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R.D. - Australia said:
Problems for Learners in ThailandLeaning english is a substantial problem in Thai education and there has been much research in this area. Papers can be found at the local universities, Ministry of Education (MOE), UNESCO, various NGO’s as well as across the internet on blogs, forums and TEFL sites. The common denominator is easy to identify and is systemic; the education system is not meeting student needs and generates countless problems for english learners in thailand as a consequence. Browsing the internet - in particular blogs, forums, TEFL and english teaching sites relating to problems with Thai students and english - it is evident that the majority of the TEFL teacher collective has little comprehension of the students first language and culture. This aspect is intrinsically transparent when researching problems for english learners in thailand. There is an abundance of posts by TEFL teachers asking why their Thai students have particular problems with the english language. The answers are evident if some basic knowledge of the students’ first language has been acquired. This concept in itself is a concern; however it is not in the scope of this exercise to address beyond a mention. Teachers should provide the teaching method which is in accordance with the students’ needs, for instance, teaching english and translate into Thai. 1 This realisation means that peer-reviewed academic papers may only be relied upon for accurate information. The researchers at universities, government, UNESCO and other professional organisations have utilised academics proficient in both languages to unearth the problems. I don’t believe sources without in-depth knowledge of both languages and cultures can provide an informed opinion. I have therefore chosen academic papers only as a source; the majority of other sources being ignorant of the grammar transitions and nuances of both languages. This ignorance, I believe, is a serious impediment to comprehending the associated issues. The Thai Ministry of Education realises the importance of english in an international market and is striding to educate its people appropriately. Therefore english has been made accessible via the following: 1. The curriculum english can be taught from level 1 through to level 12 in both public and private schools and is the first international language. However it is usually commenced at year 3 as there is an acute shortage of english teachers. 2. International schools International schools have been allowed to enrol Thai students, up to 50% of their student enrolment capacity. The Thai students generally learn to use english fluently, but realistically the number of students who can study at International schools is insignificant, due to the prohibitive costs and limited capacity of these schools. 1 A study of the problems faced by Thai students in acquiring english; Assistant Professor Dr.Samran Khunsamrong, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, thailand. 3. english Program Schools Students who study in english Program Schools have to pay education fees that are more expensive than a regular Thai school curriculum program. Therefore E.P. schools are allowed by the MOE to hire native english speakers to teach and they can receive a high salary compared to Thai teachers teaching english subjects in the same schools. The total number of E.P school teachers is 1,675 with 913 Thai nationality and 762 foreign nationalities. The foreign teachers have come from various countries, including both native english speaking countries such as; u.s.A, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries where english is an official language or was the official language in the past, such as India, Myanmar, philippines, Africa, etc. These E.P schools have many serious problems with non-Thai teachers and contribute significantly to the base problem, such as: (1) Out-of field teachers: Most of the non-Thai nationality teachers did not complete a degree in the field of teacher education and did not major in the subject they teach. They can communicate well in english of course, but many don’t possess adequate knowledge about the content of the subject as well as being unaware of teaching methodologies. (2) Teacher Shortage: In general, there are not enough foreign teachers who are available or qualified to teach in E.P. schools. Many of them are tourists or are in thailand for a special purpose for a short period of time. They are only available to teach for a short period, so the schools have to find replacement teachers continuously. (3) Teacher behaviour: Many foreign teachers did not honour their signed contract. They move from one school to another without informing the school principal in advance, particularly when other schools offer a higher salary. They are not aware of, or not diligent with their responsibilities. E.P. schools must seek solutions to these problems in order to have sufficient and appropriately trained teachers, regardless of nationality, who know both subject content and how to teach students effectively. Because of the shortage of english teachers and profound high percentage of low quality teachers, the result is understandably disappointing. Yielding a good result under these conditions is not possible. So the impact of this low level system produces low level results and consequently serious problems for the Thai student. Research investigations have identified the main problems for Thai students of this low level education system in english as follows: 1) Most of the students do not want to learn english because they find the subject matter boring. In addition the subject matter is not familiar, and it is presented in a strange language which they have to try very hard to understand and express ideas effectively. 2) Teaching methods are not attractive or engaging or effective for students. Most of the teachers still use grammar and rote learning methods for teaching english. They focus on reading and writing skills, not listening and speaking skills. They seldom set up interesting activities to encourage their students to have fun learning english. 3) The school environment does not facilitate students in practicing their english every day. 4) There are not enough appropriate textbooks, novels, cartoons or other materials in english which engage the students’ interest in self-initiated learning. 5) There is not enough technology support for language learning, such as ICTs as well as language laboratories, particularly for schools in rural or remote areas throughout the country. In contrast, big schools in Bangkok or other major cities are provided with such language learning support technologies by NGO’s and other organisations. These issues impact seriously on the successful acquisition of english language skills and the following are reported as being the practical consequences for students: 1) Some of the most serious problems of all students are that they cannot understand the tone of voice of a native speaker; cannot understand an attitude, custom or social circumstance of a native speaker and cannot understand a native speaker talking at normal speed. 2) It is evident that students cannot explain their ideas clearly in english; cannot have a formal conversation in english and feel uncomfortable talking with a native speaker instructor in the classroom. This of course transfers to being uncomfortable with talking to any native english speaker and students avoid this instead of engaging. 3) Writing skills are at a very low level, which translates into problems with success in education and career. The most serious problems reported by all students are: they cannot write an essay within the limited time, cannot write an academic paper in english, and cannot use good grammatical rules in writing any papers at all. 4) Students usually have sociocultural issues in english language learning. From research results it can be seen that students are not spending any free time to associate with native speakers, do not like to be part of an english society, and are not trying to learn the culture of the country where english is spoken. In addition students are too ashamed about their pronunciation when communicating with an english native speaker; they justify all native speakers with one attitude, and cannot adapt themselves with a new environment and culture. The above research results scream to the observer that student needs are not being met by the teaching profession, particularly in addressing cross culture issues that impede learning. The problems for english learners in thailand are clear and established, and the path for resolution an obvious one. However the task of correcting a tangential and broken system will not be an easy one and may take decades to resolve. In the meantime the Thai student of english will continue to struggle and suffer. BIBLIOGRAPHY An Investigation of the Thai Students’ english Language Problems, Ms. Ratana Pawapatcharaudom, Mahidol University, thailand. A study of the problems faced by Thai students in acquiring english, Assistant Professor Dr.Samran Khunsamrong, Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, thailand. International Program for Teacher Education: An Approach to Tackling Problems of english Education in thailand, Pattanida Punthumasen, Office of the Education Council, Ministry of Education, thailand. From the Bottom Up: A Case Study of Teacher Training for Primary School Teachers in a Thai School in North Eastern thailand, Stephen Graham, ELTED – english Language Teacher Education and Development. ISSN 1365-3741. Levels of english Skills of Thai Students, Achara Wongsothorn, Language Institute, Chulalongkorn University, thailand.