This is the place to air your views on TEFL issues in Thailand. Most topics are welcome but please use common sense at all times. Please note that not all submissions will be used, particularly if the post is just a one or two sentence comment about a previous entry.
Why obtain a U.S. teaching license?
Greetings All, as I am contemplating the ever-growing possibility of making the leap to Thailand, I see it fit to present a few thoughts on qualifications beyond that of an undergraduate degree.
I understand an am empathetic towards proper international schools asking for a teaching license from one's homeland. As I am an American, I am not in a position to speak on the value of a teaching license from other countries. But, I will take some jabs at the perceived value of one from the U.S.
The recent data from the U.S. indicates that at most, one-third of 4th-8th graders can read at a "proficient" level. As that is one step above as barely basic, I cannot glorify what it means to be "proficient." Additionally, graduating seniors fall within this realm, though some data points have not come out as of yet. Furthermore, proficiency in History, and Civics are abysmal..some individual states at 12%. Interestingly, roughly 80% of pubic schools teachers in the U.S are women (traditional men are not wanted in the classrooms, there).
While I am certainly able to go on, along with providing the appropriate references for review, getting preoccupied with the data-matrix is not my main intention ((if Ajarn wishes me to do so, please let me know).
Literacy is everything and in the U.S., there is a distinct difference between literate and functionally illiterate: which U.S. public schools have, by design, created a rapidly growing society reflective of the later. When public schools took the systematic teaching of phonics out of the curriculum, electing to teach the "whole word" approach, a distinct demographic was highly impacted by this. Unfortunately, while teachers' unions have decided to jump on the rails of malevolent ideology as opposed to teaching what matters most, across the country, the nation's largest metropolitan areas (and once-great cities) have been under control of the Democratic Party (for quite some time). In these cities, minority-majority demographics represent an ironic reality.
What I am getting at, is that in all of these cities, crime, violence, gangs and murders are all the norm. With that said, during the early 90's, the Clinton administration commissioned a study on the sources of juvenile delinquency. The overarching theme with the source, was illiteracy. Though, there are more narratives to point fingers at but we can do that another day.
So, why would a teaching license from the United States be considered to hold any value? The data is there and the U.S.. has regressed to become a very dumbed-down, violent, anxious and ignorant society in which literacy skills are genuinely as bad as I noted (I only gave you a taste and matters are worse, due to COVID).
Personally, and I do have a bias in this debate, an experienced ESL teacher with an M.A. related to Education, History, English or Political Science can do better. This comes with the assumption that a genuine enjoyment and level of dedication to the job are prevalent, along with the right personality and disposition(s) being included. See, experienced ESL teachers have a major advantage: experience teaching phonics (especially if you have taught in South Korea). Furthermore, I believe along with many of my colleagues, that teaching is NOT a science...as the likes of Thorndike, Dewey and the followers of their progressive gospel, carrying their measuring sticks, wanted folks to believe. In fact, William C. Bagley was right all along, and has all but disappeared from the curriculum in teachers' colleges in the U.S. BOTH Essentialism and Perennialism have been demonized by Progressive (and Post Modern) education in the U.S. for decades and are portrayed as some fictional narrative from the past.
As noted, I cannot speak on the value of a teaching license from other countries. However, if I am Director of Studies at an international school and two candidates are competing for the job, each from America with one having a teaching license and the other having in M.A. in one of the aforementioned disciplines, along with some experience as an ESL teacher....I'm going with the candidate with the M.A.
As an American, you could not pay me enough to buy into failure by obtaining a teaching license here. Why would any rational individual want to invest in designed failure?
Know your entitlements
I find it strange that some things aren't stated about working as a teacher in Thailand. Firstly, if you are contracted directly by a government school, they are legally required to enrol you in the social security scheme, the teacher paying one part and the school paying also. This will cover all medical expenses in a government hospital and it also pays towards several other benefits such as childbirth and some unemployment payments and over the long term, a pension. Should you then decide to work in non-government school, or heaven forbid for an agency, you can move over to self-payments, which are about 450 baht a month, and retain medical cover and pension.
I know this because I had a heart attack, and received full ongoing treatment for free. Plus if you return to your home country, you may also get a lump sum of the pension payments you have made. Also paying tax will also see you have a tax rebate. If you are married and have other expenses, most tax offices will be happy to help you. Be wary of some agencies stating they only pay for less than a year. Most will have received the funding for the whole period and the other legal requirements of a government school. If injured at school, the school are responsible. Don't let them tell you otherwise unless the agency can show/give you insurance details while you are at work.
A few thoughts on Filipino teachers
Let's review a few facts.
1. The Philippines was never colonized by the USA. It was colonized by Spain for around 300 years when it then became an autonomous US Protectorate for another 48 years. It was also occupied by Japan from 1942-45.
2. Thais hire Filipino teachers based on labor cost. There are many Filipino teachers who deserve better consideration than this, but it is the economics that drives these decisions--not Thais contrasting the English skills of various nationalities.
3. Non-Filipinos throwing around the whys and hows of this situation is not going to change anything. Calling Thais racist will not affect change (see number 2). Filipinos are capable of expressing their views themselves and sharing their perspectives.
4. Filipinos, like foreign teachers from any other country, do not fall into any one category of competence. Some are terrific, some are awful, many are somewhere in between. Painting generalities about them (either positive or negative) is unhelpful and baseless.
Cycles of Poverty
Wealthy foreign businessmen and women own a number of pseudo-International schools in Thailand. They charge the locals exorbitant tuition fees. The outer construction of the school buildings are well maintained but inside there are dirty, unclean desks and chairs and restrooms. The learning materials are 20 years old. Worst is that the majority of staff at these schools are untrained Filipinos making 20-something thousand baht per month. These teachers give 50-minute lectures to lower primary students and the students do not learn much. Certainly the Thai parents do not understand that they are paying a premium cost for a low-quality service.
Sadly, the tuition money does not remain in Thailand. The owners send it back to their own countries to support other industries; that, and more specifically, they use the money to operate World Class IB schools. Then, after a few years of experience, the Filipino teachers price themselves out of a position / they are let go so that HR can hire the next (unfairly) low-salaried employee. If a teacher is good they will not work for low money. If a school is good they will not have bad teachers. The problem is that companies foreign to Thailand employ the former and the latter to make money. This at the expense of the Thai and Filipino people.
It is a very sad, unfortunate situation. Any solutions out there?
Why TEFL course training can be essential
TEFL courses and training can provide English teachers with valuable skills and knowledge that can significantly enhance their teaching abilities. There are several advantages to having a TEFL certificate compared to not having one, including increased employability, improved classroom management, and a deeper understanding of teaching techniques and methodologies.
One of the main advantages of having a TEFL certificate is that it makes you a more attractive candidate to potential employers. Many schools and language institutes require teachers to have a TEFL certification before they can be considered for employment. By having a TEFL certificate, you demonstrate that you have a solid understanding of teaching methods and techniques, which can give you a competitive edge in the job market.
In addition to increasing employability, a TEFL certificate can also help teachers improve their classroom management skills. A good TEFL course should cover topics such as lesson planning, classroom management, and student engagement, all of which are critical skills for any teacher. By learning how to effectively manage a classroom, teachers can create a positive and productive learning environment that benefits both themselves and their students.
Finally, having a TEFL certificate can provide teachers with a deeper understanding of teaching methodologies and techniques. A good TEFL course should cover topics such as grammar, phonetics, and pronunciation, as well as teaching strategies for different levels and age groups. By gaining a deeper understanding of these concepts, teachers can become more effective at delivering instruction and helping their students to achieve their language goals.
In conclusion, TEFL courses and training are essential for English teachers who want to improve their teaching skills and increase their employability. By obtaining a TEFL certification, teachers can enhance their classroom management skills, gain a deeper understanding of teaching methodologies, and demonstrate their competence and expertise to potential employers. As such, a TEFL certificate can make you a better teacher than those who do not have one, providing you with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in your teaching career.
Don't accept ridiculous salaries
When I see offers for Filipinos (15,000+ baht) or native English speakers (30,000-35,000 baht) I wonder if the advertisers are serious or maybe they are looking for people with elementary school diplomas? The most embarrassing are the schools that have EP/MEP/IEP programs and offer this kind of ridiculous money. I appeal to all teachers: do not be robbed and do not accept derogatory job offers. Also do not accept contracts shorter than 12 months and visas after 3 months of illegal work. 24 lessons a week are also a sign of poor working conditions.
How contacting employers about job opportunities really works
In my experience of contacting employers and sending resumes, etc, things look like this:
1) Agencies mainly collect resumes to find naive native speakers who will accept their embarrassing job offers. This can be seen especially on Facebook groups and sometimes on Ajarn. The goal of the agency is to find naive, inexperienced native speakers ready to accept the worst conditions. "You live in a paradise, mate, so accept 30K salary and a 10 month-contract".
2) If a Thai teacher is in charge of recruiting, most often we will not get any response and if we do, it is 1-2 sentences long. Thai English teachers are generally afraid to write in English.
3) If a Filipino is in charge of recruitment (because a Thai teacher had the ad placed on the internet), we will get answers to all possible questions, in a very short time.
Basic advice for beginners (and not only beginners)
1. Beware of agencies that offer a visa and work permit after a 3-month probationary period. A 3-month "probation" is nothing more than illegal work and forcing teachers into visa runs. Serious and credible agencies do not force their employees into visa runs.
2. Beware of agencies and anonymous accounts that advertise week after week on Facebook without any specific job offers. They only collect resumes and other documents. If you see the same ad week after week - it's a sign that someone is fishing for resumes.
3. Remember that schools offer 12-month contracts. An 11-month or 10-month contract means someone is taking your money. Of course, employees of the worst agencies will claim otherwise. Another bad sign is the need to teach, for example, 6 different grades (for example P1-P6, M1-M6).
4. Remember that every month you should save at least 15,000 baht. You need to keep your future in mind and save money for retirement.
5. Before signing the contract, check the reviews of the school in question. On a certain well-known website it is very easy to find reviews of various schools in Thailand.
6. Don't waste your temporary waivers on lousy schools and lousy contracts. Today you can work in Thailand but by choosing bad contracts you will waste your chances very quickly. TCT will not understand your explanation that you accidentally wasted your temporary waivers.
7. If you are from a certain well-known island country, don't write "How to apply?" or "Interested" under every possible job offer on the internet. Don't ridicule yourself and your country. The same goes for accepting job offers of 15,000 - 18,000 baht. Respect yourself.
8. Remember that you can't fail your students. If you fail someone, you will still have to pass everyone during the "magic weekend". What's the headache for?
9. The best way to survive in a Thai school is to do your job and keep other teachers at a distance. Don't open up, especially to Thai teachers (who, despite good salaries* and great social security, are usually jealous and love to gossip).
10. Do your job, try to be a good teacher and enjoy life. Don't worry about school affairs, because here all institutions are empty. The form is empty. Whatever you do it won't change anything anyway. Focus on your happiness. Good luck!
* there are many 40-year-old teachers who earn 40,000 baht and more; there are many 50-year-old teachers who earn 50,000 baht and more.
Go for the adventure, not to try and change things
The one big thing that I've learnt being in Thailand is that farang teachers won't make a difference to Thai society. So many guys I know, myself included, came to Thailand with the best of intentions and the rosiest of glasses, hoping to "make a difference" or "save those poor kids from their oppressive culture", only to end up frustrated and bitterly disappointed. Thailand doesn't want to nor should it change or modernise simply because a few western, white knights want it to. Word of advice- go for the adventure, go to travel, enjoy and work hard but don't expect to make a difference to Thai society.
We're choking to death
After teaching here in Bangkok for five years, I'm finally going to have to call it a day. The air pollution is starting to affect my health and I've had to make my third visit to a doctor in as many months. I'm constantly suffering with a runny nose, cough and overall chestiness. Why don't the authorities do something about this when it must be literally killing so many people on a daily basis, or at the very least speeding up their departure? And at my school, the situation has become so grim that the students can no longer go outside at break time. It's becoming ridiculous.
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