What lies ahead for Thailand's foreign teachers?

What lies ahead for Thailand's foreign teachers?

Thailand is as Thailand does. After almost 19 years on and off in this country, it seems clearly entrenched in its ways and proud of it, arrogantly so and to its own detriment.

Teaching in Thailand remains a pedagogical wasteland of primarily unqualified people - not all but far too many - who simply have no business standing in classrooms in any country in the world; a short TEFL course does not a teacher make and neither does standing in a classroom allow one to be entitled to the title "teacher".

That being said, there is a pool of talented dedicated teaching professionals in Thailand, so what future lays on the horizon for teachers of all ilk?

Will Thailand attract pedagogically knowledgeable professional teachers over the next few years? Perhaps there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Highly educated, experienced and professional Filipino educators are available and coming in droves to lift Thailand out its quagmire of Anglophone linguistic incompetency, and thank God they are doing so because Thailand needs a pool of talented qualified pedagogically trained teachers standing in its classrooms, not the rabble that currently dominates too much of the field.

So as Filipinos move in to become a significant part, possibly the dominant force, of the teaching community in Thailand, how will Thailand respond over the next few years with regards to fair and reasonable compensation packages for those with serious teaching qualifications coming from their ASEAN community neighborhood?

It seems abundantly clear that Thailand's leaders and the business community are extremely motivated to integrate the country into the ASEAN community, mainly as a result of perceived economic benefits that Thailand will achieve as industrial leaders within the region.

The question thus seems obvious - why are Thai government officials, business leaders, and the citizenry so unwilling to compensate foreign teachers, especially Filipinos, for the professional work they are doing to ensure that Thailand itself can succeed economically with the ASEAN framework?

And will this unfair and unreasonable attitude of indentured servitude change over the next five years? I think not. Thais remained committed to one thing and one thing only, Thailand. Foreigners are to be used for the benefit of the development of Thailand and Thai people, not for the gain and development of the external "others".

Foreign teachers in Thailand need to face reality and understand that expectations of change, in my opinion, are simply unrealistic. For the foreseeable future it seems we will still see salaries sitting at an average of 22,000 baht per month for arriving Filipino teachers and 30,000 baht per month for "falangs" when working for Thai government schools and teacher placement agencies.

But here is the kicker folks, there is a ton of money available in the Thai education fund to compensate foreign teachers fairly but it is being skimmed off the top at every level and at every opportunity; a symptom of Thailand is for Thais.

One significant cold sore contributing to low teacher salaries in Thailand is the rise of the teacher placement agencies (TPAs). Will this change in the next five years, not in my opinion.

In fact, the next five years seems set to see a continued rise in the TPAs as the dominant recruitment force in landscape of Thailand teaching. Forget the reasons. It is what it is. The important issue here is this is one of the fundamental factors as to why teacher salaries will remain low in Thailand for years to come.

The Thais have yet again seen where money can be made at the expense of the foreign "others" and there is little hope that now the pot of gold has been discovered, that Thais will let go of the honey pot. Rest assured this situation will get worse before it gets better.

Note that up until a few years ago when TPAs became a huge factor in the Thailand teaching market, teachers received 12-month contracts with several reasonable benefits. So how is that we have all taken a step back towards the middle ages in salaries, contract stipulations, and the cutting of benefits while being tagged with expenses that were traditional born by Thai employers? Likely this is a direct result of the rise of TPAs and their desire to profit in every possible way.

Thailand continues to face many challenges in its drive towards ASEAN integration and linguistic development over the next few years.

The country's failed efforts to bilingualize its citizenry seems to lay in its xenophobia and fear of colonialism; Anglicization of the nation may just touch too many raw nerves in a nation that perceives itself as above so many others in the region and beyond, a sort of "Pum jai or die" attitude seems to prevail.

With this dominant attitude within the populous, is it ever likely that foreign English teachers will be sincerely welcomed into Thailand and compensated not only in a manner commensurate with our qualifications and expertise, but also in a context relative to the significant contributions we bring to Thailand and its people and the massive economic benefits that the country receives as it bilingualizes its citizenry? I'll leave that up to you to predict, but my hopes are not high.

David


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