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Future Teachers in Thailand Allowed to Graduate with Poor English Skills




BANGKOK – The committee in charge of preparing teacher qualifications framework in Thailand has decided that graduates will not require a strong grasp of the English language to graduate.

“We have reached this resolution because most stakeholders at a forum on the draft Thailand Qualifications Framework (TQF) disagreed with the plan to set too ambitious goal about graduates’ English,” the committee’s chair, Rathakorn Kidkan, said this week.

“There were serious concerns that students may not be able to graduate” if the English mastery requirement was set to high, he said. Rathakorn also chairs the Council of Rajabhat University’s Education Deans.

It was initially proposed that the TQF require that teacher-education graduates who have not majored in English attain a B2 level in English under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Those majoring in English would be expected to reach the C1 level.

CEFR is an international standard for describing language ability, using a six-point scale from A1 for beginners, up to C2 for those who have mastered a language.

To reach the C1 level, a person must be able to communicate in English with a significant degree of fluency based on appropriate use, sensitivity and the capacity to deal with unfamiliar topics.

To reach B2 level, a person must be able to achieve most goals for that level and express themselves on a range of topics.

Rathakorn said most students in teacher-education programs were only at A1 and A2 levels. A1 refers to a basic ability to communicate and exchange information in a simple way, while A2 reflects an ability to deal with simple, straightforward information and begin to express oneself in familiar contexts.

“So, most committee members have the opinion that B2 and C1 levels should not be mentioned in the TQF,” he said.

Rathakorn said he had already raised the issue with Deputy Education Minister Udom Kachintorn.

According to Rathakorn, it has now been decided that while English knowledge is important, TQF will not require teacher-education graduates to demonstrate a CEFR-based English proficiency.

“We will just set English tests as criteria in the Education Ministry’s regulations,” Rathakorn said.

He added that the committee decided that regulations would also reduce the required level of teaching graduates’ English proficiency from B2 to B1, the level at which the speaker could express themselves in a limited way in familiar situations and to deal in a general way with non-routine information. For English majors, the required level will drop from C1 to B2.

“As well, we are going to make a clear plan on how to improve teacher-education graduates’ English,” Rathakorn said. Several universities have until now required their graduates to demonstrate a good level of English knowledge as a graduation criterion.

For example, Mahidol University has required its graduates to get TOEIC scores of at least 600 while grads of Kasetsart University and Rangsit University must reach TOEIC scores of at least 500.

Thailand has dropped 11 spots in the proficiency rankings for non-native English speaking countries.

The kingdom is now ranked 64th among the 88 listed countries and territories in the EF English Proficiency Index 2018. This year’s ranking, conducted by Switzerland-based Education First, a language school operator with branches worldwide, is based on test data from 1.3 million adults who took the EF Standard English Test (EF SET) last year.

In the latest results, Thailand has a score of 48.54, which is classified as low proficiency.

n 2017, Thailand was 53rd (49.7) out of 80 countries and was also categorized in the low proficiency band.

In Asia, Thailand has the worst English proficiency except for Cambodia and Myanmar. Thailand is far behind China and Japan, which supposedly have low abilities in English.

By The Nation

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