Saturday, August 13, 2005

TOEICs and Deadlines

Tales from the other programs continue to show what a laughable situation the education system in Thailand is.

It seems that the school is now being very careful now when they are hiring staff. One guy who got interviewed last week got the 5th degree. During the interview he was asked about the previous schools he had listed on his CV. They then got a phone and phoned the school there and then to check! He was also asked for the phone number of his university and the lecturers he had at university. Wow! In one way I suppose its quite good that they are doing this in that it should weed out all the fakie guys but then if they are that serious during the interview, they should also be serious about their program.

One teacher in Mathayom has been told that of his classes at least 75% must get an A. The reason? They all play football for the school so the school can no doubt boast that its students can excel at both academic and sporting activities. If it wasn’t so serious then it would be laughable.

No wonder Thailand scored so lowly in that international TOIEC test.

From the Bangkok Post 10th August 2005

Tests put Thais near bottom in S.E Asia


Special English-language curriculums are being drafted for staff in six major industries after tests revealed Thais have the second-worst English language skills in Southeast Asia.

The finding, compiled by educational testing services, is worrying those wanting Thailand to become a regional hub of car manufacturing, medical care, spas, cuisine and fashion.

The director of the Higher Education Commission's English proficiency development centre, Achara Wongsothorn, said in the 12 months to June, Thai students came eighth in the nine Southeast Asian countries rated by TOEFL (Test of English as Foreign Language), scoring on average only 201 on the cumulative 300 scale.

Of the six countries in the region rated by the multiple-choice TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication), Thai students ranked fourth overall with an average 524 of the full 990 score.

In TOEFL tests, Thais averaged one higher than Cambodians (200) and two lower than Lao students (203). Singapore topped the region (252), followed by the Philippines (234), Malaysia (224), Burma and Indonesia (214) and Vietnam (205).

In TOEIC tests, Thais averaged 524, compared with the Philippines (751), Singapore (628), Cambodia (606), Indonesia (471) and Vietnam (446).

Ms Achara said the number of participants from each country varied greatly and this could affect the overall comparison of results. For example, about 9,000 Thais took the TOEFL test but only 33 Lao. Even so, the Philippines managed to come second with about 10,000 test participants.

She said results of English tests in 2002-2005 university entrance exams also reflected Thais' poor English skills, with scores as low as 30-40 out of 100.

The poor results would seriously affect the country's competitiveness in the global market.

Deputy director Siriporn Pornsurapipat said the Thais' poor English proficiency was likely to be a barrier to the government's plan to turn Thailand into the centre of businesses under the Detroit of Asia, Medical Hub, Capital of Spa, Thai Kitchen World Cuisine and Bangkok Fashion City projects.

The centre was trying to solve the problem by drafting English proficiency improvement curriculums for personnel in six important industries _ tourism, fashion, health science, food, automobile and information technology, she said.

The centre already had similar curriculums for staff in 23 professions, including physicians, dentists and nurses, bus drivers, maids and hotel security guards.

These curriculums were free of charge to workplaces, including handbooks and other education material, but the employers must find instructors and run the courses themselves.”

And the official response to this from the government? They have set up a months deadline to come up with a plan to improve the score. Goddam. What is it with this country and deadlines. The Pm is all for doing this. This country will be drug free within 6 months. There will be no traffic problems in Bangkok within 3 months, the airport will be open in 1 year…….. Bwaa haa haa haa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe if they got off their arses and did something instead of setting up stupid deadlines something would be done. Maybe if they allowed people to fail it would improve things. Maybe if they stopped corruption in schools it would change. Maybe if they stopped the culture of cheating it would change. Maybe I should just stop dreaming. Those things will never happen. There are too many people who like the system as it is. Keep the common people stupid, feed them some leftovers at election time and then just carry on as before.

Back to my backyard. Unlike American schools where they talk about The Class of 94 or 05 or whatever the graduating year is. At this school it’s the number of years since the school started. So the class who will finish this year are Class 154. I think that kind of nice. But when it gets to class 1840 it will be a bit of a mouthful. Assuming of course the school survives that long.

An interesting story came across my ears about all the downloading that had been going on and the “slowing down the connection” in the school. Seems that somebody who has a bit more IT knowledge than me ( not too difficult I know ) had done a little research and a trace. The result was a little surprising. Yes, some teachers had downloaded music, but then so had virtually all thai staff. It turns out that one big culprit was a thai male member of staff who had been downloading gay porn movies – hundreds and hundreds of Megabites worth. Hmm. A male at an all boys Christian school downloading gay porn. Back home of course there would be outcries galore with parents demanding the teacher be fired, police investigations etc etc here, the thing will all depend how much clout he has. Some new guy? Might be asked to leave ( doubt it would even be that much ). Some high up? Probably wont even be mentioned to him. Of course if it had been found out that farang staff had downloaded porn – of any sort – it would be immediate dismissal.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Its a Job Jim But Not As We Know It!

Hey ho. Another collection of snap shots from "It’s a job Jim, but not as we know it."

Last week we had virtually a free day as it was sports day at the school. Various rehearsals had been going on for a few weeks so they could get it all sorted out on the day. Yeh right. It was the usual Thai level of organization. Lots of speeches from the high pooyings who then sat on big fat comfy chairs while their underlings brought them assorted snacks and coffees through the morning and adjusted the fans to keep them cool.

Out on the field they had cheerleaders to rouse the crowds onto higher efforts to support their team. The school is separated into different teams or houses – quite how I am not too sure. As teachers we also got allocated teams and got given t-shirts to show our loyalty to the cause of Green, Orange, Red or Blue. Of course, the cheerleaders were the gayest guys they could find in the entire school. We are talking about so gay that Julian Clary seems like Sylvester Stallone.

It seemed to be that the theme for the team banners was some sort of environmental cause. I say seems, as despite having maybe 60 odd native speakers at the school, a couple of teams had not bothered to ask any of us whether the banners make sense. Therefore we had “For the World, For the People, For the Blue” and “Save the Blue”. Quite why Blue needs to be saved I am not sure but there we go. Maybe there is not enough Blue in the world. They might have been talking about water, who knows. One of the efforts from the Greens had “Please, take care them” It was something to do with the previous banner that said “Plants are nice” or some such. Red and Orange could be bothered writing anything in English, well, if they did I didn’t notice it.

Fortunately the weather was not too hot and dry so I watched a few of the games and sports. On the actual day it was mostly athletics of various sorts on the main field and the swimming pool. It was quite funny watching the little P1 and P2s and their total lack of coordination trying to run the 50m sprint. It was like watching a race between octopuses – or is that octopi? – there seemed to be more arms and legs than there should be. Mind you it was quite difficult to count with the various limbs flailing around so quickly.

As well as that you had the Thai teachers giving them quick last minute lessons on how to start from a proper sprint position. One kid just gave up. As the others crouched down, he basically gave a sort of standing Superman pose. Hilarious!

Over at the Prathom section, there seemed to be a alternative sports day with Musical Chairs and other races like running between chairs, eating a banana as fast as possible then running to another chair and drink a glass of water as fast as possible….. Funny.

There was a report in the Bangkok post a few days ago about how Thais are getting fatter. Bloody Hell!! Surely Not!!! I just wish they had given me the research funds and it would have taken me about 5 minutes to confirm that and the reasons for it. You only need to look at the kids and their parents to see the height differences. Then all you need to do is look at what the kids eat every chance they get. Fried food or anything with sugar. As well as that, every afternoon break, the school gives them a little afternoon snack, just to make sure the little darlings aren’t hungry. This can be something semi healthy as a Yakult ( I am not quite sure if those active bacteria/yogurt drinks actually do the things they are supposed to ) to the downright heart attack in a packet specials from Dunkin Donuts. Yup, the little donuts are sometimes given donuts. Mind you I shouldn’t talk, I am not eating as much proper food as I should.

Another week, another holiday. This week it’s for the Queens Birthday on Friday. Also there may be interruptions on Thursday. Yeesh. I am supposed to be giving two tests this week and with interruptions, I might only see some classes two times. Happy Mothers Day Kids!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rant Mode Engaged

OK, back onto full rant mode.

I am convinced that the kids in this school are actually an alien species. They are not of this earth and of this solar system. They have been sent down here in some diabolical plan of which only I seem to suspect.

The clues are obvious. The slack mouth, the wide open doe eyes hiding a lack of intelligence, the lack of ability to comprehend anything that doesn’t refer to food, the constant intake of food and specifically sugar, the inability to pay attention, the lack of physical coordination and of course the ultimate proof, their unique ability not to pick up any useful words of English despite being “passed” through each year, the private lessons, the extra lessons after school, the language school lessons at the weekend and so on. In fact by the time they graduate from some universities as an English major they might not have progressed from being able to say those ever so useful phrases like “Teacher toilet” or “Teacher videeo” and hey who knows? They might have picked up new phrases that they can use in the future like “Sexy DVD!” or “Hello hansum man!”

My theory is that they are in fact Aliens from another planet sent here to suck the life force from teachers. They then transmit it back to their home planet which is dying and cannot produce the energy it needs for lighting, heating and so on. How else do you explain the mentally drained feeling we all get after a days teaching?

I don’t know if it is my continuing depressive mood or the experience of seeing more and more backpackers or young “enthusiastic” undegreed” coming over here and working but my attitude to other teachers has hardened and got more critical. Maybe it has been the consistent griping from other expats and the international school mob here who look down on us mere English teachers.

There have been a few ( fortunately only a few ) who when they found out what I was doing decided to reply with “oh, you’re an English teacher” with the sort of tone that they had discovered something nasty on the sole of their shoe and dragged it about the house for 15 minutes. Needless to say they were put right very quickly about my so called failure and my qualifications and the blue chip companies I worked for. I wish that in one particular case that I had just twatted the guy. To say he was obnoxious is to call Tony Blair slightly greasy. He just kept on and on about English teachers being total low lifes. Of course all expats were good guys who were only here for the good of the company and their career etc and how he would never go to beer bars or Patpong like a sexpat or lowlife. The irony of his next statement obviously was too complex. He only went to the hi-so massage parlours like Poseidon to entertain clients and relax.

In all the forums I have been getting harder and harder on folks asking about whether they could just come without any experience or degree and telling them to stay home. Those who boast about either having fake degrees or asking about how to get them are also getting a terser response than a few months ago. I used to be quite open to the old life experience and enthusiasm overcoming the laws and regulations here but now I am more and more on the side of righteousness. Whether my view will change when finally I have got back my TL & WP again I don’t know, maybe not.

Just to add to the mix, we had a big meeting last week and various things came out. Some run of the mill, some dull, some ah gawd, here we go again. The 30 odd staff have been told that the 6 pcs in the staffrooms should never be used to personal use like reading emails and so on. We now have to use the 2 pcs in the small lounge.

So for all the personal and private stuff we now have to use very public ones, now I know that in some ways I am better off than in some places where they don’t even have pcs but for a school with this so called “better” reputation 2 pcs between 30 is really bad. They gave a few reasons for this – people downloading music files, visiting meeting point sites, going to chat rooms and so on. In other words some people were downloading mp3s, using msn messenger and err dating sites.

Anyway, the basic result is that people instead of being up front about personal usage, they are now being sneaky and using the pcs but hiding it by doing other things at the same time. The net result is that the staffroom pcs are now being used for a longer period of time than just the simple log in log out of email with the hide and seek with the bosses.

The other thing is that if we have to download anything we should do it during lunchtimes!! I have no idea what the bandwidth is for the school but bearing in mind it has about 6000 plus students and hundreds of pcs across students, staff, admin and so on. I cannot see how we could possibly be affecting the student computer labs connection speed. I am quite sure that we take up a miniscule amount of the total bandwidth.

Ah fuck it. In a few weeks everyone will be back to doing what they want anyway. Or at least until the next staff meeting.