Bangpakok Wittayakom, a state secondary school in Thon Buri, is eagerly implementing its development plan for learning and teaching in preparation for the huge changes the Asean Economic Community (AEC) will bring.
As economic integration means Thais will encounter a much greater number of individuals from neighbouring countries, it is imperative that we are able to communicate with them effectively in English and/or their native languages.
Chaianan Kaendee, director of Bangpakok Wittayakom School, told The Nation that in addition to foreign languages, the school has over the past few years created various activities to encourage awareness on Asean among teachers and students.
Besides English, the school offers optional courses in French, Japanese and Chinese. This year, the school plans to launch a course in Bahasa (used in Indonesia and Malaysia) for Mattayom 3 (Grade 9) students. The school is also considering offering Burmese as another language option.
To prepare for the AEC era, it is critical that the language proficiency of Thais be improved both in English and in the tongues of our Asean neighbours.
Chaianan said that the school’s students also get the chance to practise foreign languages outside the classroom.
In addition, the students get to learn more about Asean culture through study projects. For example, the students carried out research on Myanmar workers in Thailand, visiting them in Samut Sakhon province to do a survey.
Meanwhile, the school is also expanding its student exchange programme. After four years of student exchange visits with Henderson Secondary School in Singapore, the school is planning to set up the Henderson club, aimed at widening the relationship and activities. The driving force behind the club will come from students, with the school taking the role of adviser.
Thai students who participated in classroom lessons in Singapore said it had been an enriching experience. Over the nine days of the programme, they forged strong relationships with their Henderson student hosts.
“It will be valuable for Thai students to have increased opportunities for internships in neighbouring AEC countries. This will be a practical way to improve their knowledge of their neighbours and how to work effectively with them,” said Chaianan.
The school also takes part in student exchange programmes with counterparts in the US and Japan, and has created the affordable “Big Save Big Trip” exchange programme for gifted students.
On the other hand, teaching staff at Bangpakok Wittayakom are also required to prepare for the AEC. The school provides courses for teachers to improve skills in various languages. In addition, to promote greater AEC awareness, prominent businessmen from leading companies are invited as guest speakers to pass on their knowledge.
Chaianan said that this year the school would launch its Bangpakok Model, focusing on knowledge management, class observation of eight essentials for learning, and life skills.
“The Model will allow the teachers to develop their teaching method through the class observation system,” said Chaianan.
However, the director acknowledged that differences in learning/teaching styles between senior teachers and their young counterparts remained a big problem for schools nationwide. In the next five years about 600,000 teachers will enter the education system. A crucial question will be how schools can blend the different methods of old and new teachers.