Chinese has become the most popular foreign language among Thai students, according to a top education official.
Almost 300,000 students at 700 schools administered by the Office of the Basic Education Commission (Obec) study Chinese, said Usanee Watanapan, deputy director of the Bureau of Academic Affairs and Educational Standards at Obec.
Japanese and Korean are also becoming more popular, she said, with around 34,000 students studying Japanese at 175 schools and 12,000 studying Korean, which has only been offered at Obec schools for a few years.
Usanee said Asian languages had become more popular, while Western languages – especially French – were less popular.
“From the 2007-2011 academic years, fewer students studied French. Only 383 teachers at 221 schools still teach the language, with 35,000 students taking it. In the past, almost all Obec schools taught French as an elective subject. With fewer students, many schools have stopped teaching this language.
“China’s economy is strong and growing, while the economies of Western countries are weaker. This has caused students to pay more attention to Asian languages. [The upcoming] Asean Economic Community has also affected students’ decisions, with more of them deciding to study Asian languages, including those used in our neighbouring countries. Not only people in this region are studying [Asian] languages; more Westerners are also studying Chinese,” she said.
Schools administered by Obec teach 11 languages as elective subjects, including French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Burmese, Vietnamese and Khmer.