Although most Thais spend at least twelve years in school learning English grammar and memorizing different tenses, most still can’t deliver a proper English sentence.

The Ministry of Education has a plan to change that as it sets a goal that all primary school students should be able to speak enough English to handle everyday situations within ten years.

Deputy Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettas said that the plan is to make a “drastic change” in how English is taught in schools. They will also add more hours to the curriculum, invest in new textbooks, and start an intensive training course for Thai educators teaching English, according to a report by the Associated Press.

Last year, the ministry announced that it would cut the number of foreign English teachers in Thai public schools and focus on training Thai nationals as English teachers to reduce the cost.

Under the previously announced “train-the-trainer” program, a group of Thai teachers who teach English in government schools nationwide will take part in an intensive six-week training course taught by English-language specialists.

The selected teachers, whose English must be among the best in their schools, will receive advanced instruction on teaching written and spoken English since they will be expected to be role models for other teachers in their communities.

According to a report today, 350 skilled Thai national English-language teachers have been picked to join the program.

The new standard for English teaching will be based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Language, an international standard for language ability.

Out of 16 ASEAN countries, Thailand was ranked 14th in the EF English Proficiency Index last year. Globally, the country ranked 62nd out of 70 countries surveyed — which means their English ability is among the worst in the world.

In a culture where “losing face” is one of the most serious fates you can suffer, many Thais shy away from opportunities to speak English because they are afraid of sounding funny. Although tourism remains a major influx of income of the country, Thais who work in related businesses such as hotels and department stores still cannot communicate in English.