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  • Writer's pictureGongpob Pandejpong

A Brighter Future through English Proficiency: THANKS Thailand Project

INTRODUCTION


Hailing from Bangkok, Thailand, Gongpob Pandejpong is a 16 years old Thai student studying abroad at a school in England. Gongpob left home at just 13 years old, intent on seeing the wider world at such a young age. An energetic and outgoing person driven and energized by solving problems, particularly related to improving life in his home country, Gongpob hopes to one day take what he has learned in his international education and apply it to development issues in Thailand.


Firstly, one important factor that led to his decision is the fact that Thailand, a developing nation, stills fall behind in terms of English proficiency rate, ranking last in the Southeast Asia region, behind Cambodia and Myanmar.


Thailand ranks 101 out of 113 nations for proficiency rate in English

With proficiency rate ranking 101 out of 113 nations, and lowest score of 416 index, Gongpob found this issue to be concerning, especially in countryside areas with high populations of marginalized “Hilltribe” people, where children are not taught English. With Thailand being a major economy in Asia largely based on tourism, English is crucial in order to further develop the industry. Therefore, he decided to set up a program, dubbed The Hilltribe Association for Nurturing Knowledge and Success - Thailand (THANKS Thailand), to help educate countryside children on English through use of online technology.


PROJECT ESTABLISHMENT


Setting up online sessions through Zoom
Conducting a session for a countrysideschool in Kalasin, Thailand

After months of researching, Gongpob reached out to a school in Kalasin, a province located in the Isaan (northeast), the poorest region of Thailand. He found out the school lack in both teachers and facilities to provide standard education. This highlights the correlation between English proficiency and rural-urban development gap as schools in the countryside does not have the ability to support learning English. For example, according to the world bank, Thailand has the Gini index (an economical index for measuring wealth inequality) of 35% in 2020 compared to UK of 32.6% in 2020, revealing a large (and growing) wealth gap. Therefore, in order to help reduce inequality, useful skills like English that boost productivity are crucial to improving job prospects, salaries, and overall economic development. 


During his summer break, Gongpob traveled from Bangkok to the remote Kalasin province to reach the school in need. After arriving at the school, Gongpob met with eager teachers and students, and during his visit, he introduced himself and spent the day trying to know the children. However, intending to establish a durable program, he arranged for virtual classes to resume after his visit concluded.


After he returned to England for his studies, Gongpob continues to teach the children English every week.


ONLINE TEACHING


Providing a fun experience in learning English using everyday words

During his lessons, Gongpob teaches the students on useful everyday words and phrases that may come in handy, along with basic sentence and conversation. He strives to make the lesson as relaxing and entertaining at the same time to not only educate the children, but also to give them an enjoyable moment. This is quite different and refreshing to the students as opposed to the usual rote style of teaching in Thailand, and given the closeness in age between teacher and pupil, the rapport is more trusting and open. Though the program is just beginning and will expand to other peripheral areas of the country, the results even in the initial sessions are clear. 


WIDER VIEW


Gongpob’s main purpose in this project is to make a significant impact. During the next few years, he strives to recruit volunteers go out into the countryside where they live, meeting the local community and finding out their educational needs and structuring a program around their needs. Gongpob’s effort alone is not enough. Therefore, with help of other volunteer, a program like his may help more people in many countries. 


In the end, closing the education resources gap is a key factor to bridge the urban-rural divide and “level up” the countryside, but it will take the help of governments all over the world to provide the funding and policy changes to resolve the issue. After all, this is a global issue, even in developed countries – just think of the vast differences in prosperity between, for example, London and northern England, Paris and the provinces in France, and east coast versus interior China. As many if not governments, largely staffed by elites in capital cities, are not fully engaged with this issue, it is incumbent upon normal people to be active in working on and bringing attention to it.


Therefore, with THANKS Thailand, Gongpob hopes to create a proto raise awareness to this concerning problem and push people to take action regarding social inequality, both in Thailand and around the world. 


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