Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


by AJ

There was a great letter in The Nation today from Stephen Krashen and several other language teachers..... a response to the "crisis" of English education in Thailand.

Krashen and company suggested that the Thai Education Ministry should promote pleasure reading by stocking school and classroom libraries with plenty of interesting English books.... such as Goosebumps, Sweet Valley Kids, Dr. Suess, Harry Potter, etc. They also suggested using class time for silent free reading.

This is an excellent suggestion, of course. And it got me thinking about textbooks. Is there any reason to use them? They are boring and artificial. For decades they have been the cornerstone of TESOL education in Japan and Thailand... and for decades both countries have displayed dismal results. Thai students study (ie analyze) English for up to 12 years.... but many cannot communicate even after this incredibly lengthy time.

Somethings wrong. And that something starts with textbooks.

I often joke with my Freshman class that at the end of the semester we will have a textbook barbecue and burn the horrific books we've been required to use. In fact, Im only half-joking and might actually do it (I love to flirt with being fired).

But why not do this on a national scale? Thailand could have a textbook-barbecue day in which students across the country simultaneously burn their Oxford/Longman books and then dance around the fire.

What would we use to replace them? As an example, here's my list of "texts" for my BAS Thammasat class (college level):

Required texts: Harry Potter books I and II, The Bangkok Post (English language newspaper), articles I bring to class.

Supplementary "texts": Sources for required project (interviews, books, articles, web-based info, movies,...), pleasure reading books.

No textbooks. No "exercises". No drills. No "repeat after me". No obtuse dialogues.