Thailand drops further in English proficiency to worst in Southeast Asia

Thai pro-monarchy protesters in late November 2021 are trying to express something which is not entirely clear after an apparent Google translation from Thai to English

This year’s English Proficiency Index by Swedish language training company EF Education First has just come out, and, once again, it is not very flattering for Thailand.

While the country over the past years didn’t really stand out in the ranking, in the latest edition it dropped even further, continuing its downward descent for the fifth straight year in terms of English proficiency, now placed at rank 100 out of 112 participating countries globally, between Ivory Coast (rank 99) and Kyrgyzstan (101).

Within Asia, Thailand – which used to be one of the most visited countries in the world – closed at an embarrassing rank 22 out of 24, even outdone by Cambodia (97) and Myanmar (93), and in Southeast Asia, Thailand has the worst English proficiency, whereby Laos and Brunei are not included in the ranking.

The “very low” English proficiency level that Thailand has been bestowed upon means that, generally speaking, the average adult in Thailand is able to introduce oneself in a simple way with name, age and country of origin, understand basic signs and give elementary directions to a foreign visitor. But not much more, let alone a real or even complex conversation.

Strange insular attitude towards foreign languages and culture

The problem Thais have with the English language is not new, but it is astounding that it has been persisting for so long and no improvement is in sight, neither in the attitude of Thais towards foreign languages and cultures nor in the outdated, nearly defunct education system.

The first point, the Thai attitude, has a lot to do with over-stressing the country’s own language and culture, thereby minimising the need for English, which is understandable from an insular viewpoint, but in a globalised world this doesn’t bring the country very far.

The second issue is a poorly-designed curriculum that focuses on grammar, reading and writing instead of listening and speaking, which contradicts human nature. Students are forced to memorise grammar and vocabulary, an outdated approach for a key subject that is included in admission examinations for various higher education institutions and a core skill for international business and cultural exchange.

Badly trained teachers add to the vicious cycle

While pupils are also not encouraged to learn English properly, teachers contribute their own part to the bad outcome as many of them lack good listening and speaking skills since they were also trained the wrong way, and the circle closes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further played a role in the worsening English skills as Thai schools remained closed for long periods. This has magnified the problem, together with most teachers failing to provide adequate online learning alternatives.

It seems that low English skills in Thailand are here to stay with an ineffective management of educational issues by the government, where the education ministry lacks momentum and frequent cabinet reshuffles do seldom allow a minister to achieve anything meaningful in a short period of time.

Fun fact: Even Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has no conversational English skills, which is disconcerting since his wife Narapon has a master’s degree in English teaching from Mahidol University, one of the highest ranking universities in Thailand, and at some point became president of Organization of English Teachers in Thailand. Make of it what you want.



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[caption id="attachment_37822" align="alignleft" width="300"] Thai pro-monarchy protesters in late November 2021 are trying to express something which is not entirely clear after an apparent Google translation from Thai to English[/caption] This year’s English Proficiency Index by Swedish language training company EF Education First has just come out, and, once again, it is not very flattering for Thailand. While the country over the past years didn’t really stand out in the ranking, in the latest edition it dropped even further, continuing its downward descent for the fifth straight year in terms of English proficiency, now placed at rank 100 out of...

Thai pro-monarchy protesters in late November 2021 are trying to express something which is not entirely clear after an apparent Google translation from Thai to English

This year’s English Proficiency Index by Swedish language training company EF Education First has just come out, and, once again, it is not very flattering for Thailand.

While the country over the past years didn’t really stand out in the ranking, in the latest edition it dropped even further, continuing its downward descent for the fifth straight year in terms of English proficiency, now placed at rank 100 out of 112 participating countries globally, between Ivory Coast (rank 99) and Kyrgyzstan (101).

Within Asia, Thailand – which used to be one of the most visited countries in the world – closed at an embarrassing rank 22 out of 24, even outdone by Cambodia (97) and Myanmar (93), and in Southeast Asia, Thailand has the worst English proficiency, whereby Laos and Brunei are not included in the ranking.

The “very low” English proficiency level that Thailand has been bestowed upon means that, generally speaking, the average adult in Thailand is able to introduce oneself in a simple way with name, age and country of origin, understand basic signs and give elementary directions to a foreign visitor. But not much more, let alone a real or even complex conversation.

Strange insular attitude towards foreign languages and culture

The problem Thais have with the English language is not new, but it is astounding that it has been persisting for so long and no improvement is in sight, neither in the attitude of Thais towards foreign languages and cultures nor in the outdated, nearly defunct education system.

The first point, the Thai attitude, has a lot to do with over-stressing the country’s own language and culture, thereby minimising the need for English, which is understandable from an insular viewpoint, but in a globalised world this doesn’t bring the country very far.

The second issue is a poorly-designed curriculum that focuses on grammar, reading and writing instead of listening and speaking, which contradicts human nature. Students are forced to memorise grammar and vocabulary, an outdated approach for a key subject that is included in admission examinations for various higher education institutions and a core skill for international business and cultural exchange.

Badly trained teachers add to the vicious cycle

While pupils are also not encouraged to learn English properly, teachers contribute their own part to the bad outcome as many of them lack good listening and speaking skills since they were also trained the wrong way, and the circle closes.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further played a role in the worsening English skills as Thai schools remained closed for long periods. This has magnified the problem, together with most teachers failing to provide adequate online learning alternatives.

It seems that low English skills in Thailand are here to stay with an ineffective management of educational issues by the government, where the education ministry lacks momentum and frequent cabinet reshuffles do seldom allow a minister to achieve anything meaningful in a short period of time.

Fun fact: Even Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has no conversational English skills, which is disconcerting since his wife Narapon has a master’s degree in English teaching from Mahidol University, one of the highest ranking universities in Thailand, and at some point became president of Organization of English Teachers in Thailand. Make of it what you want.



Support ASEAN news

Investvine has been a consistent voice in ASEAN news for more than a decade. From breaking news to exclusive interviews with key ASEAN leaders, we have brought you factual and engaging reports – the stories that matter, free of charge.

Like many news organisations, we are striving to survive in an age of reduced advertising and biased journalism. Our mission is to rise above today’s challenges and chart tomorrow’s world with clear, dependable reporting.

Support us now with a donation of your choosing. Your contribution will help us shine a light on important ASEAN stories, reach more people and lift the manifold voices of this dynamic, influential region.

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $10.00

 

 

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