Thai international schools shouldn’t shun non-native English speakers

your say June 22, 2018 01:00

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I send my two children to an international school that calls itself new, though it has been in existence for quite some time.

Though the school fees are pretty high by Thai standards, the teaching of disciplines such as math and science is poor. It is all fun until Grade 8 and then the seriousness starts. It’s like suddenly throwing the children into an ocean and asked to swim or drown despite knowing that they have no swimming ability. I believe it is the same in all international schools in Thailand. I had to hire a private tutor, a Singaporean national of Indian origin, to help my children get through the examinations. 

Students of Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, India and China are way ahead of others in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) because the governments believed those subjects are important and pervade every part of our lives.

In Japan, for example, the Kumon way of repetitive math has made a difference in the lives of children. We Japanese are good in science and technology because of a solid foundation in math and physics and of course the competent teachers. That is missing in Thailand. 

Why can’t international schools hire Japanese, Singaporean or Indian maths teachers? Why can’t a Taiwanese or even a Russian teach physics and chemistry? Why should it always be a native English speaker? Most of the native speakers I came across in Thailand were pretty ordinary and at sixes and sevens with the concepts of maths. 

In 10 years, Chinese students become excellent in English, maths and science. I learned that China, unlike Thailand, does not believe in hiring only native English speakers. It has taken in thousands of competent teachers from Taiwan, India and Singapore. One should not be surprised if China, rather than the US, leads in math, science and technology in 10 years time.

In the United States, in schools and colleges, one finds a mini-United Nations in the teaching faculty. Almost 40 per cent are Asians, especially Indians and Taiwanese, and there are a considerable number of Africans. Compare that to Thailand. There is one Thai Chinese international school that wanted only Americans and Canadians as teachers, and not even Brits or Aussies. It reeks of subtle racism. The way out for Thailand is to follow China and the US and hire competent teachers regardless of nationality rather than being restricted to only native English speakers. There is no doubt that the prevailing way has failed and it shows in the competence of the students coming out of the international schools. I am sure thought-leaders in your letters column, such as Mr Eric Bahrt, the Beasleys, Khun Burin and Somsak Pola will definitely have something to say about this subject.

Kaito Yamamoto