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Phuket schools relax rules for hiring English teachers



PHUKET: The Phuket Primary Education Area Office has relaxed the requirements for foreigners to be hired as English-language teachers at government schools in Phuket.

The move is aimed at combating a critical staff shortage, explained Office Director Jian Thongnoon.

“We need about 100 English teachers, but right now we have only about 50 teachers and some of these are not very good in English. This is a big emergency that we need to solve,” he said.

Among the reasons for the staff shortage were that many English teachers had moved from primary to middle schools, and teachers were applying for early retirement, the director said.

“Ideally, we have to hire teachers specifically trained to teach in English. Just hiring native English speakers is not really worth it because these people do not have teaching skills. However, in the meantime we will have to hire teachers who just have English skills until we can find qualified teachers who have both English and English-teaching skills” Mr Jian explained.

Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) President Paiboon Upatising expressed his concern that an ongoing shortage would have a serious impact on Phuket’s ability to remain competitive after the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) charter comes into full effect.

“This is a top priority. The AEC comes into effect in 2015, so the sooner we resolve this issue the better. Neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia already have good English skills, so we will be at even more of a disadvantage if we do not have enough English teachers to educate our children.

“Many English teachers have retired from OrBorJor schools this year. We have been announcing that we need English teachers, but there have been very few applications,” said Mr Paiboon.

Mr Paiboon explained that the problem is not restricted to OrBorJor schools and that other relevant officials are facing the same problem. Officials from the OrBorJor, Phuket City Municipality and the Primary Educational Service Area office will continue to meet to discuss strategies to overcome the problem.

“The OrBorJor will start by teaching English to existing teachers so they can teach the children and we will hire native English speakers to help,” Mr Paiboon said.

The long-term strategy involves coordinating with educational institutions in Phuket in order to fill the skills gap, said Mr Paiboon.

“Previously, educational institutions in Phuket have been catering to the needs of the tourism and hotel industries, but having English teachers is very important.

“A shortage of English teachers will affect our children’s English skills, which will result in Thailand not being able to compete [economically] against other countries,” he said.

— Warisa Temram


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