Problems shared

Exchanging experiences is one way for like-minded organisations to solve common difficulties. A recent seminar by Khon Kaen University International College (KKUIC) highlighted the many troubles facing schools running English and mini-English programmes (EP and MEP).

Assoc Prof Yupin Techamanee, PhD, speaks at the conference of teachers and administrators of EP and MEP. STEVE GRAHAM

Common cause

Teachers and administrators from the Isan region of Thailand joined forces and exchanged their learning and teaching experiences recently in what proved to be an interesting fact-finding mission.

A presentation by the Bangkok Post's Terry Fredrickson and a panel discussion were followed by intensive discussion expressing concerns over the EP and MEP. Although there were not many immediate solutions to the problems at hand, the fact that individuals were prepared to get together and air their frustrations was a positive move.

Areas of concern

The quality of the teachers hired was a major talking point, as it was difficult to pay high salaries for the best teachers due to budget constraints. Teachers of maths and science were in short supply, and there continue to be high turnovers among teaching staff.

It seems that there is no clear definition of what a qualified EP or MEP teacher should be. One representative from a bilingual school commented that the first question he would ask at an interview of a prospective teacher was whether he or she was able to teach in his or her own country. If the answer was no, then that would be the end of the interview.

Parents have very high expectations when they send their children to these schools, and there seems to exist a lack of understanding of the difficulties that these programmes produce. I believe that if the parents take a more active part in the running of these schools as stakeholders, they would understand more and could contribute to overcoming the problem areas.

There also appears to be a lack of understanding concerning the implementation of the curriculum. Teachers and administrators expressed concern over its development and implementation. There was also a need expressed for it to be translated into English. Again, the translation can be accomplished easily as Curriculum 51 appeared on Thai websites very quickly in English, which proves that there is the capability to do this nationally.

Budgets were considered restrictive and an obstacle to progress. An example of this was the lack of teaching and learning materials. Concern was also expressed over the problems faced by administrative management, the difficulties in obtaining full-hearted cooperation between Thai staff and foreigners on the programme, and the lack of awareness of programme goals and objectives.

Networks

Participants in the seminar expressed their desire to work together to overcome their problems collectively. In my opinion, the setting up of such networks offers an excellent platform on which teachers and schools can voice their concerns to the government.

If each province were to set up their own networking system and collaborate with other provinces, all of them would have a great opportunity to make their voices heard. Collectively they would be louder than if they were to speak on their own, and it would be possible to put forward requests to the government in a timely fashion.

Although there were not too many solutions forthcoming to these problem areas, it is encouraging to see schools running EP and MEP coming together and airing their views for the common good. I believe that this bodes well for the future of these programmes, especially in northeast Thailand.


Graham is an English-language teacher at the Language Centre, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. If you want to discuss matters related to this article, you may write to 'In My Opinion' at education@bangkokpost.co.th

About the author

columnist
Writer: Steve Graham
Position: Writer