Surin: Low English proficiency in Thailand ‘urgent problem’

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surin_pitsuwanFormer ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan has said that the universally low fluency in English of Thais in general and Thai students in particular is one result of the “abnormally low” quality of Thailand’s higher education and and should be urgently addressed.

The latest Word Economic Forum (WEF) report on global competitiveness scored Thailand extraordinarily low in comparison with other ASEAN countries. English could be the key to help improve the country’s serious educational problems, Pitsuwan said.

“We must pay attention to the content of the WEF’s findings. Our standing is getting worse. We have seen Thailand’s scores sliding down the scale in all categories survey after survey, year after year. This is a serious matter that calls for a national strategy to reverse the trend,” he said.

“Thai education has been in a crisis state for a while now and efforts to bring about reform have not borne fruit due to political interference and bureaucratic resistance,” he added.

“We talk a lot about teaching our students to be critical, to think independently and to solve problems, not use rote learning and memorisation. But we are getting nowhere. English could be an answer to our educational malaise. With a higher proficiency in English, Thai students can change the dynamics of the classroom. They will have access to more information before going to class, forcing teachers to be better prepared and turning traditional lecture rooms into seminars where active exchanges can take place,” he said.

According to the ASEAN Charter, English is “the working language of Asean”. All ASEAN business is conducted in English. But Thai youths are lagging behind in this increasingly important communication tool. In 2012, among 54 countries surveyed for English proficiency, Thailand ranked 53, only ahead of Libya.

“That is a dismal state of affairs to be in, when we know well that export growth, GDP expansion and even per capita income increases have direct correlation with English proficiency. I insist that with a higher proficiency in English today, Thailand’s competitiveness will increase many times over tomorrow.”

Pitsuwan was ASEAN Secretary-General from 2008 to 2012. From 1992 until 1995, he served as Thai Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1997, serving in this capacity until 2001. On January 17 he announced that he would be ready to take over the country’s education ministry “if given the chance”.Pitsuwan studied at Thammasat University, Bangkok, and Harvard University, US.

Pitsuwan also was a Member of Parliament and Executive Member of the Democratic Party in Thailand. Currently, the is heading a think tank that aims to provide what it says are alternatives to the current government’s populist policies, and is a lecturer at universities at home an abroad.

tivation to prepare their lessons and students have no tools to access information relevant to their courses due to their

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Former ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan has said that the universally low fluency in English of Thais in general and Thai students in particular is one result of the “abnormally low” quality of Thailand’s higher education and and should be urgently addressed.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

surin_pitsuwanFormer ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan has said that the universally low fluency in English of Thais in general and Thai students in particular is one result of the “abnormally low” quality of Thailand’s higher education and and should be urgently addressed.

The latest Word Economic Forum (WEF) report on global competitiveness scored Thailand extraordinarily low in comparison with other ASEAN countries. English could be the key to help improve the country’s serious educational problems, Pitsuwan said.

“We must pay attention to the content of the WEF’s findings. Our standing is getting worse. We have seen Thailand’s scores sliding down the scale in all categories survey after survey, year after year. This is a serious matter that calls for a national strategy to reverse the trend,” he said.

“Thai education has been in a crisis state for a while now and efforts to bring about reform have not borne fruit due to political interference and bureaucratic resistance,” he added.

“We talk a lot about teaching our students to be critical, to think independently and to solve problems, not use rote learning and memorisation. But we are getting nowhere. English could be an answer to our educational malaise. With a higher proficiency in English, Thai students can change the dynamics of the classroom. They will have access to more information before going to class, forcing teachers to be better prepared and turning traditional lecture rooms into seminars where active exchanges can take place,” he said.

According to the ASEAN Charter, English is “the working language of Asean”. All ASEAN business is conducted in English. But Thai youths are lagging behind in this increasingly important communication tool. In 2012, among 54 countries surveyed for English proficiency, Thailand ranked 53, only ahead of Libya.

“That is a dismal state of affairs to be in, when we know well that export growth, GDP expansion and even per capita income increases have direct correlation with English proficiency. I insist that with a higher proficiency in English today, Thailand’s competitiveness will increase many times over tomorrow.”

Pitsuwan was ASEAN Secretary-General from 2008 to 2012. From 1992 until 1995, he served as Thai Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1997, serving in this capacity until 2001. On January 17 he announced that he would be ready to take over the country’s education ministry “if given the chance”.Pitsuwan studied at Thammasat University, Bangkok, and Harvard University, US.

Pitsuwan also was a Member of Parliament and Executive Member of the Democratic Party in Thailand. Currently, the is heading a think tank that aims to provide what it says are alternatives to the current government’s populist policies, and is a lecturer at universities at home an abroad.

tivation to prepare their lessons and students have no tools to access information relevant to their courses due to their

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