For more than 50 years, young students, university hopefuls, and aspiring professionals have been getting the training they need in English language skills from the qualified teachers at the English Click campus in Bangkok.The school was found in 1957 by the pioneer English teacher,Mr.Karess Kukreja who was one of the first English teacher in the country that adopted the communicative techniques to teach Thai to speak English. In the past few years, Patrachit Chotikapanich, daughter of Mr. Karess and the present school managing director and John Hemming who joined English Click in 2005 as the director of studies have expanded the course offerings and services to include an online English test and specialized vocabulary training for people in fields like medicine and business, while still providing comprehensive English language classes for people in Thailand. We talked to Patrachit and John about the history of the school, and their plans for the future.
1.) Given English Click’s long and successful history in Bangkok, it’s obvious that there continues to be a great deal of interest in Thailand in learning English. What percentage of the population speaks English as a second language today?
PC: The highest estimate is that 27% of Thais can speak English, though some other sources state that the percentage is 10%. The difference in these two figures is no doubt attributable to the researcher’s criteria of linguistic ability that qualifies a person to be an English speaker.
Although English is a compulsory subject in primary and secondary schools in Thailand, only a relatively low percentage of school leavers are able to converse in the language at an advanced level because the traditional method of teaching English is grammar oriented. Students who attend an international school where all subjects apart from Thai language are taught in English language have the best chance of achieving a high level of English proficiency, followed by those going to ‘English Programme’ or bilingual schools where mathematics and science are taught in English.
2.)It’s always easier to learn a new language at a young age. Do you work with primary and elementary schools in Thailand to improve their English classes, or do you find that most English language training for children happens in private schools or with outside tutoring?
PC: We do not have any formal arrangements with individual primary and elementary schools in either the public or private sector with respect to English teaching. We do however provide English tuition to primary and elementary school students at our language school as additional instruction to their school programme. As mentioned above, English is a compulsory subject for all Thai schools starting at the primary and elementary level, with students attending international and ‘English Programme’ being exposed to more hours per week of instruction in English.
As an important component in the delivery of English lessons in schools, we have conducted a training programme for Thai teachers of English in one province under the auspices of the Office of Private Education Commission within the Ministry of Education, and our aim is to continue to provide teacher training on a wider scale.
At the secondary level, English Click was the project manager to start up, establish and maintain the British curriculum International Programme of Srinakharinwirot University Prasarnmit Demonstartion School (Secondary) that began operations in 2010.
3.)In today’s global economy, being able to speak English is a huge help to anyone in a professional field, and especially if they want to work for a multinational corporation or find a new job overseas. How do you approach teaching English to adults who don’t have a good background in the language from their school years?
JH: Our starting point is that we will provide English language training that is going to be of the highest benefit to the particular student in his / her professional context. As a general rule, we ensure that the student reaches an upper elementary / pre-intermediate level of English proficiency before embarking on a more specialised business English or profession-based (for example engineering, computer industry, medical) training. To achieve the optimum amount of student improvement in English language skills, we carefully select the teacher who as expert knowledge in the particular work field of the student and use the appropriate course book as the basis for the training programme.
4.)What do your Multimedia English Language Courses involve?
JH: We can assist people, who wish to improve their English conversational skills, by supplying a series of internationally renowned and proven video CDs – “Dynamic English”. The CDs present everyday conversations spoken by native English speakers which the student can listen to and practise speaking in the comfort and convenience of their own home or workplace and at a time that is convenient for him or her. The programme is available in three levels with topics including greetings, numbers and time, weather, things to eat and drink, meeting a friend and travel.
The learner has four options of studying with “Dynamic English”:
1. Self-study with the CDs only – at home or place of work.
2. Self-study plus additional audio contact with an English Click teacher, for example through Skype, who will provide further tuition on the programme.
3. Self-study plus additional face-to-face contact with an English Click teacher – either in an English Click classroom or at the student’s own premises.
4. Study an English Click course using a course book, either privately or in a small group and either at English Click or at the student’s own premises, and supplement the course with “Dynamic English” for additional self-study and practice purposes.
Whichever of the above options is selected, “Dynamic English” will provide a very effective way of improving the conversational abilities of the person seeking to communicate well in English.
5.)When the school started in 1957, there weren’t computers and online resources available to students. How have you incorporated technology into the classroom, and what would you like to develop in the way of new course offerings in the years to come?
It is now standard practice for our teachers to use a computer in the classroom as an interactive means to enhance the instruction provided by the course book and the teacher him / herself. Examples of computer usage include PowerPoint presentations, extracts from web pages and video material.
English Click currently offers a comprehensive and very wide range of courses with the traditional face-to-face with the teacher in the classroom being the method of delivery being used. With the availability of modern technology, we believe that some of our future expansion lies in also teaching via online contact, for example Skype, with the student