Failure in English Education in Thailand : A Bitter Truth to Accept
To be on the point, failure of English learning and teaching secondary schools in the provinces stems from 2 main causes as follows :
1. The Students-related
1.1 As known, most students (in provinces upcountry) have insufficient English knowledge and skills which are the results of low-quality of English learning and teaching in primary levels (a bitter truth we have to accept especially the primary school teachers hemselves), actually due to lack of teachers who major in English or are well-trained as English teachers. Therefore, effective English teaching has rarely been found in most primary schools (except some in the heart of the city). Moreover, English has not been taught in some primary schools in the remote districts because the teachers cannot teach or even do not want to teach English. As the result, when studying in secondary level, the students from those schools can hardly learn anything whatsoever expected or required by the curriculum. It is, accordingly, a must for teachers in secondary schools to teach them those basic knowledge and skills (in some cases they have to start from scratch). In doing so, it sometimes takes weeks or months to help prepare them for new lessons in their true level; thus, having finished the final year of each level, their ability do not meet the national standards (which are already too high for most students in the provinces to achieve).
1.2 The students lack the thirst for knowledge. Owing to the advancement of technology these days, students spend most of their time on hi-tech gadgets and entertainments like mobile phones, on-line games, internet, etc. Consequently, they spend less time on their studies. Apart from that, they do not see the merits of learning English because they do not have the opportunity to use it in their real life ,especially in their respective communities.
1.3 The students lack reading habits, so they do not have knowledge of the world. They then possess narrow perspective and poor vision towards things or problems, as well as not being able to solve problems in accordance. They cannot learn complicated matters that need critical thinking skills. Discouraged by the above incompetencies, they consequently have no motivation to learn. Some may say this has nothing to do with English learning. But it has been widely known that almost all successful language learners were once devoted readers or bookworms.
2.1 Teachers have insufficient knowledge of English particularly the communicative approach and cross-cultural knowledge, so they cannot accurately and effectively teach and train the students to succeed in learning English. In consequence, the teachers do not have confidence in using the language and it ends up in lacking role models and inspiration for the students.
2.2 Teachers have insufficient knowledge of the curriculum and its implementation because they do not regularly attend seminars on the new curriculum. There are also too many benchmarks for teachers to implement. Most teachers lack goals in their teaching, do not or even cannot analyze the learning standards and benchmarks. They are still counting on the same old techniques ; that is, teach what they want to or teach only what the textbooks contain. As a result, there is no variety in the instructional activities, along with inappropriate measurement and evaluation which do not meet the individual needs and abilities of the students. Some teachers have no ideas of planning the lessons, so they just follow the textbooks.
In fact, there are many more problems obstructing the success of English learning and teaching in our province. However, there are some that urgently need solutions or cures (mentioned above). Hopefully, this is a pivotal start for us, English teachers in the provinces, to join hands in developing the English education in our own provinces, and brushing off the old images of the undereducated areas of Thailand (excluding the three disruptive southernmost provinces) which some of us have endured bitterly for quite some time.
Ways to Solve The Problems
Here are some suggested solutions presented by some English teachers.
1. The Students-related
1.1 All secondary schools in the provinces must take proactive actions by sending experienced English teachers to train primary school teachers who are assigned to teach English, or even personally teaching those students at their schools. That will be beneficial not only for secondary schools, it can also help improve the quality of the students’ English learning performance of the primary schools. When enrolled in the secondary level, they are expected to do well in their English lessons of their actual level, and accordingly meet the standards or benchmarks required by the present curriculum. Though worse, less time will be spent on teaching them basic knowledge as ever.
1.2 Schools have to co-operate with personnel and all sectors in the community in order to come up with strategies to attract the students into their classrooms ; that is , to encourage them to pay more attention to their studies. In doing so, Students’ Care and Assistance System is the crucial factor. All parties concerned must join hands and devote themselves to achieve this ultimate goal for us.
1.3 Schools have to make sure that teachers of all subject areas give importance to the students’ reading habits, and practically and fully implement the evaluation of their abilities to read, write, and think critically by the end of the final year of each level as required by the curriculum. Without adjusting the criteria to meet the students’ abilities , we must develop their abilities to meet the criteria instead. Also, the schools ,on a regular basis, must provide interesting projects or activities that help encourage the students to read. Never make up or conjure up things just to win the contest or to get a prize. On the other hand, sustainable reading society should be originated at schools.
2.1 English Proficiency Test and Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT) should be held regularly for English teachers. Importantly, teachers with good performance on both or either of the tests must be given special merits to, and easily get promoted to higher professional positions. Up to the present time, none of proficient teachers have ever enjoyed such a benefit. Consequently, the teachers are not motivated to develop themselves academically and professionally. Moreover, the annual salary raises have never been in favor of the teachers of this types. A popular strategy of many schools is to hire foreign English-speaking teachers to teach their students, especially communicative language. Even better, we urge that EP, MEP or IEP classes be introduced into all secondary schools because that will create the English atmosphere at schools, and motivate more students to learn English. Schools should also encourage students or teachers to host foreign exchange students like AFS’s or YES’s.
2.2 Formal instructional supervisions or less formal like class visits, preferably the amicable ones, both among teachers of the same schools and from experts or experienced personnel in English teaching should be encouraged on a regular basis.In conclusion, each case of suggested solutions to the problems cannot be successful without the teachers. Therefore, acknowledged teachers’ performances should be properly reinforced to boost their motivation. That is a simple psychological strategy that every school administrator has presumably learned. It is widely adopted in all accomplished government and private sectors. It can be inferred that schools administrators should or, rather, must examine themselves to find out whether or not their past administration was supportive to the development of the educational quality. It cannot be denied that leaders are role models