Firstly, a teacher with a good question.
"I've just been offered my first teaching job at a large Thai secondary school. I have a good feel for the place, the staff seem nice and the workload is a very comfortable 16 x 45-minute periods a week. However the school want me to remain on-site from Monday to Friday 8.30 am to about 4.30 pm. This doesn't sound very fair to me. I'm only making 35,000 baht a month and my downtime would perhaps give me the opportunity to go out and earn some extra money. Is this a reasonable demand on the part of the school when they are paying such a low salary? I don't even know the reasons why they want me there all the time"
Here are a selection of responses from experienced teachers in Thailand.
We clock in before 7.30 am and after 4 pm. It’s quite standard. - Martin
I think this is perfectly normal for a thai school. - Sarah
No it's not, Sarah. Move to Saigon and work for an agency for 20 USD an hour and not only will you earn more, whilst living in a much cheaper city, you'll also only have to be there for your teaching hours. - Steve
That’s normal for Thailand but a pretty crappy deal overall. My advice is don’t take it. You're better off teaching kids online or going to a country that can offer you a better deal. You can also get an MA or a proper teaching certificate that will give you better options - Mark
I had a similar experience. The school also tried to get me involved with working on Saturdays and Sundays. The expectation is that they own you, body and soul seven days a week. I also found most of the Thai staff that were teaching English, at best, unwelcoming and unhelpful and, at worst, downright unpleasant. I lasted three months and left. - Dave
Perfectly reasonable of them to expect you to be at work for an 8-hour day. Outside of Bangkok, that's a decent starting salary, but if that's a salary in Bangkok then don't go anywhere near it. - Alex
Just tell them that you will remain within the town/city, but that sometimes you need to go outside of the school. That they can contact you on your mobile if they urgently need you. If they still say no, then just tell them that you're sorry but you will have to decline the position. They really won't want to start looking for a new teacher over such a small issue, especially when the term has already started.
Obviously they might be sticklers for rules and then you'd be out of a job, but if it's important to you, then you should stand up for yourself. Chances are that most of the Thai teachers go outside the school fairly regularly too (not all the time, but for family stuff, or to visit the bank or for lunch etc). Although you must of course ensure that you're always polite, calm and reasonable, that's the best way to get results, you don't want to ever force a confrontation or appear to be angry and "difficult" or "serious" - Brian
My school was very similar but fairly laid back in practice i.e they didn't care where you went at lunchtime, you could leave the premises in free periods and if your last class finished at three o clock you could leave at three. As long as you were there to do your job, they didn't care too much. Some schools vary by how strictly they enforce rules. But seriously, don't touch a 35K job in Bangkok. - Jey
If it's outside of the Bangkok metro area then it's decent for a starting salary. I'm at school from 7.30 to 16.30 so count your lucky stars mate. - Henry
In the UK, full-time teachers are expected to arrive an hour before the pupils and stay until at least an hour afterwards, any downtime is spent doing prep or marking. Anything not completed by about 6 pm is expected to be done at home as the building will be locked up at some point after that. Teaching in Thailand is a doddle - Angie
Not true Angie for any of the schools I've worked at in Scotland. However, most teachers do this voluntarily because of the workload. Last year I used to be done working by 9.00 pm because of the marking workload, so I'd take my work home and do it there. No longer do this now. - Jamie
As in any job, you are expected to turn up on time and leave on time. The time between classes is supposed to be used for preparations. If you are fully qualified then why not find a better paying job? - Charlie
Do they strictly enforce it is the real question. I know a school where they say 7.30-16.00 but if you need to go at 15.00, no one cares. - Timothy
Both schools I've worked at require you to work a full day. Sure you can slip outside for a long lunch, but both schools have had fingerprint scanners, so they know exactly who leaves early and who stays for the full day. Your attendance can come into play at bonus time, and for annual salary increase, if you plan on returning. - Michael
If it’s anything like the schools I’ve experienced, you will actually be able to do what you want. Sign in and out at the right times and don’t be late for any classes. In your free time, you can jump outside and work at a nearby language centre. Just not sure there are many language centres looking for class teachers during the day? Use your downtime to work on an online project? - Peter
The wheres and the whys are irrelevant. Don't like the contract then don't sign it. Go and work elsewhere. Simple. - Russ
It's awful but unfortunately standard practice here. It's one more reason why Thailand can’t get any great teachers to apply and stay. Then comes the peanut pay, visa, teachers license problems etc. - Jens