Sarasas Ektra School - Criticisms and Realities

Criticisms and Realities

It has been argued that because the core subjects are taught in both languages following similar curriculum requirements (Thai national curriculum - education standards), there is not enough time given to academic input in contrast to language development. However, the school has found that this does not really constitute a problem. Results from national examinations over the past few years indicate that the cognitive and linguistic benefits of bilingual learning appear to outweigh any disadvantages that might result from repetition of academic content. In any case, the school would argue that there is sufficient flexibility in its outcomes-based curriculum to ensure that the English-medium lessons are not simply repetition of the Thai lessons. Rather, they cover the same or similar units and topics, but in a different way. (See the school's website at http://www.ektra.ac.th.) Content detail, teaching methods and language vary from that which occurs in the Thai classes and the language transfer that occurs as a matter of course in bilingual learning is believed to be academically as well as linguistically beneficial. (Developing Literacy in Second Language Learners, Report of the National Literacy Panel or Language Minorities and Youth, Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington DC, 2006, p. 397)

However, it does appear that the attainment of academic bilingualism to a high level takes rather a long time. (Swain, M. and Lapkin, S. Evaluating Bilingual Education, 1982, cited in Lin, A.M.Y. and Man, E.Y.F., Bilingual Education: Southeast Asian Perspectives, University of Hong Kong Press, 2009, p. 20) It is hard to quantify, as studies have not been done on the amount of time required for students in Thai-English bilingual programs to attain the levels attained by students in, e.g. French-English bilingual programs. However, it is likely that it would take longer for Thai-speaking students to attain those levels because of an assumed greater language distance between Thai and English than between a European language and English. If that is so, students who are likely to do well in a Thai-English bilingual program are more likely to have started bilingual education at an early age or have begun later but with a better than average background in English at the time.

In fact, results of national tests for English, Thai, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies for students in Year 6, 9 and 12 show that Sarasas Ektra students score very highly in English, clearly above the national and school district mean in Thai and above or at about the mean in the other subjects. (All subjects other than English are tested in Thai.) (These data are retained in the school and made available in approved circumstances.)

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