[xmca] Chewing gum for SE Asia

From: Phil Chappell (philchappell@mac.com)
Date: Thu Aug 11 2005 - 17:55:27 PDT

The following reporting of a study using two international standardised
tests, and the immediate result in government educational policy is
startling (and another noose for 600,000 teachers in a country where
teachers always seem to cop the blame). Maybe the policy should include
issuing free chewing gum at morning recess?

Bangkok Post August 10, 2005
English skills lowly ranked

Tests put Thais near bottom in S.E Asia


Special English-language curriculums are being drafted for staff in six
major industries after tests revealed Thais have the second-worst
English language skills in Southeast Asia.

  The finding, compiled by educational testing services, is worrying
those wanting Thailand to become a regional hub of car manufacturing,
medical care, spas, cuisine and fashion.

  The director of the Higher Education Commission's English proficiency
development centre, Achara Wongsothorn, said in the 12 months to June,
Thai students came eighth in the nine Southeast Asian countries rated
by TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language), scoring on average only
201 on the cumulative 300 scale.

  Of the six countries in the region rated by the multiple-choice TOEIC
(Test of English for International Communication), Thai students ranked
fourth overall with an average 524 of the full 990 score.

  In TOEFL tests, Thais averaged one higher than Cambodians (200) and
two lower than Lao students (203). Singapore topped the region (252),
followed by the Philippines (234), Malaysia (224), Burma and Indonesia
(214) and Vietnam (205).

  In TOEIC tests, Thais averaged 524, compared with the Philippines
(751), Singapore (628), Cambodia (606), Indonesia (471) and Vietnam

  Ms Achara said the number of participants from each country varied
greatly and this could affect the overall comparison of results. For
example, about 9,000 Thais took the TOEFL test but only 33 Lao. Even
so, the Philippines managed to come second with about 10,000 test

  She said results of English tests in 2002-2005 university entrance
exams also reflected Thais' poor English skills, with scores as low as
30-40 out of 100.

  The poor results would seriously affect the country's competitiveness
in the global market.

  Deputy director Siriporn Pornsurapipat said the Thais' poor English
proficiency was likely to be a barrier to the government's plan to turn
Thailand into the centre of businesses under the Detroit of Asia,
Medical Hub, Capital of Spa, Thai Kitchen World Cuisine and Bangkok
Fashion City projects.

  The centre was trying to solve the problem by drafting English
proficiency improvement curriculums for personnel in six important
industries _ tourism, fashion, health science, food, automobile and
information technology, she said.

  The centre already had similar curriculums for staff in 23
professions, including physicians, dentists and nurses, bus drivers,
maids and hotel security guards.

  These curriculums were free of charge to workplaces, including
handbooks and other education material, but the employers must find
instructors and run the courses themselves.
Bangkok Post August 11, 2005
English language teaching to be overhauled


Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng has set a one-month deadline to
revamp English language teaching nationwide by switching from learning
by rote and grammar to English language for communication, after tests
revealed that Thais have the second-worst English language skills in
Southeast Asia.

  On Tuesday, the Higher Education Commission's English proficiency
development centre revealed Thais came eighth and fourth in the nine
and six Southeast Asian countries rated by TOEFL (Test of English as
Foreign Language) and TOEIC (Test of English for International
Communication), scoring on average only 201 on a cumulative scale of
300 and 524 of the full 990 score respectively.

  This has promoted the drafting of a special English-language
curriculum for workers in six major industries.

  The minister said he told senior Education Ministry executives on
Tuesday about his three-month action plan under which the ministry
would overhaul the curriculum and improve the quality of teaching and
teachers nationwide.

  He would start with English language teaching at all levels and
promote the teaching of Mandarin, which was now important for trade and

  English language teaching methods should be changed from learning by
rote and grammar to communication with a focus on speaking, writing and
comprehension, Mr Chaturon added.

  ''I've long been trying to push for such a change, but officials and
schools resisted. These test results clearly show that Thais have poor
English language skills ...in terms of scoring, almost the worst in
Southeast Asia.

  ''TOEFL tests recently changed to gauge communications, speaking and
writing skills instead of focusing on listening and multiple choices.
That's why Thai students who learn English by rote have failed to
adjust to the change,'' he said.

  Restructuring the curriculum, teaching methods and improving teacher
quality was a major agenda item in the wake of the many policy
implementation problems that had arisen since the curriculum for basic
education was introduced four years ago.

  To achieve the goal, the ministry would listen to academics and
people's opinions. Khunying Kasama Varavarn na Ayudhaya, permanent
secretary for education, would oversee creation of a strategic plan and
a database on teaching methods for schools and teachers to use.

  ''The curriculum has too much content and causes burdens and worries
to teachers. Students are unhappy about studying and incapable of
analytical thinking and applying their knowledge. The new curriculum
must not upset students or teachers, but introduce easy-to-understand
teaching methods.

  ''Whatever is too difficult for children must be corrected while
whatever is used for teaching must be evaluated and updated,'' Mr
Chaturon said.

  He also wanted the ministry to scrap its vague policy for every school
to design its own curriculum based on the central curriculum but
including a local component, and instead help schools with the design
based on local intellect. The policy had confused schools, he said.

  To enhance teaching of Mandarin, the ministry would seek cooperation
from the private sector and universities, to help institutions set up
teaching systems which met international standards. Vocational and
non-formal education would also be overhauled, pre-primary and higher
education improved and community participation boosted in education

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