11 July 2024

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has ordered the Education Ministry to come up with measures rapidly, to improve English proficiency among Thai people, students in particular, after Thailand’s very poor ranking on the global Education First (EF) English Proficiency Index 2023.

Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said the order was made during a weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

EF ranks 113 countries, where English is not the first language, based on scores in 2.2 million Education First Standardised English Tests taken in 2022. At the top of the list is the Netherlands, with an average score of 647 out of 800, followed by Singapore (631), while Denmark, scoring 615, and Norway, with 614, swapped places at fourth and fifth place.

Thailand is ranked 101st, which places the country below seven other ASEAN countries, namely Singapore, the Philippines (578 – 20th), Malaysia (568 – 25th), Vietnam (505 – 58th), Indonesia (473 – 79th), Myanmar (450 – 90th) and Cambodia in 98th place with 421. Laos and Brunei were excluded from the listing. The average score is 502.

Thailand’s score puts it in the category of “very low English proficiency” countries. It was also noted that Thailand’s average score has not improved since the index was introduced in 2011, except in 2017, when the score increased slightly.

Of the 77 provinces in Thailand, only three stand out, with Chiang Mai having a score of 464, followed by Bangkok (457) and Phuket (456). They are still, however, below the global average.

Move Forward party-list MP Parit Wacharasindhu, meanwhile, has proposed measures to improve English proficiency among Thais, which include a redesign of the English curriculum, new English teaching methods, which emphasise English communication rather than grammar, upgrading the standard of English among teachers, redistribution of funding to schools in the provinces, promoting English language learning after school hours and more exchange programs for teachers to learn English in English-speaking countries.