Awards 2002 The British Council Award for the Effective Transfer of English Language Skills

The British Council Award for the Effective Transfer of English Language Skills

This award is given to a not-for-profit organisation for its contribution to sustainable development through the effective transfer of English language skills and knowledge.

The Winner: Thailand TESOL

Receiving the award

"It works for my students," writes Phasuk Boontham, a Thai teacher of English, about what she learned on a short course in Australia. "Their satisfaction is my success." She went to Australia on a scholarship from Thailand TESOL, a Thai teachers' association that has improved the teaching of English, despite the large classes which teachers teach. Phasuk says normal classes in her department are 45 and over, and some are 80-100 strong.

Matthana Yaemsai, who went to Britain, writes: "I learned new things. I met new friends. I never thought that a teacher from a rural area where people think mostly of poverty and drought would have an opportunity like others in a big school. I try to pass on what I have learned to my students and always encourage them to learn new things. It is not easy to be a good teacher. Thailand TESOL has offered me new ideas about class teaching."

One of Thailand's strengths is that it has a national language used by all Thais. But in the past this meant it had few English speakers, with few opportunities to speak English. Teachers concentrated on reading and translating rather than on using the language. But the need to use English and learn from English texts has grown, with the internet and with international business links. English plays a key role in Thai university entrance.

"English is the cutting edge in all fields," writes Dr Suchada Nimmannit, president of Thailand TESOL. This was formed in 1980 as a Thai affiliate of the Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, after teachers at Chulalongkorn University met a visiting American expert, Dr George Bozzini, and Mrs Julia Burks of the American University Alumni Language Center in Bangkok. Since then, ThaiTESOL has helped 25,000 teachers to teach English in a more practical and communicative way. Over 1,000 people attended its conference in January 2002.

In Thailand, most language teachers are women. ThaiTESOL is administered by an unpaid committee of 25, most of them women. It charges members subscriptions of about 5 a year. It runs workshops, conferences, a newsletter, a research bulletin. It provides programmes for DLTV, Thailand's Distance Education Via Satellite channel. DLTV, available to 3,000 schools, aims to give pupils in remote areas the same opportunities as those in Bangkok. With the same aim, teachers outside Bangkok have formed ThaiTESOL groups that run local workshops.

ThaiTESOL helps teachers in other countries. It helped Sri Lankan English teachers set up an association in 1999. In Laos, it helped organise the first training workshop, which led to the forming of LaoTESOL. Vietnam, visited frequently by Dr Suchada Nimmannit, now has a teachers' association with 30 members.

ThaiTESOL's annual conferences help, too. Suchada Nimmannit says: "We bring in specialists from all over the world so that Thai and Asian scholars can have an opportunity to attend an international conference without going overseas, thus saving currency."

All Thai schools are to have computers from 2003. To take advantage of this, ThaiTESOL plans to use the 1,000 prize associated with its Worldaware award to set up a professional development programme. It will train 40 English teachers to make use of the world wide web, including new material from the British Council. The 40 will train other teachers who will teach others, so that the training cascades through Thailand's schools.

The judges say

Thailand TESOL is right at the sharp end of the English language training market, providing a valuable service of professional development in the region. It has developed organically into a well-established and respected institution, and its intelligent use of networking and other means to spread its impact really singles it out. This multiplier effect is the key to its success, and its expansion into neighbouring countries testifies to the robustness of the model. We particularly commend Thailand TESOL for achieving all this with very limited resources through its excellent volunteer/subscription model - a lesson for many. Its further expansion plans are exciting, and we have no doubt they will create further opportunity for many in South-East Asia.

Thailand TESOL, c/o Chulalongkorn University Language Institute, Bangkok 10330, Thailand;
Tel: +66 02 218 6100 and (also fax) 6027