“Are you reading or presenting?” I asked. “Reading through the presentation will cost reduction to your score. Haven’t I told you guys before?” “I can’t remember. I’m not ready now. You can reduce my score, teacher” he replied.
I was teaching English for Tourism 3. In this course, students are required to do the presentation on a ‘Thainess’ topic. They had to search for information, hand in a paper at the end of the semester and give a presentation in front of the class. Although they were third year Business English major students, a lot of them read during their presentation. I had informed them on the first day of the semester that reading during their presentations will cost the reduction of scores. They told me that they had already prepared for the reduction.
How long will this occur? How do we improve the presentation and critical skills in our students? When will the university concentrate more on the quality of the students rather than the numbers of the newcomer which the budget of the campus depends on their numbers? How long will teacher still teach in the traditional teacher-centered way? Both parents’ networks and institute staff have to cooperate in order to help improve these important skills. Universities should screen the new entrance students and raise the passing score for those who want to study at the university level. Teachers should put down their old bible of teaching and accept the better students-center method. Education Department must stop concentrating on the budgets and include the preparation for a presentation course for the next generation of students. We would see a big difference in our education system and there will be lots of quality educated graduates to serve the society.
There may be factors which make students afraid to think that way or criticize over something. Thai culture which does not readily accept the critics or comments. It is not often that Thai people critically express their opinion towards something or someone in public though they do that with their friends in the morning at the coffee shop, call ‘sa-pa ka-fae’. Other factor that leads to the lack of presentation and critical skills may be the fear of ‘loosing face’ (in Thai ‘Sia-Na’). They are afraid of making mistake in front of people and they may be teased by their friends. The lack of self-confidence is another factor which restrains students from becoming good presenters. Many Thai students are not practical or well prepared for the situation they have to deal with. On the other hand, Thai students also lack to the intention to seek for the information and lack of reading as well.
Interestingly, students not only do not having the skills but they are willing to take a grade reduction rather than try and develop those skills. The university or even the schools should realize this point and try to improve their confidence and provide presentation skill courses for students. Make the course a requirement not as elective. I have been teaching for 4 years now, and students who have studied English for over 10 years are still not able to think critically and express strong opinions. Is it time for us to stop ignoring this crisis and put more concentration on improving quality for our next generation?