In the course of a decade, the world has tremendously experienced rapid change in various aspects which eventually led to the globalization of economy and the transformation of society. Competition became a cliché in all aspects from economy to education and others.
Realizing the current condition of the world, the National Education Act of 1999, which is the blueprint of the modern Thai educational system, has profoundly expressed, “The urgently needed reform will undoubtedly redeem the country from the downward spiral, so that Thailand will rise in the immediate future as a nation of wealth, stability and dignity, capable of competing with others in this age of globalization” (ONEC, 2007).
Heeding the latest national education reform which calls for competency among Thai citizens in the global arena, the Ministry of Education spearheaded the transformation of the education system through a strategy based around enhancing moral and ethical values together with a core program of enhancing the quality of education in which the transformation of language learning is one of the focuses. The learning of English language has been given main focus through English Program which aimed at providing full Thai curriculum subjects in English (Thailand MOE, 2004).
However, as an emergent practice in the field of basic education, a plethora of problems has stricken the operation of the program and has caused several impediments in achieving the nation’s goal for its citizens. These problems include difficulty in finding textbooks that would match the Ministry of Education’s curriculum, hiring qualified teachers to teach the subject matter in English, low level of students’ conception over the subject matter, lack of motivation to learn the subject matter in English among students, internal conflicts among teachers and school administrators resulting to low level of teachers retention, lack of awareness of the program’s vision, mission, goals and objectives among most of the stakeholders and dissatisfaction of some parents over the operation of the program. Beyond the school organization, there is a pungent competition among the basic education institutions offering English Program.
The abovementioned problems are supported by an array of local researches and literatures which reveals the current status of language education in Thailand especially in the English Program. As pointed out by Wiriyachitra (2007), with all the efforts to enhance English language teaching and learning, Thailand is still facing many problems that inhibit her from standing tall in the “Knowledge” societies. She further revealed that one of the factors that inhibit Thailand’s capability to be in the “Knowledge” society is that foreign teachers in the English program are less qualified. Hence the students, on average, do not excel in mathematics and science.
Furthermore, a study of attitudes and problems in teaching and learning English in Islamic religious schools in Yala conducted by Rattnanayart, Charumanee and Chiramanee in 2006 has revealed the following results:
1. English teachers in the three school sizes perceive English teaching problems mostly at a critical level. These problems, ranked in order of seriousness, are those concerning teaching and learning materials, evaluation and testing, students, and workload.
2. All administrators agree that they have not yet succeeded in their management; they want to improve the quality of teaching and learning English to make it more effective.
3. School administrators face similar problems concerning financial support from the government, students, English teachers, curriculum, the environment, teaching and learning facilities, and assistance from the educational authority in charge.
The problems cited in the previous paragraphs are few of the dilemmas which can be addressed by a well-implemented TQM Program. However, even if TQM can be a panacea of the various problems facing the English Program in basic education institutions, it has to be understood that TQM is not a solution which ordinarily comes out of the blue. As mentioned by Sallis (2003) in his book Total Quality Management in Education, "TQM is not an imposition. It is not something which can be done by somebody for you and for the others. TQM needs to be implemented by individuals who are of utmost commitment in achieving the customer-focused vision of the program."
TQM, in general, could be an answer to Thailand’s dream to redeem itself from the downward spiral and become a country capable of competing with others in this age of globalization. As pointed out by Fitzgerald (2004), “Now that the technologies of transportation and communication have replaced national economic systems with a global economy, nations and businesses that do not practice TQM can become globally non-competitive rather rapidly.” He further divulged, “This march towards non-competitiveness can be avoided if citizens are helped to become TQM practitioners.”
Fitzgerald, Ron (2004). Total quality management in education. Minuteman career and technical high school. Retrieved December 18, 2008 from http://www.minuteman.org/topics/tqm.html
Rattnanayart, W., Charumanee, N., & Chiramanee, N. (2007). A study of attitudes and problems in teaching and learning English in Islamic religious schools in Yala. ThaiTESOL Bulletin, 20 (1-2), 73–100
Ministry of Education(2004). The education system in Thailand. Towards a learning society in Thailand (pamphlet of the Bureau of International Cooperation). Retrieved January 26, 2009 from http://www.bic.moe.go.th/fileadmin/BIC_Document/book/MOEleaflet/Thai-ed-system.pdf
Office of the Education Council (2007). National Education Act of B.E. 2542 (1999). Office of the Education Council. Retrieved January 26, 2009 from http://www.onec.go.th/publication/law2542/index_law2542.html
Sallis, Edward. Total quality management in education. Kogan Page Ltd. London: 2002
Tan, Hedda (2009). English language teaching in Thailand: where do Filipinos fit in? Filipinos in Thailand: Filipinos living, working, traveling in Thailand blog. Retrieved February 20, 2009 from http://www.filipinosinthailand.com/english-language-teaching-in-thailand-where-do-filipinos-fit-in/
Wiriyachittra, Arunee (2007). The present perfect for the future perfect. ThaiTESOL Bulletin, 20 (1-2), 101–110