Rural teacher struggles to main standards
Being a teacher in a rural area is very important for the development of education but the job is not favoured by teachers, especially those who teach English, as they feel they will be unable to progress.
The common perception is that by teaching children at this level a teacher's language ability will become stale as conversation is unlikely to progress beyond such phrases as “Good morning, how are you?”, “This is a book, that's a pen”, “What day is it today?” and so on because students rarely seem to get beyond this stage.
Students have a lesson at Nano Lower Secondary School in Hinboun district, Khammuan province.
Of course, English language ability is the dream of any student as it's such an important language but it has little relevance in remote areas. Children in lower secondary schools are poorly motivated because they feel they will have little opportunity to use their English, especially if they can speak only a few words. This means most students are unable to speak English when they complete secondary school.
As an example, 28-year-old English teacher Mr Duangmala Keodara, who works at Nano Lower Secondary School in Hinboun district, Khammuan province, said he could not speak English apart from reciting the alphabet when he left secondary school.
He was not interested in English at secondary school, preferring maths and Lao language, but he chose it as his main subject when he went to college.
Having only learned the alphabet, Mr Duangmala lagged behind most of classmates who could read whole sentences, but he felt that English was important and was needed in his village.
By his second year of college, he was able to speak a little bit and began teaching juniors.
During his fourth and last year at college, Mr Duangmala worked as a translator at a mining company, which helped him to improve his English skills considerably. He made a decent amount of money but he didn't like the work very much so he gave it up when he left college.
He asked to work at a school in a rural area somewhere not too far from his hometown as he recogised the need for English teachers and didn't want the students there to leave school with poor English skills as he had done.
Today he teaches at Nano Lower Secondary School and lives in a small house that the villagers built for him out of wood and bamboo, close to the school.
He finds it difficult to inspire his students and admits to getting bored when teaching English and the children's attention wanders but Mr Duangmala never gives up and tries his best to impart his knowledge.
His job would not allow him to work as a translator because every day he recites the same words in class and his vocabulary has shrunk.
Because the school is short of teachers, he has to teach other subjects as well, such as sports and history.
“Since I've been teaching here, I haven't taken a training course to improve my teaching skills but I often try to make my students interested in what I'm saying and to understand what I try to put across,” he said.
“I don't just stick to the textbook; I make my own lessons using material I get from YouTube and helpful websites as it makes the classes more interesting,” he explained.
After working in the job for more than seven years, he feels his English skills have fallen because he doesn't use the language enough but he tries to read books, and watch news and films in English so that he can stay in touch.
“My English hasn't improved since I've been teaching and I feel my level has dropped. I'm sad about it because I feel the responsibility for teaching my students rests solely with me. Now 15-20 percent of them can speak English a bit,” he said.
By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update January 21, 2017 )