How a small rural school tackles key education challenges
Today is not an ordinary day for pupils at Subdangsumpai School in Khon Kaen province. They have some special visitors, from educational channel ALTV, who arrived with fun learning activities.
Jidapa Ittisarn, a year 5 student, said that she enjoyed playing English pronunciation games. Unlike most students at this school, who prefer PE classes, English is Jidapa’s favorite subject. She has a very positive attitude towards the English language. The girl thinks English is fun and not too difficult. Learning resources at this school are, however, very limited. So, they rely heavily on Distance Learning Television (DLTV).
Panita Budkhod, a year 4 to 6 English teacher, says that most of her pupils need to improve their speaking skills. They lack confidence in speaking a second language. The teacher solved the problem by using English lessons on DLTV as teaching aid. She encouraged pupils to repeat what they heard on the telly.
“Distance learning is quite convenient for us. If pupils are unable to catch a word, I can pause the clip and teach them. After ensuring that they truly understand it, we continue the lesson”, said Panita. “The limitation, however, is that we have only three TVs for years 2, 5 and 6 classrooms and they are too small. Children in the back row can hardly see the screen. We lack budget to buy bigger screen TVs”, she added.
“I have high hopes that my students become more confident and able to communicate in English”, said the English teacher at Subdangsumpai School.
According to the Office of Basic Education Commission, more than 1,000 small rural schools have merged, due to the Ministry of Education’s policy to improve the quality of education, save human resources and reduce management costs. This means they can invest more in infrastructure, adjusting the school environment and equipping them with the necessary technology.
Subdangsumpai School, a small school in a remote area of Thailand’s northeastern region, has survived the mergers, since it is located in an isolated area. Additionally, the students’ test scores are higher than the national average. There are only 10 teachers for 115 students and the school has just one classroom for kindergarten to year 3 and one teacher responsible for all subjects. This has been a long-standing dilemma for all primary school teachers under the Ministry of Education.
In the past, a headmaster of Subdangsumpai School requested a native English speaker to teach at this school, but the request was rejected because foreign teachers will only teach at large secondary schools or ‘hub’ schools in downtown areas.
Distance learning is, perhaps, the best solution to help small rural schools tackle the challenges of insufficient learning resources and inadequately trained teachers.
Active learning TV
In July this year, Thai PBS launched its education channel, Active Learning TV, or ALTV, to provide educational content in various fields on multiple platforms, with the purpose of encouraging learning and knowledge-sharing among kids, teachers and parents. It can be watched on TV, the website and social media, including YouTube and Facebook.
“The great thing about the internet is that students can study anywhere and anytime. They should make the most out of it”, said Roseanna Marshman, a presenter of “News Beeps by Thai PBS World”, an English learning programme on ALTV.
Roseanna has taught English in Thailand for seven year. In her opinion, pronunciation is the weakest point for Thai students, as they don’t get much practice speaking it out loud, so they cannot speak or pronounce English correctly. This is the reason why she focuses more on practicing pronunciation.
When asked what the most effective method is for learning English, she replied “a bit of everything! Speaking, listening, reading, writing, grammar and vocabulary, all mixed together. Most importantly, however, is that students enjoy learning it”.
By Jeerapa Suvanvitit