18 red flags
18 points to consider carefully when choosing a school
Several years ago, a teacher called Jonathan, who runs a very popular Facebook page dedicated to the discussion of teaching jobs in Thailand, put together an interesting bullet-point list of the 18 ‘kinds of school' that he would not work for.
The original list was passed on to me very recently by another teacher and gentleman who has taught in both the Thai school system and in private language schools. Thanks a lot Gordon!
Jonathan's original bullet points appear in bold type. ALL OF THE comments below the bold type are either mine or Gordon's.
OK, let's get started.
I wouldn't work for.........
1. Schools that don't pay a teacher for the breaks between semesters - regardless of how long a teacher has been at the school
This evil practice started several years ago.
In the good old days, teachers signed a 12-month contract and were paid for all of those twelve months - whether they were working or not.
Understandably, many teachers looked forward to a month or so off on full pay and with it the chance to perhaps take a vacation and recharge their batteries.
Then a few of the more unscrupulous agencies out there saw a chance to claw back a bit more from the teacher and decided not to pay them for mid-term breaks.
To ‘nickel and dime' a teacher who is already working for ‘survival wages' is simply a despicable practice. I don't know how else to put it.
Schools and agencies who don't pay their teachers for school holidays are still thankfully in the minority, but their numbers do seem to be increasing.
Many teachers who find themselves in these situations are naturally worried about how they are going to survive for several weeks with no income. Schools and agencies realize this and will sometimes promise the teacher opportunities to do paid mid-term work such as Summer camps, etc and to keep the earnings coming in.
But as many a teacher will tell you, promises are there to be broken and the extra work doesn't always materialize.
2. Schools that don't provide teachers without even the most basic health insurance package.
All the private language schools that I have worked for full-time have provided some sort of basic health insurance package. I would never consider health insurance as a benefit - it's a necessity! Discuss it at the interview.
3. Schools that dock a teacher's pay when they are late for work - even by just a few minutes.
Perhaps I was just lucky but at all the places I worked, on the VERY rare occasion I was late for my first lesson of the day, another teacher would take over and kill time until I arrived. There was never ever a fuss made about the situation. There were certainly no fines or punishments.
However, to my horror, a foreign teacher on social media told me that his school docked his pay for turning up just five minutes late. And this was after the teacher had arrived at least half an hour early every other day that week and had voluntarily stayed behind after school to help with a class project.
Admittedly, I have never worked at large Thai schools with lots of students and staff members. Perhaps these larger organisations do need to implement a ‘clocking in' system where the rules need to be the same for both Thai and foreign staff. But being fined for being five minutes late still seems harsh.
4. Schools that fail to furnish teachers with an adequate sized teachers' room.
Good point! A teacher needs enough space to work in and prepare lessons along with a locker to store their valuables.
5. Schools that have no computers available so teachers are forced to bring their own.
I never used a school computer except maybe to surf the web during breaks. Let me bring Gordon in on this point. He says "in today's day and age, I prefer to save school related stuff on my own computer anyway"
I'm with Gordon on this. I always carried my own small, lightweight laptop with me. They're not too expensive and they're always a good investment. And of course you keep all your private stuff in one place.
6. Schools that don't have an internet connection.
"This goes without saying" says Gordon, and once again I agree with him. It doesn't break the bank for a school to equip a teachers room with wi-fi.
Believe or not, I once worked for a school with a Thai female boss who when in a bad mood because someone had upset her, would turn off the wi-fi router purely to punish the teachers. Eventually one of us would pluck up the courage to knock on her office door and tell her that the internet was down. "I'll see what I can do" she would bark back. After a while she'd turn the router back on. After she felt we had suffered enough. How petty was that? May your school be free of tinpot dictators.
7. Schools that insist you have to remain on the premises for longer than the legal 'working day'.
"This is a difficult one" says Gordon, "in the past, I have argued the toss with a school so I could leave early to teach part-time elsewhere - when of course it wasn't affecting my classes at the school. By and large the school management has always agreed to my demands"
8. Schools that don't allow teachers to exit the school premises during a break just to perhaps run a quick errand.
What! You can't pop out for ten minutes to the nearest 7-11 to buy an ice cream or to pay your electricity bill? That's prison, not school!
"That is ridiculous and I'd never accept it in a million years" adds Gordon.
I'm with you all the way brother.
9. Schools that don't have air-conditioning in some or all of the classrooms.
"air-conditioning is certainly preferable, although at my last school we didn't have it in every classroom" says Gordon.
Personally, I don't think I have ever taught in a classroom without air-conditioning. I can't imagine teaching in a classroom without air-conditioning. However, I've discovered over the years that not every teacher likes air-con so it comes down to personal choice this one. If you're teaching at a school in Northern Thailand during December and January, you'll probably need your woolly hat and gloves anyway, but April in Bangkok? No air-conditioning? Are you insane?
10. Agents that pay you less than 40,000-50,000 baht a month and much less than that if you are working at a school outside Bangkok.
The topic of teacher pay is debated in plenty of other places on the ajarn website so I'll spare you all the agony of going over it again. You know what you are worth! I wouldn't disagree with those figures above though.
Gordon says "this is certainly open to debate and I understand both sides of the argument (I'm sitting on the fence I know), although I did leave my last job because they told me a week before I was due to start that all teachers would have to take a ‘slight reduction' in salary of 2,000 baht per month"
11. Schools that take advantage of Filipino teachers and pay them considerably less than native speakers.
Having spoken to a number of Filipino teachers and bloggers over recent months, I think the days of Filipinos working for 15,000 baht salaries might be coming to an end. There are still plenty of schools and employers offering that kind of salary but whether they are successful in finding qualified, capable Filipino staff is another matter.
I think Filipinos are finally waking up to the fact that they are not only worth more, but Bangkok especially, has become a much more expensive place to live. In addition, more than a few have told me that the situation back home in The Philippines has improved considerably so teaching in Thailand is not the draw it once was.
12. Schools that fail to come up with a proper teacher contract.
There are cynics out there that will tell you a contract between an employer and employee ain't worth the paper it's printed on. The Thai Labor Department would disagree and should you ever need their assistance, it will help to produce a contract. So get one.
13. Schools that employ you as an English teacher but then want you to teach other subjects (math, science, etc).
Gordon says, "I have experienced this. I was told the day before I started that I would be required to teach economics. Fortunately part of my degree included economics but just you try teaching even basic economic theory to matayom one students when their English is fairly basic to say the least"
I think rather like air-conditioning in classrooms, this one comes down to personal choice. I can understand Gordon's frustration at having to teach a subject to students who aren't up to the task, but I think many teachers would welcome the opportunity to teach something other than English and try their hand at maths, science or whatever.
14. Schools or agencies that pay only for the semester so it avoids paying a teacher for the semester break.
Gordon calls this a ‘blatant rip off' but I'm not 100% sure I grasp the situation. Is this when a school says they will employ you for just one semester and then it's job done and goodbye? Or they offer to pay you ‘semester by semester' and not for the breaks in-between, in which case we could refer to point number one at the top of the list couldn't we?
15. Schools that don't provide a teacher's desk or table on which to put your books, CD player, etc.
A teacher needs a desk. Nuff said.
16. Schools that don't provide free whiteboard marker pens.
Gordon says "I have actually bought my own markers before so that's not a big issue although I suppose they should be supplied; however, you could argue tradesmen have to purchase their own tools"
Hmmm.....interesting comment Gordon. I've never thought about it that way but I've never heard of teachers paying for markers either.
I'm going to come down on the schools' side a little bit here though because quality white-board markers are not cheap and I often saw teachers be disrespectfully wasteful with them.
At one language school I worked at, teachers were allowed two board markers a week - a blue one and a red one or two blue ones - and you guarded them with your life. Two markers a week was more than enough, even for those of us who taught a lot of hours. However, if you were one of those teachers who filled every spare inch of the whiteboard (usually an inexperienced teacher) or a teacher who loved to draw elaborate pictures, then you were in trouble.
Honestly, I never blamed schools for keeping a tight rein on board-marker usage but to make teachers pay for them just doesn't seem right.
17. Schools that make a teacher teach an unreasonable number of periods / hours a week.
Gordon says "this is a difficult one. I have in the past taught between 16 and 21 periods a week but would prefer to teach around 16 x 50-minute classes. I am now working at a language school and last month taught 119 hours, which is a lot, and something I don't want to do for more than a year - so I'm tending to side with this"
119 hours in one month Gordon? Luxury. My record was 184 contact hours in one month and we had to pay the language centre owner to work there!
Seriously though, I did do 184 classroom hours in one month but it's not something I would recommend.
This again comes down to personal preference though because there are so many variables. How difficult is the subject matter? (is it a lesson you could almost teach in your sleep) How good or bad are the students? (lessons with better, more engaged students will always pass more quickly and require less effort) How much prep time is needed? (you don't need much at all if it's a lesson you've taught countless times) And let's not forget - how money-hungry are you? (I've worked with hourly-paid teachers who would have taught 16-hour days if given the chance)
18. Schools that don't provide teachers with a free or at least subsidized lunch.
I have never worked at a school that provided a free lunch so naturally I don't really see it as a deal-breaker.
Truth be told, I'm something of a fussy old grumpy boots when it comes to my lunch-break and I always have been. For me, lunch breaks are to be spent in a quiet corner, far from the maddening crowd and alone with my thoughts. It's a chance to catch up on other work and not have to open my mouth for an hour, except to shovel in food of course.
I generally don't mind sitting with a group of other foreign teachers and perhaps sharing a few jokes and war stories, but to have to share mealtimes with students or Thai staff and make uneasy, polite conversation would do my head in. They need the break just as much as the foreign teacher does. Let's eat and not have to talk shop!
Gordon adds "What is your definition of a decent lunch? I'm not ungrateful when offered a free lunch but I do tend to only eat at most 2-3 times a week in a school canteen. Maybe I'm a little picky. Although I regularly eat Thai food, not all of it I find appetizing"
I'm going to add another one of my own to our bullet point list.
19. Schools that seem vague about the visa and work permit process.
A while back I wrote an article on how every good school has a work permit superhero - a Thai person whose sole responsibility is to take care of teacher work permits, visas and other aspects of red tape. They are worth their weight in gold. Often on first name terms with folks down at the labour and immigration departments, the work permit superhero knows exactly how the system works.
Alas, a number of schools consider the whole visa / work permit thing to be one big headache and it's one reason they have turned to teacher placement agencies. Let the teacher agencies handle all the paperwork.
In conclusion, whether you're working for a school or an agency, make sure they have a superhero.
Both Gordon and I would love your comments on this one. Are there any more bullet points you would add to the list? Do you disagree with any of the above?
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I don't see an issue docking wages for being late, even a few minutes. The only time I've ever been late was when the MRT was flooded. Everyone can do it, they just don't. I'm not late for anything. Others are, it's a choice.
This stuff is all good for noobs, I could rattle on with another dozen.
With Filipinos and everyone, no one owes you a living and you don't owe an employer anything more than a honest day's work for an honest day's wage. If you don't like the salary, don't take the job and please don't take the job and sabotage it, complaining about your salary!
Finally, this is not for the noobs but it's a good one. Be certain that the school will back your Thai license meaning the director's signature. If they can be bothered, this is a deal breaker at your third year of employment.
Ask about gate duty. If you don't want to do it. Don't take the job.
By Bob Dobbs, Church of the Subgenius (30th March 2019)
Great list. Agree with most of these. But just remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch - especially in Thailand.
By Brian, bangkok (17th March 2018)
By the way, my comment was meant to prompt ajarn.com into enforcing this requirement as a tick-box for job advertisers.
By Tony, Bangkok (27th February 2018)
Almost entirely agree. I do want to link up two complaints, which, in my limited experience actually relate to each other. They are: no free lunch, and no leaving school during breaks.
No free lunch does indeed suck. My school offers relatively subsidized ones with about 10 "stalls" with different kinds of food (even a hamburger stall! though it costs more than street food) that you can go and eat at your leisure, either in the office or in an air conditioned (the canteen has no AC, though the rest of the school does) teachers lounge.
On the other hand my first job the lunches were completely free, but you ate outside (in a covered but not air conditioned area) and had basically a tiny buffet with mediocre/disgusting food. More importantly lunch was the only time you were allowed off campus, and the only place in walking distance was a tiny "restaurant" with equally poor food, and we only went there to smoke and drink sprite.
Even with the choices in my current canteen my school is directly next to a large market, and there are no rules dictating when you can or can't leave campus (other than if you're supposed to be teaching of course). So I "eat out" 90% of the time because I can afford a 35 Baht lunch over a 25 baht one. I'd take the ability to eat whatever I want wherever I want whenever I want rather than be forced to sit and eat garbage food at a set time and forbidden to leave the school in exchange for a free lunch.
In other words I resented my previous school for limiting me from leaving when I had nothing to do, but I don't resent my current school for not giving us a free lunch.
By Michael, Bangkok (27th February 2018)
I'm disgusted at the number of EFL employers who expect new teachers to work for several months until they'll give them a work permit. Working on tourist visas is for desperate fools alone. If a school can't get work permits in an effective and timely manner, they shouldn't be profiting from employing foreigners.
It would be very useful if every ajarn job advert showed whether applicants are either 1) supplied with a work permit at commencement 2) expected to work illegally for a probationary period on tourist visas 3) Won't get a work permit
This would save people including me applying for jobs and wasting time going for interviews only to be told that they have to risk jail fines and deportation if they want the job.
By Tony, Bangkok (27th February 2018)
By the way going to the Embassy and getting the degree verified (around 50 Pounds) - UK Embassy and getting that verified at the DFA (Dept of Foreign Affairs) is all part and parcel of the experience plus the visa run normally to Laos to get your Non B. Take it with a pinch of salt, and try to enjoy the experience. You make it sounds like these "18 red flags" are uncommon when they are everywhere. Be realistic and honest. In Government schools they do not give you free lunch. End of the story. But the food is quite good and subsidised. Often it will cost 20 or 30 Baht for something quite good. In Private schools they do although even with that some still preferred to eat outside. Going outside the school can be a problem and in many schools they limit or or disallow it. Sometimes for good reasons. Farangs go off and sleep for 3 hours if close by. Very infrequently Thais can do the same thing. If you want to get into something better, it is going to take some time, getting away from the agencies , and probably 2 years of experience. If you have just arrived do not expect people to be at your hand and foot waiting to help you. Lets see if you can get a work permit in that time. Most work without. The truth of it. And Visa "help" normally means you do it alone - we may decide to help you. Welcome to Thailand and enjoy the Land of Smiles. :)
By Jonny Jon, Bangkok (17th December 2017)
Well this is a very long wish list most of which I can say does not happen. Unless the school takes seriously which most do not, you are just some good looking farang to turn up, look good, and pretend to teach. With simply the number of people coming to Thailand every year/ semester many agencies just flout the rules, and give the basic minimum – 25 – 30K per month, no paid holidays, a list of rules that has to be adhered to, looking good and professional at all times, no arguing with the Thai teacher which will make them look bad, in fact – just do what we tell you and we are happy kind of thing. That is pretty much the way it runs in Thailand. Any “backchat” as one employer told me was not appreciated. This is not a place to get your grievance’s across and if you do dare to do it, it has to be done very politely.
A popular agency I know now employs people straight from the TEFL course and into the classroom. Everyone wins (well except the kids of course) – a bit like from the fire and into the oven. So they get rid of all the old teachers – too expensive and argumentative and told them they are sending them to other schools scrambled all over Bangkok, most of which refused and threw this lot in. Contract – what a joke? Really. Free pens..?? Some are using white board and chalk. They will normally give you free chalk though (smile). I have worked in those schools and you know it was fun. What was not fun was the useless foreigners I had to endure who would sleep at their desk, have no commitment for their jobs, agencies who scrimped and saved, would not pay you holidays. Honestly I thought the kids in Government schools really appreciated us being there. It all depends why you want to be here. Some think their blond hair and blue eyes is all they need. Well In some schools yes, but in the good ones you need to have some qualifications and 3 years’ experience. If you want to make a difference you can. Maybe. Depending on the school. If you are planning coming to Thailand to make a million forget it OK. You need some experience first. Your good looks still only go so far. I am little tired of seeing fresh faced foreigners who think the red carpet should be rolled out for them from the moment they arrive at the airport. Time to get real. Would you like to make some effort first or not?
Paid holidays the first year – you are dreaming. Get some experience first. Free pens – go to 7-11. Contract – what contract? Visa – don’t make me laugh. When will that happen – not ever until you get into a good school that actually wants you!! And you have a real degree and they are willing to pay for the visa. 6 months in, I have just got my work permit. Finally I am through all the BS, Government agencies and schools – some of which I really enjoyed – but had enough of the lazy farangs who I worked with – who could not give a shit and thought the world owed them a living.
By Johnny Jon, Bangkok (17th December 2017)
I can seriously see some red flags waving high right in front of the school I am currently at. No extra pay for summer classes, check. No free lunch, double check. Overload? Duh, it is a norm here like 34 units in a semester. Visa knowhow, that is not even found in their dictionary. Who can recommend me a new school?
By Watashi Wa, Chonburi (1st December 2017)
I have been reading comments on this site and many others regarding Thailand and teaching options and I am truly confused on the best options out there. I have a degree in Education, TESOL and several other Education Certificates to teach English and other subjects from Year 5-12.
I have contacted a school in Chachoengsao but feedback to me was not very clear. My husband and I (currently residing in South africa) want to move to Thailand for a minimum of one year to see if we want to stay on indefinately, but as I said I am unsure of the course of action to take.
I would like to connect with Henry from Bangkok please, teaching online sounds like a good option. I did some online teaching for 6 months but had to stop because we relocated.
I think I have information overload at the moment and would appreciate guidance from people that have gone through the mill! Several of my friends returned after bad experiences with agents and I do not want to fall into the same trap.
Thank you for your input
By Karon Barnard, South Africa (4th October 2017)
@Craig and to all the nice persons in this forum: I have followed your inputs here with a lot of admiration. You seem quite knowledgeable on how teaching jobs work in Thailand. I'm new in Bangkok. I hold a Degree in Psychology. And I'm here to get my MsC. But I'm a little off my grit in finding a teaching job here. I know about the downsides of agencies and I feel reluctant contacting one at moment. I find the info on this page quite useful... Please for any chance I'd be pleased to have your personal contact (email address or Line ID) for more advice and for connections. Please my email is email@example.com Thank you so much.
By Henry Handelson, Phetkasem Bangkok (5th August 2017)
Ambiguous contracts is another one. I feel tricked after being told that the school will pay and assist with all work permit and visa costs
Technically, it's true. But all the other costs in order to get legal aren't being paid for, such as a sealed degree and transcript bring sent from my uni, the money to my Embassy for a true copy, the translation of these documents, the several visits to consular for affairs to legalise documents and forking out a few more thousand, certain electronic devices i needed to buy to do this job. Oh, they aren't gonna pay for a TCT course too if required.
Of course, I brought this up with a, 'You said you'd pay all costs', but I just got a shrug, a smile and a 'Yes, for visa and permit but not anything else!' Oh, I still have to pay for those too and 'will' get 5000 baht refunded...after a year! If they had said, 'You're gonna have to pay about 35000 in costs to get legal in order to work for us' I would've walked out. So beware and make sure that when they say they'll pay and assist will all costs for visa/wp, they mean all of the costs to get legal!
After several years in Thailand, I've finally had it and will be moving somewhere where teachers are not treated so poorly. It's a shame, but the whole experience is going downhill fast.
By Anon, Bangkok (12th July 2017)
I totally agree with NEVER, EVER in your very life work for ANY agency whatsoever. They totally abuse you. Period. I happened to work with one located in Bangkok in an obscure part of the outskirts and it was about the worst and most abusive agency I ever came into contact with. They employ "teachers" who hardly speak a word of English based on what the schools that seek their "services" ask them to provide. It is one hell of a show. So unauthentic it hardly needs no further spelling out. Some of my "colleagues" there - we were all sent to the Northern parts of Thailand - were totally without any teaching experience whatsoever and some were even employed to check out on new teachers. They were paid extra money to keep new "sheep" within the fold and to inform on them the very moment they showed any sign of natural rebellion. I have personally been informed on by one such paid informer. She "thought I was not quite comfortable teaching kindergarten" and went straight to the school management to deliver her fabrication. The agency itself sought to have me transferred to another of their schools before this happened due to me speaking my honest mind. What I feel today is enormous sorrow for the students in these schools. They are not, in no way, being treated decently. They are nothing but victims of the money mongers that abuse them. It happens big scale and it is a DISGRACE to anyone into real, honest, high quality teaching. I turn my back on any agency. Do yourselves the favour of doing likewise.
Besides, avoid anyone - school, University or language institute - or whatever they might choose to call themselves - who do not clearly state, from the very beginning, that such and such are the conditions and criteria for working with us - who might approach you.
Finally, do not give away your private information before the scheduled interview. In any place.
Much love and thank you for this site. It is very useful.
By Ann, Thailand (11th July 2017)
There's only one red flag for me and that's Thai schools themselves. Don't work for them if you're good at what you do and work your ass off. Leave them to the newbies who come over for a year and then leave. That's all these jobs are good for.
I work exclusively online. I work for a very professional outfit who pay me well. The harder I work the more money I make. I'll never work in a Thai school again. Far too much BS.
I was hesitant to go online as I was hesitant to teach in a classroom the first time round. It's so easy. You're one-on-one. All the materials are there. The kids are good and you only teach 30 min periods. The time flies by and you haven't wasted a single baht or minute on going to some cowboy school to be a warm body.
I got two very dear and trusted friends to quit my old school and to go online. They will also never go back. We just make far more money and feel valued. I love living in Thailand but I will never work for a shady school again. No chance. I will not be part of that corruption.
The Chinese run their companies like a business too. Only difference is they know a good teacher is good for business. You work hard and show loyalty and they'll return it to you.
If I meet anymore good teachers then I'll be preaching to them to come online. It brings me great satisfaction pulling good teachers out of a corrupt education system and putting them into one that rewards them. Oh, and I get a commission too. Win win.
Sorry, Thailand, but when it comes to your TEFL industry, it's time to take a shit or get off the pot. You've had it good for far too long and now online teaching is revolutionizing the industry.
By Henry, Bangkok (26th June 2017)
I think Thailand needs to be more realistic about what it's looking for with TEFL teachers. You don't really need any qualifications to teach TEFL at the real TEFL level other than being a native-speaker and having a CELTA, etc.
Take Spain for example; a great place to a take a year or two out and have a working holiday. At the time I was there they only requested we had some kind of TEFL cert. No degree was needed. You weren't sold the job as being a a real or serious teacher. You were sold it as helping students improve their English. This was generally done by practicing conversation. They wouldn't have dreamed about asking you teach Math or science etc, in a real school. We were restricted to the TEFL level language centers and rightly so.
Thailand needs to be more honest and open if they're serious about improving their level of language. There's no career here for the most part, but if you want a year or two out, regardless of your age, come here and have a working holiday. We can't pay you much but you'll have holidays and be able to get by. Thailand seems to be looking for properly qualified teachers for less than TEFL level standards. It ain't gonna happen.
If you're a properly qualified teacher, I wouldn't recommend Thailand for the most part. I've known properly qualified teachers here earning 100k a month and they thought it was a lot. In the grand scheme, it's really not. Try having kids and growing old here on that.
I knew a guy who came here with a degree and wanted to get qualified. He ended up doing his masters, and maybe even a doctorate here, and then realized that even within Thailand, it was pretty worthless. They wanted qualifications from western universities etc. He ended up starting an agency and basically just lies for a living. Selling an idea of professionalism to people who simply aren't, being instructed how to teach by people with inferior qualifications. Just one big factory of teachers.
If you're a real teacher in the sense you wanna help people, god bless you. It's one of the most noble things you can do in life. You'll always be a teacher so make sure you invest in yourself. If you like teaching but are doing it mostly to stay in Thailand, do not waste thousands of dollars on teaching qualifications that restrict you to teaching the rest of you life. That is awful investment, especially in a place like Thailand.
Online work is the way to go. Affiliate marketing etc. There's a lot of money to be made if you're reliable and hardworking. You need zero qualifications other than a fantastic work ethic and knowing where the money is. I'm not going to tell people how to do it, but there is money online to be made. It's definitely the way forward for people who wanna live abroad.
When Thailand pisses me off, I just hop on a plane with my laptop to somewhere else for a week. I soon miss Thailand and return to her. But as in life, familiarity breeds contempt and I needs my away time sometimes.
By Ryan, Hua Hin (and where ever I fancy) (16th June 2017)
I am not sure how useful 18 demands are for the average teacher looking for an ESL job in Thailand.
I see 4 options
Option 1, if you decide to teach in Thailand, look for a job which best meets your individual wants and needs (hopefully not too many of these 18 problems are included).
Option 2, if you have better options to meet your individual wants and needs than teaching English in Thailand, don’t teach English in Thailand and instead go with your other option(s).
Option 3, if you are currently unable to find a way to earn a living which meets most of your wants and needs, go about getting the experience, qualifications and skills needed to do the work and have the working conditions and salary you want.
Option 4, work in a series of ESL jobs year after year which do not meet your needs and wants, do nothing to upgrade your skills or qualification, and spend your life whining and bellyaching about how you are oppressed and exploited while living in misery.
I have never understood the need of individuals who have chosen option 4 to get offended when confronted with the fact there are other options and insist on defending the choice they made.
I liked being an ESL teacher (probably that is why I still check in here every now and then) but I decided on option 3 as I did not see a clear path in the ESL industry to have over the long-term the type of career and lifestyle I wanted. I think I made the right choice for myself, but maybe other people have found the other options have worked best for them.
By Jack, Asia (15th June 2017)
"The comment section is all going a bit expat forum..."
This is the most interesting the site has been for a while!
Keep the comments coming!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (14th June 2017)
Never work for a school that allows rumors or trolling to occur on a daily basis.
Never work for a school that signs you up as an english teacher, but you end up teaching 5 other subjects,such as; math, art, activity, physical education, library & reading, english club, art club and also the class where you need to teach the Thai teachers to speak english,
In order to protect yourself legally, allow your Thai spouse to sign a contract with the school instead of yourself. As soon as you mention it to a school and they refuse, then don't take the job.
Never sign a contract if they don't include details of the confirmation that they will assist with doing a work permit for you.
Don't ever work for a school where the Thai staff will take any chance they can to mislead you to do their one and a half hour gate duties and their other duties, perhaps even mislead you into teaching some of their classes.
Never work for a private Thai school when you are being bossed around by either a Thai teacher or a foreigner, unless the school director instructed you that one of the above-mentioned entities are part of the management.
Never work for a school that serves dog Meat to little kids and oh yes, you can smell that stench a mile away.This is probably due to the messed-up ideology that the staff of the school bows to.
Never work for a school if they constantly ask you to do handyman duties, such as paint the walls etc., etc. This really does happen.
Never work for a school that tells you your kids can come to study for free, because that is the worse thing you can ever allow to happen to your kids.
Never work for a school that shows signs of influence of the occult, because you might not make it out alive.
By Mia, Rangsit (14th June 2017)
Absolutely agree with James Beam.
I would never advise anyone who seriously wants to teach to work for an agency. An agency's job is simply to find people who fit the desire of the school. They don't care about who they employ. They just want their monthly check.
To work legally in Thailand for an employer you will need a contract of employment. This is the law, but this is for the most part meaningless because we all know about Thailand and the law.
Always try to get a job directly for the school. You might luck out and have the owner of the school as your only boss. If you work hard and get students raving about you, your boss will see that as good for business. This leaves room for negotiations on more benefits for you, the teacher, and more motivation for you to be on top of your game.
If you sign a contract and try to renege on the terms, shame on you. You signed it so now do it. This rule also applies to the school. My dad once said "I've got two things in my life. My word and my balls....and I don't break them for anyone" It was actually Tony Montana but that really resonated with me.
Let's have a little bit of old fashioned decency and honor from both sides. Oh, and really, avoid agencies.
By Marc, The Bat Cave (14th June 2017)
I've been at my school for a few years now. Never had a contract. I show up and they pay me.
If they start getting weird I'll move... if I start getting weird they'll move me!
A contract won't change that!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (13th June 2017)
100% of these problems will be found when agencies are involved. You can often add pay issues and disappearing holidays. Unresponsive staff.
Take a look at the agencies hiring after second week May, especially now. You don't want to work for this lot, the conditions are such they cannot retain teachers. This is a clear indicator. Note it. These agencies are notorious. If ajarn.com would do us any favors it would archive the old jobs. So much to learn.
A direct contact of twelve months with a school is the only way to go. Period. Language centers...that's just for flunkies without degrees.
Your pay will always be substandard at an agency. No matter what you do, how hard you work or how much you are loved at school, you will never be anything more than a warm body. This might be also true at many Thai schools due to their own mistreatment of foreign teachers but it is absolutely certain of agencies. Finally, big agencies are contracting, not expanding in Bangkok so don't believe that canard. Small agencies which you'd never, ever want to work for serving marginal schools may be expanding. Not the big ones.
But back to the point, if an agency can't fill it's roster a month into term, it's not somewhere you want to ever work, ever.
By James Beam, Bangkok (13th June 2017)
The comment section is all going a bit expat forum. Let's draw a line under it and move on.
By Phil, Samut Prakarn (13th June 2017)
@Muz "What I get out of correcting you is trying to make sure people know the facts, not barstool talk and myths"
Yes, Muz. I can imagine the conversation down at Nana Plaza right now;
Knowledgeable Expat: "You know you don't need to sign a contract of employment to gain work as a teacher in Thailand"
Bar Stool Drunk: "Really? How does that work? Couldn't you just be fleeced by your employers?"
KE: "No! You both have a gentleman's agreement. You both simply promise to adhere to the rules of the job"
BSE: "Ah! But how would you remember these rules and stipulations? What's to say you don't show up at work late one day and you simply say you thought under the gentleman's agreement that you were supposed to start at 10 and not 8?" Seems this is hugely flawed"
KE: "No, no, no. Gentleman's agreement! You must always honour a spoken agreement. This idea of signing a contract of employment as stated by law is a myth."
BSD; "Okay. But it seems highly illogical and illegal. Seems it would be open to massive abuse. I guess the next big question would be, why would you take a job with no contract and why would the school offer you one with no contract? No good can come of this, surely?"
KE: "You think too much! Now, you interested in a job?"
You got me, Muz. It does sound like a myth.
@Jack at his computer "Don't people get tired of complaining about their jobs on this site and don't readers get tired of reading this stuff? These whiny posts get boring real quick"
Yet here you are. Reading these posts and replies and doing exactly what you're condemning. That's a different kind of special, Jack. I guess that's why you're so popular on here.
By Craig, Bangkok (13th June 2017)
Thai labour law is what matters, it applies to both Thais and foreigners alike, and it certainly does not specifically mention schools. The Alien Employment Act deals with work permits and as such is just for foreigners.
"Because it is completely illegal. We are foreigners here. Not sure what the law is for the locals, but as foreigners, we need contracts to work in schools. That's why I'm allowed to post stuff like this. Because it's factually correct.
What do you get out of stating that it's not?
By Craig, Bangkok (17 hours, 14 minutes ago)"
What I get out of correcting you is trying to make sure people know the facts, not barstool talk and myths.
By muz, Bangkok (13th June 2017)
I get sick of reading comments on here about dumb farangs rooting for their oppressors. It's like a kind of Stockholm syndrome. No matter how hard you screw us, we've got your back. Just can't wait to finish my studies so I can get out of here.
By Steve G, Bangkok (12th June 2017)
Don't people get tired of complaining about their jobs on this site and don't readers get tired of reading this stuff? These whiny posts get boring real quick
By Jack, At home (12th June 2017)
I was shocked to find my Thai teacher was having to buy markers. I started funding her along with paper, paint w/brushes, and various teaching supplies that a surprisingly large chain school forced upon their workers to supply.
By Charlie, Nonthaburi, Thailand (12th June 2017)
@Muz Why is the above poster allowed to post completely incorrect information?
Because it is completely illegal. We are foreigners here. Not sure what the law is for the locals, but as foreigners, we need contracts to work in schools. That's why I'm allowed to post stuff like this. Because it's factually correct.
What do you get out of stating that it's not?
By Craig, Bangkok (12th June 2017)
"Why is the above poster allowed to post completely incorrect information?"
Welcome to the internet. You're in for a few surprises as you find your way around!
If you are having trouble with the contract with your school the battle is almost certainly already lost... even if you are 'in the right.' That's why many people say that the contract itself is worthless.
The battle for any kind of justice simply isn't worh the aggro, stress and discomfort. Lick your pride and swallow your wounds... life's too short.
By Mark Newman, Thailand (12th June 2017)
"NEVER EVER EVER work without a contract. It's completely illegal."
Why is the above poster allowed to post completely incorrect information?
Thai law does say that a contract can be oral or in writing. But ideally it needs to be in writing. Basically there are two levels of breach under the Thai labor protection law, one being grave misconduct and the other incompetence or failure to perform duties.
Exploring the effects and consequences of a breach of contract means looking at all of the relevant laws and regulations related to the labor law. The main piece of legislation is the Labor Protection Act B.E 2541 (1998) and the binding provision is in the civil and commercial code.
By Muz, Bangkok (12th June 2017)
1 - Schools that don't pay for the summer break...
Well, as much as we complain about this increasingly familiar habit, for some teachers it's actually convenient. They can bugger off and see a bit of the country.
Also - you go into this with your eyes open. I don't see a problem with this. (I'd personally hate it as I have a mortgage and a real life here.)
2 - Health insurance is expensive (depending on what you expect the school to cover you for) and the free insurance that I get with my school actually isn't all that much use. Better to go private.
3 - Docking your pay for being a few minutes late is simply mean-spirited and vindictive. If your school does this they're being an asshole... although this might possibly be school policy if there are a large number of farangs at the school who are also being dicks.
I took nine days off two years ago when I had a really bad flu. Still got paid in full. It's a salary, not an hourly paid job and you're allowed to be sick... but being late in my view is unforgivable. Don't be late... ever.
Also - if a teacher is complaining that he has been docked money for being a few minutes late, I strongly suspect there's more going on that he isn't saying.
4 - Overcrowded staff rooms? Seriously? You can't be arsed to go to the library or somewhere else? This is a problem the teacher can fix.
5 - It's nice to have computers and printers and other things to help you do your job, but seriously... would YOU use a school computer for any serious work? Also - all the Thai teachers seem to manage to afford their own laptops... why can't you?
6 - Grrr... I really hate it when the internet goes down or is slow. This matters a whole lot more if your school expects you to stick around even when you're not teaching. Funny, though... it wasn't that many years ago we did just fine without it!
7 - Nine hours at school? That's presumably from 7:30 till 16:30... which is normal work hours right? Consider this, most Thai teachers work much longer hours at school than that and most other Thais work six days a week, so don't expect a sympathetic ear when you want to scoot off home just because you've got no classes! You do realize that you're doing a full-time job, right?
If you don't like this arrangement then work for a school where you are the only farang teacher. Those schools can afford to be more flexible and lenient.
8 - Seriously? There are schools that don't let you pop out of the school grounds at lunchtime? I don't believe it.
9 - I must admit this is a deal-breaker for me too. I've worked at schools with no air-con and it's fooking murder. Also - I'm reasonably sure that it's harder to both teach and learn in a hot sweaty classroom.
10 - Agents... why are you working for an agent at all? Can't live with the salary then don't take the job... or is that too obvious!
11 - Why are you worried about how much other people are getting paid? Mind your own business.
12 - I've never bothered with contracts for schools... now, for corporates they're essential. If you or your school has a problem with the contract it's better to simply move on regardless of who is 'in the right'.
13 - How many teachers have been hauled out of their English language classes to teach woodwork or science without it being stated that this could happen before you're hired? And even if it happens - wouldn't that be a blessed relief? Come on - this is Thailand - start embracing that!
14 - A semester-long contract is another form of probation isn't it? If you balls it up they can simply not re-hire you later. Oh, if you're being offered semester-long contracts the chances are you're working illegally, so there's that.
15 - 16 - No desk? No markers for free? Yeah, I think we're trying to make this list longer than it needs to be!
17 - "I would prefer to teach around 16 x 50-minute classes."
Ha ha! Yeah, you don't get to make your own schedule... but you do get to decide whether you accept the one you're offered!
18 - No free lunch? Who cares? I wouldn't eat that muck even if it was free. I also don't like being seen sitting down to eat with students... it's a personal thing but I find it undignified and too personal.
19 - Schools that seem vague on visas, etc (especially who's paying for it) are a pain! But even well-intentioned schools who are trying to do the right thing can come across as misunderstood and 'vague'. Most of them have little knowledge and even less interested in the convoluted process of trying to get a teacher all legally sorted out when they know he's going to bugger off within a year!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (12th June 2017)
Hi Jonathan, thanks for getting in touch. I did send you an e-mail but it bounced back as 'no known recipient'.
By Phil, Samut Prakarn (12th June 2017)
I am the one who compiled the original list to the dismay of many Thai school and agency owners.
My fellow admins and myself have since booted out numerous schools and agencies from the forum we felt were taking advantage of foreign teachers in Thailand.
Almost 3 years since its inception, our forum has grown to 30k members- it is now Thailand's number 1 teaching jobs discussion forum.
In August, to celebrate the forum's 3rd anniversary, I will gladly sit in ajarn's Hot Seat for a Q&A and explain why it is so important for teachers to turn down these crappy job offers.
One of the admins of www.facebook.com/groups/teachingjobsinthailand
By Jonathan, Bangkok (12th June 2017)
I worked for a school once where there was no contract. They told me that there was no point in drawing up a contract in English as it's only legal when in Thai. I was the only person with the balls in the room to state, "Have it in Thai and translated to English. The Thai contract is legal. We just need it translated to English for reference". Well, I was straight into the bad books with the boss for stating the obvious there. NEVER EVER EVER work without a contract. It's completely illegal.
That was a pretty shitty job, so I was looking all the time for a new job. No contract means I can leave via Line on the day, right? I'm not obliged to give any notice. Well, my kids deserve better so I wouldn't leave without giving 30 days notice. Someone has to have some morals.
I applied for a job that was walking distance from where I live. Seemed like a perfectly suited job for me . I went to the interview and I pretty much had the job bagged from the moment I walked in. Then came the contract question;
"This is of course a 12-month contract, right?"
"Oh no. We only offer 10-month contracts here"
"Well I'm on a 12-month contract now" (she didn't need to know I had no contract)
"Let me see what I can do"
She called me later that day with 'good news'. They couldn't offer me 12 months but they could offer 10.5. As soon as she said that I was on the fine line of firing a load of fucks into her or just hanging up. I just hung up.
Teachers here really need to use their numbers. They need to stick together and start saying "no more". If something is put into the contract and you sign it, fair enough. But when they start adding stuff just for the sake of it, say NO!. You didn't agree to this. My old school said they weren't going to pay us for when it flooded in 2011. We all said we would quit 2 days before we were due back unless we were paid in full. Guess what? We got paid. Don't be pushed around.
By Craig, Bangkok (12th June 2017)