English slide puts bilingual study in focus
Move comes as Thailand tumbles in English proficiency ranking
The Education Ministry plans to introduce a bilingual education programme in about 2,000 schools nationwide as part of its efforts to streamline the education system to meet changing demands in the labour market.
Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan said the programme will be implemented at district-level schools in the next academic year. He said the scheme is part of the ministry's broader efforts to prepare the young for the labour market.
"If we invest in second-language education, our children's skills will improve. However, the ministry doesn't have enough funds to implement the scheme in every school. I'll try to implement in as many schools as possible," he said.
The ministry plans to allocate funds to expand the scheme beginning in the 2021 fiscal year.
Mr Nataphol said several schools currently provide a bilingual education programme but the curriculum may have to be improved to ensure results.
The announcement came after Thailand's English proficiency fell for the third year in a row.
According to the annual English Proficiency Index conducted by the global education company EF Education First, Thailand dropped to 74th out of 100 countries with a score of 47.62, which is considered "very low" proficiency.
In 2018, Thailand ranked 64th out of 88 countries studied in the report with a score of 48.54, while in 2017 it ranked 53rd out of 80 countries with a score of 49.7. In the latest report, Thailand has the third-lowest score in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia but ahead of Myanmar and Cambodia, and ranked 17th out of 25 countries in Asia.