NUS and Temasek Foundation Partner Thailand’s Ministry of Education to Boost English Language Learning in Thai Universities

Newswise — Bangkok, Thailand, 4 January 2013 - The Centre for English Language Communication (CELC) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Temasek Foundation today announced the launch of a programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Thailand, to develop, trial and implement methodologies, strategies and activities that will further enhance the English language competency of university students. The programme is made possible through a grant of over S$400,000 by the Temasek Foundation to CELC.

The programme was officially launched today in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by Associate Professor Wu Siew Mei, Director of CELC, and Associate Professor Preang Kitraporn, Chairman of the Meetings of Rajabhat University Presidents. The signing of the MoU was witnessed by Thailand’s Vice Minister of Education Ms Chaweewan Klangsand, Singapore’s Ambassador to Thailand Mrs Chua Siew San, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Foundation Mr Benedict Cheong, and NUS Vice Provost (Student Life) Professor Tan Tai Yong.

H.E. Phongthep Thepkanjana, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, said, “Investing in our teachers is the key to reversing the high rate of secondary drop out and poor performance in key subject areas. I thank our partners for many professional development initiatives for teachers (through Rajabhat Universities) to help address the issue of student learning and school performance. We need to build human capital needed to drive economies and ensure sustainable growth under the ASEAN Community.”

In line with its strategic goal to increase the competency of Thai students in English for economic and communication purposes, the Ministry of Education of Thailand has appointed a cluster of 25 Rajabhat Universities to partner CELC and Temasek Foundation on the programme. The Rajabhat Universities are one of the university systems in Thailand, which traditionally focused on teacher education. In recent years, this focus has expanded to include a comprehensive range of disciplines. With this broadening of scope to provide opportunities for tertiary education to more students, the learning of English and the competency to communicate in English have become increasingly important for students as they graduate and enter the workplace. The key thrust of this 18-month programme is therefore to work with lecturers of Rajabhat Universities to enhance their knowledge and skills to facilitate a revamp or development of methodologies, strategies and activities in order to better enhance the teaching and learning of English in a foreign language environment, in particular, in the Thai context.

The programme which runs from January 2013 to June 2014 will involve a series of workshops, consultation sessions between lecturers of 25 Rajabhat Universities and CELC, as well as the piloting of strategies and activities at respective universities. Upon the completion of the programme, the lecturers will have a collection of effective motivational strategies, activities and materials that have been piloted and revised in the Rajabhat Universities context, which will be shared with the wider English language teaching community in Thailand.

Mrs Chua Siew San, Singapore's Ambassador to Thailand, said, "I am happy to see this mutually beneficial initiative. The project will not only help to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from CELC to Thai lecturers and students, but also help CELC to gain new insights and make new friends. Such collaborations strengthen the people to people linkages between Singapore and Thailand, as we continue to work towards our common vision of an ASEAN Community."

Mr Benedict Cheong, Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Foundation, said, “Over the past three years, Temasek Foundation had worked with the Ministry of Education in Thailand to enhance capabilities of master teachers and supervisors of English language from Thai primary and secondary schools. To complement our earlier efforts, we are supporting the ministry’s efforts to build capabilities and capacities in teaching methods of English for business communications at the tertiary-level, to assist university students in learning English as a second language. Through this programme, the participants will be able to develop a training framework and training materials which they will subsequently share with their peers and colleagues.”

Professor Tan Tai Yong, NUS Vice Provost (Student Life), commented, “NUS is pleased that with the support from Temasek Foundation, CELC is launching yet another meaningful programme, this time collaborating with the Rajabhat Universities and the Ministry of Education of Thailand to boost university students’ interest in the learning of the English language. I am confident that the collaboration with the 25 Rajabhat Universities across Thailand will be another platform for all the participating partners to share the best practices in motivating students to learn English and communication skills. More importantly, I hope for a cascading effect where participants involved in the programme will be able to share what they have learned with other colleagues either within the same or beyond the institution.”

Since 2009, CELC has worked with universities in the Southeast Asian region in addressing critical and relevant questions about the learning and teaching of English in this region. Together with partner universities and institutions such as the University of Philippines, Visayas and Los Banos, Vietnam National University, University of Cantho, Satya Wacana University, and Politeknik Negeri Jember, CELC has successfully led in various initiatives to effect revisions and concrete changes in curriculum and materials as well as the way in which English language lecturers engage with their students. Last year, with support from Temasek Foundation, CELC initiated a programme to review and enhance teaching methodologies for English academic writing in teacher training colleges in the Lao People's Democratic Republic.