Students have free English resources at their fingertips
Re: Chalk Talk, March 6
The have-nots are denied quality education when it becomes a business, writes Chularat Saengpassa:
"LIKE IT OR NOT, many schools in Thailand have a business-like approach to introducing new courses and recruiting new students," and yet, that is nothing to be surprised about, although in a sense, the commercialisation of language learning/English has gone beyond reason to the level of greed. But there is nothing wrong with paying reasonable rates for qualified instruction in any subject.
Khun Chularat has touched on some excellent points and it's hard to argue that what she says isn't true. However, arguing that the economics of education/English education means that poorer students lose out on the opportunity to learn doesn't take into account the fact that those who want to learn now have all the tools they need, in nearly infinite available online resources. Or, they would have, if they took the time to turn off the mind-numbing and often violent computer games, networking sites and chatting with friends (99 per cent in Thai) and actually practised using English in their own free time.
Until the age of 16 Thai students have immeasurable amounts of free time, as witnessed by how long they spend in endless social contact with friends in non-essential activities. I know: We were all once "that age", when that's almost all that matters. However, facts are facts and life is more competitive than ever. The insular nature and false sense of superiority of Thai society is its own worst enemy at times, and this represents a formidable challenge. Addiction to games and other online activities is a real challenge as students lose the desire to interact in real life. I've never talked to a student whose parents have monitored or controlled the amount of time or quality of time spent on computers. It's as if they have no awareness at all of the issues or dangers regarding computer games and excessive online addiction behaviours.
Let's boil the issue down to 3 or 4 major points:
1. Many schools, institutes and language/tuition centres are Thai partnerships or Thai owned, and by law need to be a Thai joint venture. So, is this a case of business-minded Thais exploiting students' educational needs and transforming it into profits? There are many foreign owners involved as well, so at least it's an internationally diverse and nearly fair business playing field - but caveat emptor. Paying Bt500-Bt3,000 an hour, day or even a week to learn English is a high price, yet there are lower-cost solutions. Going online is nearly free, and offers incredible variety for every interest and level. Problem solved if you bother to search. Heard of Google and YouTube?
2. The government is already way too mis-involved (sic) in the education field and represents the largest stumbling block to advancing progressive education on an internationally competitive level. Talk to your elected officials about completely eliminating the hopeless, wasteful and corrupt bureaucracy at the Education Ministry.
If Thai students want to learn English and speak English most of them have the opportunity to do so, yet what are their parents doing to promote learning of international communication? Yes, sending them to good tuition centres and schools is great for those who can afford to do so, but let's face it: With the lowest TOEFL scores and one of the least progressive and exciting education systems in Asean compared to its hyper-developed business environment, there is no reason why anyone who would like to, can't learn English anymore.
Many people with few opportunities and low incomes do some amazing things in life: They discipline themselves, work hard and achieve more than their peers. A Polish man owns one of the most successful and fastest growing language schools in the country. He knew zero English until the age of 17. Guess how much he's worth today because of his will, hard work, intelligence and tenacity to succeed?
Solutions can be found in local free magazines, which carry advertisements for free lessons.
Students who are offered free English classes at government schools are sometimes very reluctant to try to use English, or grow bored of being stuck in a four walled "prison" all day. They have little capacity or interest in learning foreign languages since all things they need to know are in Thai, and they rarely see a need for English until the dreaded exams start to pour in like the monsoon rains.
Cramming 40, 50 or more students in a classroom with a single non-Thai speaking foreign teacher of varying expertise is also no real solution. So come on. Take responsibility and demand your children do more than the mediocre minimum that has so long passed as the standard for education in English here. Horrible grammar, bad spelling, weak comprehension and pigeon English will no longer make the grade. The truth is many Thais just don't want to speak English - or they would!
There's a huge world of knowledge and opportunities just waiting for those who will... and if Thai students won't, you can be sure there are other Asian students who value the chance and will take it. Pass the buck, Thailand, to your students. It's their responsibility ultimately.
They've got a smart phone, computer access and the Internet. Well, duh - use it for something other than fun and games.
The proof is in the pudding.