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English tutors failing the test
Just one in 10 can score more than 60 per cent
The Nation (Bangkok), August 21, 2007
Training is needed urgently to improve the standard of English teaching in Thailand, senior government and private educationalists said after seeing the "highly unimpressive scores" in a recent test of English-language teachers.
Of the 14,189 teachers in 30 tourism-oriented provinces who took the test, 74.59 per cent scored less than 41 marks out of a possible 100, according to an Office of Basic Education Commission (OBEC) report.
Only 9.94 per cent of the teachers scored between 60 and 100 marks, while 15.47 per cent managed to score between 42 and 60 marks.
The lowest score earned in the test - which allotted 30 marks for listening ability, 30 marks for reading, 20 marks for writing and 20 marks for speaking - was two.
Among the 30 provinces from where the teachers who took the test came were Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and Chon Buri.
The test was conducted jointly by OBEC and Ramkhamhaeng University as a follow-up to a previous one conducted four years ago in which 90 per cent of English-language teachers also did poorly.
The OBEC report described English teaching in Thailand currently as a "failure", and cited the lack of direct education in teaching English for local teachers as the main reason.
Asst Prof Chaleosri Phiboolchol, chairperson of the English-language Teachers' Association of Thailand, said most of the approximately 500,000 English teachers in government and private schools at primary and secondary level "were made to do their jobs" without basic qualifications or proper training.
She suggested giving scholarships and providing training and rewarding outstanding teachers as solutions to encourage self-development among English teachers.
Assoc Prof Suchada Nimmannit, a lecturer with Chulalongkorn University's Language Institute, said the Education Ministry had failed to substantially improve English teachers.
"Training every few years for teachers is not enough to develop them academically," she added.
She said that if sending Thai English-language teachers to countries with native English speakers and highly professional training was too expensive, exchange programmes among Southeast Asian countries would be good enough to expose them to new experiences and prompt them to adjust to all-English environments.
Akkhara Akkharanithi, a lecturer at the Language Institute, said the teaching of English should also be improved at kindergarten level, where all the teachers are too burdened with full-time tasks to improve their English teaching.
She suggested that all government English teachers who worked for more than five years should be allowed to study English overseas on their own funds, while more scholarships should be made available to those who proved to be outstanding English teachers.