This is the place to air your views on TEFL issues in Thailand. Most topics are welcome but please use common sense at all times. Please note that not all submissions will be used, particularly if the post is just a one or two sentence comment about a previous entry.

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Life's so unfair for the bad teachers

Getting ahead in the teaching game can be very difficult. You stay another year at your school, get paid a little more, maybe some more holiday, but that's about it. The longer you stay the more useless teachers you see come and go. You have that mixed feeling of knowing you're worth more in your school, but also how you are now the go-to-guy whenever there's a problem with people like '23-year-old James from Leeds' who loves getting leathered and indulging with the local ladies. He didn't go to uni, but he's wicked good at installing Sky satellite dishes. He thinks he got the job simply because he's special and handsome and finds it hard to cope with any criticism or requests to do work. The break from the honeymoon period has been hard on James. So bad he's thinking of getting a new job! He threatens this in his head everyday.

For every good teacher, I'd say there are three bad ones. The bad ones are usually allowed to coast along until the school finally get their revenge and don't renew their contract. Some like James from Leeds live from paycheck to paycheck so know they actually need their job. They'll come to work on time and not complain for the last few weeks. All the things anyone should be doing in their job anyway. This way the school might think James has turned a corner. At the very least for James, he has his "I've been treated unfairly" card for when the school wanna let him go. He can tell his friends and missus who quit her job when she met him how he arrived on time, taught his lessons and was loved by everyone at the school. Except for one person who had it in for him for 'no reason'. Life's so unfair for James.

Rinse and repeat in many schools. The good teachers watch the bad teachers come and go and wonder why nothing is changing. Often quoting Einstein's definition of insanity.


Don't accept paltry salaries

I have been teaching in Chiangmai for about 10 years now and my salary is now just above 50 k per month. I started back in the day at 28k a month. I cannot believe that even 50 k can be enough to live in Bangkok let alone 30k.

I agree with other teacher's comments, do not encourage these 'employers' by taking their paltry salaries. I realise that many people are settled here with Thai nationals and have children and these people may very well feel that they do not have a choice in dictating or demanding certain salaries, even if they are experienced esl teachers.

Thailand attracts a lot of very young newly qualified teachers who have had no experience teaching in their own countries they qualified from and many of whom are doing a really abysmal job of teaching their pupils. These qualified teachers are not here to stay but are in fact here to have fun, use their salaries on hedonistic activities then leave. These teachers are not too concerned about how much money they make because they are only here to have a good time. I feel that it is these teachers whom are lowering the basic salaries kingdom wide for serious long term teachers by accepting these low paying positions.

Qualifications certainly seem to come before age and experience and this is to the detriment of the pupils in Thai schools. For those teachers who have been here a while and are doing a good job and have furthered their education by doing a pgcei or a masters in education on top of their degrees, should leave Thailand and work in schools where their knowledge experience and qualifications are valued both monetarily and personally.

Another thing to note is that western teaching qualifications do not have a great focus on English as a second language learner and this too affects the children's education in Thailand as specific strategies are needed to teach them successfully.

John


Thailand v Korea comparisons

Thought I would list some of my experiences with TEFL in Korea (Gimhae, Busan) vs Thailand (Pattaya, Bangkok). I taught for a year in Korea before doing two years in Thailand.

Schools

Korea - A hagwon (language academy). More of a business than a school. Long, hard working days from 10 am till after 9 pm at night sometimes. Long days, odd hours and tiring but the students are more respectful and interested in learning English than Thai students.
I pitied a lot of my students as many were forced by their parents to do extra studying on top of their already arduous schedule. Schools are more organised than Thailand and follow set curriculums although offer opportunity for games and funtime too, especially with kids. A lot of shady, hagwon horror stories but I got lucky and fared ok.

Thailand- two different government schools with Pratom and Mattayom. More fun teaching than Korea but I felt like more of a rent-a-clown than a teacher. Classes based a lot more around fun and games than proper learning. Students generally ok but largely uninterested in English.

Thai students often lack critical thinking due to terrible rote-style learning from their Thai teachers and are more afraid to speak up for fear of losing face. Some very noisy, chaotic and naughty classes, particularly with younger kids (often leaving the room with a sore throat!).

Schools are unbelievably disorganised and frustrating to deal with last minute changes, compulsory staff meetings in Thai language etc. Much more freedom in the classroom but far worse conditions (40 students to a class, dodgy facilities, some classrooms had no air-con etc). Some very dodgy Thai government schools indeed but I fared OK.

Not recommended for more serious teachers as it will drive you crazy.

Visa situation

Korea - Difficult and expensive initially getting required documents (apostille, etc) and also fairly trapped to the school on an E2 visa. But at least no 90-day check ins, re-entry if you travel abroad and generally better once "in-country".

Thailand - Absolute nightmare. Ever changing rules and requirements for legalisation of documents to get a non-B visa, some of which were so laugh-worthy they were a farce. On top of that, 90-day check ins, re-entry permits to go abroad and having to leave the country and start the whole ordeal again should you change school.

Weather

Korea - Sucked balls. Blistering summers, arctic winters, typhoons and not much in between except a couple of weeks in cherry blossom season.

Thailand - Awesome, perfect winters, always warm and usually sunny. Just what the doctor ordered after a tough Korean winter.

Things to do

Korea - Cool mountains and beaches relatively OK but suck for the cold half of the year. Cleaner nature and some interesting things to see. Snowboarding in winter too. Cities cool but nightlife not as fun as Thailand.

Thailand - Awesome, jungle treks, stunning beaches and cool islands. Loved the crazy cheap nights out, pool parties, riding my moto down the palm fringed beaches and forests at dusk. Only downside is the polluted beaches/rivers in parts, especially nearer to Bangkok. A lot of rubbish, poverty and stray dogs everywhere which is pretty depressing.

Infrastructure

Korea - Far better, good roads and high speed trains anywhere in the country. Clean, modern cities with lots to do. But drivers sucked

Thailand - A lot worse but more interesting. Standard developing country affair of noisy, dirty and chaotic cities, bad public transport and terrible drivers. More "character" but can definitely become suffocating and after a while you long for a beach/nature getaway.

People

Korea - I found Koreans to be more contrasted, some very Westernised with good English and interest in the western world, others very unfriendly and curt. More reserved than Thailand and often times ruder too. I considered Koreans to be the "Germans of Asia" if that makes sense?

Thailand - Far friendlier than Koreans but also more likely to try scamming you, particularly in tourist spots. Generally worse at English but more willing to talk to farangs.

Dating

Korea - Worst place I experienced in Asia for dating (Korea, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand). Loads of beautiful girls with zero interest in farangs unless they work for Samsung/similar. Humble English teachers particularly looked down upon.

To make it worse, local guys can be the worst. Although there are quite a few girls who are interested in westerners, I only scored a few dates the whole time I was there.

Thailand - A single farang man's goldmine. Lost count of how many dates I scored there. However, pay attention as a lot of them might just be gold-diggers in disguise, particularly in tourist areas. Also, harder to find girls you can have "intelligent conversation" with besides shopping, facebook and Thai TV/music (but also some really cool, worldly minded Thai girls too).

Overall

Korea - Sweet teacher packages (free apartment, flights, end of contract bonus and much better salary) but generally less to do outside of work (unless you live in Seoul or Busan). Generally attracts more "serious" teachers (as opposed to backpackers extending their trip).

Weather sucks and locals are less friendly but the country is much more developed, modern and first world. EPIK generally safer than hagwons but you might get placed in the boonies and be the only farang in the village. Good for first timers or those looking to save money as you are totally spoonfed with programs and can put away easily half your salary if you are frugal.

Thailand - Much more laissez-faire and possibly more intimidating to the first time teacher as you aren't babied nearly as much as Korea and with it being a developing country.

More "interesting" mix of expats, some cool, some not so cool. Cheap costs but the salary sucks and it'll be hard to save anything unless you can fully live like a local in a crap, Thai-style apartment, eat Thai food every day and not party or travel, although lets be real, no farang goes to Thailand to live like a monk.

Lifestyle far trumps that of Korea (beaches, travel opportunities, nightlife, climate) and much more of an "exotic adventure".

Either way, both destinations couldn't be more different to each other and both have merits and downsides worth checking out!

Jey


Problems bringing a Thai wife or husband back to the UK

Hello Phil, I've followed your website for over twelve years now, and even though I don't teach in Thailand anymore I still like to have a look every week or so. I teach in other countries, but my wife still lives in Thailand so I still spend a lot of time there.

One of the sections in your site that is interesting is the "great escape" section. For a lot of people, teaching in Thailand is something they'll do for a few years. After that they may well head back to their home country.

Now getting to the point, a lot of these teachers will get married to a Thai citizen during their time in the country. If they are from the UK, they will find it difficult to take their spouse back home with them. To get a settlement visa for their spouse the sponsor must find a job earning 18.6K per year or more. They can earn less than this if they have savings, but only if the savings are more than 16K. The visa is also very expensive and is often rejected, meaning that people pay out thousands of pounds for absolutely nothing.

I recently joined a Facebook group called "I LOVE MY 'FOREIGN' SPOUSE: defend the rights of cross-border couples" This group has over 10,000 members. Last week the admin of the group created a petition to parliament to ask to change these laws. Maybe it can't happen right now, but if people keep on bringing the issue to the government's attention something might change in our favour one day. I think that you must be aware of these rules as you are British too!

Here is the petition:

If you could feature this on your site, then that would be amazing. It's quite a big issue that must affect hundreds, if not thousands, of your readers.

Kind Regards.

John


The visa runaround

The process for getting a teacher's visa in Thailand (non-B) is anything but simple (as of my experiences with Jomtien immigration when I was last there).

First, I needed original proof (housebook or letter from owner) of where I was staying. If the accommodation you are living in is owned by a farang (condo) then you need this letter from the Thai building owner. If you are staying in a hotel/hostel, you need a letter from the owner of that (whether or not they are actually in town/country doesn't matter to the officials, you still needed it). This then had to be authenticated by the city hall.

Secondly, I needed to get my (original) degree certificate sent over from the UK. A photocopy would no longer suffice. It had to be the original certificate.

Waiting for the required documents to arrived was a long and stressful process (what if they got lost in the Thai post?!)

My time on my tourist waiver ran out and I had to take a border run to Cambodia (getting a grilling of who I was, what I was doing in Thailand and why I was there from the stern Thai official at the re-entry border).

I was then told to obtain photographs of myself including one of me "teaching" students, one of me with a Thai colleague and one again stood by the sign for the school name at the front gates (although when I questioned them asking me for pictures of myself teaching without a visa that allows me to teach would have been illegal, they became agitated and said "I tell you already, why you no understand!?"

Of course nobody in Jomtien immigration office spoke English or even explained anything to my Thai partner when I took her with me. It seemed they didn't even know the rules themselves. The request for photographs was way beyond Thai logic and the whole thing would have been hilarious if it wasn't so stressful.

I then waited for more than a couple of weeks for my monumentally incompetent school admin to produce the contract and proof of my employment document.

In the time waiting for this, my 30 days again ran out and I took a weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur, getting another 30 days (and another grilling off Thai immigration at Don Muang).

Thirdly, I had to take this to be legalised and authenticated by the British Embassy of Bangkok.

Jay


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