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More foreign English teachers needed to improve Thais’ English skills

May Taylor

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More foreign English teachers needed to improve Thais’ English skills | The Thaiger
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PHOTO: OnTESOL

It’s reported that more teaching jobs will become available for foreign English teachers from next year, as efforts are made to boost English language skills in schools across Thailand.

A Daily News report says students in their final year of high school need to improve their English language knowledge from “basic” to “independent user” level, which is considered a mid-range ability on an international scale of measurement.

Dr Amnat Wichayanuwat from the Office of the Basic Education Commission says increased funds will need to be made available to cover dedicated English classes in district and provincial schools.

Daily News reports that measures expected to be announced by year end include an increase in the time spent teaching English during the next academic year, in schools across the country.

It has not yet been confirmed where the additional English teachers would come from, with hiring possibly being left to individual schools, or carried out under the remit of the Education Minister, in conjunction with foreign embassies and consulates.

SOURCE: Daily News | Thai Visa

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Business

Thai Airways considers leasing planes and outsourcing cabin staff

The Thaiger

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Thai Airways considers leasing planes and outsourcing cabin staff | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Will Thai Airways lease or buy their new planes?

In its attempts to restructure the legacy national airline, senior staff of Thai Airways may lease aircraft and cabin staff. The plans are part of fleet and service improvement options as demanded by the Thai Government who had to find 11.1 billion baht over the first 9 months of 2019 to keep the national airline in the skies.

According to Thai Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, Thai Airways plans to invest in 38 planes with a 156 billion baht budget. Whether the new aircraft carrying the purple decal will be bought or leased is yet to be decided.

Minister Saksayam has openly proffered the options of leasing the planes with an outsourced cabin staff or just leasing the planes. The minister has given Thai executives the rest of the year to make up their mind in their restructure plans.

The Transport Minister also chairs the Civil Aviation Commission.

Thai Airways president Sumeth Damrongchaitham says that all aspects are being considered, which needs to take into account the airlines’ flight network and which aircraft models will best serve the airline’s financial makeover.

Short-haul models are currently in short supply with the new Boeing 737 Max grounded until at least the middle of the year, potentially longer, and a years-long waiting list for the Airbus single-aisle equivalent, the A320 Neo models. Last year Airbus also showcased their new A220 model to Thai Airway’s executives as a brand new approach to short haul routes with a capacity of 108-130 passengers and ability to fly equal or longer distances than the Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 models, in a 2+3 configuration, rather than the 3+3 of the existing models.

17 of the Thai Airways’ 82 aircraft are due to be decommissioned from the end of this year.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Expats

MSG makes a comeback with a new campaign against the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’

The Thaiger

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MSG makes a comeback with a new campaign against the ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MSG got a bad rap for 50 years - bostonmagazine.com

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, a common seasoning in many foods from Doritos, to salad-dressing and Thai food, is making a come back. Not that it really went away. But there was 50 years or so when it suffered, unreasonably, a poor reputation.

For years it was branded an unhealthy processed ingredient despite a lack of supporting scientific evidence. It became the whipping boy of Chinese restaurants with people alleging they would suffer from symptoms like dizziness and palpitations after eating Chinese food seasoned with MSG. It even earned the nickname “Chinese restaurant syndrome”.

The Merriam-Webster even added “Chinese restaurant syndrome” to its dictionaries from 1993 after it became somewhat of an urban legend such that it became excepted that a lot of Chinese food contained MSG and that it was, somehow, bad for you. Despite hundreds of studies there has never been any repeatable experiments where it could be proven that monosodium glutamate was bad for consumer’s health or could repeat the alleged side-effects in control groups.

It all started when a biochemist wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Science in 1968 saying that Chinese restaurant food left him “lightheaded and with odd aches and pains”. The next issue of the journal published more purported side-effects.

That grew into a meme that Chinese food was dangerous for you and spread quickly, and even gained some early legitimacy by some medical professionals at the time. A 1969 scientific paper claimed that MSG was “the cause of the Chinese restaurant syndrome,” and said it caused “burning sensations, facial pressure, and chest pain.”

Subsequent scientific studies over the next half century have never been able to validate the 1969 paper’s claims or find any link between the white salt-like substance and any side effects. Studies suggest that any correlation on side effects from eating MSG were probably psychosomatic.

MSG was first introduced in 1908 by a Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda, who was able to isolate unique flavour of a popular broth made from a seaweed called kombu. Ikeda described the flavour as neither salty, sweet, sour or bitter. It was unique. The taste came from the glutamate in the seaweed and earned the new, “fifth taste” which would be called “umami”, neither salty, sweet, sour or bitter.

But MSG has been used as an active ingredient in many Asian foods, not the least Thai food where the white crystals are sprinkled liberally on favourite Thai dishes from the street stalls to the hi-so restaurants.

Now there’s a campaign, “Redefine CRS” headed by Japanese food and seasoning company Ajinomoto to reflect the current knowledge about MSG and the impact of misinformation on the public’s perception of Asian cuisine.

The whole Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was a western construct and never became a ‘thing’ in Asia. So Ajinomoto are calling out the half century of misinformation as “racist”. If MSG was actually dangerous or could conjour up it’s reputed side effects a long list of Asian countries and their populations would be walking around complaining about it.

“To this day, the myth around MSG is ingrained in America’s consciousness, with Asian food and culture still receiving unfair blame. Chinese Restaurant Syndrome isn’t just scientifically false, it’s xenophobic.”

In a video several Asian American figures, restaurateurs, and medical professionals spoke out against the misconceptions surrounding MSG and Chinese food. Famed restaurateur Eddie Huang, whose memoir was adapted into the hit sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat points out that MSG is not only delicious but found in hundreds of commonly used foods we use every day.

“Calling it Chinese restaurant syndrome is really ignorant.”

The campaign proposes a redefinition of “Chinese restaurant syndrome”… “an outdated term that falsely blamed Chinese food containing MSG, or monosodium glutamate, for a group of symptoms.”

Chances are, you’ve eaten it. You light be eating it right now as you snack and scroll through your phone. MSG is a common amino acid naturally found in foods like tomatoes and cheese, which people then figured out how to extract and ferment. This fermented glutamate salt is now used to flavour lots of different foods like stews or chicken stock and seasoning.

A joint study by the World Health Organisation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation “failed to confirm a link between MSG and the ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’. The syndrome itself was based on “anecdotal” evidence rather than any scientific fact.”

As the new campaign points out, the public scare over MSG unfairly placed the blame on Chinese food. That myth persists in many western countries where Chinese food as is sometimes considered processed, unclean, or unhealthy.

So, head down to your local Chinese restaurant and thoroughly enjoy your meal because it tastes great, along with all the other Asian cuisines you love. If you feel ‘icky, bloated and tingly’ after your meal it’s not the MSG, you probably just ate or drank too much.

As a side note, The Thaiger was involved in an experiment six years ago in Phuket when we had two control groups of three people. The six people were sat down and told we wanted to measure the effects of MSG in their food. All were given a standard Pad Thai Goong. One group was told the meal had been prepared with MSG, the other without MSG. In the interviews after, the group who ate the food prepared with MSG noted they had ‘tingling around their lips’, ‘feeling of flush cheeks’ and ‘racing heartbeat’.

The other group, who were told their meals were prepared without MSG, had no complaints.

Then everyone was told that, in fact, the meals had been switched, so that the group who thought they had consumed MSG had eaten a Pad Thai Going without any MSG.

Hardly a scientifically-validated study but an indication how we can be easily convinced to believe anything.

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Singapore

Doctors advise good hygiene as Wuhan virus outbreak evolves

Greeley Pulitzer

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Doctors advise good hygiene as Wuhan virus outbreak evolves | The Thaiger

“China’s healthcare system and disease outbreak control capabilities have also improved dramatically since 2003 and I believe they will contain the outbreak.”

As the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, central China continues to evolve, potentially spreading further outside of China, health practitioners and experts in Thailand are advising people to protect themselves by maintaining simple, practical hygiene practices such as washing your hands often. An advisory from medical chain Raffles Medical, which recommends washing your hands frequently, says human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from an infected person to others through…

• the air by coughing and sneezing

• close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands

• touching your mouth, nose, or eyes after touching an object or surface with the virus on it, before washing one’s hands

Although vaccination against the seasonal influenza does not guarantee protection, Raffles Medical says people should still get vaccinated, especially if they are planning to travel.

“This will prevent you from contracting influenza symptoms and signs that may mislead screening authorities at temperature checkpoints, and result in unnecessary anxiety and delays to your travel.”

Dr Edwin Chng, medical director of Parkway Shenton, recommends travellers should avoid contact with live animals and consumption of raw or undercooked meats and avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness. However, infectious disease experts say there was no need to be unduly worried as Singapore is better prepared to handle an outbreak today. Professor Paul Tambyah, from the department of medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, says the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan could be like the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, which quickly spread all over the world.

Fortunately, the outbreak was less severe than feared, he said. But in any case, Singapore is even better prepared than in 2009 in terms of testing, equipment and resources.

“I think that we should be concerned but there are plenty of measures in place to detect cases, isolate and treat them appropriately in Singapore as well as in the other countries in the region.”

“Ensure good hand hygiene, stay away from live animal markets, seek medical attention from your GP if you are not feeling well and are still not better after three, four days.”

“China’s healthcare system and disease outbreak control capabilities have also improved dramatically since 2003 and I believe they will contain the outbreak.”

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