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Do rural communities in Thailand really need English?. Wilaksana Srimavin Ursula Wall Jonathan C. Hull. Abstract:. Do rural communities in Thailand really need English?.

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do rural communities in thailand really need english
Do rural communities in Thailand really need English?

Wilaksana Srimavin

Ursula Wall

Jonathan C.Hull

©2007 WilaksanaSrimavin, Ursula Wall and Jonathan C. Hull

slide2
Abstract:

Do rural communities in Thailand really need English?

Although English is widely perceived as an international language, and therefore of considerable utility, many teachers and students in rural communities in Thailand do not see its relevance to their lives. In this semi-structured interview study, people from diverse backgrounds (e.g. teachers, pupils, monks, farmers) were asked about their perceptions of the role/s of English in their locality. While there was a general feeling that English is useful for talking to visiting foreigners, only a minority saw its usefulness for any other purposes (e.g. reading product labels, surfing the internet). Implications for language teachers and curriculum planners are discussed.

what we will talk about
What we will talk about:
  • Rationale
  • Philosophical/Methodological issues
  • Our research
  • Conclusions/Recommendations
background
Background:

(Thongsri, Charumanee, & Chatupote, 2006, 79)

“In the current curriculum, teachers are encouraged to design English courses related to community to reflect local traditions and cultural norms and values (MoE, 2001). This means that the curriculum also aims to include the community as a part of language teaching and learning.”

rationale
Rationale:

Our larger project is to look at ways of helping teachers to include “community” in their ELT.

This part was aimed at assessing the English language “needs” of one rural Thai community.

because
Because:

If a community:

is NEGATIVE about English

or

thinks English is IRRELEVANT,

teaching is much more DIFFICULT.

defining needs
Defining ‘needs’:

Four dimensions of social need:

  • ‘normative need’ –‘observed needs’;defined by the expectations of the ‘experts’
  • ‘comparative need’ - assumed by generalizing from other groups
  • ‘expressed need’ – inferred from usage, uptake of offered services
  • ‘felt need’ - whatpeople say they need

(Bradshaw, 1972)

slide8
Our philosophical stance:
  • Community development model, i.e., seeking to strengthen communities’ (and individuals’) abilities to identify issues and to address them.
  • (Hawe, Degeling, & Hall, 1990)
  • Belief in “informed action”, i.e., balancing grass-roots movements and current research directions to enhance education and community building.
  • (Freire, 1972)
  • Qualitative case-study approach, taking a dynamic, holistic view of the context - a naturalistic, discovery oriented inquiry rather than an experimental design.
  • (e.g. Patton, 2002)
methodological issues
Methodological issues:

Semi-structured interviews:

 a negotiated process of finding respondents: a ‘purposeful sampling’ of key informants

 issues of access and representativeness

 “open-ended questions in places and under conditions that are comfortable…”

 personal engagement essential: “empathic neutrality and mindfulness” (Patton, 2002)

 issues of language and culture

 ethical issues of confidentiality, ‘power’ and informed consent (Piper, & Simons, 2005)

research aims
Research aims:
  • to establish ways of connecting with remote communities,
  • to find out why some remote communities may be resistant to participation, and
  • to conduct a community needs analysis in order to identify a community-appropriate niche for English language improvement.
research procedure
Research procedure:

Selecting a case:

  • Suitability - we wanted a rural community which might normally have limited opportunity to use English.
  • Pragmatics – needed a community that we could get to, and where at least one or two people were willing to liaise with us.

“Although each case is in some respects unique, it is also a single example of a broader class of things.”

(Denscombe, 2003: 36)

the case
The ‘case’:

Three inter-connected amphoe in a rural and relatively isolated part of Thailand.

Strong agricultural and horticultural focus, plus two National Parks. Strong cultural traditions.

Some international tourism, but English is spoken minimally.

Five matthayom schools (less than 3000 students in total). All the teachers are Thai and there is no native-speaker support for the teaching of English.

slide13
Research procedure:
  • Decide on data collection tools:
  • Interviews v.s. Surveys v.s. Focus Groups
  • Structured v.s. unstructured formats
  • To tape or not?
  • Issues of informed consent and ‘power’
slide14
Research procedure:

‘Record’ samples of where and how English is already used.

slide15
Semi-structured interviews:

Three principle areas:

  • community/group membership/s
  • current issues and problems, and the current place of English in the community; and
  • the future - and how English might help...
eleven core interview prompts
Eleven core interview prompts:
  • Please tell us about your family and your work.
  • How long have you lived here?
  • What are some good points about living here?
  • What are some less good points?
  • Do you belong to any local clubs?
  • Is English currently important in the community? (How?)
  • Do you use English at work? (How?)
  • If your English were better, how might it change your life?
  • How could English change the community?
  • How do you think the community will change in the next ten years?
  • How do you think role of English might change in the next ten years?
  • Plus any follow-up or extension questions as appropriate.
some findings from interviews
Some findings from interviews:
  • Is English currently important in the community? (How?) (Prompt 6)
  • How might English change your community and/or your own life? (Prompts 8 & 9)
  • How do you think the role of English might change your community and your own life in the next ten years? (Prompt 11)
how is english important now
How is English important now?

Groups

  • Incoming information
  • Exchanging information
  • Outgoing information
how is english important now1
How is English important now?

Incoming information

  • To read labels on products

Exchanging information

  • To use in education
  • To use for work (trade, tourism)
  • To talk to foreigners
how is english important now2
How is English important now?

Outgoing information

  • To attract visitors
  • To use as young guides (wats, homestay)
  • To explain local culture

Also:

English has no significant role in the area

English has a role beyond the community

how might better english change your community and or your life
How might better English change your community and/or your life?

Groups

  • Incoming information
  • Exchanging information
  • Outgoing information
  • Professional & personal development
how might better english change your community and or your life1
How might better English change your community and/or your life?

Incoming information

  • Reading (labels, travel info, lit., internet)
  • Accessing info on internet - can develop professional skills
  • Influx of foreigners
how might better english change your community and or your life2
How might better English change your community and/or your life?

Exchanging information

  • Using English in daily life / at work
  • Using technical terms
  • Communicating with international organizations
  • Communicating with foreigners
how might better english change your community and or your life3
How might better English change your community and/or your life?

Outgoing information (1)

  • Teaching Buddhism
  • Enabling Ts to use English more
  • Helping tourists
  • Explaining local traditions
  • Providing info about the area on the internet & community radio
how might better english change your community and or your life4
How might better English change your community and/or your life?

Outgoing information (2)

  • Presenting artwork to tourists
  • Selling a wider range of products to tourists
  • Advertising local products abroad
  • Enabling local people to expand their businesses abroad
how might better english change your community and or your life5
How might better English change your community and/or your life?

Professional & personal development

  • Changing careers
  • Feeling more confident as a T (better skills)
  • Pursuing higher education
  • Going abroad
  • Enabling farmers to help themselves
  • Boosting the travel business
  • Raising local people’s awareness (Nat. Parks)
slide27
How might English change in the community in ten years?
  • Groups
  • Education/Young people
  • Community & professional development
  • Role/Status of English & Thai in the community
slide28
How might English change in the community in ten years?
  • Education/Young people
  • English will be at the centre of education & important for young people
  • Curriculum will include local culture & travel industry (e.g. homestay)
  • All/Most students will learn English to a higher level and be able to talk to foreigners
  • More opportunities (e.g. scholarships)
  • Children will run family businesses
slide29
How might English change in the community in ten years?
  • Community & professional development
  • English users will be able to help develop the community and go abroad
  • English will be used:
  • - to help solve community problems
  • - to develop agriculture
  • - to sell products (face-to-face, internet)
  • - to apply for jobs
  • People will earn more money
slide30
How might English change in the community in ten years?
  • Role/Status of English & Thai
  • English will be used more
  • All/Many will be able to speak English
  • More exchange of info beyond the community
  • More info in English will be translated into Thai
slide31
Language teachers & curriculum designers need to:
  • Localize & personalize published materials
  • Create local materials (Tomlinson & Masuhara, 2004)
  • Choose topics relevant to the local culture, community & context
  • Conduct community projects (e.g. creating an ‘English corner’ at the local library or producing info about national parks)
slide32
Language teachers & curriculum designers need to:
  • Use ‘realia’ (local produce, products, etc.) & authentic materials from the print & electronic media (product labels, warnings, posters, brochures, magazines, videos, internet, etc.)
  • Trial & evaluate materials
  • Create a bank of local materials
slide33
Conclusions
  • Rural communities in Thailand increasingly need English.
  • In many sectors of the community awareness of the possible utility of English is low.
  • The role of English as a tool for information exchange needs to be highlighted.
  • Designing & utilizing materials that reflect the actual needs of the community is crucial.
references
References:

Bradshaw, J. (1972). The concept of social need. New Society 30 March, 640-643.

Denscombe, M. (2003). The good research guide for small-scale social research projects (2nd ed.). Maidenhead, PA: Open University Press.

Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Goldbart, J., & Hustler, D. (2005). Ethnography. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Research methods in the social sciences (pp. 16-23). London: Sage Publications.

Hawe, P., Degeling, D., & Hall, J. (1990). Evaluating health promotion: A health worker’s guide. Sydney, NSW: Maclennan & Petty.

Office of the National Education Commission (ONEC). (1999) The National Education Act of B.E. 2542 (1999). Bangkok, TH: Seven Printing Group.

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd. ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Piper, H., & Simons, H. (2005). Ethical responsibilities in social research. In B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Research methods in the social sciences (pp. 56-63).London, UK: Sage Publications.

Thongsri, M., Charumanee, & Chatupote, M. (2006). The implementation of 2001 English language curriculum in government schools in Songkhla. ThaiTESO Bulletin, 19(1), 60-94.

Tomlinson, B & Masuhara, H. (2004) Developing Language Course Materials. Portfolio Series #11ใ Singapore: Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Regional Language Centre (RELC)

slide35
Contact us:

Wilaksana Srimavin: [email protected]

Ursula Wall: [email protected]

Jonathan Hull: [email protected]

Department of Language Studies,

School of Liberal Arts,

King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT),

126 Prach-Utid Road, Bangmod, Toong-Kru,

Bangkok, 10140, THAILAND

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