Thailand’s Education Ministry has decreed 2012 as English Speaking Year in all schools.
The project requires students to speak the language at least one day a week, to prepare the kingdom for ASEAN integration in 2015.
Thai students study English from their very first day of school.
But internationally, Thai students came 116th out of 163 countries on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test.
Many enter the work force unable to communicate at even a basic level.
In 2015, when the ASEAN Economic Community comes into effect, there are concerns jobs will quickly go to foreign nationals with superior English skills and not to Thais.
It’s something business leaders, especially in the tourism sector, are well aware of.
Dusit International CEO Chanin Donavani said in English: “We have to say that the Thai people, in terms of English, are not as good as countries like Singapore, Malaysia or the Philippines.
“So there will be a lot of non-Thais coming to Thailand to work in this industry. What we have to do is to try our best to see what we can do.”
Enter a new government policy with lofty goals — activities, camps and competitions all conducted in English.
Large hotel chains, like Dusit International, are partnering with established European hotel schools to train the next generation.
All classes will be conducted in English and fluency is a must.
For Thailand to stay competitive, not speaking English well is not an option.