My Worthwhile Experiences
At PAC@Thailand TESOL 35th International Conference
By Ms. Uraiwan Sritiwong
During 29-31 January, 2015, I got a very good chance to participate in PAC@Thailand TESOL 35th International Conference on “English Language Education in Asia: Reflections and Directions” at the Ambassador Hotel Bangkok. It’s my first time to join the International conference on the theme concerning my duties, teaching English. I felt very exciting and eager to learn about the proper ways of teaching English in the 21st century, new or practical ways of teaching English as the foreign language and sharing ideas and experiences about teaching English with friends from different places. That’s what I hoped, and I had my hopes fulfilled.
The first day of the conference was very worthwhile. The keynote of the conference was Mr. Subin Pitsuwan, the former Secretary of ASEAN who are very good at English. He shared his great experiences about using English as the key to open the door to the best quality of education and success. I really agreed with him. As we know that English has played the important role in education, commerce, traveling, and so on. If we are good at English, we can learn, express ideas, negotiate about trade, or share our cultures to the world more than the others. These lead us to the success of life. Besides, the former Secretary of ASEAN said he used English as the tools to connect people. This is another point I agreed with him. Because of English is the working language of ASEAN, Its role is the lingua-funca, the language that people in different countries use to communicate with one another. It means English is not only used by the leaders in the meeting room or by the businessman to negotiate about trade, but it also means the people in ASEAN have to use it to communicate about the way of life, culture, education, travelling, employment, needs and wants. So the ones who are good at English, they will get more advantages to learn from the other people.
The important role of English was supported by the first plenary speaker of the day, Mr. Duncan Willson, Director EES. He said the importance of English is undeniable. With social networking, education, commerce and travel are becoming international. English is as the world’s lingua-funca which can connect people in the world. So we can say that English is very powerful in the world today. It makes the world smaller; we can communicate with people all around the world to learn and to share. It can be the tool to make peace, success and wealth. It can be the key to open the door to the good quality of Education and good quality of life. One crucial question is “How can we teach our students to use English effectively to develop themselves, their family, and their society?”
Dr. Surin Pitsuwan reflected the traditional way Thai teachers have taught English to the students. He said we still teach English for no reason or for nothing. We still focus on language, vocabularies and grammar. This causes our students cannot integrate their English knowledge with the knowledge of the world. I agree with him that the traditional way of teaching English in Thailand is not practical for the world today, but many things have changed. A lot of Thai teachers teaching English to their students through the effective ways to promote their students’ learning English. A lot of Thai students can use English fluently and correctly. A lot of Thai students can be successful in the world’ competition. But it is undeniable that there are many, many Thai students are very poor at English. I think this is because we have not enough teachers who graduated from English major, especially in the rural area.
However, I accept Dr. Surin’s ideas about teaching English more than English. It means we have to integrate English knowledge with the other issues the have faced in together in the real world such as natural, cultural, economic, politic, academic issues. We have to integrate English skills with other skills such as working skills, thinking skills, life skills, and so on. We have to change the activities in English classroom to the be the activities that have relevance to real life. Another crucial question is “What strategy is practical and effective to implement to English classroom in Thailand?”
As we know that there’s no strategy is the best, but there are many good strategies. I’m appreciated Dr. Jayakaran Mukundan another plenary speaker from the faculty of Educational Studies, UPM. He presented the strategy to teach English through project work integrated ICT. The students were to work together or alone to produce something. English and ICT were as the tools to create their works, for examples, VDO, cartoon, booklet and brochure. That’s very interesting way because the students learned English by working that had relevance to their life. They knew the purposes of using English. That made learning English was meaningful to them.
This idea was supported by Prof. Michael McCarthy, another plenary speaker who’s well-known writer. He said the kind of English used outside the classroom should be brought into the classroom. That makes me think about the communication way of the people in 21st century. People speak via technology device like smart phone. . They listen, read and write a lot through social networks, viz., Face book, Line, YouTube, etc. They access a lot of learning resources via internet. So why don’t we apply these ways of communication in English classroom. Let’s our students create their English learning products with web 2.0.,the free program provided on internet.
Some featured speakers presented very interesting and practical way of teaching English. For examples, Prof. Dr. Ma. Milagros C. Laurel from department of English and Comparative Liturature, U. of the Philippines. She said her teaching vocabularies was innovative techniques. Though it seemed very simple and familiar, it’s fun. It could involve the students with the activities. The material she used to present the vocabularies all from things around us. That let me think good material is not expensive one. Every thing around us can be good teaching aids. It depends on the teacher to use it properly and effectively.
Besides, Dr. Seok Hoon Quah from Vietnam showed the very fun activities in English classroom of the primary level. It’s teaching English through making art work. Students were convince to make paper craft from the instruction written or given orally in English. After that they had to decorate the art work and put some English words or sentences on it to show the story related to their life. That technique seemed very practical. It can be applied to teach the students in the higher level. As I have done in my classroom. To reach the learning standard about giving and following instructions, I let them do “Origami” Project. They have to search for some Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures. And then make their work by following the instructions. After they finish their project, they are to present it to friends in the classroom and let their friend make it, too.
What I have mentioned above are only some examples of my learning from participating the conference. I have learned a lot of good strategies from a lot of experts in teaching English. I have shared my ideas and experiences of teaching English related what I have learned from the speakers with my friends. Those can inspire me to develop my teaching English to the more effective way. Thank the kind sponsor, RELO US Embassy, gave me the very good chance to gain knowledge of teaching English, to blush up my English, and to have inspiration to develop my students’ English in the proper and practical ways.