Douglas is something of an expert on the Rajabhat institutes. If you're anything like me you're perhaps a bit confused as to exactly what they are. Well he works at one and loves every minute.
Doug, you’re joining us as something of a Rajabhat expert. For those of us that are still confused (and that includes me), what is a Rajabhat by definition?
A 'Rajabhat" is an ISO certified, government-sponsored learning institute, open to all Thai nationals. It is a place for higher learning for those who cannot afford the tuition of a private university. At my Rajabhat we offer, just like any other university, BA, MA, and MEd degrees, plus many certificates in technology and hotel management. We even operate our own tourist resort, and have an excellent culinary school.
“Rajabhats are for students who can’t get into any other kind of university”. I forget who said that to me but does it ring true?
I don't think that's true. A majority of my students are highly intelligent and have bright futures ahead of them in many diverse fields. I think that misconseption came about because of the low tuition costs and the many programs the government offers to help students pay for their education (such as a work/study program). I have students majoring in nursing, chemestry, English, and tourism, and in my classes, as well as others that I have seen, these students work very hard.
How many Rajabhat institutes are there dotted around Thailand?
I believe there are approximately 45 Rajabhats throughout Thailand. There are Rajabhats in almost every province, and several throughout Bangkok.
In your initial email to me, you said that you LOVE teaching there. What Rajabhat are you at and what’s so great about it?
I am at the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University in Bangkok. It has the highest budget of all the Rajabhats. This university spends a lot of money on NEW textbooks and other educational materials, as well as educational facilities. I also receive a lot of support from the Thai staff here. This support includes all materials I need for teaching (provided to me at no cost). I have immediate computer and internet access, an air-conditioned office, etc etc.
Many of us will be familiar with the Rajabhat ads on ajarn.com. Why is it that the same half a dozen institutes can’t seem to keep farang teaching staff for shit?
I obtained my job from ajarn.com, but let's face it - some schools are better than others. I believe that some Rajabhats have problems maintaining staff because of location and probably through management. Plus, many people do not want to work for the standard government contract.
OK, Let’s talk about the wedge. It’s a standard government contract of about 17,000 baht plus a housing allowance of 8,000. Surely, every teacher needs to earn more than that?
Of course! That's why I have a second job on the weekends. But at my university, there are many ways to augment your base pay. Evening and weekend classes can be taught on an hourly rate, plus there is opportunities to lecture at other colleges and institutions. I just finished a gig lecturing to Royal Thai Army nurses - three hours of work that gets me 2,000 baht, and they even provided transportation and food. Between the extra work I do for my university plus my weekend job, I do quite well.
I’ve always felt that the housing allowance is totally disproportionate to the salary. If I go and work out in the sticks and they find me a place for 8,000 baht, I’d expect fountains in the front garden and a golf cart to get from one end of the house to the other. If it’s a bog standard rabbit hutch that they find you, then someone must be seriously on the make here?
The contract allows you an option: either take the provided housing OR a flat, 8,000 baht payment per month to find your own housing. I took the cash, and have a nice apartment 15 minutes walk from the university (and I stay within the 8,000 baht allowance). Personally, I think only an idiot would opt for the provided housing. I laughed at your comment about people on the make - no, no one is on the make, except for the school budget, since it saves 8,000 baht/month for those who take the provided housing.
How are the teacher’s room relations between farang and Thai teaching staff?
In my department, they are excellent. I have had no problems with any of the Thai teaching staff.
Share your current work schedule with us?
Ah, now you will see one of the advantages of a Rajabhat job! I teach from 11:30-2:30 on Monday, from 8:00-11:00 on Tuesday, and from 11:30-5:30 on Thursday. The rest of the time is "teacher preparation" time. We use that time as we see fit, whether it's on-campus prep work, or for other off-campus "duties."
Sounds cushy to me, so what do you Rajabhat farangs all do together when you have all this free time?
There are only about 10 farangs here, and we all have different schedules and leaving times. Some of us meet occationally for lunch, but we never get together after work, as a whole. Personally, I go home to the girlfriend after work.
At a typical Rajabhat, is there any teacher development or does the word ‘workshop’ have everyone running for cover?
I do not know about the other Rajabhats, but at Suan Dusit there is a teacher meeting/development day every month. The powers that be even feed us. Basically, the development meetings are to inform teachers about changes in educational policies and new classes or procedures that will occur in the next semester. They are also a chance for teachers to address the top administrators with their concerns and problems. Some people skip the meetings, but there is usually a huge turnout.
I always imagined a storeroom full of crappy textbooks, all put together by someone with a PhD, and loaded with grammatical errors and sentences like “would you like to partake of tea with me on the front lawn?” Is it pretty much use your own material or risk boring the students to death?
Like I said in the answer to an earlier question, I cannot speak for other Rajabhats, only mine. For the classes I currently teach, students use new books supplemented with my own personal material. From what I have seen in other departments, students seems to have good books that are recently published. I did take a peek into one of the textbook storerooms, and found it full of new books and materials. Our bookstore also sells new books and materials to the students.
On the other hand, I’m guessing that the Rajjies have good relationships with the immigration and labor departments. I bet your passport doesn’t go missing for three months?
Not at all. In fact, they keep very current on the stamps, visas, and work permits. They make sure you are where you need to be to stay legal.
Any compulsory requirements for teachers to attend field trips and to judge egg and spoon races?
Unlike private institutions, I do not have to monitor or judge superfluous activities. I always chuckle at the thought of some teacher with a string of degrees and TOIC/TOEFL/TESL certificates behind his/her name, judging a sack race at an elementary school. I can just imagine what is going through their mind.
You’ve personally taught in other countries and probably had better paying jobs. Are you now a Rajabhat man for life?
I don't know about "for life," but I am not planning on leaving for a while. I have alot of freedom in this job, and many opportunities to make additional money. My students are not snotty-nosed little brats who HAVE to be in my class. They are here because they WANT to be here. Plus, I am finally teaching at the university level, which is something I've wanted to do for a while. So I'll stick around Suan Dusit for a few.