Upcoming changes in the region could spell trouble for Thai jobseekers—and employers
In recent weeks, we’ve taken a look at the challenges and opportunities Malaysia and Singapore face in their efforts to enhance their respective levels of English language proficiency. Today we discuss Thailand, which, according to a recent article in the Bangkok Post, faces some sizable hurdles of its own when it comes to English language learning.
All three countries are members of the 10-nation-strong Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which plans, in 2015, to launch the ASEAN Community. It’s a move being made in the hopes of creating a highly competitive economic region in the face of globalization and rising neighbors like China and India, and the Post explains that “Thailand may find itself at a disadvantage because of inferior English skills when Southeast Asia becomes a single community.”
The launch of the community promises to bring new opportunities, as Thais will be better able to search for jobs outside of their own country thanks to a “a free flow of professionals and skilled workers among the 10 member states of the grouping.” But there will also be increased competition from jobseekers who hail from other Southeast Asian countries, and some academics argue that Thais—particularly those set to graduate around 2015—will find themselves at the back of the pack due to lagging English skills.
“Most Thai students coming out of universities cannot communicate in English,” said one member of several university councils. The country is making efforts to change that: Its prime minister last month challenged the ministry to update the school curriculum, and 2012 has been dubbed the English Speaking Year, an effort that encourages students to communicate in English every Monday.
But global employers need to prepare themselves for the real possibility that universities will not be able to address this shortcoming in the near future—and companies can’t afford to wait. The responsibility falls to businesses to develop English skills, and not just English, but Business English.
Do you think Thailand’s efforts will be enough, or will multinationals looking to expand in the region need to take on the challenge?