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  1. #1
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    Rote Learning in Thai Schools

    This place drives me nuts sometimes. As an English lesson I prepared a simple list of questions in large print. Easy things like where will you go after school today?

    I also put example answers on the whiteboard, and told them over and over, as did the Thai assistant in Thai to think and put their own answers, not just copy my answers, but to THINK.

    One question was; Have you even gone to Malaysia, and the example answers said "yes or no". After getting most papers back in the first class with "yes or no" as their answer, I wrote yes or no in blue and in red "put 1 only do not write yes or no."

    12 year old children who have had 8 years of English and had this explained by a Thai assistant, yep most of the papers came back saying the exact statement above. Some of the girls even wrote the first part in blue and 1 only do not write "yes or no" in red.

    I was also amazed how many Thai children were born in New York in 1958.

    I give up.
    Last edited by BobR; 02-08-2013 at 12:25 PM. Reason: spelling

  2. #2
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    aging one's Avatar
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    In general it does not get much better in university. Until they begin to learn how to think on their own there is not much hope. This is not taught at all. Its also the main reason the wife and I pulled our kids out of the Thai school system. Just in time I might add.

  3. #3
    I am in Jail

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    ^At the uni I was at for 41/2 years, there were clearly two sets of students-- those who wanted to learn English and those who had to take English classes because their departments required them to.

    The larger group, those who had to take the classes, did what is being described as the result of rote learning.

    The smaller group, who were not necessarily smarter or better students in the larger sense, did not.

    So I would suggest that rote learning is not the problem, at least where English study is concerned.

    Which is not to suggest that rote learning is at all a good thing, but that it doesn't create automatons; it just gives unmotivated students an easy way to do things they don't want to do.

  4. #4
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    ^ and ^^ Thanks, I wrote that during lunch and was feeling particularly low and disgusted. Out of 11 classes and 320 students I have about 10 who really try, and (of course) all but one of those are girls.

    Funny, I took the job 6 years ago thinking I could actually make a difference, I've stayed because I'm too young to be retired and sitting home all day.

    They are nice kids, and when I run into the older ones who graduated over the last 6 years they are always friendly and some even say thank you. That makes my whole day.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by aging one View Post
    In general it does not get much better in university. Until they begin to learn how to think on their own there is not much hope. This is not taught at all. Its also the main reason the wife and I pulled our kids out of the Thai school system. Just in time I might add.
    What is truly unfortunate is that the cycle just perpetuates itself, as applied to training/educating the perspective future teachers at every level.

    It would be rare to find an instructor that breaks free from this cookie-cutter sytem of homogeny....promoting a modified free will, critical and challenging thought.

  6. #6
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    BobR's Avatar
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    We have Thai English Teachers, one of which actually does "tutoring" on weekends and charges for it that cannot carry even the most basic conversation. Anything more than "good morning how are you today" gets a blank stare.

    I'd like to talk them into hiring some of the bar girls I know in Ban Chang as assistant English Teachers (only half joking). I know several whose Englsh language and conversational skills far exceed any of our Thai teachers. Apparently some bar girls feel more incentive to learn conversational skills than teachers who are paid to teach them.

    Some of their other skills are not bad either.

  7. #7
    I am in Jail

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    I've met Korean high-school English teachers whose sense of English grammar and structure is superb and who get placed in beginner level classes when they attend ESL schools in Canada.

    They aren't teaching English as a language, a medium of communication, in most Asian public school systems, they are teaching it as a "subject". There is absolutely nothing unique or special about Thai English teachers, insofar as they can't speak the language to save their lives. There are thousands like it all over Asia.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    Easy things like where will you go after school today?
    Easy for who?

    I'm not an English teacher, but it strikes me that if most of your students answered incorrectly that the problem lay not in rote learning, but in understanding what you asked.
    Unless you speak Thai, how do you know what your assistant explained to the kids?
    Maybe, just maybe, the assistant was saving face, or didn't understand the questions either.



    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    One question was; Have you even gone to Malaysia,
    Allowing that you made a typo in this question - "Have you ever gone to Malaysia", - that is quite a concept to get across, and your wording confuses me.
    "Have you ever gone to?" ???
    Explain yourself sir.

  9. #9
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    Luxury!

    In Oman, 18-21 year olds, writing final test; I second marked a set of papers - 23 out of 25 had 100% exactly the same piece of writing, and had all been given full score. I went to see the 'teacher' who 'taught' them and asked him why he was raping the student's education. He said it was a teaching methodology. I told him he was a kunt. I went to the head of centre and explained the situation. She told me it was a teaching methodology. I went to the dean and explained the situation. She said she was disgusted, but can't do anything about it...

    Thailand, luxury...
    How do I post these pictures???

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by withnallstoke View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    Easy things like where will you go after school today?
    Easy for who?

    I'm not an English teacher, but it strikes me that if most of your students answered incorrectly that the problem lay not in rote learning, but in understanding what you asked.
    Unless you speak Thai, how do you know what your assistant explained to the kids?
    Maybe, just maybe, the assistant was saving face, or didn't understand the questions either.



    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    One question was; Have you even gone to Malaysia,
    Allowing that you made a typo in this question - "Have you ever gone to Malaysia", - that is quite a concept to get across, and your wording confuses me.
    "Have you ever gone to?" ???
    Explain yourself sir.
    You got me, I only make typos when I type, not when I write on a white board. I also tend to overly rely on spell check.

    I suppose "Have you ever visited Malaysia" would be a better wording.

    I try to do my best, that's all I can do. I've had this assistant for 2 years, she's capable of undestanding that level of English (I think).
    Cheers

  11. #11
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    I only make typos when I type, not when I write on a white board.
    That'll be wrote learning then.

  12. #12
    ding ding ding
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    Have you ever been to Malaysia?

    Is Bob American?, those chaps tend to use "gone" instead of "been" in the same way they say stuff like "bring me to the station" instead of "take me to the station"

    Anyhoo, learning the finer nuances of the English language requires dedication, thought, and study so no surprise that not many in Thailand are any good at it.
    Originally Posted by Smeg
    ... I like to fantasise sometimes, and I lie very occasionally... my superior home, job, wealth, freedom, car, girl, retirement age, appearance, satisfaction with birth country etc etc... Over the past few years I have put together over 100 pages on notes on thaiophilia...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mao say dung View Post
    I've met Korean high-school English teachers whose sense of English grammar and structure is superb and who get placed in beginner level classes when they attend ESL schools in Canada.

    They aren't teaching English as a language, a medium of communication, in most Asian public school systems, they are teaching it as a "subject". There is absolutely nothing unique or special about Thai English teachers, insofar as they can't speak the language to save their lives. There are thousands like it all over Asia.
    Interesting and thank you, I wasn't using this as a vehicle to insult the Thais. Sadly our languages are so different it's also like learning a new way of thinking.

  14. #14
    I am in Jail

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    ^I didn't think you were, actually.

    I think the difficulty and resistance we experience as teachers can more readily be put down to a lack of interest, plus a certain amount of justified resentment at the neo-colonial imposition of a foreign tongue, although the likelihood of that being conscious is pretty slim for most of our students here.

    (The general tone on the board however is set by people who have all the awareness of the wider world of someone from a little village in the Himalaya circa 1839.)

    Funny how that happens in this age of globalization and mass communications!
    Last edited by mao say dung; 03-08-2013 at 06:50 PM.

  15. #15
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    Itr is unbelievable that even Thai instruction gets nowhere

  16. #16
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    I'm not an English teacher, but writing is a skill frequently used in my subject.

    What kills me is the mistakes that students seem to have universally learned from Thai teachers (and sometimes media) in the past, and that they can't seem to trust me that they've got it slightly wrong.

    ex. 'too much' meaning 'a lot' or 'very much'
    ex. 'serious' always being a negative thing
    ex. "I'm fine, thank you, and you?" being a normal thing to say

    I'm always very gentle, never judging the students on things such as this. But, they never seem to either believe me or adjust.

    ???

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by gaysexbyproxy View Post
    What kills me is the mistakes that students seem to have universally learned from Thai teachers

    ???
    Having been teaching full time out here for over 17 years, it amazes me that every student, regardless of age, pronounces the word 'tired' as 'tried'. This is on a national level rather than regional. It only takes a few mins to correct their pronunciation... What's that all about?

  18. #18
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    I've seen many of the English text books the Thai's use.

    The problem with their lack of English skills is very easy to see.

    They're trying to run before they can even walk.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobR
    One question was; Have you even gone to Malaysia, and the example answers said "yes or no". After getting most papers back in the first class with "yes or no" as their answer, I wrote yes or no in blue and in red "put 1 only do not write yes or no."
    It could be worse. I have had university students who when offered a choice of answers such as "yes" or "no" have answered 'or'

  20. #20
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    ^ It could be worse, indeed. Teaching a junior high class of girls in Tokyo about 20 years ago, I helped them out by telling them to study the questions that I had selected from a book of possibles for their final exam.

    Taught a last class before the exam and asked them if they had done as I had advised. With rote learning in full swing they rattled off the questions and I asked if they new the answers. The room went deathly silent as low lips trembled and eyes filled. They stammered "you told us to study the questions and you didn't say anything about the answers!" You've just got to love 'em

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