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Automatic English For The People

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Thai Innovators

by AJ

Today's Nation(Bangkok Newspaper) carried a front page story called "Star Tutors". The article highlights innovative free agent tutors who are commanding intense loyalty from their students. All of these teachers are Thai nationals.

Yet mediocre western teachers are fond of stating that "innovation", "creativity", and "change" are Western-only values. According to them, it is Conventional Wisdom (read "arrogance") that trying to innovate or improve or individualize in the classroom is an exercise in "Western cultural imperialism". Trying to do these things, they say, is a sign of "insensitivity".

Id say they have it exactly backwards; their attitude smacks of condescension and "western superiority".

In The Nation interviews, several themes emerged. One is a rejection of traditional teaching methods. Another is an intense effort to make subjects (English, Physics, Thai) fun, entertaining, and easily understandable.

No "repeat after me" in these classes.
No boring drudgery.

I want to break from traditional methods of teaching English. My technique consists of the four F's: That's Fun, Firm Foundation, and Friendship. When students have fun, their natural learning process starts as they will remember things by heart, which is more lasting. I also try to create a friendly atmosphere so there can be deep interaction. -- Ajarn Arisara


Fun. Friendship. Two of her three key elements address NON-LINGUISTIC factors... ie. emotional/social factors. Aj. Arisara recognizes the primacy of the student's emotional experience. Without "fun" and "friendship"... there is no "firm foundation".

I've said it before and will keep beating this tired drum... EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE should be the first consideration of any lesson plan. Before goddam "language points". Before "learning objectives". Before "class management" issues. Before everything else.

We should be planning for euphoria. We should be designing for fun. We should be actively aiming for enthusiasm and wild confidence. Without these, all other considerations go straight to the graveyard called "boredom".

I need to be innovative and creative at all times. As for Physics, its about turning the intangible into something relatively easy to understand and remember. -- Ajarn Pisit


This is Physics! Hardest of the hard sciences. Yet here we have a Thai Physics teacher saying the exact same thing: "innovative and creative at all times"... "make the intangible easy to understand".

This isnt just a language education issue. Traditional education is dead dead dead. In all subjects. The explosion in language schools, cram schools, home schooling, and various private schools is no accident. The overall trend is a response to the utter failure of traditional education. Sure, many of these schools are rotten too. But a few are doing remarkable things.

The failure of factory schools has many symptoms. But from the students' perspective it tends to come in the form of boredom (coupled with its twin, irrelevance). Lots of students are simply sick of being bored. They are sick of drudgery. They are sick of monotony. They are sick of suffering through the painful process called "education". They are sick of teachers who lack energy and creativity. They are sick of stock textbooks.

So they are seeking alternatives.

This is good news for teachers. For this is just the beginning. We no longer need be bound to bloated bureaucratic plantations. OUR options are also increasing.... freeing us to pursue more interesting approaches:

"innovation and creativity at all times".....

"fun, friendship, and firm foundations".....

"euphoria"......

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