etc) your qualifications are only as beneficial to others as the degree of your integrity. Especially in something like education. I actually think there's nothing more distasteful than an academic trotting out their credentials.

By Craig, Wherever (20th November 2017)

I haven’t been convinced the Joe the plumber (or IT dude) type of English teacher (who most likely has never mastered a foreign language and has only worked in a single school in a single location for a short period of time) is on average going to create better lesson plans and a more effective approach to language learning than an experienced professional linguistic educator who speaks multiple languages, has studied in depth the research on language learning, and has years of experience in teaching in different circumstances. This goes against intuition and common sense. I know we are living in a world where someone like Trump can get elected President of the USA and there is a lot of simplistic populist rhetoric going on about the evil of experts and the value of a lack of education, but I would still need to see some pretty compelling proof a short term ESL teacher with a background in IT from a different cultural background is the most qualified and best person to lead an overhaul of the entire country’s approach to teaching English.

In my experience, most “experts” (unless they are trying to sell their book or learning program) usually acknowledge different students learn differently and effective teachers can effectively use a variety of different, but theoretically sound, approaches based on the cultural environment, level of the existing knowledge of the students, motivation of the students and preference of the teacher. It is usually the Joe the Plumber (or IT dude) turned ESL teacher who thinks he (or sometimes she) has figured out the one and only way to teach English to Thai students.

By Jack, Nearer than you think (19th November 2017)

You won’t fix the Thai education system because they will not allow you to. Along with all the changes are a constant flow of new so called teachers just arrived with a 3 week TEFL course. No one really wants the education to change because too many make money from the way it is. A broken system which does not function very well. Agencies getting into government schools with some few brown paper envelopes passing around which is now expected. Some schools are making some headway but very few. Most complain too much that they do not understand or they are just bored of it.

That said I have worked in some very good Government schools where the kids really did want to learn, were respectful and would try their best. The admin could not really care though and it was just about saving face, looking good and not rocking their perfect system or not. Marks in one schools could not be an average of 2% out from the other class and so you had to adjust your marks to reflect that. At the end of the day it is their system. They broke it. They can fix it.

If you want to be a good English teacher in Thailand watch the Thai game shows on TV and try to make your lesson like that. Know your students and what they expect. In truth most have been taught too much grammar which did not make any sense and gave up on the subject entirely. If you can make it fun enough for them to enjoy, and gain interest again they may decide that it is worth it to learn. It can be a grind sometimes but at the end of the day do not worry about it. Go home, enjoy your life, do your best at school and forget about work after school because to do anything else will drive you mad.

By Jonny Jon, Bangkok (19th November 2017)

I think Phil likes these Thai bashing articles as they seem to generate a lot of traffic and comments, but I doubt the thousands of comments about how bad the Thai educational system which have appeared on this site since 1994 have done much to improve the system or have been helpful to real teachers. If these types of comments posted online made a difference we would be cheering all the great improvements we have initiated instead of seeing the same old whinging about how bad everything still is.

The main purpose of these Thai-bashing comments appear to be to allow some teachers to blow off steam and others to attempt to express their cultural superiority over the natives.

Whether one likes the system and the culture it is based upon or not is not really of any importance when on the job.

If one decides to work in a Thai school, one will have some freedoms to plan and teach in one’s preferred manner but this will have to be done within the system (just like being an employee anywhere in the world).

If a teacher wants to control every aspect of the educational process, he or she should start his or her own school.

I have seen thousands come and go. I have seen many people, like the author of this article, who have come with the intention of completely changing the country and culture to resemble an idealized version of the West. I have never seen a single success using this approach. But I have also seen many teachers and other professionals who have had happy and productive times while here and almost always these individuals adapted and found a way to teach or work in their own way within the limitations created by the environment they found themselves in.

Choose your path. Try to completely change the country and culture you are living in or adapt and hopefully make an incremental but positive difference in the life of your students and yourself. (Try to change your environment or try to change yourself to fit into the environment)

I made my choice, and I feel it has worked out pretty well.

By Jack, Closer than you might think (19th November 2017)

Spot on, Justin...

Well said. Justin...

What Thai education does NOT need (and isn't even asking for!) is complicated over-analysis followed by impossible to understand 'fixes' based on Western gobbledegook and frenzied nerd-speak.

Dump the shitty 'text' books and start teaching real-world conversational English to kids who want to learn it.

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (19th November 2017)

I have a 100% success rate teaching Thais the English language. The secret of my success is very easily guessable, but I'll tell you anyway:
1. Throw all the Oxford, Cambridge, McMillan Longman and similar books away. They were written by academic nerds - for intellectuals.
2. Only teach students who want to learn and who don't expect REAL study to be fun and games. This may shock you, but most working class people do not need English and have no desire or motive to learn. Let them go play netball.
3. Trust the teachers who prove they can teach - to teach. And let each successful teacher do it their way.
4. Don't think of obstacles, like constant tests, reports, a common curriculum and copious lesson plans.
5. Don't overload the teachers with more than 18 class hours per week and then add other duties.
6. Set up a system where each teacher must sit in a different teachers class for 2 hours each week.
ps. If schools use an agency - they kinda already know what that means.

By Justin, London / Bangkok / Beijing (18th November 2017)

'Jack, Nearer than you think' is spot on. Any teacher who is following this article and its responses would do well to read and then re-read it.

For me, the answer is simple...

Abandon English language classes to 70% to 80% of all Thai mathom kids and focus the resources on the remaining kids who can...

1) ...maintain an interest in learning English and...
2) ...possibly in the future put that knowledge to use.

In my experience more than half of M6 kids know NO MORE English than they did in P6! It's just a collosal waste of time and effort.

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (18th November 2017)

Very few Native English speakers working in Thailand have a deep understanding of the latest research on educational learning theory (which mostly says learning is very complex and difficult to generalize about especially across cultures), the Thai language, local culture, or the political structure and nature of the Thai educational system.

What they do have expertise in is speaking their native language. I suspect most English teachers were hired to teach their native language, not to overhaul the educational system in the country.

Mark, is changing Thailand and the Thai educational system listed as part of your job duties?
Has anyone from the Ministry of Education come to you and asked your advice on how to change Thailand and the Thai educational system?

What makes you think you are qualified to change Thailand and the Thai educational system?

What makes you think you have the ability to change Thailand and the Thai educational system?

You do not lack confidence in your knowledge of the right approach and have a way too typical attitude Thais are unable to run their own country and educational system and need to be guided by a Farang (Even when the Farang has not special qualifications or experience in the field).

I am not going to try to defend the Thai educational system, but whether it is a “colossal problem” or not is mostly a subjective opinion based on using an idealized version of Western culture as a benchmark.

Having been in the country for approximately 20 years, I have seen thousands like you come and go, English teachers who plan to change Thailand and the Thai educational system into something in their own image. Good luck, but I don’t like your chances.

If you really want to make a difference, put your efforts into doing the best job you can within the system you have voluntarily chosen to work in and don’t spend much effort in trying to completely change a country, culture and educational system I suspect you do not understand very well.

Or if you cannot work within the existing country, culture, and system it might be better to find a place more aligned with your values and ways of doing things.

By Jack, Nearer than you think (18th November 2017)

Greg Nunn: Thanks for supplying those links. One reason I decided to try to do something was an article on WikiPedia I stumbled upon: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Thailand. I was shocked by the following statements:

"On 27 May 2015, the Ministry of Public Health released Thai student IQ survey results. They indicate that the IQ of Grade 1 students has dropped from 94 in 2011 to 93. The international standard is 100.[12]

It is highly possible that Thailand's education system is harming student IQs. While the IQ of pre-school students is acceptable, IQ drops as primary schooling commences, suggesting a need for changes at schools. The IQ of students in rural areas is considerably lower, at just 89. This difference persists at university. While studies have found the IQ of Bangkok university students averages 115, the IQ of provincial university students is 5-8 points lower.[12]

Alarmingly, the low IQ levels in the recent survey confirm continuing high levels of intellectual disability: IQ levels lower than 70, also termed "mildly impaired or delayed". The average global percentage of such students is 2 percent. However, a previous 2011 survey found that 6.5 percent of Thai students scored in this range. The recent results suggest intellectual disability in some rural areas could now be up to 10 percent."

"In comparison with the educational expenditures of other countries, (especially developing countries): China 13%, Indonesia 8.1%, Malaysia 20%, Mexico, 24.3%, Philippines 17%, United Kingdom and France 11%, the Thai GDP and national budget allocate considerable funds to education. By 2006 it represented 27% of the national budget. "

I also observed that many (but not all) of my M6 students last semester could barely speak more than a dozen words of English despite having completed 12 years of English classes. And although I have a great deal of respect for them, the staff at that high school were almost unable to converse in English. I certainly agree that this is an enormously complex problem and my best efforts will probably be futile, but I'd rather try and fail than do nothing. In fact, I assume I will fail. But hey, who cares? I'm retired. This project gives me something to do. I've got nothing to lose.

By Mark Ricahrd Brown, Khun Han (17th November 2017)

I've been exploring writings and discussions abut the Thai Education system, since I came across some articles by accident online. I work all over the world, promoting universities and teaching IELTS and other English Language programs. It is fascinating and perplexing to me that the Thai government apportions more funds to English Language Acquisition programs than surrounding countries and gets significantly less bang for its buck than countries who spend less.

As far as I can see, the issue is quite complex - I've shared my thoughts with many adults here in Thailand and observed Thai students in Australia. One aspect that a young Thai man shared with me yesterday is the degree to which Thai people see (or do not see) themselves as part of an international community with international opportunities. The aspiration or ambition to explore the world - compared with the 'crab in the coconut shell' syndrome that Thai people got so up in arms about recently, when a Thai student protest included a banner expressing this issue.

September 2016: "For the first time, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and Unesco have joined forces to provide education-policy advice to a country - and Thailand is the beneficiary.

The two international organisations spent several months researching and conducting field visits and interviews with stakeholders before concluding a review of Thailand’s educational sector and making recommendations.

The review recommended establishing effective, efficient and transparent curriculum review and revision processes, led by experts and informed by research and data.

Also, it suggested that Thailand establish minimum criteria for teacher preparation in consultation with programme providers.
The review emphasised that the success of Thailand’s education system will increasingly depend on how well it uses its resources."

The two international organisations spent several months researching and conducting field visits and interviews with stakeholders before concluding a review of Thailand’s educational sector and making recommendations.

The review recommended establishing effective, efficient and transparent curriculum review and revision processes, led by experts and informed by research and data.

Also, it suggested that Thailand establish minimum criteria for teacher preparation in consultation with programme providers. The review emphasised that the success of Thailand’s education system will increasingly depend on how well it uses its resources.

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/OECD-and-Unesco-formulate-education-policy-advice--30294427.html

http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002268/226869E.pdf

http://litbase.uil.unesco.org/?menu=9&programme=147

http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/secondary-education-regional-information-base-country-profile-for-thailand-en.pdf

By Greg Nunn, Bankok - Sydney - Central Asia - Russia - India (17th November 2017)

I like to judge Thais as being human beings before I judge them by their culture. What you see on the outside isn't always what you see on the inside. Whether that's good or bad doesn't matter, because it is what it is.

I've taught countless Thais privately. It starts off with the usual small talk and then it elevates 'usually' to all sorts once they find themselves comfortable and safe. I never elicit anything other than the academic subject at hand and stuff like, "What are you plans for the weekend?" etc.

Anyway, it always opens my mind. Seeing some talk with such passion or disdain you quickly realise the person you're talking to is still very much a product of their culture, but absolutely more a product of being a human being (shock horror) with wants and needs and desires, and crazy & nebulous thoughts. I love when they say they love talking with me because they can say how they feel. People should always feel free to speak without fear of persecution or violence (no, obviously not hate speech).

This feeling of wanting to talk freely and have someone listen isn't owned by any culture. It's owned by feelings in us that are as natural as blinking. Sure, I'm a man who quite often suppresses his feelings to look more manly. But I can admit that, and I would love to work on it. It can be an unfortunate byproduct of being the male species. Again, we're human before all else.

My point is that the education system here is the way it is. There's no harm in talking about it. There's no harm in people adding comments on how to make it better. You put a point across and you can shoot it down. Just be able to shoot it down with a clear and articulate argument. The Thai public should be asked their opinions. No, they're not in the education business, but a good idea is a good idea no matter whose mouth it comes out of.

Anyway, my hat off to Mark. It's great to see teachers with a passion who simply want the best for their students. If we've been entrusted to teach the kids English, let's do that to the best of our ability and with real integrity. Unlike some agency owners I know of.

By Craig, At my computer (17th November 2017)

"Your feedback welcome..."

Yeah, somehow I doubt that... unless it just props up this bloke's ego. The assertation here is that if you don't agree and/or don't get involved, you're a useless, smug barfly, praying for everyone else to fail!

Some of us are just trying to do the best in our own small worlds and don't have the will and arrogance to change the world. That doesn't mean we're bad people.

The problem with his patronizing approach is, once again, this farang 'white knight syndrome' that is all too pervasive among the high minded teacher community in Thailand.

The whole pretentious (and overly long) lengthy computer analogy was a stifling read. It's the "We can fix this my way and the silly natives should just follow us!" mantra.

Here's the thing... whatever curriculum and ideas that YOU have will work for YOU and maybe a handful of people who think the same way you do. I've looked hard at your lesson plans (California Accent) for prathom students because that's my area and I can't use them. They were written by you for you! I'm not saying they're no good, but they aren't good for me.

The one plus here is that you do care and you are willing to do what it takes to make substantial changes in a flawed system. The way you work, works well for you and (hopefully) your students in Issan.

I work in a completely different way and that seems to work for me and my students. An example is your emphasis on vocabulary building with no context. That works for you but not for me. I prefer to teach phrases and contextual meanings of vocabulary first.

The problems/strategies/methods/answers you have aren't the same as mine. I wouldn't even begin to think that the way I do things is the way all teachers should work.

Geography is an issue, too. Bangkok students need an entirely different system than rural students.

Also, there isn't a 'one size fits all' solution foreigners can come up with, that is going to be a broad fix for a fragmented, poorly regulated and flawed system of education.

And finally, you have overestimated the commitment and enthusiasm that people making a thousand bucks a month are gonna display when asking for help.

Just my thoughts... I'm a dick and most people disagree enthusiastically with whatever I say, so...

By Mark Newman, A. MUANG (17th November 2017)

I love this guy's passion. And believe that sharing approaches and ideas to achieve some kind of framework people can refer to in their teaching is a wholly positive thing.
I would love to be involved in this. Will definitely keep an eye on it

By Rich, Thailand (17th November 2017)

Beenthere: I agree but I've been busy working on other projects and teaching. I'll generate some initial docs and post them on my site (california-accent.com) by next week. I've been thinking about this list for over a year.

By Mark Richard Brown, Khun Han (17th November 2017)

If you've been here so long, you should have a comprehensive idea of what is wrong already. Why not start from that and release a basic outline of defects instead of trying to start from scratch. Give posters something to build on instead of a blank piece of paper. I bet you'll get more reactions. Maybe set up a survey as well.

By Beenthere, Bangkok (17th November 2017)

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