This study examined the attitudes and motivation of high school students in Northern Thailand towards the English language. The data was collected from five different schools in the area.
High school students were chosen for this study since they are at an age when they should already have thoughts and ideas and they are capable of answering a survey. In addition, they are at an age when they are most likely thinking about their future: possible further studies and a future career. Thus, thoughts on sufficient language skills are relevant and therefore they were considered an ideal group to examine to obtain an idea on language attitudes and motivations. Moreover, it is interesting to discover how their studies at school have shaped their views and thoughts on the English language.
The data for the study was collected via a questionnaire that included Likert scale statements and open-ended questions. The statements and questions in the questionnaire were influenced by Gardner (1985) and Kitjaroonchai (2013) as was discussed in section 3.1 Additional statements and questions were included by the author of this paper. The questionnaire was written in English and it was then translated into Thai to ensure that the students understood the questions and could answer them as fully as possible. The translation was done by a native speaker of Thai. The responses to the questions were written in Thai and they have been translated into English for this study by the researcher.
27 The methodology was first tested in the spring of 2015 when I conducted a pilot study related to the topic. A questionnaire was distributed to a school in Chiang Mai and to some teenagers taking extra English lessons at the British Council. There was a total number of 39 participants. Based on this pilot study, the questionnaire was then edited for the data to be as relevant as possible. The data from the pilot study also raised some questions, which I wished to address and so included in the revised version of the questionnaire.
The first part of the questionnaire consisted of statements that the participants rated using the Likert scale. There were four alternatives for each item; “1” or “completely disagree”, “2” or
“disagree”, “3” or “agree” and “4” or “completely agree”. A scale with an even number of choices was selected to disable the participants from choosing a “neutral” option. There was a total of 13 items in this part of the questionnaire. These items were divided into five groups based on the theme they discuss. However, the statements were placed in random order in the questionnaire to keep the questions following each other more varied, which was intended to force the participants to read and think about the statements more carefully.
The five groups the items were divided into include attitudes towards school and learning (items 1 and 6), attitudes towards learning English and the English language in general (items 2, 5 and 8), attitudes towards the importance of English in the job-market and in the future (items 4, 7, 9 and 13), attitudes towards English grammar (item 12), and attitudes towards English as a language of information and communication (items 3, 10 and 11). The Likert items were analyzed statistically using the chi-square test.
28 In addition to the Likert scale items, the questionnaire contained 12 questions to obtain further information about the participants and their use of the English language. The respondents were requested to complete information on their gender, age, grade and mother-tongue. In addition to this information, the questionnaire included a question on what the respondents felt about the level of their own English communicational skills. This question included five choices: very good, good, average, needs improvement and not acceptable. The layout of this question in the Thai version did not turn out clear and it seemed confusing to choose between the different options. Therefore, the information on the perceived language skills needed to be discarded in the results of this study.
In addition to this basic information on the participants, the following questions were included in the questionnaire:
5. Since which grade have you been studying English at school?
6. If you had the chance, would you take extra English lessons outside of school?
7. How often do you use English outside of school?
8. If you use English outside of school, what situations do you use it in?
9. Do you have foreign friends? If yes, do you speak English with them?
10. Have you heard about the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015? If yes, do you think knowing English is more important now and in the future than before because of AEC 2015?
11. Do you have any other comments regarding the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 and its choice of English as the working language?
29 12. Do you have any additional comments regarding the English language?
The data of this study was obtained from a total number of 231 participants from five different schools. All the schools are in Northern Thailand. The questionnaires were given to the English teachers at the schools, who then distributed them to their students. The questionnaires were then retrieved a few days later. Due to this, the researcher is not aware of how the participants from each school were chosen. It could be that the questionnaires were given to students that volunteered to participate and this could have influenced the results, as these students would most likely be more motivated in their studies in general as well.
However, the students participating could just be the ones that were present in class at the time the questionnaire was distributed.
The following figure displays a map of Northern Thailand. Two of the schools in this study are located in the city of Chiang Mai (school WW and school WR). It is one of the largest cities in the country. The other three schools are in the Chiang Rai province. It is the northernmost province in Thailand, bordering Myanmar to the Northwest and Laos to the Northeast. School SS is located in the city of Chiang Rai. School MSW is located in Mae Suai which is slightly to the South of Chiang Rai city. School MS is located in the town of Mae Sai in the Chiang Rai province. Mae Sai is located right at the border of Thailand and Myanmar. Schools MS and MSW are more rural, whereas the other three schools are located in a more urban area.
30 Figure 4.1 A map of Northern Thailand
Schools WR and WW, both of which are in Chiang Mai, are private schools. According to their website, the program at school WR is taught partly in English and some of the English lessons at the school are taught by native speakers of English. This differs from the average Thai school where everything is taught in Thai and the teachers are also Thai and do not speak English as their native language. Interestingly, the English teacher at school WR commented that the students at the school are not at all motivated to learn.
School SS, located in Chiang Rai, is also a private school but the school receives government funding as well. Most the students are hill tribes and mainly non-native speakers of Thai.
Schools MSW and MS are government-funded public schools.
31 Of the total number of participants, 162 were female and 64 were male. Five participants did not include information on gender. The age of the participants ranged from 15 to 19, the average age being 16.4. The following table displays the different mother tongues the participants reported:
Figure 4.2 The distribution of the participants’ first languages.
The participants reported a total of 11 different languages as their first language. Those that are labelled under “multiple” reported more than one; these were a combination of Thai and Chinese or Thai and Burmese. Thus, the linguistic background of the participants is quite