6-grader solves riddle of Thai students’ poor English

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Narawan Khumlanghan, a six-grader at Wat Kaew Silaram School

Narawan Khumlanghan, a six-grader at Wat Kaew
Silaram School

When a six-grader from Thailand says, “We wish to learn more English sentences and vocabularies related to daily life,” she has actually pointed at the focal solution to a riddle that has puzzled educators for decades.

Hundreds of researches, studies and PhD dissertations keep repeating the same reasons for Thai students’ poor English – students are unmotivated and don’t dare speak English for fear of losing face, many teachers are unqualified and many aspects of the curriculum are unsuitable.

If even half of the effort on problem analyzing were refocused on delivering what this six-grader has wished for, Thai students’ English would have been much better by now.

Narawan Khumlanghan, a six-grader at Wat Kaew Silaram School sentences, which will be very beneficial to us.”

Her statement has all the elemental solutions to the English teaching and learning problems in Thailand.

Students want to learn survival English, something that they can use immediately, which sticks in memory and on which they can grow their English.

The survival English functions like the survival Thai that many first time visitors to Thailand try to learn immediately. How to ask for directions, how to order food, how to haggle down prices are just some of them.

Learning and speaking English should be fun. The quotes from Narawan were taken on the second day of the free English camp conducted by Filipino Ajarns Toward Education (FATE) at their school, which she and her schoolmates enjoyed.

To argue that fun is a good stepping-stone for learning but it is only for the nursery and primary
schools and not suitable for the university or even at the secondary school, then the English education in Thailand is doomed.

This misconception is one of the biggest reasons Thai students are poor in English. Many teachers have given up on them as teaching the right way entails so much work.

The Longman dictionary defines fun as “an experience or activity that is very enjoyable and exciting.” In the secondary and university, games, singing and dancing can be replaced by exciting subject matter, exciting presentation, exciting sentence or exciting teacher.

Fun is a sort of energy. It can only be transformed but not destroyed. Educators should make use of them.

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