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HK group aims at Thai young learners' English skills

ABC PATHWAYS GROUP has launched an international kindergarten that applies a concept of "Happy Learning" with the Cambridge standard curriculum.

For Thailand's unimpressive ranking on the world stage, this could be a timely innovation.

The Cambridge Young Learners English (YLE) test for 2012-2013 on kids from 74 countries saw Thailand ranked 62nd in listening skills, 58th in speaking skills and 54th in reading skills - lower than other Asian countries.

Hong Kong-based ABC Pathways Group founder Bally Wong said the ABC Pathways International Kindergarten's curriculum would apply the Cambridge University Press (UK) teaching materials to lift Thai students' YLE scores.

She also cited the YLE 2012-2013 report that Thai students' English skill levels were at the "Starters" level at about 8.65-8.84 years old, compared to Hong Kong ABC Pathways kids' 5.72-5.88 years old. She said the world's average age of "Starters" (excluding China) was 8.52-8.65 years.

The YLE test for 2012-2013 saw New Caledonia and the United Kingdom reigning number 1 and number 2 in listening skills while Hong Kong ranked 20th. Speaking skills saw the Philippines ranked 5th, Hong Kong at 18 and Malaysia at 20, while reading skills saw Myanmar ranked first, Malaysia sixth and Indonesia 23rd.

Wong said the results were in line with other similar tests, and could provide aspiration/chance for Thai education and students to meet international standards of English proficiency. ABC Pathways institutes have English native speakers teaching English to children aged 1.5 years to five years old, as kids at this age can learn the language well and with confidence.

Wong said that ABC Pathways used the concept of "Happy Learning"; teaching pre-school children and kindergarteners fun lessons in a relaxing and creative environment that also promoted analysis thinking and imagination. She said successful learning of English should start at 2-3 years and required another 4-5 years in English learning consistency to lay a strong foundation for further education in primary and secondary levels. This would also fit well with people's demand for English proficiency in the Asean Economic Community (AEC), she added.

The group's decision to expand to Thailand first was because Thai parents wanted children to learn English as fun. The country had many foreign residents and tourists but Thais still didn't communicate with them well in English, she said.

In the hope of bringing the success of teaching 45,000 kids in Hong Kong to Thailand, Wong said the new international kindergarten on Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road 31 would initially teach pre-schoolers until Kindergarten 1-3 before starting the primary level in the next few years.

The aim was a student ratio of 70 per cent foreigners to 30 per cent Thais, she said. The kindergarten could support 120 kids and tuition fees would be Bt100,000-Bt200,000 per year. The school will also offer a special course to 500-600 kids at Bt28,000 per 50 hours and the kids would get a certificate, she said.

ABC Pathways Group was established in Hong Kong in 2002 by Wong who was an expert on Neuro-Linguistic Programme (NLP). ABC Pathways Group has seven branches and was certified as a Cambridge ESOL exam preparation centre in Hong Kong.


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