Do we need more native speaker English teachers in Thailand?

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Do we need more native speaker English teachers in Thailand?

Postby Richard » 17 Feb 2020 12:23

Last Saturday's Bangkok Post had an article about the Ministry of Education's plans to hire 10,000 more foreign teachers for Thai schools (in addition to the reported current figure of 7,000 teachers). The Minister asked the embassies of English-speaking countries to find these teachers (implying they should be native speakers). Apparently, the foreigners should have received some professional training and should be able to make lessons fun, but their accent doesn't matter.

Do you think that this is a worthwhile project? Given that the project is likely to cost at least 500 million baht per year, if you were the Minister, would you spend this money on foreign teachers?
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Re: Do we need more native speaker English teachers in Thail

Postby ronnakritong » 17 Feb 2020 19:57

This is a pretty tricky question. To me, if the goal of hiring more foreign teachers is for the students to be exposed to the language being used by native speakers, I don't think this guarantees the students' development of the language. There are many more factors such as class size (which we've come across today!) and probably the motivation to learn. With that massive amount of money, I think we can invest some things more valuable (such as proper teacher training).

This might be off-topic, but I do agree that accent doesn't matter. Intelligibility (like pronunciation) might be more important. But, from the students' point of view, they believe that to be a successful English communicator, an individual should have a native-like competence. This is why many students try to imitate certain accents (particularly American and British accents), making native English teachers more preferable among Thai students.

I think the answers will vary as to the success of both the project itself and how well the learners can learn from the native teachers. Thank you.

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Re: Do we need more native speaker English teachers in Thail

Postby sgtowns » 21 Feb 2020 14:57

First of all, I commend the Ministry's admission that there is a big problem in English language education in Thailand. And I am glad they are looking for serious solutions. It's not often that the Thai government asks for outside help so openly (unless it's billions of baht from China for infrastructure projects).

My initial thought, though, is that this initiative is similar to the idea of putting a computer in every classroom. I believe that computer use can help students get exposure and practice with English, but unless the teachers are taught how to use the computer correctly, then it will sit in the corner and collect dust. So as Ong said, (Thai) teacher training is still an important part of the equation. I also hope that the "preference" for the teachers to have qualifications becomes closer to a "requirement".

Also, I am glad to see that the Ministry is not being judgemental about accents. This is a positive step, but I wonder how it affects the list of foreign embassies. Hopefully, Thailand's ASEAN neighbors were on the list as well.
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Re: Do we need more native speaker English teachers in Thail

Postby stevelouw » 24 Feb 2020 11:40

I think this is another example of a top-down imposition on schools from the ministry. It would be interesting to find out how the ministry decided that importing teachers was a better option than the multiple other options that are possible - training the teachers already in place, or easing up on the demanding regulations imposed on ESL teachers without degrees for instance.

However, throwing a couple of million baht at a problem is possibly a good idea for the economy, and I agree with Stuart that this at least is a move towards addressing an identified problem.
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Re: Do we need more native speaker English teachers in Thail

Postby Jatopon P. » 01 Mar 2020 12:01

The Ministry's project can perhaps establish some good impact on English development in Thailand. However, the point that the Ministry were asking only the embassies of English-speaking countries to find foreign teachers while those teachers' accents do not matter seems to give discriminatory and contradictory sense at the same time. To me, such idea sounds native speakers of English and native English accents remain prioritised and gain higher posibility of being hired while non-native teachers who use other varieties of English seem subsidiarily optional.

If my interpretation is correct, the project tends to reinforce problematic perception and attitude toward English language that many Thai people have had for decades. For example, this keeps persuading Thai people to perceive ones whose English accents are closely native-like as 'ideal' and 'successful' English language speakers/learners, or as those who are well-educated. Some of us might also have heard of the perception from Thai parents believing that their chidren would get great English quality if their chidren are taught by native speakers of English and having a native accent.

Of course, hiring thousands more of foreign teachers highly provides opportunity for Thai students to explore some varieties of global Englishes but it should not be only reserved for native speakers of English. Spending a great amount of money on hiring foreigners would be more worthwhile if the term 'foreigners' were internationally diversified. In this line, English language experience and exposure to other varieties of English of Thai students would be more intelligibly broadened and applicable to wider international and global settings.

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