The role of techology in the teaching of English in Thailand
ท่านผศ. ดร. ศิริลักษณ์ อุสาหะ หัวหน้าภาควิชาภาษาอังกฤษนำเสนอร่วมการประชุมทางไกลของ New Zealand ดังนี้
I would like to share my views from the Thai context on the teaching of English in mobile and networked world.1. The role of technology in the teaching of English in Thailand
As we all know, the English language has been the dominant language of education, commerce, communication, science, technology, and entertainment, and it has also become a major medium used in international communication. For Thailand, its importance has been reflected in our educational system, which requires English as a compulsory foreign language from Grade 5 onwards. It is taught as a subject to learners who learn it to pass exams. Teaching EFL in Thailand has not been easy in our attempts to enable the learners to communicate internationally. However, with all the limitations we are facing, English teachers have been using various approaches to achieve our goals, keeping abreast with current developments and technologies.
The Ministry of Education has developed the National ICT for Education Master Plan (2004-2006) as guidelines for the introduction of ICT to education. A total of 24 billion baht (approximately US$ 600 million) has been allocated for the development of learning quality, educational administration & management, education provision through application of ICT, training & development of ICT-related personnel, & distribution of ICT infrastructure for education. As for the 2006 fiscal year, over 515 million baht has been approved (ONEC, 2006).
With the advert of networked computers and Internet technologies, computer-based instruction has been introduced in English language classrooms, mostly still at an experimental stage or even on the teachers’ free-will basis at college level. At the present stage, the Hybrid Course Approach, which uses Web-based instruction (WBI) as an aid to the traditional classroom course, for teaching EFL is being used. It provides a classroom learning context and a virtual learning context on the Internet, which enables EFL learners to study English anywhere at any time. The learners can communicate with the teacher and other learners both synchronously and asynchronously. In most cases, the WBI is used to encourage learner autonomy, somewhat forcing the learners to be more responsible for their own language learning outside the classroom. Reinforcement in the form of assigning marks for the work done and/or attendance/presence at the self-access language learning center is highly recommended to make sure that they have completed the assigned tasks. To be able to use ICT to teach EFL effectively, the teacher must be proficient in the English language, knowledgeable in pedagogy, and ICT literate. Unfortunately, such 3-in-1 language teachers are very small in number. Staff development is, therefore, necessary for Thailand. EFL teachers must work more closely with ICT specialists who understand TEFL methodology. At the lower levels of education, in 2004 a national attempt was done through the Secondary Education Quality Improvement Project (SEQIP) funded by a World Bank loan, which aimed to enable maths, science, and English teachers to incorporate ICT into their teaching. In fact, at its best, only basic computer skills were achieved. There have not been any large-scale ICT training programs since then.2. Factors to consider in incorporating ICT into EFL teaching & learning
2.1 EFL teachers must be proficient in English, knowledgeable in pedagogy, and technology literate.
2.2 Learners must possess basic computer skills, know enough English to handle lessons, and highly motivated. Most of them lack even typing skills, can hardly express themselves in simple English, and rarely take English seriously since it is never used in real communication outside the classroom. Culture and learning styles also play a vital role in the success or failure of the English education in Thailand.
2.3 Administrators’ perceptions towards the English instruction can immensely affect EFL teaching. These will reflect the allocation of budget for provision of both human and non-human resources needed, staff development, class size, program maintenance, to name a few.
2.4 Infrastructure and facilities needed. Startup costs are normally very high (with the weekly devaluation of the Thai baht), Internet connection is normally very slow or often impossible in remote areas, maintenance costs are not cheap, and competition for the computer lab is usually very high among subject teachers who are also encouraged to integrate ICT into their teaching.3. What is the future like for EFL teachers?
In the mobile and networked world, EFL teachers have to learn to survive well with pride in their attempts to help prepare their students for international communication. Try to become 3-in-1 persons, acknowledging limited resources available while the enrolment is high. Seek cooperation and collaboration from others in the profession or those who share the same teaching and research interests through the use of network technologies. Keep in mind that some learners have good access to modern technologies, that they are capable of learning English independently, and that the teachers are the facilitators; therefore, the teachers must keep abreast with ICT developments. To be ahead of one’s students is like standing on burning coals.
Thanks to John and the EON Foundation for including Suranaree University of Technology in the Livingclassroom.org.