English Language education options for Thai and foreign students

English Language education options for Thai and foreign students

Rose Marie Wanchupela and the professional Rose Marie Academy Team

If a transition from one kind of educational system to another is contemplated, how best should that transition be made?

Education specialists from Rose Marie Academy have been researching this situation and have evaluated the options. The following is their advice:

1. What are the basic options available?

Parents put high priority on their children's education, and selection of the right school requires careful consideration. At present, parents are presented with three main choices—a Thai school, a bilingual school or an international school. All three have both advantages and disadvantages.

2. What does Thai traditional education offer?

Thai schools are affordable for most families and a popular choice for those who are traditional in their outlook. Their children will obtain a solid grounding in their own language and develop a knowledge and respect for their culture and heritage. The classes do, however, tend to be large and teachers who are native speakers of English fewer in number. Apart from the long-established and well-known schools, there is a lack of prestige compared with the alternatives.

3. What are the characteristics of bilingual schools?

Bilingual schools tend to enjoy more prestige, and the fees are still affordable for a large number of families. Classes tend to be smaller, but there is still a strong emphasis on Thai language and culture. The level of English is a little higher than in Thai schools, but again a lack of trained and native teachers of English makes fluency difficult to acquire. One of the drawbacks of bilingual schools is the repetition of core subjects taught in both languages leading to disinterest.

4. What are the special opportunities at international schools?

International schools, of course, enjoy high prestige but are expensive and not a feasible option for many families. Students become part of a global community and acquire a high level of English proficiency. Their social skills become enhanced in a multi-cultural environment.

5. Can foreign children attend traditional Thai schools?

It would not be beneficial for foreign children who have little or no Thai language skills to attend traditional Thai schools. International schools are needed in Thailand as well as in any non-English speaking country. Thai children and foreign nationality children benefit greatly from attending international schools. The Thai and the non-native English speaking children's main objectives are to excel in their English language proficiency and to apply such skills to their learning of other subjects taught in school. Thai children are required to learn the Thai language and Thai culture for five periods per week in order to keep up with their Thai language proficiency. Some might need to receive additional tutoring.

Thai children who have completed their education in international schools would normally continue their education at a university that offers "International Program" or "International College" where English is a medium of instruction. This is applicable to foreign or multi-nationality children as well.

6. Are teacher personalities different in Thai and international schools?

It seems that Thai schools have more authoritarian teachers whereas international schools are more inclined to have liberal teachers who encourage critical thinking.

7. How should children schooled in Thai style adjust to the teaching styles of international teachers?

The personalities of teachers in Thai and international schools are indeed different. The determining factor is the number of students in a classroom. Most Thai schools have a class size of 40 to 60 students, which necessitate the teacher to be authoritative. Having a much smaller group, an international school teacher would be able to create and teach more liberally. Another factor is the educational training and cultural practices of the teachers. Students transitioning from a Thai school to an international school are encouraged to observe, participate, and confidently share their ideas.

8. Should Thai children opt for international schools?

The reasons Thai parents choose international schools for their children vary widely. However, one predominate reason is to provide them with the knowledge and skills to perform well in an increasingly narrow global economy. The knowledge they acquire is broad. English language proficiency is more readily acquired in schools where it is the language of instruction and social discourse.

Thai is the national language in Thailand and international schools require Thai students to have five periods of Thai language instruction per week. However, for Thai international school students to be competitive in the Thai job market, they would need additional instruction after school. Nonetheless, they may find themselves at a disadvantage when competing for jobs in the Thai job market.

Parents must weigh the advantages and disadvantages of international school education carefully as the decision they make will have wide reaching impact on their children.

9. Should the eventual choice of tertiary education affect primary and secondary educational choices?

Most Thai traditional and bilingual school students choose Thai universities; most international students go overseas. Is this the most important factor in school selection?

Some Thai universities now offer foreign language streams, but generally one must be moderately fluent in Thai to enter Thai universities as well as fluent in a foreign language as well as an Asian language or English to go to a foreign university. The onward choice maybe the decisive factor.

10. Can international schools offer the insights into Thai culture often necessary for success in working in Thailand?

Thai teachers in international schools teach language development and knowledge of Thai culture to both Thai and foreign students.  Upon completing their education Thai and foreign students alike are considered superior candidates to work in multinational companies and international organizations as they are adept in cross-cultural communication and understanding.

11. Is the more assertive approach of international schools appropriate when working in Thai organisations?

Students in an international school would potentially be a great asset to a Thai organisation as they would have an assertive approach to work paired with a more sensitive and knowledgeable insight into Thai culture. Today it is generally considered that being assertive, and to a degree, somewhat aggressive, are positive traits in the business world. Having more internationally educated individuals working for multinational companies can bridge the gap between east and west, thus hopefully make working life less stressful!

Authors: Rose Marie Wanchupela and the professional Rose Marie Academy Team, Email: rma@rose-marie.ac.th

Series Editor: Christopher F. Bruton, Executive Director, Dataconsult Ltd, chris@dataconsult.co.th. Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.

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