Hot Seat

George Bowman

If you're confused about the definition of an 'international school' and want to know about the ups and downs of working in one, then George is your man

Q

George, I've socialized with international teachers who are earning 100,000 baht a month with a luxury apartment thrown in. Then I see international schools advertising on ajarn.com with the lure of 30,000 baht salaries. What gives?

A

The key word here is accreditation. A school simply has to be accredited whether through the UK, USA or other Western certification board. To put it in perspective, lets say that your offspring is ready to graduate. If the school they are coming from in Thailand is not accredited then they cannot enter a higher educational program abroad. In other words no credit for time served. Many British schools offer ‘O’ or ‘A” levels but the same criteria exists. Many schools have the word international thrown in their name but in reality they are not. I know an American couple that are certified teachers. After three years teaching in Thailand they were surprised to find out that their experience abroad did not count; as they had taught at an un-accredited school. An accredited school will have higher tuition fees thus offering a higher pay to teachers.

Q

I've always been under the impression that the 'true' international schools only recruit directly from abroad. Is this the case?

A

Yes, it is correct that many ‘true’ international schools prefer to hire from abroad. They attend numerous job fairs abroad in hope to fulfill these positions. When that does not occur they will hire from within country to satisfy the classroom requirements. The schools will fill the positions in order to satisfy the demand. Furthermore, many teachers hired from abroad will not last two terms in Thailand. I have seen many leave for a variety of reasons at the Christmas break and not return. For example, check out the current Bangkok Post ads for an ESL teacher for a top international school. Persistence is the key for local hires.

Q

Am I right what I implied in the first question - those teachers in the 'true' international schools are creaming some serious wonga?

A

Once again the pay difference depends on the accreditation of the school. I personally know many teachers earning B150,000 per month with bennies running out of their ears. Flights home, professional development, housing allowance, insurance and moving allowances, etc. The middle range of international schools will generally offer B50,000-80,000 per month with fewer benefits. At the lower end many teachers working at school with an international name will actually make less each month than a language teacher working a few extra hours.

Q

If you're teaching ex-pat kids, there must be a great chance of running into their Mom and Dad on a drunken night out at the Bull's Head?

A

It does happen. A former colleague enjoys visiting Soi Cowboy. He noticed that his high school students were frequently seen eating in the area. Come to find out their parents had a condo down there. I live in a large neighborhood where several of my students live. Nothing like having to chat with little Mary’s mom while on a beer run.

Q

What's the workload like at an accredited international school?

A

Well, 185 days out of 365 does not sound bad does it? However, most schools require a teacher to be at school 30 minutes before the students arrive and 30 minutes after. So a teacher basically teaches all day with one or two non-contact periods thrown in. Still sounds good? Remember that most good teachers have additional work they bring home in addition to daily, monthly and 'termly' lesson plans.

Q

I imagine that international school teachers have numerous other demands on their time - parents evenings, sports days, etc.

A

Yes, this fact is true. However, there can be benefits. For example I recently went to Chiang Mai for a three-day and two-night high school field trip. Everything was paid for, 3-stars all the way. The problem? 24-hour babysitting and no booze.

Q

Is there a war going on between bilingual schools and international schools over student enrollment?

A

Put yourself in the role of the bilingual schools. Your student enrollment and needed revenue has been dropping every year. The reason? Many Thai parents are enrolling their children in the lower ranking international schools. Many bilingual schools have recognized the need for change and have begun to offer better deals for teachers in order to retain students.

Q

Are only native-speaking English teachers employed by the accredited schools?

A

Yes, but remember that that classroom environment demands a teacher. If the ideal demand is not met then the schools will recruit non-native speakers. Some schools will pay these teachers the same rate as a native speaker. Most will not.

Q

Does the Ministry of Education have criteria that teachers must meet?

A

MOE states that a teacher now must meet the following demands. Have a diploma and/or teaching certification and/or 15 hours of educational credit.

Q

Do the true international teachers look upon the everyday English teacher as a) people doing an important job at the lower end of the market? or b) w@nkers?

A

While I cannot speak for the majority of international teachers this is what I have observed. A few people do believe that some ESL teachers are the drunks and sex tourists of BKK. However, the same situation exists with international teachers. A fresh overseas hire quickly learns of Soi Nana or Cowboy. Coming to class smelling like a brewery does not lead to a conducive learning atmosphere. Therefore, a few teachers are not invited for a second year. There is good and bad in both groups.

Q

Do international school teachers stay here and work for years and years?

A

Some do, most do not. Many international teachers are here for only a couple of years. Many want to travel and enjoy all aspects of Thailand.

Q

What about the 'British' schools. Does it help if you're a teacher with a double-barreled surname and know the rules of croquet? Can the Americans get a job there?

A

Some top international British schools will not even look at an American teacher. They want Brits only. To me this sort of defeats the international perspective.

Q

Apart from the teaching, are there opportunities to do other paid work within the international school environment - I dunno......milk monitor? man in charge of overhead projector?

A

I have several friends who are not teachers but are consultants with schools. Mainly this concerns the IT field but the possibilities exist.

Q

Are the Thai admin staff better at these up-market places or do they forget to give teachers important messages like they do everywhere else?

A

As my wife is a member of the Thai administrative staff I have to say yes, em… However, many of teachers hired from abroad expect Thailand to treat them like they were back in the UK or the States. Many of these educated people need to learn that TIT (This is Thailand).

Q

What about the future for the international schools, bilingual schools, etc?

A

Perhaps the toughest question of all. My father use to say that if a frog had wings it would not bump its ass every time it jumped. If the economy stays strong, if the baht continues forward, if Thai parents remain concerned about their children’s education, then perhaps the future is rosy. But remember there is such a thing as the market share and Thailand is fast reaching that point.

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