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. . . . I will continue my Thai language studies – shortly - as soon as I find an acceptable (to me) Thai language school. For me – this is not a question of price – but a question of quality, location and time available.

Should you have suggestions of Schools, Methods and Criticism etc. etc. etc. – Please do not hesitate and please advice.

PCP

Parvis,

Thank you for that.

It mirrors many other posts from people who believe that 'some' of the Walen teachers are good, helpful, well intentioned teachers, who are sandwiched between 1) a debatably efficient method with less than ideal supporting books and implementation, and 2) Walen's rules that (are supposed to) prevent them from specifically teaching tones, explaining structure, etc. when needed independently of the book as it is contrary to the Walen method.

You asked for suggestions, and I am sure you will get some schools "suggesting" themselves but I will add my tuppenceworth for you to consider:-

As you are "already able to speak – read – write "some" Thai" I would suggest you check out AAA Thai Language School (Pasawes) as they are regularly recommended, and my experience there would support those others. They also have "tests to 'place' [you] based on [your] previous "self taught" knowledge, which you stated were unavailable at Walen. There are others, which you will find on here, but this is the only one I have attended so far that I would recommend to you in your circumstances (and I have attended/am attending others).

ST.

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In researching the 20+ thai language schools that I have toured so far I've rarely met a more dedicated group of teachers than the staff at the Walen School.

I do agree with Scottish Thailander when he says;

the Walen teachers are good, helpful, well intentioned teachers, who are sandwiched between 1) a debatably efficient method with less than ideal supporting books and implementation, and 2) Walen's rules that (are supposed to) prevent them from specifically teaching tones, explaining structure, etc. when needed independently of the book as it is contrary to the Walen method.

I will say; it is my observation that during private lessons at Walen the 'method' is much more flexible (depending on the student's ability to lead the lessons to things they perceive as valuable, and the teacher's ability to teach in that style). The students I have spoken with who are currently taking or have taken private lessons there can and often do bring their own materials, different textbooks, outside learning resources, etc., to supplement their learning. Of course in a group setting the method is followed (enforced) much more rigorously, as one might expect. In my opinion the per hour price of private lessons is quite high compared to other thai language schools (akthough as pointed out the same as Berlitz). There seems to be no shortage of students enrolled in Walen's private lessons, so it must not be as price detrimental as I imagine. I have also seen a much higher rate of competency in spoken thai with the private students than I have with the group people, so again there must be good value.

If the AAA school S/T is referring to is the one on Chidlom Road on the 6th floor of the Vanessa Building behind Central Department store which is at this website;

http://www.aaathai.com/

I believe it is no better or worse than any other school using the "Union" based method of teaching thai. The Union based method is one of the oldest methods out there and is used by MANY schools. Often the text books are virtual copies of the original Union books, which are about 20 years old at least and quite out of date in terms of terminology. (Please ask the porter when the next train arrives at the station; is a sentence I have seen in many union based textbooks)

AAA also has the "60 hours/6500baht" type of programs. That's where you attend 3 hours a day for 20 days. Like all the schools using this format; miss a day, lose the hours, wash out, and lose it all. It is intensive, and the group lessons go at quite a quick pace. There is another thread about the benefit of 'pre-learning' at least Benjawan Becker's first book Beginning Thai before enrolling in a school like this to maximize "bang for your baht". In perusing their website the private lessons seem very competitively priced at only 400 baht per hour, and depending on their curriculum and your ability, they could be good value indeed.

In thinking back on it; I believe I toured that school a LONG time ago, but due to a bad experience at another Union based school, I gave it a pass.

Given your ability to read thai, I would recommend touring Paradigm Language School. They offer many levels of speaking, reading, writing. This is their site;

http://www.paradigm-language.com/

Good luck. ..

(Oh, BTW, I have NO affiliation with ANY thai language school, and offer my opinion only, your mileage may and quite likely will vary depending on how you learn languages)

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. . . . I will continue my Thai language studies – shortly - as soon as I find an acceptable (to me) Thai language school. For me – this is not a question of price – but a question of quality, location and time available.

Should you have suggestions of Schools, Methods and Criticism etc. etc. etc. – Please do not hesitate and please advice.

PCP

Parvis,

Thank you for that.

It mirrors many other posts from people who believe that 'some' of the Walen teachers are good, helpful, well intentioned teachers, who are sandwiched between 1) a debatably efficient method with less than ideal supporting books and implementation, and 2) Walen's rules that (are supposed to) prevent them from specifically teaching tones, explaining structure, etc. when needed independently of the book as it is contrary to the Walen method.

You asked for suggestions, and I am sure you will get some schools "suggesting" themselves but I will add my tuppenceworth for you to consider:-

As you are "already able to speak – read – write "some" Thai" I would suggest you check out AAA Thai Language School (Pasawes) as they are regularly recommended, and my experience there would support those others. They also have "tests to 'place' [you] based on [your] previous "self taught" knowledge, which you stated were unavailable at Walen. There are others, which you will find on here, but this is the only one I have attended so far that I would recommend to you in your circumstances (and I have attended/am attending others).

ST.

Scottish Thailander, it is not correct that just 'some' of the Walen teachers are good, all of them are good as we fire those who are not. The issue is that not every student likes every teacher and this is natural, one student thinks that a particular teacher is a superstar another student thinks that the same teacher is just a good teacher.

Walen- www.thaiwalen.com

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www.dcs.walenschool.com/1mw290910.eng

Edited by macwalen
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it is not correct that just 'some' of the Walen teachers are good, all of them are good

On this particular subject, I must concur wholeheartedly with mac's assessment of his teaching staff. They are really a good group of teachers.

In fact, in all the time I have known his school, I've yet to meet a single teacher who wasn't both dedicated and sincere in their desire to teach thai to foreigners. I believe the turn-over rate for his thai language teaching staff is very low. I know of many teachers who've been with him several years.

The ones I have known; Washi, May, Ubon, Butter, Ploy, Puu, Jeab, Jeep, Nat & Busaba, were and still are great teachers. Even though some of the above teachers have since left the school (moving on to bigger and better things in their lives) they were still a quality bunch of people.

It is only natural that some students personalities won't "click' with some teachers. It is by no means something only mac's school experiences but does in fact exist in EVERY school out there.

I think the fact he periodically rotates teachers thru the classes is a benefit. It exposes students to many different teachers rather than only a single person, which they may become too comfortable with, and then be initially resistant to another teacher teaching their class.

While it is well known my posting penchants run more toward "mac-bashing" than normal; I cannot in all honesty or in good conscience find any fault with his teachers no matter how critically I review them.

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I agree with tod-daniels as well, that the teachers in Walen are passionate and dedicated, most of the time. However, by reading most of the posts here I feel a little inclined to believe that the teaching quality is better in the BKK branch than the Pattaya one. But I might be wrong.

However, Mr. Walen, what continues to puzzle me is the textbook, which costs 390 baht - can you explain why the high cost? Previously I asked in another post but it was not answered.

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I've only ever been to one Union school, AAA Pasawes at Chidlom, so I carn't compare their material with others, but I think Tod maybe be tarring them with the bad brush of other schools.

Like Parvis at Walen, I walked in to AAA being self-taught in reading, writing and basic speaking and listening skills. At AAA, they level-tested me there and then (it wasn't comprehensive and really was just a reading-out-loud test that took about 30 seconds) and placed me in the reading and writing course. Like Parvis, I see little point in group classes - for the sake of a 100 baht or so extra you can have the teacher all to yourself and go at your own pace - so I took one-on-one lessons at 400/baht per hour.

As for the material, reading level 3 was stuff that had clearly been used over many years, but I didn't find the vocab to be out-of-date, just the topics a bit boring - the usual 'thai culture, food, religion, history' stuff that tourists on a 2-week holiday might find fascinating but expats have usually had enough of after after 2 months of being here. Anyway, the level wasn't that challenging for where I was at, but I did learn some new vocab and most of all got good practice in speaking with and listening to the teacher for 3 hours a week and discussing the topics both as they related to Thailand and my home country. This often generated more interesting learning points than the text themselves, and indeed the teacher was very good at making the lesson interesting.

I also got a lot of writing practice and improved my spelling markedly. Some people knock this, but i wouldn't - the beauty of being able to spell well is you can pretty much second-guess how to look up a word in a thai dictionary that you hear but don't know the meaning of - you can guess how word are probably spelled fairl accurately from your knowledge of thai spelling rules. If you have an ear for tones, you can narrow down the possibilities even further. I've had a lot of success in learning new words this way.

Overall I would say the teacher was good and the material was good. After I finished this course, I went on to level 3.1. This is/was a wholly new level and the material is brand new. The course book is a series of 20 dialogues between various speakers - it's full of idioms, colloquialisms and grammar patterns you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. The material really challenged my level and I learned a lot. I also had a different teacher for this course. I would rate both the teacher and the material as 'very good'. Bear in mind that I am a language teacher myself, and I am highly critical of poor teaching methodologies and poor material, so be sure that when I say the teacher and material were 'very good' I do not say this lightly.

After finishing 3.1 in 30 hours (20 texts done in 20 x 1.5 hours classes, two times a week), I felt what I really needed was consolidation. There was a lot of material in the book that I understood, but couldn't use myself. My intention at that time was to take a short break to self-study the material, reviewing the whole book till I felt happy with it, then go back in six to eight weeks time for the next course ('Reading Thai Newspapers').

Erhhh, that was 2 years ago....still haven't quite finished that self-study/consolidation period...

:)

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I agree with tod-daniels as well, that the teachers in Walen are passionate and dedicated, most of the time. However, by reading most of the posts here I feel a little inclined to believe that the teaching quality is better in the BKK branch than the Pattaya one. But I might be wrong.

However, Mr. Walen, what continues to puzzle me is the textbook, which costs 390 baht - can you explain why the high cost? Previously I asked in another post but it was not answered.

The cost of the book is not the cost of the paper but of the work that went into creating it, it is not just a simple translation of the Callan Method as some think. Believe of not, it took 4 years to get to the stage of being able to use it in teaching. 390 Baht is cheap for this book. Hope this answers your question. Thanks for your support. The quality of teaching in Pattaya as far as I know is good if not very good. You can send me private message if you have some specific comments or you can post them in the public forum. Also happy to talk in person when I'm in Pattaya.

Walen School

Walen - www.thaiwalen.com

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www.dcs.walenschool.com/1mw290910.eng

Edited by macwalen
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Scottish Thailander, it is not correct that just 'some' of the Walen teachers are good, all of them are good as we fire those who are not.

Walen

Mac,

I am not going to get into a debate with you about this. If you have had to fire teachers then at some time you have had bad teachers employed and teaching. Therefore, my comment that "some" of the teachers are good still stands correct. The same is true of every school (almost without exception). At any one point in time there will be both good and not-so-good teachers.

I believe that the majority of teachers at Walen are, as tod-daniels said, "dedicated and sincere in their desire to teach thai to foreigners". However, I know that you have had at least one teacher who consistantly failed to correctly identify the tones of words when asked to do so. On odd occasions this is to expected, and accepted, as we all make mistakes. However, doing so consistantly when being paid to teach Thai is not acceptable to students serious about learning the Thai language. As far as I know, the guilty teacher has not yet been fired.

Having said that, I do not believe that the teacher should necessarily be fired, as you seem (in the quote above) to suggest is your solution to a problem such as this. I would hope that firing people is not your first and only solution. I would hope that additional teacher 'training' would be one of your first attempts to resolve problems with teaching quality. In fact, as not all your teachers are "certified B.Ed in teaching Thai Language" teachers (please correct me if all your teachers are at least "B.Ed in teaching Thai Language" certified) I would expect you to be providing ongoing teacher training. You may/may not be doing so, and I admit I do not know which applies. It would be nice to think that you do provide training, and that that training is not just "in-house" training, but recognised training that would lead to them being able to obtain (or advance thier) "formal" teacher certification in teaching Thai language to second language learners.

ST

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. . . .

If the AAA school S/T is referring to is the one on Chidlom Road on the 6th floor of the Vanessa Building behind Central Department store which is at this website;

http://www.aaathai.com/ . . . .

Yes, that is the one.

. . . . I believe it is no better or worse than any other school using the "Union" based method of teaching thai. The Union based method is one of the oldest methods out there and is used by MANY schools. Often the text books are virtual copies of the original Union books, which are about 20 years old at least and quite out of date in terms of terminology. (Please ask the porter when the next train arrives at the station; is a sentence I have seen in many union based textbooks). . . .

My understanding is that they do all use the same (or at least very similar) method, but that AAA has updated their textbooks more recently. Like SoftWater, I have no experience of the other schools (yet), but I do not recognise the "Please ask the porter" sentence, and again like SoftWater, I did not find AAA's textbook so dated that it was a problem.

AAA also has the "60 hours/6500baht" type of programs . . . . miss a day, lose the hours, wash out, and lose it all. It is intensive . . . . In perusing their website the private lessons seem very competitively priced at only 400 baht per hour, and depending on their curriculum and your ability, they could be good value indeed.

Tod, I agree the program is not suitable for "casual" learning and that is why I was specific in my reply to Parvis:

". . . I would recommend to you [Parvis] in your [Parvis'] circumstances. . . ."

As you will have seen, I have recommended/mentioned other schools in other threads, and/or (being too lazy to look back through this post at the moment) maybe even in this thread.

Tod, it was good to meet you in person today. Hope we get a chance to chat more in the future.

ST

Edited by Scottish Thailander
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It would be nice to think that you do provide training, and that that training is not just "in-house" training, but recognised training that would lead to them being able to obtain (or advance thier) "formal" teacher certification in teaching Thai language to second language learners.

ST

If the private Thai language schools here are anything like the private English language schools here, they will not be interested in providing any career development. From the schools' point of view, this only empowers teachers to either ask for a pay rise or move on to a better paid job elsewhere. The idea that it might enhance a school's teaching and the reputation of the school is understood, but not thought to balance out the costs and risks (an erroneous and very short-term view, it seems to me).

Of course, if you are teaching a 'unique' method, giving 'further training' to teachers in your own method only serves to 'lock them' in to your particular school rather than develop their career potential.

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ST, this is where you are getting it wrong. I am at liberty to chose my teachers myself. I have simple criteria.

1. Good voice.

2. Good pronunciation.

3. Pleasant personality.

4. Energetic.

5. Interested in mastering the method.

I really do not care a bit if somebody is certified B.Ed in teaching Thai Language, they most likely would not follow the method and every class would be a different story.

If you want to go to a 'no method school, every class different story' then Walen is certainly not the place, we have a system, every class taught the same method with the same delivery.

You still did not get the point that we have a certain way of teaching the method and this is what I want from my English as well as Thai teachers. It works very well. I am not interested in your academic approach. I'm in the business of teaching languages not 'talking' about languages.

Your turn ST.

www.thaiwalen.com

Walen School

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Edited by macwalen
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Thanks macwalen, a discussion of methodology is quite pertinent to the topic of ‘what is the best language school’?

There are usually two polarized views about methodology. Either people will hold that one methodology trumps all, or they will say ‘learners have different learning styles, its up to each person to find the method that suits them best’. The truth, as usual, is somewhere between these two extremes.

There are not THAT many different learning styles, and there are not that many different EFFECTIVE methods (there are many different methods, but not all of them are effective). All the effective methods that I have studied, learned, and used in my own teaching have the same basic principles, and indeed, it is these that make those methods effective, not their unique properties.

The basic principles any effective school must use are:

Exposure

Practice

Repetition

Feedback & Correction

Graded Assessment and Advancement

This is true not just of languages but of all skills, from learning Karate to playing the Piano.

The "unique methods" offered by some schools are sales gimmicks that if anything reduce the effectiveness of the learning due to limiting the variety of exposure or practice available to students. The ‘Ours is a unique method’ schools will never admit to this because their whole sales and marketing strategy relies on denying it.

If that’s true, why do they adopt a ‘unique method’ in the first place?

Their answer: we’ve found it works better;

Their proof: (always) it is our experience;

Never can these schools cite INDEPENDENT academic research to support their theory for the simple reason that there isn’t any. They will either cite research by their own founders or affiliate schools, or they will dismiss ‘academic’ research as not relevant. AUA’s youtube site is a classic example, where they referred first to their own founders research and later admitted that there is no research supporting the method. Asher’s TPR method employs the same trick, citing multiple articles in support of the theory which turn out to be have written by...you guessed it, “Dr” Asher. As for the Callan method, they similarly gloss and hide the ‘research’ that is supposed to support the method. On the main website page where they discuss ‘About the method’ you can find this quote:

“There is a wealth of evidence to prove that students at a Callan Method School learn English faster than students at other types of language school, and further details are available elsewhere on this website.”

Where? You would think they would link to it right at this point, or cite the details here in the page dedicated to discussing the method rather than 'elsewhere'. But they don’t. And I can’t find any ‘further details’ anywhere else on their site either that would support it. Making a big claim and then deferring the evidence that would substantiate that claim to another time or place is classic sophistry. The sum total of their "evidence" appears to be two testimonial quotes from satisfied customers. Take that for what its worth.

AUA, Callan, TPR schoos (e.g., Lanta) and Walen (see post above) all like to say, ‘we’re interested in what works, not academic research.” What about that?

It’s a nice play on words, where it is implied that ‘academic’ means ‘theoretical’ but not ‘practical’. The opposite is true, however. In language learning, almost all academic research is ‘action research’ = conducted in classes and assessed on real students over long periods of time. Nothing could be MORE valid to the testing and verification of methodologies.

So, back to the question: why do these schools adopt a ‘unique’ method in the first place?

My answer: because the language-learning market is fiercely competitive, schools are businesses, and businesses need something to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Do they work? Probably, but only insofar as they stick to the basic principles of language learning that are employed by other schools that are dedicated to their students first, and methodologies second.

Edited by SoftWater
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I think that what is happening here is a dispute between TRAINING and ACDEMIC LEARNING. Macs schools concentrate on training....in other words practice doing and the theoretical element is of little relevance.

It is the same with training in Australia. When the TAFE colleges adopted Competancy Based Training the existing teachers had a lot of dificuolty accepting it and kept trying to adapt it to their old methods. This never worked.

SoftWater seems to be complaining because his academic university style teaching methods are not used by Wallen. There is a place for both but learnig about languages is something to be done in a University while Wallen is a Competancy based training establishment.

Mac has every right to teach using his methods with his staff. It is up to others to decide if they want to study this way. This does not make macs school the best or the worst. If it is right for you use it if not go somewhere else or start your own.

My only complaint is the way language school students subvert the visa process by not attending which in my view will lead to a crackdown in which genuine students will be unable to get visas.

Edited by harrry
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. . . . Your turn ST.

Walen School

Mac,

I am satisfied with your 'transparent' answer that your criteria for selecting teachers means that you look for people with a good voice, good pronunciation, a pleasant personality, who are energetic, are "interested in" mastering the method and as all you want them to do comply with your method is to be able to read out the textbook parrot-fashion and therefore they do not have to possess any (other) teaching skills.

So as not to be unfair to the teachers you currently have, I will say that despite your selection criteria, many posts on here confirm that you have been "unlucky" enough to have recruited some 'teachers' who exceed your basic criteria and try to help students with their problems. Why "unlucky" for you? Because the "natural" behaviour to assist struggling students, (and to relieve the boredom that they endure consistantly repeating the same text from the 3 books hour after hour, day after day, month after month) which they "helpfully" exhibit means they do not actually teach lessons that comply with your method of pure and speedy compliant repetition of the text in the book. Do you sit in on lessons to prevent this?; yes, to give you credit, I believe you occasionally do; but the fact remains that you are not in the majority of unobserved classes and your "attending" students (I won't mention the non-attending ones so as not to disadvantage the purely humanitarian service you provide to those who are in need of a visa but have no interest or time to attend classes) therefore do not get "Walen method" classes. Why do students therefore not complain? I am not "all" your students so I can only provide my assessment that the majority appreciate the teachers personal attention to their problems/questions and that they also appreciate the relief from the "natural" bordom of the repetition. You will no doubt argue that the lessons are not boring as the speed of the class prevents this. In practice, the majority of classes are not fast enough to do this for many students, and if they were/when they are then many other students would be so lost and confused that they would silently suffer (believing that they themselves are at fault), complain, or leave. A bit Catch 22.

I do not envy your problem "ensuring" that "the method" is taught at your school and (despite what you may believe) I would genuinely really like to see real evidence of whether your "Walen" system works or not, if and when you actually start "consistantly" teaching using "only" the method. (I stressed the 'Walen' method specifically because as Thai and English are not even in the same family of languages then, even if undisputed proof that the Callen method worked was shown, it (the Callan proof) would not necessarily apply to the Walen method).

Ok, I have said a lot more than I intended to in this reply. As I said in the related previous post, "I am not going to get into a debate with you about this." I have highlighted what I believe to be issues for you to address if you insist on your current belief that academically trained and Educationally qualified Teachers are not required and that method trained 'teachers' are sufficient, and that the Walen method is the correct way to teach. What I expect to see, and what I do not personally need, is your argumentative response on here, though you are (of course) welcome to provide one. What I would like and prefer to see is your addressing these issues in your classes and then see existing and future students come on here and confirm that "at no time" does the teaching in a class violate the method by wandering into discussions, and, as I do not expect you or anyone else to scientifically measure the efficiency of your method in the near future, at least see some students praise the correctly deployed method as at least equivalent, or even as you claim, "4 times quicker" than other methods.

How could this be measured? One poster, Harry, has just said that Softwater and I are concentrating on a difference between academic and Practical learning. The only balanced test between academic and practical learning that is easily available (I know, it is very far from ideal) which covers basic knowledge and comprehension, with elements of reading, writing, listening, and speaking (which are all 'practical' measures as well as academic), and can be used to quantify and compare the results of each schools' students' abilities and measuring progress is the "Prathom 6 exam". I know you [Mac] avoid this when mentioned by other posters by continually arguing that formal certification not what "all" students want to achieve and I fully and wholeheartedly agree. However, of course, some students do and therefore it would be good to see your first, and hopefully many more students pass this that have "only" been taught "from scratch" by your method. At the risk of being repetative, and stealing another posters argument/comment (sorry, I forget who it was), hopefully, in the next P6 exam will see at least 'one' purely Walen taught student out of the hundreds (or was it thousands) of the students you are 'teaching' sit and pass the exam. This would be more convincing than your personal (understandably biased) 'experience' in confirming to some degree that your system has merits. I look forward to your good news of, as the biggest and most successful school (your claim), posting the highest number of P6 graduates.

Ok, as you put it, you have already 'had your turn' and now I have I have 'had my turn' in response. You, I assume (I hate assuming) will therefore help to stop this topic wandering off point again by not taing another turn. To ensure I am more than fair, as I feel that you will feel agrieved that you did not get the last word on here, I will give you the opportunity to have the last word. I have stated my preference for how you should respond. If you are polite enough to comply with my preference then we need not see any more posts on here other than those from your students supplying 'independent' confirmation of "100% method classes", and, one from you, supplying a list of 100% Walen trained P6 graduates, letting this topic, once again, remain fully on topic.

Hopefully yours,

ST

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How could this be measured? One poster, Harry, has just said that Softwater and I are concentrating on a difference between academic and Practical learning. The only balanced test between academic and practical learning that is easily available (I know, it is very far from ideal) which covers basic knowledge and comprehension, with elements of reading, writing, listening, and speaking (which are all 'practical' measures as well as academic), and can be used to quantify and compare the results of each schools' students' abilities and measuring progress is the "Prathom 6 exam".

In fact this isa my point of disagreement....the Prathom 6 is a test of Academic learning not of competency.

Maybe a look at Competancy based Training is in order. It is generally difficult for people with an academic background to comprehend that a totally new way of looking the way to achieve the desired outcome is needed.

I know even after having been trained in delivery and assesment of compentancy based training I kept wanting to apply academic rigor to my delivery and assessment.

The reliance on testing by Prathom 6 is an example. It has no place in assessment of Competency.

Edited by harrry
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