Testing times

Testing times

How is the COVID-19 situation affecting schools and teachers?


With the COVID-19 situation in Thailand improving but still a major part of our daily lives, how are teachers coping out there on the front line? 

When does your school plan to re-open? Have all classes gone online?

What have been the arrangements for teacher pay or are you going to lose money?

Has the recruitment of new teachers stopped? Have any of the existing foreign teaching staff decided to return home? Are any of the teaching staff stranded abroad?

We would love to hear from more teachers. Put your comments in the comments section below and I will transfer them to the main blog. 


My shopping mall language school closed in March and has only paid Thai admin staff since then, not a single foreign teacher. The reason for this is the wonderful zero-hour contract with a guaranteed salary that our amazing company offers teachers. 

The guarantee has yet to be fulfilled. We don't have work permits nor health insurance. We received a message via Line in early April telling us the good news that Songkran holidays, which would not be paid, had arrived early and we should enjoy the time off to travel and be with family and not to worry as we would re-open soon and there would be plenty of hours for us to work to make up for all the hours we didn't work. It was like some sad, sick joke. 

Since then, nothing but radio silence. The group of us who started in the December to February of this year never received the contracts that we signed and were told they would be returned to us after the CEO had signed them, so we have no legal proof of employment or income whatsoever. Personally, as soon as borders open I'll be working in another country. I am also working with legal counsel to bring a lawsuit against my 'employer' who has broken a number of employment laws.

- Joe


'Nervous'

Our school is opening on June 15th just for staff. Are many schools doing this? The school has not announced a policy for keeping staff safe. I have a young daughter and a wife with an underlying condition so I am very nervous to go back early like this. I would love to hear when other schools are opening for staff and if they have plans in place to ensure social distancing etc.

- Paul


Struggles in Nan

The two NES teachers from last year, who have both resigned,  cannot leave the province and are stuck there. The two Filipino teachers hired as their replacements are both on tourist visas and cannot obtain relevant authorisation to commence work or return home. No foreign teachers are allowed to start until July 1st but Nan Province is not exactly overflowing with native English teachers anyway. 

Numerous Thai teachers, especially the older ones, are struggling with anything online. Junior teachers, or those on university placements, are the flavour of the month because they are net savvy and cheap to hire. My school is still making Thai teachers attend in person every day and all are sharing one air-conditioned room. Only the director walks around maskless.

- Eric


8 Teachers down

At our school we have lost 8 teachers. The ones with work permits could be able to come back in July but as they’re in the US/UK it’s possible they’ll be blocked. New teachers don’t have work permits so they can’t come yet. Consequences? We’re not waiting. We’re recruiting again. 

Airlines cannot just turn on a magic switch and everything is back to normal. It takes time. And the teachers will have to do 14 day quarantine. Foreign diplomats & foreigners that hold valid work permits are actually allowed to go to Thailand now. But with the ban on passenger planes & land borders closed, it is almost impossible for them to come until the ban is lifted. 

- Richard


Up in the air

During the past week and a half, I have been teaching online with the help of Google Classroom and the MEET application as part of the 2-week Summer school. Nobody is too happy about that, it's nothing like the real thing. What will happen after Summer school is still up in the air. Will the school be closed until July 1st? Will we teach online from May 15? Salaries have been paid in full without delay. I work at a government school and have worked there for 16 years for the most decent school management you'll ever find).

- Cor


Social distancing?

It's quite clear that the Ministry of Education is hoping that students can return to school on the 1st July.  What is less clear is how they can possibly manage social distancing in classrooms that barely have any space to move in as it is. Any thoughts?

- James


Done a runner

The language school where I have been teaching since May last year had to close on the 18th March. I am owed three weeks pay, which should have arrived by 11th April at the latest. There are 8 other teachers in the same boat and we have all been unable to contact the owner. He isn't answering his phone, e-mails or Line messages (but the messages are being read) I need my money!

- Richard


'Crossroads situation'

I returned to the UK last week to take care of my elderly father. My school is closed until July and hopefully I can return in the not-too-distant future. After 14 years in Bangkok, this is certainly a crossroads situation. I can hold out until the Summer but I'm not sure how many other teachers can. In the past, we've had floods, coups and riots - but this beats them all.

-Christian


Well prepared

My school has been well ahead of the game. Last month we held a seminar on how to use Google Classroom, and use various video-making and editing apps. This was before the state of emergency was even declared. Our online classes will start in early May. From what I've gathered, the new date of July 1st pertains to when schools might physically re-open (and by no means certain)

- Jonathon


Loyalty is a two-way street

The company that hires and sends us to teach in Thai public schools refuses to tell the teachers when our contracts will officially begin. Meaning we don't know if they will begin in May or July. If our contracts don't begin until July, it means we will have gone from March to the end of July with little or no pay. The fact the company refuses to be upfront with teachers, only highlights the poor character of this Thai-run company. 

They assume that they can string the foreign teachers along and we will be there when school starts. But they assume wrong. When the school term starts again, I suspect the companies and schools that have ignored and not looked after the foreign teachers will be left with giant holes to fill. Loyalty is a two way street.

- Phil


Survival

I wrote my status report before the school closure announcements of 17th March. Since then, everything changed.  It has not even been a month yet and life is completely different now. In Phuket, we receive daily announcements of further restrictions (thank goodness for Richard Barrow and others for clear, unbiased updates).

Day to day life remains uncertain. It is hard to think too far into the future as the status can change for better or for worse in an instant.

With the Ministry of Education announcing a "firm" start to the school year of 1st July for the government and certain other schools (contingent, of course, on the threat of the virus subsiding), we at least have a goal to strive for. Unfortunately, a lot of our teachers may not be able to last until then without income. The last salaries will be paid-out on 13th April. The 1st July start date would mean these teachers will not receive any income from the agency until mid-August. That is a long time to survive while still having to pay rent and other monthly bills while trying to stay fed. Those that have families are in particularly bad shape. This is one time that I am thankful to be single as I only have my own well-being to worry about.

Consider those teachers who had just finished their first year living here. They have not yet discovered how to adjust to life in this Land of Many Smiles and how to reduce their expenses.  

It will be a hard road indeed until the beginning of July. Keeping mentally and physically healthy is important but not always easy. 

Those that survive sane, safe and sound will definitely deserve a reward of some sort. A big "thank you" for sticking it out and getting back into those classrooms. A class full of 60+ screaming kids in a hot concrete cell with a broken desk and "teacher's chair" is starting to sound like heaven right about now....

- Mark


'Consequences'

At this present moment, the foreign teachers at my school are looking at 18 - 19 weeks between pay checks. 

After having been notified by the school that I would be employed from May 7th and to prepare for the possibility of online courses from May 14 I have been told that only Thai teachers will teach online and I won't be required until July 1st. Moreover, the next school year will not include an October break and we will teach the standard school curricular in both March and April. 

I cannot even begin to imagine the impending consequences for a large number of foreign teachers and their direct and indirect Thai dependents.

- Peter


'Not a good work ethic'

It's pretty clear now that the seriousness of Covid-19 needs to be accepted for everyone's sake.  Yet international schools are still considering opening before the end of the year.  Thai schools have announced reopening 1st July, which is the more socially responsible option.  However, all most international schools seem to care about is making a profit.  I call upon managers within these schools to learn from this virus and to think twice about expecting staff to drag themselves into work dripping with cold and flu.  This is irresponsible and spreads germs to both students and other staff.  And 'no' I do not believe this is good work ethic, just plain stupid. In terms of learning online, it's not going to do a great deal of harm for just a short period of time, in fact some students will do better learning at home because they don't have to wake up at a ridiculous hour to get to school by 7:30 am and they have less distractions (depending on the household of course).

- Jane


Irresponsible teachers

The dumbass teachers that took off in March or worse still, even later, shouldn't be given their jobs back if late for reporting on May 18th. Anyone that went abroad at that time obviously doesn't really care about their job and even less about their students. I would love to pick up some consulting work, either with individual teachers struggling to get their classes online or advising entire schools. I can bring in 3-4 other individuals if needed.  Too many teachers gonna take the piss.  This situation is killing me a little bit more every day. I pity the students.

- Jim


'Live' is difficult

The cabinet has agreed to the proposal by the Ministry of Education to postpone the start of the new academic year from mid-May to 1st July. At present, Prathom & Mattayom are on summer holidays. If they are able to start in July, this would mean a summer break of four months. If the new year is shifted to July, we would then have to make up lost time, maybe working on Saturdays and the whole of the October holidays. Online learning is not really practical for regular schools as many students don’t have computers, just smartphones or tablets. It’s fine for the international schools as their students all have laptops. They are actually doing it now as their school year is different and it was relatively easy for them to make the change. They can do live interactive lessons with all of their students at the same time. At our school, we have already started to form LINE groups for each class. The next step is for the teachers to shoot instructional videos which we will then upload to the LINE group for the parents to teach their kids. Anything live will be difficult.

- Richard


Parents unhappy

I've been teaching all my students on Skype for the last 2-3 weeks. I try to mix up the lesson in different skills like conversation, reading, videos and puzzles etc. It seems unlikely that international schools will open for term three at the end of April and I am hearing that many parents are unhappy that (a) these schools won't refund or reduce fees and (b) they just send daily worksheets with no face to face time with teachers at all. Does that sound like good value at over 500,000 baht per term?  No, I don't think so either. 

The good news is that kids can still learn at home, via private tutoring schools, and those which offer good online lessons will do well. We see it as a challenge, and so far we're adapting to the online learning environment very well.  Most kids actually want to learn.

- George


The future is uncertain

Limbo is an interesting place and serves to focus the mind greatly. I am due to take up a teaching post in Thailand later this year.  At 55 I decided to have a career break from my full time teaching position here in Ireland and as of July I am out of contract.

I actually have no idea if I will be able to take up my new Thai post as all movement is currently restricted.  Should I book a one way flight? Can I even book a one way flight? Will I have visas and work permits sorted? Who knows?  I don't even know which documents I may need notarised or how I am going to get that done as yet.

Effectively I am out of work and out of income as of July for two years as my current post will be filled.  At first I found the whole situation a little stressful; how would I afford things like my mortgage here or the other essential bills I have? The stress and anxiety have subsided now though and I'm content that something will present itself.  I will either be working in Thailand or I will not.  Right now the important thing is staying safe.........and building a plan ;)

- Steve


'Stranded'

I’m a teacher through an agency with a one-year visa. I do not get paid for holidays, in fact my last pay cheque was on the 7th March.  I am desperately hoping schools re-open in either May or June because if they don’t, I will be stranded without an income and all alone, which will make life difficult. 

If I can somehow go home, I don’t think I will be able to make it back here again. I love my job and my life in Thailand and the uncertainty of what will come next is a daily worry.

- Emily


'Involved'

I'm teaching all my lessons online. I'm filming my lessons using screencast and then uploading it and the accompanying worksheets or activities to complete are on Seesaw. The kids are very involved. As a parent my daughter has so much work posted online, I can barely keep up. Just not the same focus as being in the classroom.

- Bridget


'Online struggle'

Here in Ayutthaya, our language school closed two weeks ago and we've been told it will be closed until 30th April at the earliest. Our boss has been kind enough to pay the internal staff until this period. May though could prove a month of uncertainty! Online classes are being offered to students. However, many are very young and may struggle with the online platform. The start of school term will see many schools across Thailand struggling to fill their vacancies. Hopefully the situation will get better quickly.

- Andy


"Concerned"

I know this is a long shot, but I am hoping for some tips and advice on my future plans to move to the Kingdom.

I am a British citizen who for the last three years has been teaching in Cambodia. A couple of months ago I secured a position in an international school in Chiang Mai, to start in August. Therefore I booked flights from Phnom Penh to Chiang Mai on 3rd July and return flights to the UK a couple of weeks later once I had settled. 

With the recent developments, I am concerned about how long these restrictions and border closures will last, how this will affect my application for a non-b and whether I will still be able to make those travel plans above.  I understand that there are no certainties at this point, but wondered if anyone had any inside information or educated guesses on the matter?

Thank you for reading and stay safe everyone.

- James


'Shambles'

So far, we've managed to hold on to most of our regular students by teaching them online but it's end of term next week and I suspect the April holiday schedule will be a total shambles, mostly because Cambridge CIE have now formally cancelled the May/June 2020 IGCSEs and other important exams.  Bang go hundreds of revision lessons across all subjects! Still no idea when international schools will reopen.

- George


Unnerving

It's quite unnerving. I am on a ten-month contract with my company that hires and sends teachers into Thai public schools. Of course this means October, March, and April are months when I'm not paid. 

In the past I have relied heavily on the extra classes that I teach on nights and weekends.  I find the students on my own, or better I get new students based on referrals from my current students. 

During March and April I can usually get close to my regular salary from working in the Thai school. But not this year. Of my 15 private students all but three are taking a Corona virus break.  So if the schools don't start and I don't get pay, that would be terrible.

- William


Irresponsible

Teachers that left the country to return home or take a holiday really don't deserve their jobs, if and when they return. This situation had been brewing weeks ago and the writing was on the wall. Not a great deal of concern on their part.

- Jim

'Bumpy ride'

This crisis is having and will likely continue to have an impact on people throughout the world. My "day job" has moved online but I also have a lot of other online work so I will probably be OK, at least in the short-term. Although both of my children, living in different countries but both in the hospitality industry, have been laid off and Dad is expected to help out.

I am not a health expert, although the information we have available is that only one person has died from the virus and that was over a week ago here in Thailand, but I am expected the indirect negative economic consequences will affect billions of people across the planet and the effects might be a lot more long lasting than expected. Buckle up and expect a bumpy ride, for how long? Your guess is as good as mine.

I would expect the demand for English teachers abroad will decline and remain low for some time. But this is mostly just speculation.

- Jack


Time running out

With borders closing nearby, teachers who will need a new non-B visa are facing questions and uncertainty.  Rumors abound and officials at various embassies and immigration offices are confused with shifting policies (as usual).  Is there any clarity that Ajarn can provide to teachers who need a new non-B for the upcoming May 1 school year?

As for me in particular, I had a non-B visa and work permit last year, but left the school at the end of December, and was required to leave the country to get a new tourist visa until I found a new teaching job.  Now that I've been hired to work in Nonthaburi, the school is closed and the required paperwork is not being processed.  

I have only until April 5 on my current tourist visa (with extension already issued) and I am reading that Laos will be closing its borders.  I am also being told that I will need a health certificate (testing negative for the virus) and insurance to cover expenses when I do contract the virus (it is inevitable, I think, especially for teachers).  I have also heard rumors that Thai Immigration is offering a 30-day extension, beyond the normal allowances, for anyone who is here long term.

Does anyone have good advice for teachers like me?  Thank you!

- Mike


No Summer school

Our school has canceled the Summer School program and we have no students on campus, but teachers are still coming in and doing lots of cleaning and designing a new curriculum. I think teachers will continue to come into work, but there will be no students for a while.

- Jack


'Worried'

I'm really worried as I'm working in a government school through the agency on a 10 month-contract. The students finished last week, but we were supposed to be at school every day, and March was to be paid in full. Today we were told that there's no need to come to school anymore. It's unclear if I will get paid for this month or even have a job if schools don't open in May.

- Den


Mandatory?

I'm not sure if this school closing rule is mandatory, because my school is just going to carry on as normal and even run the Summer camp. 

- Matthew


Online classes?

The language center I work at is considering online classes instead. The school is now closed and there will be no more Summer classes this year. 

- Jhona 


Bad in Vietnam

You guys are lucky. Here in Vietnam, all schools and language centres have been closed for two months and many teachers have had no pay during that time. A lot of teachers have already left.

- Jey


Filipino teachers stayed put

I work for an agency in Phuket that contracts teachers to work in government schools and we also have a variety of classes in our shopping mall facility (newly remodeled offices and classrooms opened in mid-February).

Most of the contracted schools finished last week; a few are still in "as normal" operation this week and one or two until next week. Of course, that may change.

I believe about half of our teachers returned to their home countries for the term break. They said they were returning "as usual" in early May, apparently believing things will be fine by then. Many of our Filipino teachers elected to remain in Thailand, fearing the uncertainty. This was before Manila's lock-down so I believe they made the right choice.

As our in-house classrooms and offices are located inside a shopping mall, the regular security at the entrances scan our body temperatures upon arrival (and also when walking to different areas of the mall). Hand sanitizer is readily available at all entrances.

Inside, it is business as usual. We have had staff and teachers alike with minor coughs over the past couple of weeks and they wear surgical masks when in the lobby area and occasionally in the classrooms. It is difficult to teach wearing one. Most of our parents and children arrive wearing masks and there has been a surge in that over the past few days. There have been a few class cancellations here and there as parents decide to keep their children at home. My adult students have not canceled a single class as of yet

We are actively hiring. I noticed at least three walk-in applicants last week, one of which already has been assigned several in-house classes.

There are a couple of activity days on the calendar for later this month and early April (the latter a multi-day English camp). They will evaluate soon.

- Mark Jochim


20-day quarantine

Our school has asked teachers to cancel their travel plans, and if you are not willing to do that, you will need to self-quarantine for 20 days when you return to Thailand. Furthermore, you will not be allowed in school without a medical certificate stating you have tested negative. 

If a teacher is in quarantine, they will not receive a salary and passports will be checked to verify movements when the school eventually re-opens. 

There are no students at school at the moment because it's mid-term break. Teachers start back on 1st May, students on 15th. Summer school has already been canceled and many teachers have also canceled holidays, trips home, etc.

- Zelda


Cancelled travel plans

We still have to report to school until the 31st of March. We have security guards checking people's temperatures every time they enter the building. Some teachers have cancelled their trips abroad and opted to stay in Thailand. Some teachers already left to travel abroad weeks before and they were told to just stay safe. 

We've had no students on the premises since the last week of February. 

- Kenneth


Business as usual

It's pretty much business as usual at my school but an e- learning platform is being readied just in case. 

- Juna


Students have finished

We have no students around at the moment, in fact, they finished school a week early. The teachers are still required to go in and whilst we have to scan our fingerprints in the morning and evening, there are no temperature checks.

- Alex


We're prepared!

We've just been told that school is closed starting tomorrow for students. We will have a staff meeting today to be told details in regards to whether or not teaching staff will be made to come to school.  We're completely prepared to work and learn from home with online learning platforms. 

- Jen




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