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July 2017

Thai teachers' Toeic test Twitter tiff

Thai candidates wanting to work as teachers in rural areas have taken to social media to decry the English language levels demanded by the government, Melanie Butler reports.

Under the Teachers Return Home scheme, candidates wishing to teach in their home towns must show both knowledge of their own subject and proficiency in English measured on international exams, khaosodenglish.com reports.

The hashtag #Teachersreturnhome trended top on Thai Twitter as would-be teachers demanded that the required US Toiec score be reduced from an average of 400 to 250 in reading and listening.

‘Testing is useless. We don’t have to use it [English]. What is the reason for that?' tweeted user Wankhangna Tongkaotorpai.

The Thai Twitterati did not agree, arguing that teachers should have good levels of English whatever their subject. ‘Oh my god. Now I understand why kids from the provinces have such poor English,’ wrote Twitter user @brie_pie

The teachers, though, may have a point. According to Educational Testing Service (ETS), the US exam giant which owns Toeic, a score of 400 on Toeic reading and listening is borderline B2/C1 on the Common European Framework of Reference.

This is a level that most European countries only require for language specialists or CLIL subject teachers. While English medium subject teaching is an option in some Thai secondary schools, these programmes are unlikely to be accessible to most rural schoolchildren.

Nor is the teachers’ suggested Toeic score of 250 - borderline A2/B1 - particularly out of line with levels required by those taking the alternative international tests.

Teachers who opt to take Toeic’s sister test Toefl IBT are asked for a score of 40, which is only a B1. Or candidates can choose to take Ielts, where they only need 3.5, again below B1. It is described by Ielts as the level of an ‘Extremely limited user of English’.

So why all the fuss about Toeic? Perhaps because the other exams cover all four skills and have a bigger range of task types than Toeic, which uses only multiple choice items for its reading and listening test.

Or perhaps it is the cost of test which candidates have to meet themselves. A two-skill Toeic test costs just £45 in Thailand, significantly less than the four skill test options.

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