Leave teaching in Thailand to the hacks

This is all just ridiculous

I get a kick out of reading these posts on Ajarn. Teachers try to rationalize and explain (to themselves as much as anyone) why things are the way they are in Thailand. They point to MoE regulations, Teacher's licenses, budgets, etc. I have been living and working in Thailand for years and it seems patently obvious that the problems run much deeper than these symptoms. Thailand is fundamentally unprepared for competition in a global economy and modern world. The problem is cultural.

The MoE regulations and the rest are simply the result of a fundamental inability to recognize the value of education. As others have noted, this country is full of hacks who call themselves teachers. This is, again, a symptom. Salaries, growth opportunities, management practices and the rest are sure signs that this is a country and culture that isn't willing to pay, put in the effort, or otherwise commit to hiring and utilizing quality educational personnel. Teacher's licenses and even TEFL certificates are bogus qualifications that enable you to teach in this developing country or others like Russia, Vietnam, China, etc.

If you want to make a decent salary, you need to get certified as an educator in your own country and work in a developed country. Even traditionally lax countries are quickly jumping on the 'certified teacher' wagon (check job ads for Taiwan, Korea and Japan) as more and more teacher's from western countries are laid off. I personally have a TEFL and it was the biggest waste of time. I don't mean to suggest that there are no benefits to getting one but they are not real teaching qualifications. A recent article in the Bangkok Post talked about how Thais are some of the least qualified employees working in other Asian countries. The article said that less than 10% of Thai applicants for jobs in Korea can pass basic language exams to function in a Korean workplace; that compares with 80% plus of Vietnamese applicants and those from other SE Asian countries. This places Thai employees in the poorest, most dangerous working conditions in Asia.

Another article, an editorial written by a Thai business man (the owner of Black Canyon), said that he considers Thailand's biggest problem to be complacence amongst Thai youth and a willingness to tolerate unethical behavior. This seems perceptive. The inability to learn English in the classroom seems in part a consequence of a certain arrogance. In the late 90's, before the Asian economic crash, Thailand was a "rising tiger" economy (IMF). They haven't noticed how competitive Singapore, Malaysia, and even Indonesia have become since the collapse. Thais, like the French, Japanese, and those from many other Asian countries are still in denial about the fact that their language is not the "language of business" or a "world language". Thailand is also surrounded by Burma, Laos, and Cambodia; none of these countries are paragons of progress and development, to understate the situation entirely. It's hard not to think you're awesome when you're surrounded by these global powerhouses.

I have taught ESL classes at two Thai schools (Satit Chula and Suan Sunandha Rajabat University). Chula is one of Thailand's most reputable schools. The students were far better at Chula than at Rajabat. But this downplays the fact that students, given powerful incentives that worked like a charm with students in South Korea and a minority of the Chula kids, at one of the best schools in Thailand were incapable of finishing very simple worksheet exercises. I counted that more than 50% of my Chula students were either not able or unwilling to finish a worksheet when the rewards were movie time and candy. This was shocking for me.

Rajabat was even more hellish. I left after two months and a near nervous breakdown (I was actually trying to get results). As an aside, in a survey of workplace challenges for Thai and foreigner staff, Thais reported two very interesting things about expats:1- (this is the interesting bad one) foreigners always seem to think they understand Thai culture [I understand the issues that this causes me as I deliver this argument] and 2- western expats are very results-oriented (this is obviously the good one).

Being results-oriented in a country that isn't at all is difficult. Thailand is not known for standards, advance-planning, and organization (all of which are required for a successful educational system). I can't tell you how many Thai students have asked me to take the SAT's for them for sometimes as much as 100,000 THB. But this is manifested in many more areas than just education. Just look at the failure to get the BTS extensions running, the road structure, law enforcement, logical structural planning in the construction of malls, etc, etc, etc (everyone of my friends who have visited me have gotten lost in MBK).

Thailand is still a great country to live in and it has some of the friendliest immigration regulations around (albeit only for those who don't want to stay longer than 90 days, but that is common to Asian countries: I've taught in Korea and I received a stern warning from my fantastic boss in Korea that I should, rather, MUST leave the country and return to my home after a few years). The massive number of expats that seem to keep flooding in regardless of political issues, etc. is proof enough of this.

I no longer teach ESL classes to Thai-school students. I will never again work for another Thai boss. I now work for a Chinese man with Thai citizenship (caters to the Taiwanese test prep market) and a pair of foreigners. If you're smart and resourceful enough, there are thousands of opportunities out there. Leave the Thai school ESL classes to the hacks. That will seriously cut down on the complaining and horror stories. This is a country where merit (not the Buddhist kind, obviously) is paid for, not earned.

Working with wealthy Thais exposes you to a completely different culture than the one you'll experience in government school. Many things are the same but many others are not and it reveals the fact that the Thai populace is not completely to blame for their infirmities. The majority are systematically kept away from the kind of cultural reinforcement they need from their wealthier counterparts. Buddhism and other authority elites constantly tell the public to be patient, to wait, be modest, and never have high ambitions. Meanwhile, elites are constantly moving to better their lot and find more to sell to the credulous public. This is not supposed to be an exercise in conflict theory but to say, having worked for the family that owns Central and the family that owns True, that they are a very different breed from your average Tesco customer.

Citing the criminals who call Thailand home is superfluous. The flexible immigration regulations and lax law enforcement make Thailand a favorite among criminals of all stripes and colors. Pattaya is a hilarious (and scary) melting-pot of mafia types. In a country where a get-out-of-jail free card and cheap love combo-set is a couple thousands US dollars, it should come as no surprise that pedophiles find Thailand to be a desirable locale.

Now I'll wait to see how much the foreign Thai-culture experts and arrogant (that's a paradox if I ever heard one) ESL teacher know-it-alls have to say about all this.

Aaron


Comments

If would keep blaming everything around you for your disappointment without looking back at yourself, you would never be happy anywhere in the world. Your article is a good source of entertainment but the details you went through were so biased and exaggerated with your personal pessimism. No country in this world is perfect including Thailand but I believe there are plenty of good things that haven't been observed by ignorant and disgraceful so-called English teacher like yourself. You're pretty far away from becoming a real teacher.

By Paul, Sydney, Australia (4 years ago)

Hi, most of what you say is true, Culture is a wall, but in certain cases a good wall.

I was a Teacher in the UK for 17 years and I would prefer to Teach a class of Thai Students over a UK class any day.

It comes down to what you do in the Class if you are any good you can make a huge difference.

Good Article.

By colin lesley, Thailand (4 years ago)

I just completed my TEFL course in Thailand. I never fell in love with the noisy, polluted environment of Phuket, but I did meet a girl (not a bar girl I hope). I am considering a 1-year stint just to see if what we have is real.
Of course my view is very limited as I have just 10 hours of teaching haha. It is my thinking that an educator’s passion should be, "to teach" period. I find it a little hard to shallow that teachers are saying they can’t be as creative as they want to do the best job of teaching they can. Am I to believe that the students just don't care if they learn? If that’s true what age group has that attitude? When does that type of thinking start in Thai culture? Are the kids forced to go to school as they are in the west?
Finding kids that want to be there or want to learn would be a great place for any teacher, but you can’t say teaching in inner city Detroit would be your choice J O B.
Life is a journey and from what I can infer from this article, Thailand might be a good place for a first year teachers to hone in on their own style and philosophy of pedagogy. We will all have different perceptions of culture and will have different students focus level. Hopefully we will try to teach for the good of the group (of students) and to any one individual in our classroom’s. Hopefully we will all want to try and make a positive difference in everyone’s lives.
With pure empiricism we all become our own destiny. With that said, good luck everyone!!

By J Yates, Oregon (4 years ago)

Very interesting article, assuming most of it is accurate. I came back from Mexico, teaching there three months and my experience there is similar to what this author mentions. Here's the thing: I noticed in Mexico that there are a lot of people teaching without a background in teaching per se but only with a TEFL credential OR teachers with education or credentials who maybe just accept the low standards and low stress to earn the easy money. My pay was horrible and by the time i found a decent job, $1100 per month, teaching at an elementary school, I was a bit suspicious. In my orientation, I noted that the instruction was totally controlled by the administration to the degree that they told you what to teach almost each day, and even how to teach. In Mexico, I concluded this is how everything is: no respect for professionals, no creativity, no thinking. You are told what to do and that's what they expect. I could give you examples but will not take your time here. I liked this article because i was thinking of going to teach in Thailand but now have second thoughts. I am beginning to realize that teaching in the vast majority of these countries for a REAL professional who is passionate about teaching and kids learning is nearly a waste of time. Hopefully Europe is different. i suspect Japan is. Maybe Korea although I have heard bad things about the culture there. Those who criticize this take may be the same type culprits I talked to in Mexico with a mindset that everything " was just dandy, don't worry, don't rock the boat, accept the different culture, take the money and run" kind of mentality. And believe me, I SAW and witnessed that a lot. Thanks for the warning, I appreciate it. I have been told that I can get a job in certain countries where they respect professionals and will pay them well. I think I am going to just fly there and find work which, I have been told, is the best way. Again thanks. Hate to waste my time and met lots of teachers who party, or are interested in just hustling women or men, and living a lower stressed life and are willing to accept this 3rd World Mindset. For those of you who dig it, fine. Your choice.

By Mkhail Branski, Oregon, USA (6 years ago)

I agree with philip (on 2010-12-16). Keep this site clear of comments that cannot stand on their own with you holding them up. Some of us look at this site to actually learn something and get insights. So take your 'remarks' somewhere else, but leave the editorials... that is if you are really going to write one and not just simply complain about someone else's work. I am all for free speech, but come on... !

By John, California (6 years ago)

This person cannot even punctuate accurately, making this posting even more bogus than it obviously is. Fantastic boss in Korea? Did you mean 'fanatic'?
The poster is living in an ignorant dream world of delusion.

By JC, China (6 years ago)

Guys, if you want to take pot shots at each other, then you need to start a thread on the discussion forum. The comments section of an ajarn article or blog is not really the place for it.

By philip, (7 years ago)

Kanadian- please tell me you're not from Canada and please don't compare Thailand to Canada. This is not the west and has a ways to go before it can compete or even catch up to western standards. Yet doing so or being a replica of a "first rate" country has nothing to do with those things. Don't sound like an ass (more so than you're sounding). I implore you! Seriously why can't a country so culturally different and rich in it's own history be first rate? Just because it doesn't match up to the west doesn't make it a great place. And maybe you might what to learn the difference between first rate as an expression for enjoying a place and loving the culture and people for the term first world. Sure Asia has it's corruption and dirty politics (as do we in the west) but so what? I
Mean for such first rate countries as Canada and the US are where do we sit on a numbered list of educated countries? Maybe we need to concentrate on that a little more and leave Asia alone.

By Owsley, Thailand (7 years ago)

Germaine Ben-Dover - you must be joking ? major politicial unrest, military killing it's citizens, and generals are assisnated in public, Thailand is on the edge of a civil war. Not to mention, i lived and worked in Thailand for 5 years. Gosh kinda sounds like Burma to me

By Kanadian, Jiangxi China (7 years ago)

I stand four square by what I said, Thailand is indeed a first rate country. Like Aaron you make assertions which you can not back up with so much as an explanation, let alone evidence. If what you say is true, that Thailand is not a first rate country please give us an example of a first rate country? Or are you asserting that there are no first rate countries in the world? Name a country you think is better than Thailand and why?

By Germaine Ben-Dover, Stockholm (7 years ago)

Germaine Ben-Dover, Stockholm - I'm sorry, Thailand is a WHAT ? "Thailand is a first rate country" <-- yea that's your quote.. You must have been drunk when you wrote that BS ..

By Kanadian, Jiangxi China (7 years ago)

So I have this problem! You see I came over to Asia from the west to be a teacher and they paid me 3 times the amount of a local, made me work 25 to 30 hours a week, 15 of it was actual teaching hours which left me only public holidays and my demand to take 20 days personal leave so I could have sex with a hooker I met on a tropical island! I got the HIV but my school won't provide me with medical insurance in a country where a large percentage of it's own people either can't afford it or who's jobs won't include it in their tiny wages and since I took that hooker to the island she stole all my savings and left me stranded, now when I ask my bosses for another advance (the last one was because I had to go home for my grandmother's funeral (really it was the Roadfest featuring blink182) butthey said no! I mean what the he'll is wrong with these people? I mean I hold a picture of a cat up in front of their kids for like half an hour a day and sometimes I have to put on a tie or a golf shirt and go to the park and play with the kids. I think my talent and ability are worth more than what I'm getting. I mean sure it's my first job out of uni but I have to pay off that 30,000 dollar student loan I used to get my tat sleeves done, oh and that weekend in Whistler (Woot Woot!) oh and 4 years of a BA in Woman's studies. I mean I paid a thou for a TEFL course and learned how to pay kids off but mostly we just drank and listened to our instructor tell us about all the Asian poon we would get. What am I going to do!!!? Please help by offering me a job for 40,000bht a month so I can Oxford to continue living in my serviced apartment and I don't have to fire my maid who I pay less then I spend on my coke habit in an hour.

By Owsley, Thailand (7 years ago)

Mr.Owsley,

Mate I think you have made some excellent points, most teachers are not worth their salary , teaching is much the same everywhere in Asia, the certified teachers are the loudest whingers and the sense of entitlement among certified teachers is astounding.Someone with a business degree starts their career in a low level job and works their way up,often working for someone who does not have a business degree.By contrast many certified teachers come to Asia with an attitude that they are superior teachers to 'hacks', despite the 'hacks' often having many years of actual teaching experience in Asia. I particularly liked this,

"You have a set of skills and ideas that you paid for and they gave you a piece of paper but that doesn’t make you good at something it assists in preparing you for the real thing"

Unfortunately the attitude of Aaron is all too common and I have seen it so many times that I felt compelled to write.When I taught in Japan many years ago, I, like a lot of other teachers, started out with Nova and later found better jobs.It was in the better job that I first encountered whining miserable 'certified teachers' in Japan.They were on some university exchange and so had their apartments paid for, whereas we ex-Nova 'hacks' paid rent for our apartments. They also had their airfares paid.

You would think they would be happy, but no, when they were not whinging about everything and sneering about Nova and ex-Nova teachers,they were toadying to the Japanese bosses who were suitably impressed with their certifications. On my first day the Japanese boss attached me to one of them for her first lesson in a local Junior High School. She had worked in the area for a while, she was new at this JHS because they rotated us every semester.

The boss regaled me with glowing praise for the teaching abilities of the highly certified young Aussie.After criticizing my lesson as too fast paced she began hers by producing a jar of Vegemite and insisting that every student taste some. She stretched this to an entire lesson and naturally it went down like a lead balloon. After that none of the kids wanted to talk to her. Vegemite is a black yeast extract Australians spread on bread, like Natto or Durien it is an acquired taste. Draw your own conclusions about her teaching ability.

By Germaine Ben-Dover, Stockholm (7 years ago)

Mr. Ben-Dover,

Well played sir! Well played! Seems Asia is full of these sad sack cry babies who still suckle at the teet and can't detach. Momma's boys I say! In my time as English teacher I worked hard, did my best and got paid for it as well as the recognition of my peers, students and my then employers. Later those that I hired who were great teachers and employees received the same treatment and rewards. Because whether they were "certified" teachers or not, they were teachers to me because they inspired and challenged their students and their students loved them. That is a teacher. Seems to me too many capital A-holes come to Asia and expect it to change to suit their needs or obviously far "superior" western way of doing things. I mean heck we've all complained and had issue with employers or quality before but I seems to me that if you step up and make that change happen instead of handing out worksheets, complaining and doing nothing then nothing gets better, that and you remain a a partially capable teacher and a useless employee.

By Owsley, Thailand (7 years ago)

You sir are a whinger,every expat teacher has met plenty like you. Anyone who has a near nervous breakdown from teaching English is an insipid sook. English teaching is an easy job and Thailand is a first rate country. Streets ahead of Japan, China, Taiwan or Korea. What makes you such a great teacher? You don't address this at all. Since you are calling your fellow English teachers hacks it falls to you to convince us of your merit.

You remind me of a whinging pom in Japan bleating like a ruptured choirboy that he couldn't afford a proper English breakfast because he had to drink Honshu milk instead of Hokkaido milk. You should go back to your well policed office cubicle and your well ordered suburban prison somewhere in Godforsaken Christendom, judging from your letter almost certainly England, where it is cold and the people dour and sour.

Your erudite post cites the scholarly Bangkok Post for insights into Thai culture as evidence for your statement 'Thailand is fundamentally unprepared for competition in a global economy and modern world. The problem is cultural' We used to play a game at Nova called 'sweeping generalizations', you sir would have been a star player.

By Germaine Ben-Dover, Stockholm (7 years ago)

i've lived and worked in Shanghai for six years in the education business as a teacher then manager and part owner of a chain of English Schools. Seems to me that it is much the same here as it is elsewhere in Asia. Since I have been on both sides of the fence as an employee and employer, I have learned but one true thing. Teachers of any stripe whether they be the teachers this guy refers to "hacks" or certified teachers from the west, the majority of both are neither worth the salary they get paid. I think we all need to be somewhat realistic, it is easy to come to another country and get caught up and tangled in the mix of western and eastern clashes here.

Sure they have McDonald's and paved roads and 7-11s they speak some English and whatnot but, "why can't they do things the way I want them done?!" Because most of these places are third world countries. China regardless of the fact that cities like Shanghai put most western cities to shame with it's money, it is still a city in a third world country with a third world asian viewpoint. I see constant crying and bitching coming from westerners most of it from certified teachers about how horrible it is to teach here because the kids don't do what you want them to. If you want to call yourself a teacher than teach, be the kind of teacher that engages your students and makes them want to learn (or hand out another work sheet kids love that!), sarcasm aside, teach your students how to be citizens of the globe and while you're at it teach them some English and maybe if you're lucky some manners. They will be better off for it and so will you.

Consider yourself the first line of offence in a world that doesn't make sense and try to be the kind of person and god forbid teacher who actually gives a damn about you're students. Now here is the kicker...Do not confuse your employer and your students as the same thing. You not getting paid or walking into a piss poor job that rips you off is no ones fault but your own and if you don't do the research or you don't bother to consider what working conditions you need to be happy and healthy then you deserve what you get. I spent years building an educational institute that worked with it's employees to give them what they needed (not wanted or demanded) but needed to get the job they were paid to do done in a professional and capable manner and still be happy.

But at the end of the day regardless of our track record western teachers working in the private sector of education end of going a bit crazy and acting in ways you might expect your you're younger students to act who had little group or social interaction with others before entering your class. It is the culture that gets you. It is the way the country and city is run. It is the fact that it is not your home and not your country and it will never be. This needs to be dealt with or you should leave. IF you are so rapped up in why something is this way or that, then you are most likely becoming a shame of a teacher and are doing more harm than good in the class. I have seen locals behaving in ridiculous ways making ridiculous choices (to me from my western viewpoint) to them it makes perfect sense. And sometimes you need to adjust your thinking and you might see the light in what they are doing and why it might work. Which is not to say there isn't some wretched managers and school owners out there (read above on how to avoid them). I don't even think we need to mention the horrid ways of westerners in regards to their sense of entitlement while living and working overseas. I've fired people for things they never would have dreamt of doing back home in the work force but yet do so in Asia. Afterwards they cry bloody murder for being treated unfairly.

One such story involves a teacher looking at pornography on a school computer in a kindergarten or the teacher with stunning references (and yes they included both letters and phone calls to previous employers) who on his second day showed up reeking of whiskey and obviously drunk. I could go on endlessly about the shameless conduct of westerners but it would be pointless, kind of like this article. And I would like to mention before I sign off here, I have found as a manager that hired the foreign staff that the best teachers, the most successful, happiest, hardest working as well as the teachers with the best results (not just keep rates) but number of students who were happy to learn and excelled where those teachers who this guy considers the "hacks". Maybe it was because they had a better sense to not be so rigid in their expectations of what to expect in the classroom or maybe it was because they cared about their students enough to do a good job.

Those that were let go or left on their own were more concerned with why they couldn't take two months off from their responsibilities or understand why we sent trainers in to give them extra support in the class (maybe because they weren't as capable as they thought). Regardless it was four "hacks" that helped take our school from one to seven and a public kindergarten in under six years. Oh! wait that's it! it is people who work hard, try their best to mesh with a local team as well as a diverse foreign staff and do what they are paid (and hopefully care about doing) and that is teaching. As an employer or an employee you need to care about the bottom line (not profits though in any business that is important) but education. This guy here, after trying to bribe his students with candy and a movie was "shocked" that his kids didn't want to finish their super awesome worksheets.

You don't need to bribe you're students to learn you need to involve them in what is being taught and challenge them. "Rewards" as I call them are just that, gifts for doing something well not for just doing something. "Rewards can be candy but I find that a big high five, some encouragement and a big smile works better and lasts longer in regards to the students willingness and interest in learning. Sad that this has to be coming from an uncertified teacher but maybe you need to re-evaluate your career choice, just because you have are a certified teacher doesn't mean you can teach.

There are many people who go to school to learn business but they never do well in the field. You have a set of skills and ideas that you paid for and they gave you a piece of paper but that doesn't make you good at something it assists in preparing you for the real thing. What you do well can help define you and those around you, especially in education. But maybe we should leave the teaching of youth in our own counties to arrogant teachers so that they as their Thai peers can also enjoy and experience the joys of learning from a person so stunted in his outlook on others that we can insure a higher standard of ignorance in the next generation. Aaron my friend, So far so good! keep up the lack-luster work there pal. Can I have you're last name? It would help me weed out the trash. Thanks!

By owsley, bangkok (7 years ago)

Bruce McDonald, Chachoengsao - contracts in Thailand meaning nothing. Ask the countless expats who's pay not paid even after they filed charges with the Ministry of Labour. I know at least 10 people. I also know another guy who worked for a Christian school, the first month it was 30 000, next was 27000 ( our school is poor crap ), the 3rd month was 25000. May I also say, he was a certified teacher from the USA. yes, he quit too. Another buddy, 14 years teaching experience, quit the job in 1 day.. His words were " the classroom is a joke and not worth my effort!"

By Kanadian, Jiangxi China (7 years ago)

I left after two months. Well that says it all really. Obviously honoring a contract is not a priority for this man.

By Bruce McDonald, Chachoengsao (7 years ago)

Aaron - WoW truer words where never told. I did 5 years in Thailand, 3 years teaching at both college and university level. This is my 3rd year in China teaching law at a university. The salary in Thailand is a bit higher. However the lack of support and lazy students was just too much ! I miss the sunshine of Thailand, and naturally my family.

By Kanadian, Jiangxi China (7 years ago)

I've recently written a memoir of four years of teaching in Thailand at universities there in which I attempt to argue that Thais because they are an animistic people at their very foundation, perhaps unwillingly, none-the-less, for thousands of years have worshipped water and trees and even the animated structures they have built, perceive of the life around them differently than a thousands years old and cynical western developed mind is capable of perceiving. Because of this inherent difference of perception, the veneer of a westernized society is a good fit, but only as a veneer.

I personally believe that this is a good thing, and am probably in the minority, but, the lack of a goal oriented drive in favor of questioning something as straight forward and logical as a teacher working late at night after the rest of the university has gone home (I stayed into the wee hours every night for two years writing a novel) being seen as a ghost inhabiting that space that was inhabited by the person during the day, is seeming just superstition and irrational on its surface. But, when attempted to be understood through Thai eyes (and I certainly, obviously, am not one of those who claim to be able to), the idea that in the shadowy period after dark that we all become ghosts of ourselves, is compelling. The word for butterfly in Thai, after all, is pee-sua, or "ghost shirt."

The Thais in spite of themselves and their superficial desire to embrace western ways are a poetic people, and, in the end, stewards of the land and time. This makes them, in my estimation far more ironically "advanced" than people like the one who wrote the article above. I laugh along with them (the Thais) at English and its pretentiousness and its absolute insolence at claiming to be a necessity of life. After it's all over, we are all ghost shirts, experiencing in some form, albeit through the suffering of falling off the "emerging" list or not, the keepers of time. when explored carefully, the underlying premises of the world English phenomena are corporate driven, and western corporations have proven themselves time and time again not to be a trusted force in the night that they really inhabit.

During the day, all the candy and movies in the world sound very tempting, but, there are currents of life, death and yes even culture (read Claude Levi Strauss or Mircea Eliade, writer, if you want to perhaps with some humility approach a couple of extraordinarily intelligent western minds attempting to approach the development of culture with the context of the development of consciousness, I recommend The Savage Mind and The Sacred and Profane [by the way, the French title for the Savage Mind can also be translated as the Savage Pansy) that even unconsciously prevent the full integration into what Westerners so arrogantly call "civilization" along with its presumption of their language.

By Fred Barnes, Chiang Rai (7 years ago)

Most of this article I can’t argue with. The majority of ESL positions in Thailand are not what we would call a respectable position in our own developed countries. The qualifications needed are not really relevant to the position. The economy is quite fragile and corruption is rampant. The education system is in need of an overhaul. With that said and known I don’t really understand why an individual would want to look for a position that would be adequate (in our perspective) in these conditions. If you go to an Indian restaurant and get upset they don’t serve Chinese I quite frankly think is ridiculous. These factors that the author has stated are ingrained and will not easily change if at all in the near future. So I ask why fight it? I can see from the author the frustration he had and understandably so…… if you are trying to swim up a waterfall.

In regards to people saying that non-Thais don’t truly know Thai culture I believe they are in fact saying that it is none of our business and that Thais will play the game how they want to regardless of the consequences. Who are we to tell another country and its people how to be and what to do? Even the great “economic engine” of our time spits and falters and its people have not been known to be worldly either. But hey… That is their way of doing things and who are we to say anything without pointing out all of the negatives in our own backyards

The best thing to do when thinking about working in another country is to leave what you think you know and how things should be done at the airport and be prepared for new experiences. If you want things to be the same….. why leave your country at all?

By Mr R, BKK (7 years ago)

Good post Aaron
But I resent being called a hack.
I've been teaching in Thailand for several years with no past experience,but I enjoy every minute. I know all about the problems we have, but I get on with it and will continue. I give 100% in my lesson, but you can lead a horse to water it doesn't mean it has to drink it.

By George, Thailand (7 years ago)

Ok, this guy may have some experience living and working in Thailand but after reading this all I could think was that he just doesn't sound like a very happy or pleasant person at all. You're making money now, good for you! So, why don't you just lighten up a little?
He must be an American...

By David Gambell, Bangkok (7 years ago)

I agree completely with the author of the article when he says that "[i]f you want to make a decent salary, you need to get certified as an educator in your own country and work in a developed country."

And, lepper, I do not know what a TEFl cert entaiils exactly but I am in possession of a proper CELTA/RSA, which is indeed useful and still not a big thing in comparison to a proper Ed diploma from a Western country.

I quite simply consider the whole Tefling world to be not exactly career-worthy. Unless you're very lucky and get a decent long-term deal with a good pay and benefits.

By tomix, bkk (7 years ago)

Thai Culture! It's not that hard to understand! years and years of oppression, subordination, bowing down and fear, zero freedom of speech, and extremely poor education. Thats about it!! There's nothing 'magical' and 'unknown' about that!

By john, bkk (7 years ago)

Great post Aaron. I agree with everything you say.

One thing though, TEFL certs are the minimum requirement to teach EFL/TEFL, whatever you want to call it, to foreign students who are living in the UK.
Students who know why they are learning English (because they are there!), and are basically using the language that they learn in the classroom upon stepping foot out of the language centre. Obviously employers are looking for relevant experience, but a tefl cert is a must.

I think the problem here is that schools are putting (and have been for years!) TEFL qualified teachers into jobs where they are actually a classroom teacher; teaching everything under the sun, including PE/Social/Science etc. The TEFL cert/dip is /was not designed for this.

Anyway, that's my 'ten penneth' as they say. I am not in the teaching game anymore, thank god. But I have certainly 'done my time', and that's why I agree with most of what you say. Once again, great article!!

By paul jones, bkk (7 years ago)

Everything you said is true but should we blame the kids?

By Brian, Bangkok (7 years ago)

Good article Aaron. After bad experiences with the two schools that I have taught at here in BKK over the last three years, I have pondered a lot about the causes and why Thailand will never move forward in this world.

Two of the biggest factors that jump out at me are (a) corruption and (b) in all levels of school management, most are only concerned with their self interests, not the interests of the students. Kids in Thailand are exposed to corruption early. Corruption is in your face everywhere in Thai society. They all know that money will be an easy way to get what you want and to get out of trouble. Often at the beginning or end of classes or outside of the classroom, I will overhear conversations from my secondary school students and casually inquire on things I hear. Only one of my male students had military duty. When I asked the other male students why they did not have to do it, they smiled and casully said, "money". After hearing stories of a wild night out in some of Bangkok's discos, I ask "I would think you are too young to be admitted into a disco". The immediate response, "We just pay the security at the door".

As far as school management goes, I observe that most of them (not all) put their self interests FAR ABOVE the interests of the students. They only cater to the interests of the students if it does not conflict with their interests. Much of the management do not support the teacher in classroom discipline. If a discipline issue is taken out of the classroom about brought to the attention of school management, they may look down upon the teacher because now the manager or supervisor's job is more difficult and also they do not want anything to possibly threaten the students enrollment numbers. Discipline is usually not a problem with Thai students. They are generally much more respectful compared to their Western counterparts.

However, if there is a discipline issue and managment sides with the student and parent, the kids learn about this and know they can get away with anything they want. Upper levels of management will also do anything they can to boost student enrollment and increase their salaries. At the international school I previously worked at, we admitted some students with serious learning disabilities and phsycological problems that we could not address in our program. We also admitted some students in our North American program (now called the International Diploma Program) who could not speak one bit of English. In one case, we had a Thai student who lived in Japan almost all of his life, he could not speak English nor Thai! So other students could not even translate for him! All of these things are causes of students not getting the attention or education they need to be successful in the world.

Unfortunately, doing what is easy and corruption prevail in Thai society. Unless this changes in this society, Thailand will be left behind.

By Michael, Bangkok (7 years ago)

Regardless of your personal attitude, you can at least find a handfull of students who can learn from you and appreciate your efforts. I agree though, TEFL certs are a joke. I have CELTA. It has been very useful, despite the brutality of the training program. I think if you look for the bad side of things hard enough, you'll find them.

By lepper, Bkk (7 years ago)

Guy, I'm glad you're happy. My only question is: why would a CV entry for a Thai school be worth anything outside of teaching in a Thai school in Thailand? The only thing going for foreigner teachers working here in Thailand is that most of the world doesn't understand just how worthless experiences (for job purposes only, I mean) here really are? Do you really see your experiences here in Thailand as super meaningful jobs? If so, I am jealous. I guess perception is all that matters.

By Aaron, Bangkok (7 years ago)

good one

By sara, bkk (7 years ago)

Generally true. I might add that Thais are completey correct when they think that foriegners do not understand their culture. I have lived here for 8 years and made a real effort to learn to speak what Thai i can. I have worked in many different situations and the culture still mystifies me. I think I can often predict what thais will do in a situation, but the reasons why are often difficult to understand. I have also worked in korea and found that students there were not superstars when it came to speaking English and from what I hear japan in spite of the 100s of thousands of teachers who have worked there aint exactly on top of it either.

By leelepper, 2350 (7 years ago)

Teaching isn't for everyone. Aaron, you quit one job after a scant two months, so that barely qualifies as a cv entry. I'm happy you found happiness working outside the classroom for wealthy Thais - well, a Chinese man with Thai citizenship - as these social climbers with important titles and fat wallets are more your cup of tea.

By Guy, Bkk (7 years ago)

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