Chinese-language students in Thailand aim for better future

2013-10-14 10:29:00 From:

Located in Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Thailand, the somewhat remote Da Tong High School has fostered generations of bilingual Thai-Chinese talent.

Some of the teachers at Da Tong are locals and some are volunteers from Hong Kong or Taiwan. Most of the students graduate with a high level of proficiency in Chinese and a good understanding of Chinese culture.

For more than 30 years, the school has carried on a unique tradition: all the students must learn Di Zi Gui by heart. Those who fail to do so will not receive their graduate certificate.

For Zhang Mingguang, director of the school, the reason to hold on to the Chinese identity is both historical and practical.

"For people who live in those mountainous areas, they don't have plenty of career choices. But the ability to speak Chinese has greatly enhanced their competitiveness," said Zhang.

"After graduation, many of our students go to China for further study, or do business in trade or tourism in both countries. The Chinese language offers them a better future," he added.

The booming Chinese economy and the increasingly close relations between China and Thailand have led to a craze for learning Chinese across the Southeastern Asian nation. Nearly one million Thais are now studying Chinese and more than 3,000 schools provide courses on Chinese language and culture, according to the Thai Education Ministry.

A lack of qualified teachers has prompted Thailand to cooperate with China, resulting in 12 Confucius Institutes having been established since 2006 and more than 1,000 volunteer teachers sent from China each year.

The desire to learn Chinese has grown in tandem with thriving tourism in Thailand. In Phuket, the most popular tourist destination in the country, the soaring number of Chinese visitors is estimated to top one million this year, and has required local people to learn some simple Chinese. As a result, Chinese-language schools and training centers are springing up like mushrooms.

Chaturon Chaisang, the country's newly appointed education minister, said he has been learning Chinese for the past five years. He even released three solo albums of Chinese songs.

"Chinese is one of the most popular foreign languages for Thai students and our ministry encourages schools to open Chinese language courses," Chaturon told Xinhua.

The minister said Thailand needs to further improve the quality of Chinese-language education and put more emphasis on practical skills such as listening and speaking.

"I hope those Chinese-language talents will become a driving force behind the ever growing Thailand-China friendship," he added.


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