With the digital nomad visas being introduced and the recently announced incentive packages for foreign investors, Thailand is struggling to welcome foreign investment and talents to the country, in a bid to revive its economy.
One question remains – are the Thais equipped with sufficient English proficiency to embrace the incoming opportunities?
Thailand is ranked 97th overall and second to last among its ASEAN neighbors in an assessment that looks at the average English proficiency in 111 different countries and regions.
While the exact reasons behind Thailand’s low English proficiency remain debatable, experts believe the cultural factors and structural issues in the Thai education system coalesce into the major cause of the upsetting reality.
Lack of Competitivity on the Global Stage
The low level of English proficiency could not only deter foreign investors from setting foot in the country but also prevent Thais from engaging in global participation, which might be hazardous to the country’s development.
In his interview with Royal Coast Review, Loukgolf, a YouTuber known for his attempt to tailor the English learning formula exclusively for the Thais, pointed out that many Thai students are missing out on the chance to access better education abroad with the language barrier being a major hindrance.
“Thailand will not thrive if Thai people stop learning English. In order to thrive on an international level, we need to encourage more Thais to learn English.”
Kanatip Soonthornrak, also known as Loukgolf, Thai YouTuber
Inequality Widened by Covid-19
In Thailand, English learning is nuanced with the disparities between social classes. The influences were particularly amplified during the pandemic of Covid-19 as students were forced to take classes from home.
While rich kids in Thailand retained affluent access to English learning resources, those less privileged were deprived of their learning approach since school teachers might be their sole channel to learn the language.
A Vital Infrastructure to Welcome Foreign Investment
Thailand needs to realize the benefits of improving its overall English proficiency as the recent recovery in tourism, which accounts for roughly 15% of GDP, is giving the struggling country’s economy a lifeline in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This step is particularly crucial given that international travel is rapidly resuming, and many foreigners see Thailand as a top destination. Now is the right time for the Thai government to refocus its strategy to draw in more foreign investment while the rest of the world struggles to recover from the pandemic.
A sustainable framework needs to be secured, and that includes the language proficiency of the people. Only if general English proficiency improves can Thailand garner more leverage to compete with other countries in the region, including Vietnam and Indonesia.