An Indian teacher in Thailand

Bobo Meitei faces the perils and pitfalls of finding a teaching job

It was an unconfident voice courageously drawling American accent displaying her exposure and the frequent queries she seemed accustomed to, "Where are you from?"

She was calling from an agency after she had found out that an allegedly grumpy British teacher had walked out from the school, now that they were in dire need of a potential and displayable person who could step into the shoes left by the allegedly grumpy man. The first thing she asked me after she supposedly screened my forwarded resume was " I know that you are from India, what colour is your hair? How tall are you? And do you have farang look? I know some Indians have farang look." I was already chafed and repulsed by the torrential queries at the same time I pitied her ignorance and her remote inquisition, so I politely explained " I'm afraid I don't possess the look you are eyeing for madam. On the contrary I could be mistaken for a Thai man as I am from the North eastern part of India. If you are looking for an ESL teacher then I would not mind admitting the fact that I am a qualified person. I have a master's degree with TEFL certificate and I have been teaching for more than 3 years. Would that do?" She said I could give a demo lesson at the school then it would be up to the school to decide my fate, beggars can't be choosers.

Behind the main gate was a huge statue of Lord Buddha, the man who disagreed with caste system in traditional Hindu society, a man who saw beauty and value in everything and every creature. It was a hot morning after spending two hours travelling by the sky train then a bus ride and another shuttle bus ride to get to the place not to mention the hassle of asking people at every stop in my limited Thai. The warm security guard escorted me to the office building where I was to meet the lady from the agency and the director of the school, she was standing there in her black attire next to the obese lady director who was enveloped in shiny Thai silk suit, she also asked me " where you come from?" I didn't have to give a second thought on the answer She looked at me once then turned toward to the lady from the agency and the their discussion in Thai volleyed over my ears.

In Thai " Ohh! His speaking is very fluent and clear, but we are afraid whether parents will be able to accept him. Ok we could see how he teaches just to make him feel good." I was trapped in a hopeless situation I could have bolted out from that creepy place but I was the person in need and I wanted to be favoured to grasp the moment to demonstrate my skills. When their discussion in Thai was finally over I taken into a classroom where the polite Thai home room teacher smiled at me graciously and disappeared leaving the director and the agent outside the classroom observing me teach through the ajar door amid their vibrant discussion and constant nose-picking session distracting my demo lesson. I underestimated her obvious indifference. When I came out from the classroom I saw the answer in her indifferent face, she had already concluded before I had started the demo lesson. Without further questions and discussion the director pressed her palms against my arms and in Thai "Thank you."

The agent met me at the school gate where the Buddha was planted to rationalise the obese lady director's" Thank you" to me; there was no way they could have an Asian teacher with oriental look as the consequences would be a direct threat to the school committee from the parents' association. I wanted to scream at the lady from the agency for wasting the my time and money when I could be at home reading a wonderful book and blogging, but I was a committed person and the fuel that kept me running was the romance, otherwise why I would be knocking on people's door for a job only to be subjected to discrimination when I could be working in a university anywhere in the sub-continent or as a writer. I was the architect of my fate.

Seeing that I was deeply disappointed the lady took off without even bidding adieu leaving in the middle of an outskirt place 50 kms from Bangkok. Chafing would not help me, instead I phoned up some people to inquire if they would be in a position to have me at their schools. The sympathetic English man who, to my understanding, was in charge of a language centre explained how differently he hired people on the basis of their talents and experience rather than ones' colour of skin and nationality. He was kind enough to forward an SMS to me mentioning the exact location of his office and how I could get to his office. On Sunday afternoon dressed in formal attire I rode the skytrain and sat in a taxi for one hour to see the person who sounded so just and sympathetic. Smiling he ventured out from his shop house to welcome me. There was no signboard whatsoever through which one could identify the place, the office space was meticulously carved out in between the recklessly piled up thick folders on the desks and the empty floor ceiling book shelf, and leading me through mounds of more files he offered me a place to sit in front of the Tesco Lotus desk over which his AVIO laptop compute sat, perhaps displaying his familiarity of modern conventional know-how.

To quench his disbelief that I was from India I explained I was really from the sub-continent, still he relentlessly maintained his " but your English is not Indian, and also your look. I thought you were an American when I heard your voice. It's just intriguing." After he listened intelligently to me he unintelligently presented his true nature of business and what erratic things he could offer in return for the professionalism he was expecting. There was a government school which was in desperate need of a teacher so what he wanted me to do to get his supposedly 3 month full-time job without any guarantee for visa and work permit was to display my skill for a week at the school, if the school liked me then I would get his so-called 3 month full time job.

Sometimes when you are repeatedly humiliated the degree of humiliation you feel is lessened, in my best manner I explained how odd it was to me to see professionalism and impermanence at one place, expecting consistency from a persistent vagabond. I was too flagged to display my contempt, so we shook hands like good old friends and I left the godown-like office smiling at the Filipino teachers who had travelled from another province for the same job, wishing them the best of Indian luck I hurried home to ponder over what I should do.

I stuck to an evening part-time job and reading and writing in day time for few weeks. However, I sensed that my helpless girlfriend wanted me to go out to find a full time position which could help prolong my stay in Bangkok. What could I expect from those job advertisements which were only for Caucasians, it would be very naive on my part to spend time writing formal emails and calling the schools which specifically mentioned " no Asians please! Europeans or NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS" but I was a person who was waiting for an unexpected fat chance relying on my incorrigible side fed by the optimistic side of human life. Yes! The colour of my blood is red like my mates', I get drunk when I gulp down a pint, I also know what's just and unjust as emotions and understandings are not the patented properties of one group of classed people.

A prominent school from Bangkok which had just opened one of its branches notified me that my name was on the list among the potential Mathematic teachers and I should be at the school the following day to meet the supervisor who would observe me teach. I was not a brilliant Economics student but I had no doubt that I could teach Mathematic to primary students give a year and a half year experience in a Bilingual school. Although I got home late at night from evening part-time job I managed to wake up before 5 o'clock to press my clothes and prepare everything.

As I had planned I was at the school 40 kms from downtown Bangkok, the flamboyant supervisor showed me the place and instructed the Filipino teacher to help me explain where I should go to observe other teachers teach and what time I should give a demo lesson. At lunch I ran into an eastern European teacher who insisted that he was from the States, a crow strutting in another bird's feathers. What I didn't know was his insistence was quite worthy, worthier than ordinary Europeans not to mention the Indians and Filipinos.

They admitted that the observers were satisfied with my methodology and the pseudo-American took led me to a meeting room where a larger and a more observant bunch was waiting to grill me, I faced the music and waited for what they had in store for me. Certainly they had something, but it was not the flamboyant supervisor who could decide how much he could offer except for the categorised scales, 1,5000 Baht for Filipinos, 20,000 Baht for Indians, 30,000 Baht for Europeans and 3,5000 Baht for the so-called native speakers of English. I made it a point to put it before them that I had been in this field for more than 3 years and it wouldn't be impossible for me to accept the Indian pay scale as my last remuneration was 60% more that what they could offer. The pseudo-American cast his perplexed eyes at the flamboyant supervisor upon hearing that, throwing his left leg over the another and throwing his hands wide in the air and in his rounded vowels " all I can do is to speak to the school director and call you." Sitting in few rumbling buses somehow I got home in the evening a little hopeful.

I did hear from the flamboyant man but this time his voice was the voice of a defeated man who would just sit and listen if one cracked on him. The school director made it quite clear that it would be against the school's policy to offer an Asian teacher with 3 years teaching experience anything beyond 20 grand. Anger is what renders a man to an irrational and pitiable creature, gripped by abundant anger and more humiliation I barked on the phone " if you hired an inexperienced American Mathematics teacher how much would you offer him?" , the defeated frail voice answered " it'd be between 3,5000 to 40000 Baht",

I yelled at that caught up man "so your bloody school thinks that Indian Mathematics is cheaper than American Mathematics, do you? It's appalling!"

There's no denying of the fact that there are abundant Asian teachers with incoherent English this, however, does not justify the absurd attempt to invalidate the capabilities of individuals from few parts of the world, we should also admit the fact that professional teaching is not the patented skill of Caucasian people, if so then the world is going to the dogs and we know the produce of doggy world. To me this is nothing more than undermining the potential of various intellectualisms, which appear so crude through the prism of people like historian like John Mill. It seems like those successful Indian born writers and professors teaching crème de le crème students in various parts of the world would have a hard time finding a place in this land of smile.


It hurts me to read you words by words. India educated and cultured them, but whites have used and exploited them. I guess, this is how things roll here.
I would suggest you to go somewhere with your romance; somewhere better where you are respected and valued for what you are and who you are.

By Andre, Rangsit (2 years ago)

I can totally relate to everything that has been said and discussed. I am originally from India, have been teaching English in Thailand for over 6 years and have recently been an EFL lecturer at a reputed government university. I have decided to move on from my current job and find that even after all these years of experience and a M.A in TESOL, it is very difficult for me to find another job as almost all jobs these days explicitly or otherwise state that they will not entertain applications from non- Caucasians or non- Filipinos. This is the epitome of discrimination in Thailand. I am thinking that realistically I'll have to move on to doing my Ph.D. and continue teaching in other parts of the world, where hopefully there are non-racist people. and the focus is SKILL, not SKIN.

By Purnima, Chiang Rai (3 years ago)

Hi Surej, firstly thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm an indian that is about to visit Thailand as well as take a job as an english teacher. May we correspond privately via email? I have many concerns and a few questions that require some sensitive sentiment when answered. Please assist me, I would be forever grateful.

By Victor Rhan, South Africa (6 years ago)

i am finding a teaching job myself here in thailand for the past two months.I am an indian women with extraordinary personality and an extremely good command over the English language as u must be familiar with our indian standard of education.
Everytime i speak on the phone the person concerned is very excited to meet up and even when they see me they r happy enough but the entire problem starts from the fact that i am not Blond,Fair skinned or not Native English Speaker.But my English is not Indian english

Will anyone explain them that our education system n our command over the language at times is better n at power with international standards.

Hope they know what they r thinking n creating by this sort if discrimination!!
hope the best to you!!

By jabeen chowdhary, wattana (6 years ago)

Dear Friend
I am really sorry to hear your experiances in Thailand to find a teaching job.
I wish you will find some position that suits your qualification soon anywhere here in Thailand


By Surej, Bangkok (7 years ago)

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