The problem with English teachers in Thailand is they can’t speak English

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STUDENTS’ quality will never exceed the quality of teachers, so experts say. If so, what will Thailand do if so many teacher applicants protest about English-test requirements?

Hundreds of soon-to-be educators cry “no, no” to the Office of Higher Education Commission (Ohec) requirement that candidates to “Teachers for Their Hometowns” score at least 400 out of 990 of the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), one of the standardised English tests.

According to Ohec, if candidates do not want to take TOEIC, they can take TOEFL or IELTS or any other widely recognised English-competency tests. The minimum scores for the qualified candidates will be around the same benchmark. For example, TOEFL scores should not be lower than 40.

Although this requirement is not even half of the total score, people who look set to become teachers have complained that such scores are “Too high to achieve”.

The “Teachers for Their Hometowns” project seeks to recruit final-year education students to fill in at local schools in their hometown.

Candidates in this project have planned to urge Ohec to lower minimum TOEIC scores to just 250.

On a Facebook page, candidates of the project have lamented how they have taken the TOEIC tests many times but still failed to achieve the minimum scores.

This has caused them trouble, given that the test fees are relatively expensive and they must sit the exam in Bangkok.

The most popular comments among the candidates is that: “You already require us to have GPA of at least 3.00 and pass the program’s exams. That should be enough proofs already” and “Please replace this TOEIC requirement with mere English training”.


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Sympathy is not what they gain, however. On social media, several Netizens’ comments show they feel these teacher hopefuls are pathetic. Many ask why these candidates do not strive harder to achieve better scores. “This isn’t how educators should be at all,” one comment said. “If their students use the same logic, they will demand them to deduct grading standards in classrooms as well”.

“Even high school students can make it more than 400, meaning that they may outclass even their own teachers,” another comment said.

OHEC Secretary General Supat Jampathong told The Nation that the requirement will remain the same. “This test is meant to select capable teachers into the educational system,” Supat said. “So it’s common that the test is made harder each year. English is also made compulsory by the Education Ministry.”

Ajaree Chamroonkitkajhon, a waiting-list candidate to the program, admitted that to get 400 for TOEIC is really difficult for her. Living in the deep-south Narathiwat, Ajaree needs to travel to the capital to sit the exam. Another trip will be needed as Ajaree has yet to achieve the scores.

She doesn’t expect Ohec to adjust the standard. “My field is kindergarten teaching, I think that English is really necessary as a teacher to at least communicate” she said. “It’s my own challenge to pass it to become a decent teacher.”

While it should be compulsory for teachers to have English proficiency, the system can facilitate them to achieve it, suggested Attapol Anunthavorasakul, an education lecturer from Chulalongkorn University.

From managing English courses in local education centres to making an English-friendly environment on campuses, authorities can arrange to encourage teachers and education students to use English, Attapol said.

“Most of all, learners have to engage themselves with English,” he said. “Classroom-based English may be sufficient to take exams but not enough to mobilise them in the real world.” – The Nation

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  • Thats right

  • Get English people!!

  • No need to speak english, thai Will be World language In the future

    • martin woyzeck

      Keep on dreaming

  • follow the age old rule and keep the people stupid.

  • As a native teacher of English it is impossible to have a simple conversation with the Thai teachers of English in the Teachers of English staff room!

    • Agree. My Thai brother-in-law teach English in a public school and He is not able to maintain a conversation

    • Is it little wonder they have problems? They are painfully shy – Thai upbringing!

  • Danny Rowles

  • martin woyzeck

    This is all a joke .
    Yes , all English teachers should be well versed in grammar,etc.,
    but that’s not why so few Thai’s get better at English.
    It’s the way they’re taught.
    Grammar, giving tests,etc. is a waste of time.
    Not a complete waste, as grammar should be taught,
    but it should be maybe 10% of the teaching.
    Where so many Thai’s lack is in listening skills, pronunciation,
    and speaking correctly (meaning saying a sentence correctly, all words).
    Grammar might teach one correct sentence structure, but it’s intellectual.
    Understanding doesn’t mean they can do it.
    They need to do it, practice it, over and over again. It’s all in the repetition.
    Children learn how to speak before learning grammar in school.
    Being able to identify a verb, or pronoun,etc. ,
    doesn’t mean you can say it correctly in a sentence.
    Written tests are a joke.
    They tell you very little.
    It doesn’t show if you’re pronouncing correctly, or speaking, or listening.
    I taught a corporate class of upper intermediate, to advanced.
    It was a conversation class, but midway through, the ‘heads’ said they wanted
    them to have a mid-term test.
    So I gave one.
    The person who was the lowest in the class of actual good communication,
    speaking correctly, pronouncing correctly, comprehending what I had said
    (listening skills) got the highest score.
    And another student who spoke very well, and comprehending fairly well,
    got the lowest score.
    They need to drilling, actual interactive work, not teacher talking (in Thai)
    with students heads in their textbook.
    And nowadays there are no excuses.
    Before it was pretty hard for teachers in small villages,provinces,
    when it came to pronunciation,etc.
    Now, with the internet, you can do entire classes using the net.
    Not the youtube teachers teaching (altho, that would be ok, but just as boring),
    but there are a bunch of entertaining TV like shows (like sitcoms)
    with an ESL base.
    There are radio programs , that are ESL based, that has the words/scripts there
    while you’re listening.
    There are news programs that speak slower for ESL students,
    and have the script there, so they can read along.
    They will get correct pronunciation, speaking, listening skills,etc.

    • IRIS Cat

      Well if we’re talking about a 3rd world nation, internet in the city might be bad already, don’t expect such resource in the provinces to be reliable. But I agree, as teachers there’s no excuse. We should better ourselves constantly for the benefit of our students as well. I also believe the Education System should play a direct role in producing educators aside from requiring a standard. If the educators were well equipped and educated better they can therefore be better teachers. How can we expect a new teacher to be competent in english if they weren’t taught better english in the first place.

  • 400 on Toeic? Come one, this is a kind of joke.
    I have had 950 over 990 several years ago…
    With 400 barely you can’t communicate

    • Exactly. I have a nephew who has English lessons every day. He can barely count to ten and gets an A in his test results.

  • Juist !

  • No surprises here folks. Similar in Vietnam.

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  • sammy

    those online toefl,tesol online courses are a joke.i finished mine in 1hr.i just skipped everything and took the lesson test one right after another