Thailand's English skills lagging, says training company
According English First's latest English proficiency index, Thailand is far behind many of its neighbours and most of the world. The index, however, is not without critics.
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By far the most highly read story on the Bangkok Post website yesterday was about the release of the Education First’s annual English Proficiency Index.
The index shows that English language proficiency in Thailand is very low and dropping relative to other countries. The Kingdom is the third worst in Asia and ranks 62 out of 70 nations included in the index.
It will be interesting to see what, if any, reaction there will be from government officials, but don't be surprised if some take aim at the test itself. Every year, the index takes the same criticism – it does not use a representative sample.
This year, the fifth year the index has been released, the results were derived from test data collected from more than 910,000 adults who took the company's online English tests in 2014. In other words, the test-takers chose to take the test themselves and they had access to the internet. Thus, they may or may not be typical of English-language speakers throughout the country. We don't know.
Supporters of the test say, however, that it is useful because it has a very large sample and is one of the few tools we have for comparing English-language proficiency across countries. And few would argue with the conclusion that Thailand as a whole has an English-language problem.
With this in mind, here are excerpts from yesterday's story by Bob James.
Thai English proficiency drops, now 3rd worst in Asia – EF
Thailand fell to 62nd out of 70 nations in English proficiency and is now the third-worst country in Asia on Education First’s annual English Proficiency Index.
Even as countries such as Vietnam and India posted marked gains in English skills, Thailand's ranking fell the most in the Asian region, with the country now boasting better skills than only Cambodia and Mongolia on the list.
Worldwide, Thailand beat out only those countries, plus Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Algeria, Saudia Arabia and Libya.
"Thailand's English proficiency remains low despite the country's large tourism industry," stated the report from EF, an international education company specialising in language training, educational travel, academic-degree programmes and cultural exchanges.
"Thailand's school system performs poorly on international assessments across all subject areas. The average years of schooling there are also lower than the regional average, meaning that Thai adults are less educated than many other Asians."
Education First noted that Thais still exhibit poor English skills even though the country spends a greater percentage of its budget – 31.3% – on education than any of the 70 countries it surveyed.
The company noted the current government now has mandated that schools align their English teaching to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages in order to standardise teaching nationally.
The government also has set a "modest" goal of a B1 level in English for all high school graduates, EF said.
Source: Education First English Proficiency Index
As is the case globally, women in Thailand speak better English than men, 46.3% to 44.3%. Global proficiency averages for women and men, respectively, however, are 53.4% and 52.1%.
The country's decline in English proficiency can be seen in age breakdowns. Youths 18-20 years old and adults 21-25 exhibit poorer English skills than those in the 26-30 age bracket.
Globally both those age groups do better with English, EF found.
Average scores on the international TOEFL and IELTS in Thailand came in at 76 and 5.3, respectively. TOEFL scores among the surveyed countries ranged from a low of 61 to a high of 100.
Learn from listening
- academic: relating to education - เชิงวิชาการ
- access: having the opportunity to have or use something - มีโอกาสในการใช้
- adult: a fully grown person who is legally responsible for their actions - ผู้ใหญ่
- aim: to have as your target - เล็ง
- align (verb): to change something slightly so that it is in the correct relationship to something else - ทำให้อยู่เป็นแนวเดียวกัน
- annual: happening once a year - ประจำปี
- assessment: the process of making a judgment or forming an opinion, after considering something or someone carefully - การประเมิณสถานการณ์
- average: an amount calculated by adding several amounts together, finding a total, and dividing the total by the number of amounts - เฉลี่ย, ค่าเฉลี่ย
- boast (verb): to have something that is impressive and that you can be proud of -
- bracket (noun): people, prices, income, etc. within a particular range - ประเภท,ชั้น
- breakdown (noun): detailed information that you get by studying a set of figures or a collection of data - การวิเคราะห์, การแบ่งออกเป็นส่วน, e.g., การแบ่งตามอายุ
- common: done or shared by two or more people - ที่เป็นของส่วนรวม, ที่ร่วมกัน
- conclusion: something that you decide is true after thinking about it carefully and looking at the evidence -
- criticism: comments that show that you think something is wrong or bad - การวิจารณ์
- cultural exchange program: when students from two countries go to each others' country to study and learn about the other country's culture -
- current: of the present time - ปัจจุบัน
- degree: the qualification obtained by students who successfully complete a university or college course - ปริญญา
- derive: to come or develop from something - กลายมาจาก (ทางภาษาศาสตร์), ได้มาจาก, กำเนิดจาก
- excerpt: a part of a longer story, speech, song, text, etc. - บทคัดย่อ
- exhibit (verb): to show -
- framework: a system of rules, ideas or beliefs that is used to plan or decide something - ขอบข่ายงาน, โครงร่าง
- gain (noun): an increase in the amount of something - จำนวนที่เพิ่มขึ้น
- globally: throughout the world - ทั่วโลก
- graduate: a person who has a university degree - ผู้รับปริญญา, ผู้สำเร็จการศึกษา
- index: a number that shows the price, value, or level of something compared with something else - ดัชนี
- industry: the people and activities involved in producing a particular thing, or in providing a particular service; the production of goods from raw materials, especially in factories - อุตสาหกรรม
- mandate: given the authority to do something; ordered to do something - มอบอำนาจ (ให้ทำบางสิ่ง), ให้อำนาจ, บังคับ
- marked: easy to see or notice - ชัดเจน, ที่เห็นได้ชัดเจน
- modest: not large in size or amount - ไม่มากมาย
- perform (verb): to do what is required - ปฏิบัติหน้าที่
- proficiency (noun): the ability to do some task or work correctly and efficiently; skill, knowledge, competence - ความช่ำชอง, ความเจนจัด, ความสามารถ, ประสิทธิภาพ,ความเชี่ยวชาญ, ความคล่องแคล่ว
- range: to have an upper and a lower limit in amount, number, etc - ผันแปรภายในขอบเขตหนึ่ง
- rank: to put someone or something into a position according to their success, importance, size etc - จัดลำดับ
- ranking: the position of somebody/something on a scale that shows how good or important they are in relation to other similar people or things, especially in sport - อันดับ
- reaction: the way something responds as a result of something that happens - ปฏิกิริยา การตอบสนอง, ปฏิกิริยาตอบโต้
- regional: of or relating to a region - เกี่ยวกับภูมิภาค
- relative (adj): considered and judged by being compared with something else; that exists or that has a particular quality only when compared with something else - ที่เปรียบเทียบกัน; สัมพัทธ์
- release: making known to the public - การเปิดเผย, การปล่อย
- representative sample (noun): a statistical group or sample that accurately reflects the members of the entire population ตัวอย่างที่เป็นตัวแทน - a statistical group or sample that accurately reflects the members of the entire population ตัวอย่างที่เป็นตัวแทน
- respectively: in the order in which they were mentioned - ตามลำดับ
- sample: a group of people who are used for getting information about a larger group or about the whole population — - กลุ่มตัวอย่าง
- skill: the ability to do something well, usually as a result of experience and training - ฝีมือ, ทักษะ
- specialise: to concentrate on a particular subject or activity - มีความชำนาญเป็นพิเศษ
- standardise: to make objects or activities of the same type have the same features or qualities; to make something standard - วางมาตรฐาน, ปรับเข้ามาตรฐาน
- standards: a level of quality that is normal or acceptable for a particular person or in a particular situation - มาตรฐาน, บรรทัดฐาน
- survey (verb): to examine and record available information - สำรวจ, หาข้อมูล
- the case (idiom): the true situation - สถานการณ์จริง
- tool (noun): a thing that helps you to do your job or to achieve something - เครื่องมือ
- typical: happening in the usual way; showing what something is usually like - ตามแบบฉบับ, ตามปกติ
- worldwide: throughout the world - ทั่วโลก