Failing students and the failing ESL industry

Failing students and the failing ESL industry

Failing young students is simply a poor strategy

Giving students an "F" grade.

Failing young students, especially those in prathom and mathaiyom, is simply a poor strategy. Extensive research has been done in this area and it clearly indicates that there are numerous negative emotional consequences to failing a child and holding them back a grade while their peers move forward. Additionally, there are virtually no academic benefits that result from keeping a child back a grade level. Hayhurst (2007) notes, "Leaders in the education community cite definitive research that shows failing struggling students in elementary school provides no academic advantages; researchers in the 1930s first reported negative effects of retention on achievement. Meanwhile, many studies show an association between retention and dropping out of school." I can go on and on with citations to substantiate the point, but I think you get the picture.

Furthermore, is it really a critical issue that all Thai students develop competency in English language skills? Regardless of the lofty ideals of the MOE's Key Stage and General Stage Curriculum Outcomes, the fact is few Thais will ever really need to have command of English in order to succeed in life. Sure, those who are motivated enough to want to excel in the language, or those who have a God-given talent for language acquisition, may very well end up with better employment or educational opportunities in their lives. But at the end of the day those who do not gain competency in English during their younger years can endeavour to do so later in life once they gain the motivation to do so. The door is never closed on learning.

As educators we must endeavour to nurture all aspects of a child's development. We must focus on their strengths and ensure that they excel in these areas. In areas where they are weak, we must provide educational support mechanisms such as peer grouping and employ teaching strategies such as Piaget's and Vygotsky's "Social Constructivism" which allows for students to gain competency and skills through group learning. Failing students is simply not the answer here.

ESL Industry Failings

Without a doubt the ESL industry around the world is primarily a scam that is governed by unscrupulous business people that rarely have any pedagogical knowledge or academic backgrounds in the field of education. Worse yet, are those with the actual pedagogical training and educational qualifications who choose to employ their expertise for monetary gain without actually delivering the quality education they all-too-often proclaim to offer. Academic pursuits that are not rooted in altruistic values of dedication to student learning are simply immoral and unethical.

Apart from the heinous acts of the so-called language institutes and school administrators that see English as an easy "cash cow," the other side of this industry that is acting completely irresponsible are the pseudo wannabe pretend English teachers that are using this industry as a tool to earn fast and easy money so they can travel the globe. Real educators take upon themselves a huge responsibility when they take a child into their care. Those of you who are in the ESL industry, and the education sector in general, need to ask yourselves one very simple question, "If it were my child that I was sending into a classroom to develop their intellect and knowledge, would I trust and believe that the teacher who is responsible for my child's education has the dedication and competency to actually teach my child effectively?" If you are true to yourself it is all-to-likely that when you look in the mirror you will recognize that you are not competent enough to stand in a classroom. So, DON'T DO IT! You are acting irresponsibly and having a deleterious effect on the development of an innocent child who has been entrusted to you by people who believe that you can educate them.

The ESL industry should not be a tool for people to travel the globe and make money to support their wanderlust. Find another way to support your travels and leave the development of a child's education to people who are qualified educators and dedicated to the child's learning.

The ESL industry is long overdue for some governance and legislation that will protect the education of innocent children. Perhaps part of the reason why students fail at language acquisition is that the classrooms are full of hacks that have no idea how to actually teach language. And for this there are those out there who proclaim that students should be held back a year for not achieving the KSCO of that academic year. Ridiculous! The onus is on the teachers to deliver a quality education and set up strategies to ensure that the weaker students are provided with the support and tools they need to succeed. Grow up people. If you want to teach English, then be an educator. If not, get the hell out of the classroom and stop blaming students, bad school administrators, and scamming language institute business people for all the failings of students. At the end of the day it is you, the teacher-mentor-educator, that has within your hands the capability to change the lives of your students. Regardless of all the external forces outside of the classroom, if you are truly a dedicated educator that cares about your students, you will succeed in helping them to learn.



What a horrible article. What a drama queen you are. Oh oh oh the devotion of true educators. The horror inflicted upon innocent children...
What kind of one dimensional world do you live in?
Teacher interference does more harm than anything to a child's development. And pedantic over educated and overbearing types like you are the biggest culprit of this.
Were guides not guardians. Not angels sent from above to make holy seeds into sacred beings.
Were helping people grasp the basics and from there it's up to them.
Get a life and leave the children alone.

By Swampy, Vietnam (11th June 2019)

Points to consider.

There is no ESL in Thailand, there is only EFL. If you don't know the difference then you are not 'qualified' to teach in a classroom in Thailand.

On the point of qualifications can somebody tell me why I would require a 'qualified' or 'certified' teacher from a NES country?
My point is that in a NES country I wouldn't employ a math teacher to teach chemistry. I wouldn't employ an English teacher to teach I.T. and I wouldn't employ a French or Spanish teacher to teach sports. For some strange reason though, we get the myth thrown around that a 'qualified' or 'certified' teacher of any discipline in a NES country is perfect for teaching English to Thai students.

Why? Even a 'qualified' English teacher from England is not actually qualified to teach English to Thai students in Thailand. English is taught as a foreign language in Thailand, not a native language.
(This is why there is no ESL in Thailand. ESL exists only in native English speaking environments and Thailand is not one of these.)

So the real and only qualifications for teaching English in Thailand are TEFL, TESOL, CELTA / DELTA, S.I.T. qualifications and preferably a Master's in TESOL.

The degree requirement in Thailand is purely for administrative purposes dreamed up by the Thai authorities. It has no bearing on the ability of the individual to teach English as a foreign language.

My old English teacher back home, though a wonderful teacher and a fine gentleman, could not have taught Thai students because he's not a foreign language teacher. His qualifications were aimed at teaching English in his own country to native English speakers, not as a foreign language and not to students of other cultures.

So any ideas that D. Burke has do not apply readily to Thai students, particularly the outdated and non-scientific work of Piaget from the 1950s.

For the record, these are the only English qualifications for teaching English to English learners that are not native English speakers. CELTA, DELTA, S.I.T. or a Master's in TESOL. Anything else is a lower standard of TESOL qualification or completely irrelevant to teaching English in Thailand or any other non-English speaking country.

The question of 'failing students' is laughable. Standards are set by setting exams, tests and coursework to be completed fairly by the students in any educational establishment. The students achieve grades in each of these as they complete them. Therefore the students' motivation, commitment and ability determines what is achieved by the students. They fail or they succeed. If most of the class score high grades but ten per cent achieve low grades then who is responsible for those low grades? It is quite clear that the student is responsible for their low achievement. If the majority of the class achieve low grades then surely the teaching methodology would and should be questioned to find out why. The idea that a teacher just decides to fail a student or maybe I'll give him a pass or maybe something else reflects a system that was wrong to begin with. Set the standards, make the students aware of what is expected of them and let them take responsibility for their actions while the school monitors the teachers' methods.

We know that grades are massaged in Thailand in an upwards direction. It's called cheating. It allows students to absolve themselves of responsibility year after year and make failure and cheating a part of their school lives. Is it any wonder that so much corruption and failure to take responsibility exists in Thailand generally with a school system that promotes these negative points?

One suspects D. Burke may be exorcising the ghosts of his or her own low self esteem at school with these selectively used pieces of research, if you call Piaget's work research of course. Most people know that he started something and that is all. The real research followed Piaget's lazy evenings with his children.

Thailand will muddle through, applying its unique logic and culture to education as it corrupts the young so that they don't really see the political corruption as something to be ashamed of. They don't fail students here anyway, as we know. They save face and pass them on to the next level and everyone is happy, no low self esteem and little achievement too. Fortunately there is a small minority who work their tail off and succeed. They speak Thai with a Chinese accent. :)

By Don Maccy, Bangkok (13th November 2011)

The author has obviously taught in Thailand, and has some idea of the problems teachers face. I think his article is pretty good - however, I think that the subject is one of 'graduation'. Failing students at the end of the year so that they must go back and do it again is obviously a bad idea.

Students should simply be given a grade from A to F - all being passing grades whether it equates to 10 or 90 percent. This is the crux of the issue.

I teach children to read, and the course does include spelling tests. I mark them creatively - students who write words like 'kat' or 'shair' instead of Cat and Chair will gain a point for correctly attempting to spell a word they cannot spell - and double points for hitting the correct spelling. Sometimes they score 4 in a practice test and 2 in the real test - I don't need to tell them they 'failed' and I simply tell them about ways I would try to improve my skill if I were them.

Failure is a stupid idea. Students gain very very bad attitudes from their environment. The problem is that the writer is looking for 'legislation'. This is a stupid idea - legislation in this country? Thailand is already famous for making it harder and harder for anyone to do even the most legitimate business here - and is simply making life difficult for educators or institutes to choose the best teachers.

Legislation should relax and the blame should be placed on Schools instead of the individual teachers. Bad teachers only survive in bad schools - take a good look at some of the largest schools here, with their compliment of a hundred or so farang teachers all holed up on school provided accommodation, drinking themselves stupid every night and learning very quickly that the whole 'school' thing is a scam - lots of show and no substance.

No, legislation won't help. Legislators have already been bought by these schools, and it's the rest of us that would suffer. I say leave them to it, and relax rules for work permits so that ALL good teachers can get one - then all the morons with degrees will be on an even footing and might have to learn to teach well, or quit.

By Ben, Bangkok (27th April 2011)

I believe the writer has never taught in Thailand, or at least in a position other than an international school. If he had he would know that Thai teachers do not engage in sanook activities and the students work in these classes and are attentive. It is only the foreign teachers who are expected to be entertainers in the classroom. Entertaining, acting, playing, etc to get the attention of the student is a part of being a teacher, but it should not be the focus of education. The Thai student will grow to perceive the teacher as a joke and not respect the teacher as he or she does the Thai teacher who is not the clown.

With respect to not failing students, social promotions failed in the US and the policy has certainly failed here. The justification in the US for social promotions was to prevent damage to the student's self-esteem. The whole concept of self-esteem is slippery and hardly justification for graduationg students who cannot read or write, unless they are special education students. If a student is failing perhaps there should be educational interventions such as assessment to determine if there is a mental or perceptual deficit, special education programs for those needing them, or pulling students out of class for one-on-one instruction. There should also be set objectives for the learners.

Everything I have mentioned is absent in Thailand; except at the elite international schools where parents pay dearly for these services. Every era has a new educational philosophy and I expect that the youth of the writer fuels his moral indignation regarding the lack of fellow teachers following his pet educational approach. Regarding TEFL, in my opinion it is a joke. Hiring teachers who are certified in their respective countries should be the path to follow in Thailand. This would at least guarantee some standard of baseline knowledge and dedication to the profession through years of college level coursework. Finally, teachers need not follow the same method to be succesful. Creative thinking and critical thinking skills are things we should nurture in children and certainly allow teachers to develop as well.

By Mark, Bangkok (26th April 2011)

In resposne to Mr Burke's insightful comments into the ineptide of language school teachers (which he no doubt does not count himself) I would point out that private language schools are driven by demands of the marketplace in which they exist. There is no getting around that fact. If people do not get what they want from a language school they will not continue to buy its services. The fact is that in most situations in Thailand it doesn't really matter if you are good teacher or not. People want sanook. They do not want a teacher that is "too serious."

Prior to coming to Thailand I was a Peace Coprs teacher in Africa. I also gained a teaching credential in California and have worked in schools at home. I have experience teaching in language schools here and Korea. Yes there are a lot of teachers who dont care about the education of their students everywhere. I have been a student in classes and and have worked alongside more than one teacher at home whose primary objective was to get the hell out of the classroom and into an administration job so they can spend the workday honing their skills on some moronic computer game.

That is one reason why I left teaching at home. The system is broken. The United States spends 10,000 dollars per student and well over half the people gratduating high school dont know that The US gained its indepedence from Great Britian. A system like that is full of *&^%$ ups. (credentialed &^%$ ups but *&^% all the same) A reasonable fix to the problem at home would have been the Bush administaration's idea of vouchers which would give parents 10,000 dollars to send their children to private schools if they so chose. The schools that performed would survive and profit those that did not would fail and go out of business. I think in America generally people go to school or send their kids to learn and this is a plausible model for education reform at home. I am not so sure that the same values exist here in Thailand - at least in the language school sector.

There are good teachers here, even those that are financing their travels through teaching. I agree that kids dont learn enough English in classes here in language schools. Often times that is the fault of the teachers and the schools. Some people send their kids or go to class themselves and get ripped off. More often though the school is just providing the service that their customers expect.

I personally don't think McDonalds is to blame for obesity in America. Each individual makes their choice. McDonalds and other such enities are only responding to demand.(In fact Mcdonalds lost millions into their failed "Mclean" burger becuse it just didn't sell. Try opening a language school in Thailand and naming it "Serious English" ) I doubt if Mr Burke had his money down on a language school and was forced to chose between a "serious" highly qualified teacher who was unpoular and didnt keep his students or a underqualified clown who the students loved I would bet he would choose the latter.

By Lee Lepper, nonthanburi (10th April 2011)

Despite the conversation here, whilst delving into the jobs market here I find that most of these comments are pretty irrelevant.

Qualifications and paperwork are required mostly for superficial purposes. In the past I've witnessed many school owners and parents alike stating that more than half of their best teachers actually have no relevant formal qualifications - they are adequately educated, and have talent.

Good schools will provide well planned material for teachers to work with. They will call in teachers to do test teaching and judge them on their performance on the floor, the way they interact with the children and engage them in lessons... However, the reality is that appearances are of much more importance than education. Teachers should be aged between 25 and 35 and be dressed like professional businessmen (the clothes that teachers wear in Western countries is not acceptable).They must have a full set of qualifications (take a look - schools paying 15,000 per month are requiring a Bachelors in Childhood Education - it's laughable!).

Even now, possession of a Master degree guarantees a higher salary - yet I have yet to meet a teacher with a Master degree who can do more than barely survive in the classroom - I didn't meet many, but they all earned more and had virtually no talent whatsoever.

Actually, it would be better to talk about 'good teachers' than to use loaded phrases like 'professional teachers' - because the word 'professional' implies that qualifications are a very important aspect - and from experience I believe that this only really applies to higher levels (perhaps with students aged from 13 upwards) when teaching specialised subject material.

Having previously taught Science to Prathom levels, I can say honestly that you spend more than 90% of your time teaching the students simply to read, learn and spell vocabulary for material that they pick up extremely easily - and this requires only for them to bring a dictionary, no specialist knowledge on the teacher's behalf.

By Ben, Bangkok (10th April 2011)

Overall, I have to agree with Mr. Burke even though he seems a little jaded by now. I have taught a TEFL course for new teachers and just because they have a Bachelors / Masters Degree does not mean they can teach. I found this to be true over and over again. Most "TEFL Certificate Farms" do NOT fail any of the teachers that "paid for" their certificate. This is the main reason I no longer teach TEFL to new teachers.

I also agree with Mr. Burke that a student awarded an "F" is the failure of the assessment policies within the school or instructors that lack training in assessment. An "F" should only be awarded to the student who completely earns it. Teaching at university level does reinforce this concept. The assessment for the course tends to award some effort on the students behalf and at university level this includes attendance, participation in class and other productive activities.

I know that at the lower level schools the students are required to attend and motivation is at times nonexistent, but this is where a qualified, professionally trained teacher can make a difference. Cultural, class and linguistic background knowledge with how to engage the ELL's learning strategies is where to look first. Most Thai students are now and will be better educated than their parents so the teacher has to "step up" pedagogically including technology to stimulate the non-motivated students.

What is the objective of education? Originally is to train learners to be productive in life and get job training for the future. But now it seems by Mr. Burke's account Thailand seems as "Academically Adrift" as the USA in comparison.

So, in closing, Yes... to cleaning up the ESL /EFL teacher industry and adopt a professional standardization globally.

Will this ever happen? NO. It will be unrealistic to believe it will ever happen...greed is a common factor that internationally, its hunger and thirst can never quench.

For now the teachers who now teach have to police themselves professionally. Teachers must believe that they just may be teaching a future leader of Thailand and that by teaching, being a good role model, can make a difference in the students’ life and for the Kingdom of Thailand.

By Ajaan Rob, Bangkok (9th April 2011)

If there is anyone who thinks teaching is a lark and a great way to see the world I imagine it would only take a week or so in a classroom to disabuse them of that notion. I got into the teaching profession late in life and started in Korea. It took a while but I realized that they didn't even think I could teach, I was just supposed to show up so the school could say they had a native speaker. They had no suggestions as to what they wanted me to teach, no text books (and most are awful anyway) and the Korean teachers often asked to take over my classes so they could teach them 'important things'.

Well, I have always felt that you should do things well or not at all (I agree with Mr. Burke on that point) so I came to Thailand to take the CELTA course. I feel that as far as teaching in a classroom filled with students who all speak one language it was a waste of time and money. They often said 'what will you do with a classroom where the students all speak different languages?' But they never gave us a strategy for teaching in a class where 35 students are busy talking in their own language and have no interest in what the crazy foreigner is doing. In fact they complained about it as well.

So I started reading and ordering some books and learning new techniques. Now I feel that I am a much better teacher. I feel I am also a little better at diffusing the tension in the class room regarding English. It is not only failing he students that creates tension. The very act of dividing them up according to better and lesser abilities (i.e. the sparrows and bluebird reading groups in the U.S.) communicates a message. (The Thai school I taught at split up students by grade and ability. You might be M1 and if your English was poor you would be M1-1 -You think students didn't understand that?)

But my current situation is that while I feel I have matured a bit as a teacher, and am very willing to learn more, I am now ------- (shudder!, gasp!, horror!) 57 - and am 'aged out' of many of the jobs on and other sites. I don't even get interviews. So if the 'teacher of choice' - is between say 25 and 35 (I have seen cut off ages as low as 30), what can the schools expect? And the ESL 'industry' as a whole?

And if school is seen as nothing more than a path to a job I think that pretty much destroys the whole 'personnel development' idea anyway. Vilifying the teachers doesn't seem to be an answer. Maybe it is time for the teachers to go off on their own and let the students come to them.

By Michael Allman, Bangkok, Thailand (4th April 2011)

I noticed a great number of schools changing their policy to fit western thinking. The result is a group of unruly students who find it easy and fun to disrupt the classes and realise that even if they refuse to study they will pass with stars and stickers galore.

I speak from having 7 years experience teaching Kindergarten levels the joys of English and Phonics, and a great deal of success in turning many 'failures' into students with a pretty good ability to grasp the basics of phonics and be in a better position to face the hideous challenges and expectations of Thai schools in Prathom (where they're expected to read texts far ahead of their abilities).

The rewards which I offer are based less upon a fixed standard, and more upon the student's individual ability to make some effort and focus a little during classes.

I guess it is more about how you define 'failure' and 'success' and also about how you actually test your students. I find the biggest failure in Thailand is the development and encouragement of students who can pass tests on paper being judged as superior to those who cannot, whereas many who cannot pass tests expecting them to read and write have good communication skills (I speak from experience of one severely dyslexic student in a reading class who has been accepted, never scores more than 2 out of 10 in basic spelling tests - an yet who's parents and I are very appreciative of her success).

I agree that mostly the problems do come from teachers, but I would argue that the schools are perhaps more than equal in blame having been severely reprimanded on a number of occasions for writing less than glowing reports for students with a history of excellence and success, and fairly glowing reports for students judged by the school as utter failures.

By Ben, Bangkok (4th April 2011)

"Regardless of all the external forces outside of the classroom, if you are truly a dedicated educator that cares about your students, you will succeed in helping them to learn."

I have to disagree with this one. OK...what would you do if you tried to be an educator and your own colleagues, regardless of their nationality turned on you? It is not easy to work for a Thai government school. They are set in their own ways. They do not like changes. I tried hard to introduce some positive changes and be as you said, a truly dedicated educator. As a result Thais, Filipinos and even Farangs immediately started undermining me. I had to deal with backstabbings, blatant lies, poisoning young students' minds and undermining on a daily basis. Why? There are many teachers around, Westerners, Filipinos and Thais who are quite content with the current set up. No matter what they say, this current system suits them perfectly. Fake the test results, fake the grades, keep everyone happy and lie to parents how wonderful their kids are. That is the harsh reality. When teachers in Thailand, regardless of their nationalities, stop lying and blatantly faking grades and start working harder we might see some positive changes. I doubt that will ever happen.

By Veritas, Thailand (3rd April 2011)

I definitely agree with Lisa, Eric and Sudharni!

I'm not a native speaker myself yet I speak like one. I still love the way my Filipino teachers taught me English back in my school days - traditional yet very effective. And what I mean with "traditional" is , memorization of tenses, vocabularies and structures, more oral drills, writing and reading (balanced four skills) goverened by strict discipline and daily evaluation, be it oral or written. if a student fails, falure grade must appear on his/her report card! Moreover, in school setting, "foreign" ESL teachers in Thailand should at least have 3 sessions for three days in a row teaching per week (why not? from whom could students learn proper English more?).

They should also be vested with power tantamount to that of a Thai teacher to establish respect and compliance from the students, and be given a very dignified amount of percentage on the students' English grade to objectively denote students' performance and cause the students to take their foreign English teacher "SERIOUSLY" as they do with their Thai teachers. 70-30 will do; the former being from the foreign teacher.Lastly, for language centers and institutes, aside from hiring real teachers or professionals that demonstrate considerable amount of teaching skills regardless of ETHNICITY, Thai learners must also comply to the well-designed curriculun of a particular institute. I mean, hey, don't complain if your teacher asks you to read, write and study grammar at times! In communication, you don't only speak and listen, you also write and read emails that is zero confusion rate! Besides, TOEFL AND IELTS and many more test your four English skills and grammar usage.

By Mr. R, Don Mueang (3rd April 2011)

I hope the author teaches his students how to talk to people rather than talking at them. Who wants to be lectured like this?

In my humble opinion, the notion that dedicated teachers need to stop blaming outside factors for students' poor performance is pretty ridiculous. Just as carpenters need the right tools and pilots need well-maintained planes to do their jobs, teachers need supportive administrations to do theirs. The best teachers in the world would be crippled by this country's inept approach to education. Bad teachers are bad teachers but that doesn't mean good teachers can't point out their school's failure to help them provide a decent education.

By Eric Haeg, Phuket (3rd April 2011)

Well said! Having taught for 8 years in Thailand I can definitely see that the ESL/EFL teaching industry is going downhill.Also more scrutiny must be done and fake degree holders punished as well. Teaching is about nurturing the students and bringing out the best in them. You have to give teaching your 100%.and you have to professionally develop yourself as a teacher. Also please please please review the teachers, just because someone is NES it doesn't make them a better teacher than NNES. Don't turn down people who are qualified with MA(TESOL) just because they are brown or black. Anyway I hope change is on the way ,it's going to be ELF( English as a Lingua Franca)! God Bless Thailand! I love the Thais and want to do my best for them.

By Sudharani Subramanian, Lampang (2nd April 2011)

Thank you Lisa for your kind contribution to the discussion.

The article was never intended to discuss the issue of teenage and adult learners, therefore there is no "failure of consideration" here. It is simply a targeted topic. Other issues are for other articles.

Indeed, the peculiarities of Thai student learning behaviour do need to be taken into account when endeavouring to teach English to young learners in this country where "Sanook" is a key element of an effective ESL classroom. Note however, there is no need for a loss of cognitive deductive language acquisition or inductive learning to take place simply because the teaching methodology incorporates the "Fun Factor." Effective and experienced ESL teachers know how to make learning fun. Furthermore, child-centered task based learning employing Social Constructivism is extremely effective with Thai students who will naturally gravitate towards the learning experience when presented with a lesson that engages them.

The only students that are not interested in learning are those who simply have not been engaged in a manner that switches on their natural instinct and curiosity to learn. Thai students are really no different than any other students and the myth that perpetuates this nonsense that Thai students will not "behave" or "learn" because they lack the discipline to do so is completely misguided. All children in all cultures function primarily the same, bore them to tears with tedious teaching strategies and you will end up with a disruptive class on your hands. Engage them with targeted learner-centered activities that have tangible meaning to them and they will work very hard to participate in the learning experience. What you are describing in your observations are not the shortcomings of Thai students, they are the shortcomings of an ineffective teaching strategy.

It seems pretty clear that Thailand has, in fact, taken a very serious stance on its motivations to make English a vital component of the nation. To one degree or another, English has become the de facto second language of the nation. What many foreigners seem to forget is that there are a very large number of educated Thais who have very good competency skills in the language. The call for English within all strata of society is loud and clear. From educators, MOE administrators, the business community, and governing bodies there is a strong desire to see the nation become proficient in the language. Seems pretty serious to me!

The issue of the snow white tanned backpacker, so-called "teacher," is really about economics and salary compensation packages as compared to other more lucrative opportunities that are available to professional ESL teachers. That is to say, Thailand has simply failed to produce compensation packages that can attract qualified experienced ESL professionals. There are a myriad of reasons as to why this is the case, but suffice it to say that to suggest that Thailand is not interested in attracting and hiring qualified professional ESL educators is simply wrong. What is wrong, too many Thais falsely believe that they can attract professional ESL teachers that can do the job and be compensated with a 30,000 baht a month salary. As we all know, the reality is these salaries do not attract ESL professionals therefore the void is filled with what the culture perceives, rightly or wrongly (wrongly), as a qualified English language teacher -- the "White-skinned Native Speaker English God." Absurd, we know!

Thailand is what it is and so be it. I will state it once more clearly and simply; what any educator in Thailand, or anywhere else for that matter, needs to be focused on is producing effective lessons that engage the students and create effective learning outcomes. Keep your eyes on the prize people. The rest of the nonsense is simply a series of distractions that take away the energy that is needed to be the best one can be. "What you focus on will grow."


By David, Thailand (2nd April 2011)

Wonderful Article....It's high time that the EFL industry matures.....This is my dilemma now whether to send my son back home and be educated there or stay here and learn with some incompetent teachers,,,I have no means to send my son to some good international schools but I'm so hesitant and doubtful that my son is getting the right education. It's also high time that they should set rigid standards for non-native speakers. being a non-native speaker myself, I know who is who and which is which. I believe that it's not enough that they have a BA or Education graduate they should also have the command of the language that they are all aspects...

By Concerned Parent, Chonburi (2nd April 2011)

The article fails to take into consideration that teaching ESL is not all about children as there are probably just as many adult students. Are we forgetting about them? And are we forgetting about the teenagers as well?

Another thing that the article fails to mention is the market for Thai students. They like fun and games and they are not normally serious about learning English well enough to be considered proficient or fluent. Top educators from Western English speaking countries find this terribly unacceptable and they want to change it. But how can you be serious about wanting to teach the English language if the customer (the student) is not interested and would rather listen to jokes or play games (that don't even make much of an impact)? Also, bear in mind that the same market of Thai students want a teacher with a young, beautiful, white, face irrespective of experience, professionalim or qualifications.

When Thailand decides to get serious about their people learning English, Thailand will get the serious educators who will not fit the profile of a funny, handsome backpacker who likes to tell jokes to keep his students motivated.

By Lisa Young, Nonthaburi (2nd April 2011)

What a wonderful article, thank-you for saying what only a few of us "Real teachers" think. Teaching is a predisposition, a calling, not just a job.

You missed a couple of important facts, ie that ESL learners must study 12 tenses but native speakers only use 3 - 85% of the time!! and what about the corbuild list... 3000 words make up 85% of all written and spoken english..

Kudos to "D.Burke"

By Ajarndave, Bangkok (2nd April 2011)

I agree that the EFL industry in Thailand is long overdue for some governance and legislation that will protect the education of innocent children. Having worked as an EFL teacher in both private and government schools in Thailand for almost four years, I have seen too many unqualified teachers without degrees who view their work as merely an unnecessary evil so they can earn enough money to stay in Thailand. Many of these teachers see their work as a job and not as a profession. They will cut corners and slack off whenever they can. They will also test all of the administration rules and try to get away with as much as they can. At the same time, they will expect maximum benefits. The philosophy of many of these teachers is what can the school do for me, and not what can I do for the school and my students.

By Paul Kuehn, Bangna, Bangkok (2nd April 2011)

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฿35,000+ / month


Economics, Business, GP and Maths Specialist

฿65,000+ / month


PE Teacher for Grades 7-12

฿59,000+ / month


NES English Language Teachers

฿600+ / hour


Featured Teachers

  • Genryll

    Filipino, 25 years old. Currently living in Philippines

  • Barry

    Australian, 59 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Bugana

    South African, 23 years old. Currently living in South Africa

  • Elisa

    Italian, 40 years old. Currently living in Italy

  • Adryan

    Indonesian, 44 years old. Currently living in Indonesia

  • Simelane

    Swazi, 26 years old. Currently living in Swaziland

The Hot Spot

Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.

The cost of living

The cost of living

How much money does a teacher need to earn in order to survive in Thailand? We analyze the facts.

The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?

Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.

Air your views

Air your views

Got something to say on the topic of teaching, working or living in Thailand? The Ajarn Postbox is the place. Send us your letters!

Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?

Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.

The Region Guides

The Region Guides

Fancy working in Thailand but not in Bangkok? Our region guides are written by teachers who actually live and work in the provinces.