Any western teacher in Thailand will tell you a large percentage of Thais are not particularly knowledgeable about other countries beyond Thailand, but particularly countries in the west.
There is little excuse, however, for national TV station, Channel 5, when it used a photograph this week of actress Meryl Streep playing the part of Margaret Thatcher in the movie “Iron Lady” in a news story about the death of the former British prime minister.
After all, we expect them to know better. Hilarious, yes. Sad, yes.
The foul-up was noticed when a Thai viewer took a photograph of their TV screen and posted it on Facebook. The internet lit up with messages from Thais absolutely appalled that an army-owned TV station would make such a mistake.
Unfortunately, having spent years teaching in the Thai education system, my belief is, if that one Thai who did know who Meryl Streep was hadn’t posted the photograph, few of the Thais commenting about it would even have noticed the difference.
Yes, as much as I love Thailand and Thais, I have to say that is how poor the education system in Thailand is and, yes, I have tested it.
When I was a teacher in Thailand teaching English to 13, 14 and 15 year-olds, I once had a class where I held up photographs of famous foreign celebrities or politicians and asked my class to name them.
As you would expect, they knew people like Michael Jackson and David Beckham. But, when it came to photographs of George Bush, Tony Blair and then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, few of them had a clue who these people were. Even fewer actually cared.
So, while Thais continue to castigate Channel 5 for their Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher death news photograph, they should be a lot more worried about the knowledge of foreign countries by a large percentage of Thais.
As I will guarantee you, a majority of the country probably don’t know who Meryl Streep is, and certainly wouldn’t have noticed the Channel 5 Meryl Streep-Margaret Thatcher mix-up by themselves.
Kudos, of course, to the Thai who did.