From the 26th-28th June the British Council, Thai Ministry of Education and programme sponsors welcomed the 2014 cohort of English Assistants to Thailand. 248 ETAs from 41 UK Universities are participating in the programme which will span 9 weeks from 30 June to 29 August, making it the longest it has been up to this date. The ETAs have all been assigned to teach in a variety of educational institutions ranging from primary schools to vocational colleges throughout the country. The programme has received positive feedback from participating Thai schools, educational institutions in the UK and the ETAs themselves. Numbers of UK students participating have increased by 25% since last year.
Orientation in Bangkok marked the beginning of the 9-week journey for the ETAs. Before going off in their separate directions, the ETAs were greeted at the Ambassador Hotel in Bangkok. Here the UK students were briefed on Thai culture, educational structures and how to settle into Thai life with relative ease. They were also introduced to representatives from the schools where they will be working and given advice about teaching within their specific institutions. This year 173 academic institutions within Thailand are participating in the programme; 104 government schools, 56 private schools and 13 vocational colleges. 45 of them are located in Bangkok and surroundings, and the rest span far and wide and are located in 50 other provinces nationwide.
The TET Programme was set up in 2012 to facilitate cultural relations between the UK and Thailand, with a strong focus on the development of English speaking and comprehension among Thai students. By placing students from UK universities in Thai schools and colleges the programme aims to facilitate these interactions, and ultimately the improvement of English in Thai schools. As English is the language of ASEAN, and a holds weight internationally, sending native speakers to schools across Thailand will help students and staff gain success in increasingly competitive global settings. Equally, ETAs gain valuable international work experience, have the opportunity to integrate into Thai communities, learns Thai language and these lessons will be invaluable for them when looking for employment in the UK or overseas.
Patrick Osborn, who is currently working at Sukhothai Technical College, reflects on settling into school. “Even though I look like a Neapolitan ice cream: brown, white and pink from the sun, and raspberry ripple added in with all the mosquito bites, it is a pleasure being welcomed into such a different culture.” With another 8-weeks left of the programme, we are hopeful that he will continue to embrace Thai life.
Helen Sunderland, who worked at Rojanawit Malabieng School in Phitsanulok as part of the programme in 2013 commented, “stepping into the unknown has been challenging, scary (at times) but also exhilarating, eye-opening, fascinating and inspiring.” Therefore, it comes as no surprise that numbers of ETAs are predicted to double by 2015.