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You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what about our students? It is up to teachers to find ways to motivate our students. Some educational commentators suggest that the longer we leave the introduction of learner centeredness and communicative activities to our students, the harder it becomes for them to adapt to change. It is now ten years since the 1999 Education Act was passed in Thailand...

 

 

...however, despite this Act there are still schools around the country which have not adjusted their teaching practices in line with governmental policy.

 

This is down to many reasons such as finance, difficulties in the implementation process and a lack of leadership. In my opinion, there seems considerable resistance to change and I’m not talking about the teachers. Some students seem to be in a rut and find it an alien concept to take an active role in the classroom.

 

It is time to teach our students some new tricks. Whilst it is all well and good using the latest methodologies we see and hear about in books and conferences, if the students don’t understand what they have to do, they can’t do it. More time needs to be spent explaining to students what they have to do.

 

I have been observing Prathom teachers and students at a local school for some time and have noticed that the younger the students the less they have to have explained to them when it comes to taking part in communicative activities.

 

It would appear that the older the students, the more set in their ways they have become and the harder it is for them to actively participate in activities they are not used to.

 

The result is that when they arrive at university and are confronted by a teacher like me, they must think they have landed on another planet and look forward to being beamed back as soon as possible.

 

Although this observation is not based on sound research principles, I am of the opinion that there is some truth to this and have been trying to find ways in which to actively engage my students.

 

I have found that students work best when they are motivated to learn. Why do our students want to learn English? To be truthful, most of my students don’t. Of course, they always write that English is important for their future and that they love learning English because it is “funny”; however, we all know that this is not true, although some might find it fun.

 

Most students learn English because they have to. Whether they like it or not, it is part of their curriculum and if they want to progress in their studies it is a hurdle that they have to negotiate.

 

As teachers, we have to make the subject as interesting and relevant for them as possible. This does not mean using one technique out of a text-book; it involves being eclectic and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.

 

This is why being a teacher is such a demanding job. All our students are different; all need motivating in different ways, using different techniques. It is up to us to find the best ways possible to keep our students actively involved in the education process, so that they do not end up as spectators, waving goodbye to life’s opportunities as they pass them by.

Styles and activities
 

 

Students from Pathumthep Wittayakarn School in Nong Khai showing they are not prepared to wave goodbye to opportunities that life may bring them.
(Unedited article published in the Bangkok Post 24th March 2009)

 
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