Student Centered Learning – Thailand

A Centre for Education Reform in Thailand

Welcome to Student-Centered Learning Thailand


Our Mission:

To provide a center of discussion , information and planning for 21st Century education reform in Thailand that will lead to a unity of purpose and action among  Thai and international educators to realize the goals set forth in the National Education Act of  B.E. 2542 (1999).

At the heart of this National Education Act B.E. 2542 (1999) is a move toward student-centered learning and a student-centered  classroom.  Specifically, Section 24 of the Education Act outlines what must be done   to improve  education  performance : 1. arranging learning in line with the students’ interests , aptitudes and individual differences ;2. training students in thinking abilities, especially critical thinking; 3.organizing learning activities that draw from authentic experiences; and 4. promoting situations where learners and teachers learn together.  

In addition to addressing these key issues of education reform in Thailand , indeed in international education, we also focus our attention and resources on the goal of promoting Thai teachers to reach their potential as skilled teachers using teaching methods that engage their students with the result that students love to learn through self discovery.


ยินดีต้อนรับสู่ Student-Centered Learning ประเทศไทย



เพื่อสร้างศูนย์ข้อมูล การแลกเปลี่ยนข้อคิดเห็นและวางแผนสำหรับการปฏิรูปการศึกษาของประเทศไทยในศตวรรษที่ 21 อันจะนำไปสู่การปฏิบัติอันเป็นไปในทิศทางเดียวกันของนักการศึกษาไทยและต่างประเทศเพื่อให้บรรลุเป้าหมายที่กำหนดไว้ในพระราชบัญญัติการศึกษาแห่งชาติ พ.ศ. 2542 (1999)

ใจความสำคัญของพระราชบัญญัตินี้คือการมุ่งไปสู่การเรียนรู้และการเรียนการสอนในห้องเรียนโดยมีนักเรียนเป็นศูนย์กลาง โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งมาตรา 24 ที่กำหนดถึงสิ่งที่ต้องทำเพื่อพัฒนาประสิทธิภาพของการศึกษาไทยคือ : 1. จัดการศึกษาให้สอดคล้องกับความสนใจ, ความถนัดที่แตกต่างกันของนักเรียนแต่ละคน; 2. อบรมนักเรียนให้มีความสามารถในการคิดวิเคราะห์ด้วยตนเอง; 3. จัดกิจกรรมการเรียนรู้จากประสบการณ์จริง; และ 4. ส่งเสริมการเรียนการสอนที่ครูและนักเรียนได้เรียนรู้ร่วมกัน

นอกจากประเด็นหลักเพื่อการปฏิรูปการศึกษาในประเทศไทยเหล่านี้ แน่นอนว่าในระดับโลกเรายังมุ่งเป้าไปยังการส่งเสริมศักยภาพอาจารย์ชาวไทยในด้านทักษะการสอนโดยอาศัยเทคนิคการสอนที่ให้นักเรียนมีส่วนร่วมในชั้นเรียนเพื่อให้นักเรียนมีความรักที่จะเรียนรู้ด้วยตัวเขาเอง

Authentic Learning

Authentic Learning…..

from the dictionary: learning that is genuine, real, not false or copied…

                             from latin: Original., primary, at first hand


In Tasmania in 1980 Rob Banfield started teaching in science, maths, and a few other areas. He has taught in Java at Bandung International School. He holds an Ed.D in leadership professional learning and has keen interests in curriculum design, pedagogy development, effective leadership and strategic planning.



Why would we be  interested in authentic learning, surely all learning is authentic?

Perhaps NOT!  Some learning has to be not first hand and  uses copied texts and demonstrations. Safety, efficiency and  the  practicalities of schools demand these professional  boundaries.

However, we know that engagement of students in real learning often increases their motivation, energy and indeed their learning of new concepts and applied skills.

My enthusiasm for this authentic style of teaching has a few personal waypoints. One particular “hard to teach class” in 1983 encouraged me to manipulate an entire Grade 9 Science Curriculum around the real science of cars.  Cars were a real inquiry object with intrinsic interest to 15 year old boys! Later I was introduced to the idea of negotiated curriculums, where I let go of the reins and discovered the wealth of untapped knowledge already residing in the brains of my assigned students. Soon, real inquiries into astronomical Quasars with 13 year olds became a reality.  In recent years I was fortunate enough to interact with Dan Buckley from the UK (certainly worth an extended Google). His work with   students responding to  real tender scopes to achieve real solutions to real problems, struck another cord with me.  Dan’s innovative approach to curriculum  motivated students as authentic learners whilst responding to  skills and concepts demanded by the agreed curriculum.

Isolated examples are fine, but what is the potential to authenticate the curriculum in our everyday real world of technology?

I randomly selected the Grade 3 Australian  Science Curriculum to apply my ideas of a  real learning framework. I was  first challenged by the science content areas of biology, earth, chemistry, and physical science areas as I read the curriculum scope. These areas contained  dry, important things we need to know. So, I ventured across to the science inquiry skills list. Ah ha, here was the stuff of real science in my mind. Experiments, observation, data, reporting etc… But, alas the creative juices could still not conjure up a real life inquiry for my imaginary  Grade 3  learners.

I opened up a digital skill link that took me to some Scootle learning objects and ideas. Here I found the seed of an authentic learning plan in amongst the suggestions on Shadows. The shadow inquiries had a clear link back to the earth science content field of planet rotation, seasons, day and night etc…

Now applying a little imagination here is my initial thinking for Grade 3 Science authentic inquiry.


“Our town council is processing a new application to allow for the building of a single 4 story office block in our main street. As part of the planning approval process, the councillors want to know what the shadowing effect will be on neighbouring buildings, the streetscape and people at various times of the day and the year. Currently the maximum height of buildings is limited to two stories. The council requires a 5 page report and a concise 20 minute presentation of your findings for a full Council Planning meeting in June.”

My class would work in 7  groups of four students and present to a genuine town planning engineer at a future time.  My invited engineer would be asked to give feedback to each group and perhaps provide real written responses from his council division. My planning will involve the science, literacy and numeracy outcomes from Grade 3, an even some history outcomes.

I am keen, Grade 3 science is being applied to a real life problem,  where we don’t know  a prepared “proper” answer. The detailed planning, teaching and negotiation with people from outside my school needs to be done. The scope of the inquiry may change as my planning develops.

Learning can be (more) authentic, more motivating for students (and teachers) and integrate various   discrete curriculum areas (as happens in the real world).


Authentic Teaching – OpEd

Authentic Teaching leads to authentic learning, the Twin Supports of

Student Centered Learning by Peter J.  Foley, Ed.D


This month’s featured article about authentic learning got me thinking about authentic teaching. It occurred to me that both authentic teaching and authentic learning are joined at the hips, both being legs that student centered learning stands on.

It all boils down to a problem we all find hard to pin down: how can we define authentic teaching , that is , real teaching and not just going through the motions.  It is tempting to reply in a similar fashion as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who struggled to define pornography and finally said: “I cannot define it , but I know it when I see it.”

That response is not adequate for educators who must make a judgment on teachers’ job performance.  In an article I wrote in 2012 and is found in the SCLThailand archive , I attempted to give educators a comprehensive quantifiable teacher performance instrument.  An alternative description of what constitutes good teaching is provided on a qualitative basis in Teaching As Leadership by Steven Farr, Teach for America. The following is Farr’s list of the core principles of effective teaching:

  1. Set big goals:   that are ambitious, measureable, and meaningful for their students.
  2. Invest students and families: so all work to achieve these ambitious goals
  3. Plan purposefully: focus on how success will be defined,  path to student growth
  4. Execute effectively: monitor progress and adjust course to contribute to learning
  5. Continuously increase effectiveness: reflect critically on student progress
  6. Work relentlessly: to overcome obstacles to student learning*

Of course, the devil is in the details.  Nevertheless, if teachers keep these general principles in their minds and hearts their teaching will be more authentic and consequently their students’  learning will be more authentic.

N.B. Teach for America has expanded to other countries.  Experts from Teach from America are currently in Thailand for the startup of Teach for Thailand.  Teach for Thailand will be holding a training program for talented Thai college graduates who want to make a contribution to Thailand as new teachers who bring passion and a love of learning to the teaching experience.   See  the Job Opportunities menu on SCLThailand for more information about Teach for Thailand.   *Farr, Steven.  Teaching As Leadership  2010.  page 33.


This month we are pleased to present an article by Mr Wichian Chaiyabang, Headmaster of Lamplaimat Patana School [LPMP] in Buriram province, Thailand.

This school provides a shining light on student centered learning and how a school where “thinking outside the education box” is the norm for all that happens in there. Under Wichian’s leadership, the LPMP team of educators is making a major contribution to the way Thai teachers teach, and the way Thai schools operate. LPMP has become a leading provider of professional learning programs for teachers from all parts of Thailand, through the programs it runs every week of the school year.

Many of those who have attended these professional learning workshops carry the message of educational change and the practical advice on how to do it, back to their own schools where they inevitably have an impact in their own classrooms and, if the conditions are right, they have an impact on a school wide basis. Throughout Thailand there are more schools similar to LPMP springing up. Like LPMP, they are small private schools, but they charge no fees, as they rely does on generating their own funding through donations and their own entrepreneurial activities.

In his article, Wichian addresses some important questions associated with measuring educational success. He argues that success in education is about educators seeing that each child is equipped according to his or her capacity and is able to lead a life of value and contentment.”

I am sure there would be not much opposition for that proposition from thinking educators, but in this Information Age, there is evidence that schools and systems still want to push the acquisition of knowledge as one of the big priorities, and along with this they seek to develop in students the capacity to respond to knowledge seeking questions in examinations and tests which seem to be the norm for judging students’ success at school.

I am reminded of something John Lennon said of his own education; when he was in Year 6 at his Liverpool primary school, John’s his teacher set a task for the children to write, which was a short essay on the topic “What I want to be when I grow up”.

As the children wrote, the teacher wandered around the room looking at what they were writing. When she came to the Lennon, the future musical genius, she saw what he wrote ….he had written When I grow up, I want to be happy” The teacher responded, “You don’t understand the question” Lennon responded immediately, “You don’t understand life”.

I do not know what mark he received for his short piece of work, but I am sure what he had written would have brought him a high score from teachers at LPMP and I would have given him a 10/10; we would have followed with frequent discussion the question on how does one achieve a life of happiness, and what does this mean anyway?  A discussion which should be frequent in classrooms; in his article, Wichian touches on the deeper aspects of how we judge success.

In his third book, Outliers: the Story of Success [published by Little, Brown and Company on November, 2008], Malcolm Gladwell, the Canadian – English author, journalist and staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, examines the factors that lead to high levels of success in many fields of endeavour including sport, business and education.

In Outliers, Gladwell poses questions to try to determine how much individual potential is ignored by society. The book has been translated into Thai and is recommended reading for all school teachers.

Another important book on this topic is Paul Tough’s 2008 book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, [published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008 and 2012. This is an excellent study on the types of things that are mentioned in this month’s feature article. Tough argues that the story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions tests, and senior high school exam to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed, the author argues that the qualities that matter most for success have more to do with character; skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

These are some of the things that teachers can help develop in those they teach.

I hope you all enjoy Khun Wichian’s article which has been provided in both English and Thai.

Greg Cairnduff, March, 2014


The Author of this month’s feature, Khun Wichian Chaiyabang.

Wichian is Headmaster and Education Manager at Lamplaimat Pattana School, located in Buriram province, north-eastern Thailand.

He leads the school in the provision of professional learning programs for schools throughout Thailand and is frequently to speak at conferences, universities and other forums.

Wichian is also a prolific author, having written a wide range of fiction and non – fiction books as shown below.


Children’s Literature

“The King on Green Planet” (2005)

“The Boy and the Star” (2006)

“Starfish on the Beach” (2006)

“Everyone Dreams of Being That” (2011)

“The Proud Turtle” (2013)

Short Story Collection

“One Morning before the End of the World” (2006)

Young Adult Literature

“Wind and Prairie” (2008)

-  Outstanding Book, 2009 National Book Week Award

-   Outstanding Book, 2011 Seven Book Award

“Go Ahead and Pray to the Green Fairy” (2009)

-   Outstanding Book, 2011 Seven Book Award

Academic Publications

“School Outside-the-Box” (2008)

“Man on the Tree:  Management and Leadership” (2009)

“Education Miracle (at School Outside-the-Box)” (2011)

“Spiritual Studies and Nurturing Inner Wisdom” (2011

  • One Response

    1. Brett Wilkin

      16|Mar|2014 1

      The only thing worth teaching is a love of learning and understanding. A sweeping statement I know but I believe very relevant when we see the love of learning destroyed in so many classrooms over the years.

    Leave a reply


How do we measure educational success? This is a question that we must ponder again and again, to make sure that the goals are not simply to satisfy the needs of grown-ups or determined with only certain children in mind. We must consider goals that are truly necessary for children and the future. We must keep in mind the holistic nature of all goals, so that each child is equipped according to his or her capacity and is able to lead a life of value and contentment.

In the past, our human thirst for knowledge has pushed us to study and understand so many things both concrete and abstract, to the point of creating a belief among many people that education means an accumulation of knowledge. This belief has led us to value knowledge teaching, evaluating knowledge and counting success by knowledge. However, deep down, we know that we want people to be good and kind, to live together in peace and mutual support, and to lead lives of value and contentment.

I believe most of us know what the challenges are and what we should do to improve education. But we are not putting in our best efforts. To surrender to the problem is easier, because it is a way of adapting and enabling us to achieve balance once again. A lower balance is degenerative adaptation. Most people choose this option because it is easier and justifiable in so many reasonable ways. Deep down, however, human nature has progressed so far because we have adapted in a different way – charging through obstacles. All throughout the history of human evolution, we have constantly pushed ourselves to overcome our limitations.

We are surrounded by rapid and violent changes. How should today’s education respond to these transformations? We must look beyond the shallow goals of knowledge, university entrance examinations, employment, etc. Education is a constant with so many hidden variables. It is gruelingly difficult to control the end result. Education as is may help us to remember that we must brush our teeth daily, that we must beware of falling from high places, that we can extract benefits from various things. But, as is, education has not achieved clear results in helping us realize how short life is.

All of us are involved in education, directly and indirectly. We must therefore do our best, like the gardener who tends to every tree and every aspect in the orchard, be it watering, fertilizing, pruning or getting rid of pests. The gardener’s hope is that these efforts will enhance and complete the natural capacity of the trees to bear fruit. Once everything has been done, the gardener can only watch and wait.

Lamplaimat Pattana School, an Outside the Box School, views our goal as developing learners in a holistic manner, enabling people to live together in peace, mutual support, with value and happiness. This kind of learning will enable learners to reach wisdom. There is outer wisdom, which is an understanding of the world and its phenomena, a set of knowledge and skills applicable to employment or maintenance of a quality livelihood. There is also inner wisdom, which is an understanding of oneself, an ability to perceive the emotions of oneself and others, to the point that one is able to manage those emotions. It is also recognizing the value in oneself and other people and things, to live with meaning, with awareness of the connectedness between oneself and the things around us,  with humility toward all beings which mutually support one another, with the ability to coexist with fraternity and acceptance of differences, with respect toward others, with moderation and the ability to be satisfied, with constant awareness of oneself and one’s emotions, with the ability to distinguish when to stop and when to go on, with focus and persistence to complete tasks, and with a heart full of love and kindness.

Cultivating wisdom is more intricate than cultivating knowledge. The mature teacher will toil endlessly to help students reach this goal. The teacher’s maturity will help uphold such a grand goal and overcome any obstacles.

The results of research are speaking loud and clear: Thai are having a lot of trouble speaking English.

Thailand is ranking 55 (out of 60) on EF’s English Proficiency Index (EPI)

And Thailand scores lowest in South-East Asia in the English Language Assessment (JELA)

Some examples

Among many other research results there are my own experiences of the (the lack of) English skills among the Thai after living here for the past 3.5 years.

First there is the, to Thai, most famous English sentence that all Thai kids are taught to use when greeting their English teacher: “Good morning teacher”.

In English speaking countries teachers are never addressed as “teacher”, but as Mr/Mrs/Ms (given name). This of course, is just a literal translation of the the Thai way to address a teacher as “(คุณ)ครู″.

Another, painful example is how Westerners in Thailand are addressed as “you” in situations where the Thai person is calling them because they forgot something.

When forgetting my receipt at 7 eleven or my change at a gas station the cashier will call me back saying “you” which sounds rather aggressive. Of course it’s simply a literal translation of the Thai word คุณ which is a polite way to call somebody you don’t know. In English speaking countries you would use the word Sir or Miss/Ma’am.

These two examples are simple conversation mistakes that are caused by a lack of exposure to the English language. If people would have been given the opportunity to be exposed to English speakers, they wouldn’t have made this type of mistake.

Then there are the pronunciation problems with sounds that are difficult or don’t appear in the Thai language such as the difference between cheap and sheep (the ช sound can be pronounced as both “sh” and “ch”) and the problems with “l” and “r” sounds in words like pleasure and pressure.

Again if people would have been given the opportunity to be exposed to native English speakers, from a young age, their accents would have been much better as human beings learn accents and the set of sound we can make from what we are listening to when we are young.

A lot has already been done

In the past years many things have been tried to improve the quality of English language education in Thailand both by the Thai government and by governments of English-speaking countries such as the British Council.

Skills in general are improving. EF measures scores of 5 points higher in 2012 on their proficiency test compared to the scores in 2007-2009. But the trend is too slow with the opening of ASEAN coming closer and closer.

So why are some countries doing better?

Looking at countries that scored high on EL’s EPI test, it  seems obvious to assume these countries have just simply better education, and this is probably true, but next to that there is something else that influences English skills in general and, more important, listening and conversational skills.

It’s television and movies.

EU countries using dubbing

In this map marked blue are countries where movies (except for those that have a target audience of children who can’t read) have the original soundtrack with subtitles.

Countries coloured red use dubbing for foreign movies.

English Proficiency

To compare; here is a map of Europe showing English proficiency skills.

The darker the colour, the higher the country scores in the EPI test.

There is an obvious correlation going on here.

Although, I have to mention that the EF Test of English ( only tests reading and writing skills.

Data in South-East Asia

Let’s have a look on the available data of the South-East Asian countries.

SE Asia DubbingCountries with the highest scores: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam

Singapore: Almost all English television and movies are broadcasted and shown with their original soundtrack. Chinese films are subtitled in English

Malaysia: almost all English television is broadcasted with original soundtrack and subtitles

Indonesia: almost all English television is broadcasted with original soundtrack and subtitles

Vietnam: almost all English television is broadcasted with original soundtrack and subtitles. Programs and movies for young children are dubbed.

Country with very low scores: Thailand. Almost all television programmes and movies on television are dubbed. Some movies shown in the theatres in the bigger cities are shown in English with subtitles, but most are dubbed.

Worldwide more and more people start to prefer subtitling over dubbing. Francesca Riggio states in her article that this trend might be the result of the rise of available video content through new media.

So what should Thailand do

The easiest, cheapest, most effective and most elegant key to better English skills for the Thai people is simple. Thailand should show more, if not, all English movies and television programs in English with Thai subtitles.

It will increase the English skills, and especially the listening and conversational skills dramatically for almost 100% of the people as almost everybody (even people in rural areas) have access to television.

It’s a very cheap, quick and easy to execute way to educate almost all layers of society. It’s almost the only way to save Thailand from falling back as soon as the borders of ASEAN are opening up.


Developing English Speaking Skills of Thai Undergraduate Students by Digital Storytelling through Websites
Manussanun Somdee & Suksan Suppasetseree, Suranaree University of Technology, Thailand

Ways to Develop English Proficiency of Business Students: Implementation of Content and Language Integrated Learning
(CLIL) Approach
Dr. Wipanee Pengnate
College of General Education and Languages
Thai-NIchi Institute of Technology


Attapol Khamkhien
Kasetsart University

The online encyclopaedia of writing systems and languages

Education First

Musings on Data, Science and Behavioral Economics

Dubbing (filmmaking)

Possible disadvantages of subtitling.

-Some of the spoken language will get lost.

People read slower, then they listen. So some of the things said in movies might get lost and will not be translated in the subtitles.

Counter argument: in dubbing even more get’s lost in translation. Word jokes for example are just hard to translate. When people’s English skills improve, less and less will get lost, because people will simply start listening more to the sound track.

-Dubbers will lose their jobs.

Counter argument. In Thailand only one very small company is doing all dubbing of all films and television. These people will still have to do dubbing for films and television for children who are not yet able to read.

-People working in education will loose business and jobs.

At this moment a lot of people in Thailand are making money teaching either on public or private schools, or in the many tutoring businesses all through the country. When more and more people are getting better in English these people might loose jobs and have less customers.

Counterargument: as we’ve seen from the data in Europe, it’s not just subtitles that help improve the English skills of a country. It’s just a means to better conversational and listening skills and accent might be less thick. But in all these countries that score high on the EPI test, much is done to improve English skills all throughout all the different forms of education. People working in education will not loose their jobs. Their jobs will just get a little easier.

-Dubbing is part of Thai culture.

The small group of people that dub all movies and television in Thailand is somewhat famous in Thailand. At least their voices (and rather funny way of speaking) is famous all over the country. People like to imitate their way of talking as a way of joking. The dubbing team also likes to add Thai word jokes to the movie.

Counter argument: Many Thai people who ones started watching movies with its original soundtrack don’t ever want to go back to watching dubbed movies. They think it’s awkward and sounds stupid. When more and more people will start watching movies with its original soundtrack they will look back to those old days when movies were sill dubbed thinking “why did we even like that?”

-People don’t like to read

Yes, watching television with subtitles might be a little bit more tiring and people just want to relax when they watch television. Entertainment business might get less viewers for those programs.

Counterargument: This is why this can only work if the government enforces all the organisations and companies by law as to what movies and television programs should be subtitled and may not be dubbed. It will benefit both the people of the country as the country as a whole.

  • 10 Responses

    1. Jack

      22|Feb|2014 1

      Dear Mr. Baars,
      You article was well researched and written. Bravo, at last someone is really making concrete suggestions instead of just shooting off at the mouth. You obviously care a great deal about Thailand since you put a lot of time and effort into writing this article. I hope policy makers at the MOE will take note. Sincerely, Jack ( Bangkok )

    2. Paul Morrow

      24|Feb|2014 2

      As A 4 ½ year resident of Thailand I can confirm that Thais tend to use a “thick” accent so an english speaker (like myself born in monolingual Australia) is left out completely. There is a Thai tradition which says you must never be impolite to older people or children. Farang are clearly left out of this. We are seen as having so many privileges that we don’t deserve any more. I can understand people objecting to a “power” language but the Thais need to realise the disadvantage their tiny isolated language causes them.

    3. Brett Wilkin

      24|Feb|2014 3

      A wonderful correlation and interesting to read. I wish my writing was as readable. Another thing I have noticed with the students I work with is the tuition day is too long. The length of the learning day can have more of a negative effect on learning than a positive one.

    4. Jan Baars

      24|Feb|2014 4

      Dear Jack,
      thanks a lot for you kind comment.
      I do hope more and more people will watch movies with subtitles. But to really give a change to all people, also those in more remote areas, this needs to change nation wide. And especially on television. This kind of law would probably have to come out of a collaboration between the MOE and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

    5. Jan Baars

      24|Feb|2014 5

      Dear Paul,

      Thanks a lot for you comment.
      I think a lot of Thai citizens and also officials actually do realise the disadvantages of poor English skills. Over the past 30 years, many things have been tried to improve the English skills of the people. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t. Concerns are getting bigger now that 2015 (opening of ASEAN borders) is coming closer and different research results are showing the poor English skills of the Thai.

      I’m suggesting a cheap, easy way to help a little bit in the development of English skills of all the people of Thailand.

    6. Jan Baars

      24|Feb|2014 6

      Dear Brett,

      Thanks for your comment.
      I noticed the long learning days as well.
      Some research shows that it study result drop dramatically especially with teenagers, if they have to wake up too early to get to school.


    7. Jan Baars

      24|Feb|2014 7
    8. Brett Wilkin

      25|Feb|2014 8

      The optimum time for learning is rarely in the classroom, which is why I use my website (moodle) and technology. Students can determine the best times for themselves to tackle difficult problems. I find students using their mobile phones to complete on line quizzes and for updating projects for me. In many cases the technology helps me to negate the problems of long intense days without a break. The technology also allows me to include movies etc to expose the students to different accents and styles of English

    9. Jan Baars

      25|Feb|2014 9

      Sounds awesome Brett. It seems like you are one of the most innovative English teachers in the country!

    10. Brett Wilkin

      26|Feb|2014 10

      555 thanks but i doubt it

    Leave a reply

English Learning

This month’s article urges English learners to watch movies with sub-titles in order to learn the English language.

This was one of the four suggestions I presented to seniors recently in a meeting at the Social Science Department of Srinakarinwirot University here in Bangkok.

Here are the four hints to English learning I gave the students:

1 Speak slowly:  this helps enormously in not only helping the listener decipher what you are saying, but it also draws your awareness to how you are using your mouth and tongue to pronounce words.  You are also more aware of the structure of the sentence you are forming.


2 Carry a small notebook around and jot down words you don’t know or are unsure about.  Look those words up as soon as you can, perhaps also looking the words up in your IPod or smart   phone English-Thai dictionary, if you are fortunate enough to own such a phone.

Cognitive research confirms that we learn language much faster when we have a context to draw from. Thus, you will remember the words you are jotting down and reviewing later much faster because you will remember the context in which the new word was used.


3.    Watch videos, movies and TV shows.  This month’s author’s suggests this, he recommends that it is best to watch the movies with subtitles in your native language.  Again, this makes sense in terms of cognitive science research which tells us that the way we learn is by association.  In this case, putting the sound of English with the meaning in your own language.


4 Make friends with English speakers.  This seems so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning, except that many people are too self-conscious or shy to use their English with a foreigner.  This seems especially true here in Thailand.  This is a big mistake of course, since the very best way to learn to speak English is with a native speaker who can encourage you and most importantly, you are learning from the actual context of your dialogue with the native speaker.


5 Some students learn English through music.   They memorize songs and learn the meaning of the words.  This will help, but try the four suggestions above and you will soon be on the road to fluency.  Language learning is all about the snowball effect. Keep the snowball rolling down the hill collecting more and more snow (actually, the metaphor here is more and more English vocabulary) and before you know it, you will start understanding conversations, movies, and songs in English.


Remember, your keys to language learning are grammatical structure and vocabulary.  If you build your vocabulary to 1,500 common words you will understand most conversations. If you learn 2,500 most common words you will be able to communicate effectively.  A native speaker uses about a 3,000 word vocabulary regularly.  So, put your notebook in your pocket and take it out often to jot down new words.  Go to a movie with sub-titles with your new English- speaking friend.  Oh, and don’t forget to speak S-L-O-W-L-Y!

Is a Text just a Text?

Is a Text just a Text?

Dr Don W Jordan and Ms Ellen Cornish

This article by two of our regular contributors, Ms Ellen Cornish and Dr Don Jordan, continues the discussion about Child Centred, learning as it provides a practical example of how to change an original English text to different levels of complexity, allowing for the different levels of ability within a class. They also demonstrate ways to develop multiple activities from a single information text, allowing students with different levels of understanding to engage positively in the learning process.

EllenAndDonJan2014 EllenAndDon2Jan2014




Ellen and Don working with teachers in Bangkok and pre service teachers in Cambodia



Is a Text just a Text?

Text books are often the mainstay of university, secondary and primary school classrooms throughout the world, either in print or online. Ideally, effective teachers use them as one of many resources to support what is becoming a more complex curriculum, rather than just as the one authoritative source of information to be taught to students.

There is a danger in only just following the sequence outlined by textbook publishers and the activities they provide are one size fits all regardless of student ability, then we are likely at times to be irrelevant to the interests and needs of a significant number of our students. There is an urgent need for educators to devise strategies to help students develop the skills to be able to analyse, synthesise and evaluate information, working cooperatively with each other, rather than just passing tests by memorising the facts and accepting it at face value[1].

Our classroom teaching experience as well as our conversations with beginning and experienced teachers, has demonstrated to us that if our students do not have sufficient background knowledge or vocabulary to help them make necessary cultural connections with the topics presented in the textbook, then it is likely students at all levels will disengage from the learning process. This in turn often means students are bored, therefore can be disruptive to the teaching and learning program. We are mindful in our selection of English language material that it is on topics that are culturally relevant to participants.

An effective strategy for us is to develop additional and different activities from the English text books available in the institutions in which we are working. Two such activities are as follows:

1.     Deconstructing Available Text to Engage Learners with Different Abilities.

Using a section of culturally relevant writing from a teaching English text book, (The place to Stay) we demonstrated to teachers, how to alter the level of difficulty by offering examples of three pieces of writing as follows:

(The Place to Stay 1).The following example is the original text from the text book. For more capable students the text can be made more complex, with more complex questions.


The Place to Stay 1

Nowadays most of the young people travelling around the world are backpackers or travellers on a low budget. They want to see the world, but they can’t afford to pay for regular hotels. So youth hostels are the perfect solution for travellers without a lot of money to spend.

The accommodation in the hostels is inexpensive because guests usually share rooms and bathrooms.

Most hostels have a laundry room, telephones, internet connection, lockers and a breakfast service. Some hostels offer individual rooms and cooking facilities, such as a kitchen complete with pots and everything else you need.

Some hostels are in interesting places such as old churches, in old prisons and even boats. Hostels in the most famous cities and in popular resorts can be fully booked during peak seasons, so it is a good idea to make online reservations for them.

Hostels are definitely the place for socialising. The guests are usually young people from different countries and there are plenty of opportunities to meet other travellers. Some hostels organise parties or have an area in the building where people can meet and talk with other guests and to share experiences and travel tips. When you are travelling alone, hostels are one of the best places to make friends.

After Reading:

Answer yes or no

1.           Backpackers travelling around the world like to stay in accommodation called youth   hostels. ___________DonTeachingJan2014

2.         Youth hostels are usually much more expensive than hotels. _________

3.         You cannot cook in youth hostels because there is usually no kitchen. _______

4.         Youth hostels are good places to meet other people and to share travel tips. _________


(The Place to Stay 2). For middle ability students, less complex than original text, with slightly modified questions.

The Place to Stay 2

Today a lot of young people like travelling around the world. They do not have a lot of money so they travel with backpacks and StudentsJan2014are called backpackers. Backpackers stay in youth hostels which are much cheaper than most hotels.

Youth hostels do not cost a lot of money because people share rooms and bathrooms. Lots of hostels have a laundry, a telephone, internet and a kitchen. Backpackers can cook their own food in the youth hostel kitchen which saves them money.

Youth hostels can be in interesting places such as a church. Sometimes you can just arrive at the hostel and get a bed but sometimes you need to book a bed in the youth hostel before you get there. This happens when the youth hostel is in a popular city or town.

Youth hostels are a good place for meeting people from other countries. Some hostels have a meeting room where they organise parties so that you can meet other people. This is a good way to share travel ideas. Hostels are very good places to make friends.


After Reading:

Answer yes or no

1.         Backpackers do not stay in youth hostels. _____

2.         The rooms in youth hostels usually cost a lot of money._______

3.         You can cook your food in the youth hostel kitchen._______

4.         Youth hostels are not good places to meet other people. ________


 (The Place to Stay 3).For less able students we prepared a shorter and easier text with simplified questions.


The Place to Stay 3

Today a lot of people like travelling. They do not have a lot of money so they stay in youth hostels which are cheaper.

Youth hostels do not cost a lot of money because people share rooms and bathrooms. They can cook their own food in the youth hostel kitchen. This also saves them money.

Sometimes you can just arrive at the hostel and get a bed but sometimes you need to book a bed in the youth hostel before you get there. This happens when the youth hostel is in a town that tourists like a lot.

Youth hostels are a good place for meeting people from other countries. Some hostels organise parties. You can make friends at the hostel.

After Reading:

Answer yes or no

  1. A lot of people like travelling.  _________
  2. Rooms in youth hostels cost a lot of money. _______
  3. You cannot cook in a youth hostel. _________
  4. You meet people in a youth hostel. ________

This deconstruction activity allows teachers to engage their students in the same activity but at their level of understanding.  To illustrate the activity, we chose to follow the same assessment question format at the end of the original article in text book in our deconstruction activities. This assessment format however, is at the lower end of Bloom’s levels of thinking, as it only requires students to remember basic information from the text.

2.     Developing Multiple Activities from an Information Text.

A more engaging strategy is to demonstrate to teachers how to develop multiple activities from a single text; this enables their students to engage in their own learning in their preferred way, whether through written text, creative arts (music, dance, visual, or the spoken word)[2].We demonstrated how to develop an enriched teaching program by using an information text in this example, based on food.

This information text was from Level 2 in the Kingfisher Reader series; ‘What We Eat’ includes chapters on the following:

  • What, when and why we eat.
  • The different food groups.
  • Where food comes from.
  • Buying and cooking foods from around the world.
  • and food for feasts and festivals.

We have demonstrated in our example below that rather than just using a text at face value additional activities can be developed to provide a broader range of learning opportunities for students.

What We Eat

Objective:   To use “What we Eat” information text to demonstrate how additional activities can be developed from a single text. Some suggestions are as follows:


  • Read the information text “What We Eat”.
  • Choose a chapter and rewrite it with a cultural focus.
  • Glossary: type a list of words for your students to find and write the meanings.
  • Sentence matching.
  • Type (write) a sentence, make 2 copies, cut up one to remake the original sentence.
  • Food words, type (write), cut them up and remake e.g. b/a/n/a/n/a.
  • List the meals you eat in a day, make a sub list of what you eat for each meal.
  • Food groups, list and categorise.
  • Make a chart for food groups, draw pictures and label.
  • Make a chart showing food crops which are grown in and around your place of living, sort, group these.
  • Make a list of your favourite foods.
  • Make a poster to promote healthy eating.
  • Make a list or poster to show foods that can be eaten raw as opposed to being cooked.
  • Design a label for packet or canned food.
  • Festivals – Create a menu for a wedding, funeral, other festival.
  • Create a list to show the foods eaten for different types of festivals.
  • Write a recipe for your own birthday cake.
  • Draw your cake and label the different parts.
  • Design a poster to promote your street or market stall.
  • Make labels to price the items you are selling at your stall.
  • Make a page of fact boxes. “Did you know?”

Assessment Activity: 

You are a farmer with produce to sell. Develop a marketing plan to sell your produce.

These are just some of the things you need to consider (not in a particular order)

  • Design and advertise your market stall to sell your produce.
  • What materials will you need for your stall (tables etc?)
    • How will you get your produce to the market?
    • Who will run your stall?
    • When is the best time to sell your produce?
    • How will you target your customers with your advertising?
    • Where is the best location for your stall?

The activities described above can be modified to suit the content of any information text being studied by students. This enables teachers to offer their students the opportunity to extend their thinking beyond the limitations of a ‘one size fits all’ text book, to give them the skills to become critical and creative thinkers. Text books often do not take into account the different levels of understanding of students in the classroom, or take into account the cultural difference between the intended students studying the text and the text book authors. Offering students a variety of activities and ways of learning based on a given text will give students the opportunity to engage in the learning process, in their preferred way.


[1] See our discussion on Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), six levels of thinking. Cornish, E. and Jordan, D. W. (2013). ‘Student Self-Assessment: What I Ask myself’. On line at:

[2] See our discussion on Howard Gardner’s (1983) Frames of Mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. Cornish, E. and Jordan, D. W. (2013). ‘Student Self-Assessment: What I Ask myself’. On line at:

  • 2 Responses

    1. Michel Thibeault

      22|Jan|2014 1

      Thanks for this article promoting reading for our ESL learners. I am particularly happy to see the mention that the questions following “The Place to Stay” were at the lower end of Bloom’s taxonomy. There seems to still be a misconception about the types of questions we can ask ESL learners. Because their vocabulary is limited, we often wrongly assume we must stick to factual questions with the answers clearly written in the original text. While it is true that ESL students’ limited vocabulary makes it harder to fully comprehend a text and that getting the facts right is a necessary step, their cognitive abilities are in no way diminished and, nor is the natural desire to connect with and enjoy the text they read. To this end, questions such as “Did you ever stay in hostels?”, “If you could choose, in what kind of hostel building would you like to stay?” or “In your opinion, what are the most important advantages hostels have over regular hotels?” In fact, not only are these kinds of questions important to go beyond the facts, they are often what triggers a student’s desire to fully try to understand the text and all the facts presented. Happy reading!
      Michel Thibeault, M.Ed.
      Head Teacher
      Panyaden School

    2. Jack

      24|Jan|2014 2

      Yes, I agree with Michael. There is a real need to develop critical thinking skills in readers , regardless of level. In fact , I would argue that critical thinking skills should start at pre-reading levels and carry on , well , until the last breath , i.e. word. Having said this, the article is an important one and I continue to enjoy the thoughtful articles of this thought full web site. I would like to make a contribution to this free web site so it continues . Can you let me know how I might make a modest , monetary contribution?
      regards, Jack

    Leave a reply

Greg Cairnduff, M Ed, BA, Dip Ed, MACE, Deputy Managing Editor

16 January 2014

On behalf of all associated with our website , I wish all of our readers and followers a very happy New Year for BE 2557 or 2014 AD. In the Chinese Zodiac this is the Year of the Horse. The spirit of the horse is recognized to be the Chinese people’s ethos – to make unremitting efforts to improve themselves. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. Ancient people liked to designate an able person as ‘Qianli Ma’, a horse that covers a thousand li a day (one li equals 500 meters).

This ethos of unremitting efforts to improve is highly relevant to educators not only in Thailand but universally.

We wish all educators a great year ahead and we wish them great perservence, and resilience in facing the challenge to improve their teaching and learning processes whether in the classroom; in school administration, or leadership of schools and systems.

The start of any new calendar year is of course a time for making “New Year Resolutions” it is the time when we can set personal goals for ourselves and during the year we try to reach these goals.

In my country, Australia, the school year starts quite soon – in most parts of the country, the school year opens at the end of January or in the first week of February. But here in the northern hemisphere, the school year begins during the calendar year, so Thai schools will have been operating on their current school year for some months now. But this should not prevent teachers from making New Year resolutions about the improvements they will try to achieve in the year of 2557.

I challenge all teachers to respond to these simple questions about their own professional growth:

• Do you have a professional growth plan for this year [either for the school year or the calendar year]?
• What targets have you set yourself for improvement in teaching and learning?
• What support are you receiving to achieve the targets you have set yourself?
• If you have a professional growth plan – have you looked at it lately to see what progress you are making with the professional growth targets you set for yourself?
• If you have no plan will you make one?

If you need help with developing a Professional Growth Plan, please contact us at SCLT and we will provide on line assistance for drawing up a plan. It’s not a difficult or time consuming process.

It is very important to the development of the Thai education system that all individual teacher and administrators have such a plan so that all incremental improvements contribute to the improvement of the national education system.
It is a fundamental professional duty of all educators the commit themselves to ongoing professional improvement. Even the Year of the Horse stands for this.
We trust all will have a great year in their particular contribution to the education of young Thais.

This month, two of our regular contributors, Dr Don Jordan and Ms Ellen Cornish provide an excellent article on differentiation of teaching by looking at different ways text books can be used and how one text may be used in many different ways so that different learning styles and stage of learning can be taken into account by the teacher. They
provide examples of how this can be done with text books.

Differentiation of learning is critical in the student centred class room. It is also something many teachers find quite hard to do effectively. I urge classroom teachers to take up some of the plans provided by Don and Ellen.

Warm regards for this New Year

Greg Cairnduff, January 2014
Greg is Director of the Australian International School of Bangkok

By Dr. Peter J. Foley, editor-in-chief


Tomorrow is the King of Thailand’s birthday. It is altogether fitting that this month’s article is a call to honor Thailand’s diversity and institute wide-spread bilingual education throughout the Kingdom. King Bhumbol Adulyadej, Rama IX,  has spent his life promoting and protecting cultural diversity in Thailand, particularly minority rights.  What the King has always understood is that in our sameness we connect and in our differences we grow.  His Majesty has also understood clearly that the road to peace and prosperity starts with the acceptance and respect for one another’s cultures, religions and languages.


In this month’s article the author is a Moslem whose mother tongue is Jawi.  His article is a call for bilingual education for the minorities of Thailand.  The author, Ajan Bandhit, makes the telling point that teaching reading awareness in one’s mother tongue at the early ages of 3 to 5 years old makes a huge difference as to whether a child will learn to read well. This fact has been well demonstrated in educational research over the last decade.  But less explicitly, the author also makes the subtle point that a lack of formal recognition of the language of minorities causes even more damage than we first might realize. Not just that generation after generations in the south is unable to compete academically as well as Thai native speaking children.  Not just that this lack of competitiveness in Thai education limits the role of Muslim youth in the Thai job market and steers thousands to jobs in Malaysia and the Middle East.


No, what I think is implied in Ajan Bandhit’s article but not stated outright is that if we are to see real peace come to the south of Thailand we need to start by honoring the culture, religion and language of the south .We can start with bilingual education in the public schools.

It is the King’s birthday tomorrow.  Can we not honor him by accepting one another’s differences and thus grow.  Will this not result in the peace and prosperity we all want for Thailand?


  • One Response

    1. Jack

      21|Dec|2013 1

      Interesting perspective. Seems when the Southern Border Administration was working ( before Taksin came to power) the south was relatively quiet. So , yes , the more respect is given to the people of the south with regard to their culture and language the better.
      Keep those article coming….J.

    Leave a reply

by Bandhit Samtalee, M.Ed
Former Deputy Dean
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences,  Yala Rajabhat University

The local dialects throughout Thailand are rich and beautiful. It is meaningful and precious to people who use the dialect and share a common language bond with their neighbors and friends. Many dialects and even different languages reflect the richness of Thai diversity. These dialects and languages should be celebrated. Unfortunately, all too often the dialects are made fun of and the different languages are ignored or worse, disparaged.  In my own case, I have seen my mother tongue, Jawi, ignored in the Thai education system despite research that shows that children who are introduced to reading in their mother tongue learn to read better and are better able to make the transition to reading at a young age in the national language.

A survey by OBEC (The Office of Basic Education Commission) on the language of the students, teachers and community from 21 offices located in 9 provinces along the Thai border in 2008 found that students have been using more than 30 different dialects in 940 schools, with the number of 3,72 schools or 25.26 percent of the students in other dialects in their daily lives. In some schools the students use the same dialect where in some schools the students use 4-5 different dialects. Many of these dialects of course are completely different language such as Hmong, Yao, Musar, Jawi, Burmese and Chinese.

Although children and youth along the border and in outlying areas have the opportunity to attend school, most of these children are more familiar with their local dialects/languages. It is the mode of communication in everyday life. More often than not there problems and difficulties in learning with these children who use their own dialect or language rather than the central Thai language.

A surveys conducted by the Ministry of Education in the past have showed that groups of children with low learning achievement compared with the national standard were the children who live along the border of Thailand and did not speak Thai language in daily life. Family education was not high and the main cohort of low achieving students were from poor families. These studies indicate a weakness in the whole Thailand educational system that has existed throughout the 20th century and continue today. By not providing a bilingual approach to early learning, Thailand is losing valuable human resources that it badly needs to be competitive with other ASEAN countries.

I attended a meeting with many persons from different kinds of institution chaired by Professor Dr. Suwilai Premsrirat from the Institute of Language and Culture at Mahidol University. And I was very glad to know that Dr Suwilai was going to run a pilot project called the Bilingual Project for the Southern Border Provinces of Thailand. Therefore, a few years later there was a pilot project on the implementation of the development of language teaching schools along the border of Thailand namely Yala, Pattanee, Naratiwat and Satul, one school in each province., This pilot project brought together learning the local language and Thai language to ensure that the child has the courage to enjoy learning more and to make the transition to first learning to read in his mother tongue and then transition to learning to read central Thai.

Bilingual programs can provide a teaching process that is sensitive to the child’s cultural and linguistic context. There is an opportunity in this approach to honor the child’s mother tongue and culture. In my own context of Yala, we speak Jawi at home and are proud of our Muslim heritage. It will mean a great deal if Thai policy experts recognize the value of honoring our culture and include our language and culture in our children’s public education curriculum.  I am sure the same can be said of the many hill tribe groups located in the north of our country.

Development programs for bilingual schools along the border of Thailand using Bilingual project is a good beginning. It is a different approach from the process used with children who use Thai central language in everyday communication and at home. I believe that children are not able to develop critical thinking skills if not using language that children are familiar at first. It is vitally important to start children learning to read and solve problems first in their mother tongue.

  • One Response

    1. Jack

      17|Dec|2013 1

      This is an important article and a long overdue recognition that respect for and attention to the culture and language of the people of the three southern most provinces of Thailand will go a long way to bringing peace and stability and economic prosperity. Thanks for writing this article. Jack

    Leave a reply

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