Thai visitors combine English lessons with school visits

Published 12 May 2008

Mr Cooper and Ms PannadaA group of Thai schoolteachers have spoken fluently and confidently about their observations of Armidale schools following a 7-week English language and teaching methodology course at the University of New England.

The course, conducted by UNE’s English Language Centre, involved a combination of intensive English lessons and classroom experience at New England Girls School and Ben Venue Primary School in Armidale, NSW.

Ms Panadda Madsalae, the group’s leader, said the program had been a “wonderful experience”, and that her only regret was that the group could not stay longer.

“We were able to observe a wide range of situations, from physical education classes to maths and history,” Ms Madsalae said, “and we wrote down in English about everything we observed.

“The teaching methodology in Australian schools is quite similar to what we do at home; the main differences I can notice are in the non-academic subjects and in the number of students in the classroom. Here your classes are quite small, but at home we have 50-55 students in a single class.”

Ms Madsalae and her colleagues hail from St Joseph Bang Na, a Catholic school in Samutprakarn, Thailand, with more than 3,400 students. Their visit was organised after teachers from St Joseph attended postgraduate courses at UNE and spoke positively about their experiences.

The aim of the program was to improve the teachers’ English language and teaching skills so they could communicate more easily with their English-speaking colleagues and better align St Joseph’s Thai and English language curricula, Ms Madsalae said.

Mark Cooper, Deputy Director of Studies at UNE’s English Language Centre, said he and the Centre's language teachers had been impressed by the Thai teachers' dedication to their studies and the improvement in their English that occurred over the 7-week course.

“From our point of view, the program was a great success,” Mr Cooper said. “We have only done this type of course once before, and this is the first time we have combined English language training with professional development in teaching methodology.

“We loved having the Thais and were really impressed with the progress they made while they were here. When they came to give their final presentation, I was amazed at how well they performed. They made strong contact with their audience and didn’t rely on notes at all. That’s a real achievement.”

Mr Cooper and Ms Madsalae (pictured here) both expressed hope that cooperation would continue between UNE and St Joseph Bang Na, and a number of the teachers who completed the 7-week program have shown interest in returning to do postgraduate study at UNE.