ASEAN or Association of Southeast Asian Nations was founded in 1967, currently consisting of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. Since its establishment, ASEAN countries have gradually and continually strengthened their economic integration, from the ASEAN Preferential Trading Arrangement (PTA) in 1977 to the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and now they further move to a deeper liberalization level to create the ASEAN Economic Community or AEC by 2015. The liberalization targets under AEC include not only the free movement of goods but also the free mobility of factors of production among member countries.
AEC and English proficiency in Thailand
So what’s all this hype about the AEC? You encounter it everywhere—on the radio, on television, in the newspaper. AEC is coming, Prepare for the AEC, Are You ready for the AEC? It’s almost as exciting as the rumor about an alien invasion. So is AEC an alien invasion? Well, sort of. But not the big-headed- green- creature- with- a- flying- saucer kind of thing. AEC stands for ASEAN Economic Community. We compare it to an alien invasion because it will bring about new opportunities and threats. If you’re living in Thailand, this establishment will have an impact on you.
AEC is the regional economic integration with the goal to form a single market base. It consists of the ASEAN members and it is to be launched in 2015. When the barriers between countries are opened, the flow of goods, people, services, and capital will lead to the increase in regional competition. There needs to be a common language for AEC members to use for communication. It so happens to be English; no big surprise there. The English language requirement is a concern for many Thai people because Thailand is still lagging behind in this area. Several researches have shown that Thailand’s English language proficiency is at what they called, “a very low proficiency level”. Other ASEAN members like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam all surpass our score. The coming of the AEC and English proficiency in Thailand may be interpreted as either an opportunity for Thais to develop their English skills or a challenge to threaten the country .
Thais should not fret when the alien blasts its destructive-English-gamma-ray. We can start studying English today to better ourselves for 2015. Thai people (especially the ones living in Bangkok) are already immersed in the English language environment. Take a look at the advertisement billboards, the ATM machines, the shops in Siam area, and the sky train station—many of them use both the Thai and English language.
English skills shouldn’t be limited to only large corporations and hotels; traffic cops and vendors should learn it as well. By learning English, we do not mean just learning a few phrases. Learning English requires the learner to be able to speak it in an understandable manner with correct grammar and pronunciation. When more foreigners come to Thailand, there will be more need for English usage. The Ministry of Education had already launched the English Speaking Year 2012 campaign which involves teachers conducting various activities in schools to let students practice speaking English. This is a good start. More student exchange programs and scholarships should be funded as well.
Language schools are other options that can help Thai students improve their English skills. Schools such as The Knowledge at Lake Rajada has a morning and evening courses, making it convenient for students to choose the time that they want to come study. Every schools in Thailand should provide an English course as part of their module. Companies, hospitals, tourism centers, hotels, and police stations need to administer English-training workshop to help build up their employees’...