Some teachers work in Thailand for a number of years and then become worn down by the red tape and relatively low salaries. One solution is to return to your home country, study for a PGCE and gain qualified teacher status (QTS) Once you have this qualification, the objective in most cases is to apply for teaching jobs with much better pay. We chat with Andre Park. one teacher who has decided to go down this route.
Andre, welcome to the Ajarn hot seat. How long have you been teaching in Thailand?
I’ve been in Thailand for around ten years, mainly teaching mathematics to Mathayom students.
You actually studied for a teaching qualification in Thailand as well?
That's correct. I did a Masters in English Language Teaching (MA ELT) at Assumption University.
But the Thai authorities won't recognise the qualification and won't give you any more than three licence waivers?
Correct again. When I finished my Masters, the school I was with at the time did not apply for my teachers license using my teaching degree. Therefore, they argue, it should not be valid. Furthermore, they said it does not have the word ‘education’ in the title so it is not an educational degree. Thai logic I suppose.
So where are you studying for your PGCE?
Stadio University in South Africa.
Did you have a choice of studying either full-time or part-time? Which did you opt for?
It is offered as a one year full-time programme, or part-time over two years. I opted for the one year full time programme.
Was there not an option to do distance learning rather than journey back to South Africa?
It is offered as a hybrid learning programme. Lectures can be attended in-class or via Zoom with online quizzes and electronic submission of assignment. However, the exams at the end of each semester are written at one of the learning centers in South Africa. It cannot be done abroad or at an embassy. The five week teaching practice needs to be done at a school in South Africa each semester.
How much of the course have you completed?
I have completed the first semester and are now busy with the second semester.
How are you finding the workload in general? Manageable?
No, I find it a challenge. I have six modules this semester. Working full time and studying full time is definitely not easy.
How much did the course cost?
If converted into Thai Baht, then about 70,000 Baht, payable in 10 installments.
What are the language requirements to get a place on the course?
The language of delivery is English. However, a new government regulation requires an additional African language, or South African sign language to be completed in the second semester. It’s not hard to figure out which one I opted for.
What's the covid-18 situation like in South Africa and how is it affecting your course?
South Africa has been in lock down since the end of March. All classes and exams were moved online, even the teaching practise of the first semester. Semester 2 will also be online, except for the teaching practise that has to be done at a school in South Africa.
With this kind of course, deadlines are crucial, right?
Yes, everything has a deadline - quizzes, assignments, exams and involvement trackers. If you miss a deadline, you get zero. You can’t negotiate with the Moodle app. That is what’s making the course so stressful.
The Moodle app?
Moodle is a learning platform (Google). When a person is your lecturer, you can ask for extension or give reasons why you cant hand in your assignment. An app or computer does not understand human reasoning.
Are you paying for your studies by doing any part-time work or do you have family to support you?
I am supporting my family financially. I am paying for the course with my school salary, and working part time to pay for the teaching practice back home.
So once you have the PGCE, what's the master plan? A return to Thailand?
Yes, although I am still in Thailand. South Africa’s borders are closed, and I haven’t been able to return to my home country to do my teaching practise. But once I’m done with that, I will fly straight back to the Land of Smiles.