The Education Ministry plans to recruit its first batch of 500 Thai teachers who teach English in state-run schools nationwide to undergo a "train-the-trainer" programme in a bid to reduce the cost of hiring foreign English teachers.
Deputy Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin said those Thai English language teachers will be selected from public schools across the country to undergo the six-week intensive programme from the British Council's English specialists who have experience in English-language teaching management on a global scale.
Mr Teerakiat said the selected teachers will receive advanced instruction in teaching both written and spoken English and some new methods for effectively teaching English.
"A group of teachers to join the programme will be selected from all over the country. They have to be very good in English because after the six-week training programme, they must be role models and trainers for other English teachers in their schools or schools near their area," he said.
Speaking at an event entitled "The Role of Education and Innovation in Thailand's Future" organised by the British Embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday, Mr Teerakiat said he was certain this initiative would help state schools reduce the cost of hiring foreign teachers in the future as many schools currently spend millions of baht a year hiring foreign English teachers.
"We cannot rely on foreign English teachers to improve our English learning forever. You can see that almost all schools are hiring foreign teachers for English classes. Even cash-strapped schools that can't afford to hire native English speakers still hire non-native speakers like Pakistanis or Filipinos," Mr Teerakiat said. "So we need to stand on our own feet in the future and use foreign English teachers only as much as necessary."
He said the ministry recently conducted a survey of the capability of Thai English-language teachers across the country and found more than 43,000 Thai English language teachers in public schools, but only six of them have been found to have the ability to achieve native-like fluency in English.
"That's a big problem [for the ministry],'' he said.
To expect better English skills from Thai students, the ministry needs to improve its teachers' English skills first, he said.
He also said the ministry will, in the near future, partner with Poly Plus Entertainment Co and GMM Grammy to use their artists and celebrities who can speak English fluently to promote English learning among Thai youth.
"Students need role models to motivate and inspire them. If they have good examples to follow, they will have a positive attitude towards learning English," he said.
Paul Bute, Deputy Head of Mission of the British Embassy in Bangkok, said the British Embassy, in cooperation with the British Council and Cambridge University, is trying to help Thailand boost its students' language proficiency by developing a standardised test of English language proficiency for both Thai teachers and students.
The embassy has continually encouraged English graduates from Britain to come to Thailand to teach English here because it is important for Thai students to have the chance to learn from native speakers, he said.