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.

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Treat us with compassion!

I just want to thank "Hector" for his brilliant letter (Postbox 23rd March 20012), under the heading "Immigration must show leniency."

I think we should all pitch in and write letters or call Thai immigration directly, hoping that they will see the logic in keeping all people , including foreign teachers, where they are.. until the worst of this is over. Border runs are nearly impossible right now (I'm still trying to figure it out and need a new non-B in early April).. but since there is no actual physical need to leave the country (just a longstanding and normally wise national security policy), a simple policy change (to accommodate a humanitarian crisis) would save thousands of people and their schools from some very big headaches in the near future.

The Ministry of Tourism has advocated for forgiveness on overstays for tourist visas; but the people who come here to teach are committed to education and the success of Thai students. We deserve to be treated with compassion, and I hope that Thai Immigration will announce something to accommodate teachers in the very near future.


Immigration must show leniency

Immigration must show leniency

During this period of the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that social contact needs to be avoided as much as possible. At present, I only go out to buy food and drink at the two shops on my doorstep. I take all the precautions possible, such as using the communal alcohol hand sanitizer in my condo building as I leave and re-enter. My current extension of stay ends in May this year. I have a new job starting straight after. It is notoriously difficult to just 'swap' employers without leaving the country, which is why 99.9% of people end up doing a quick visa run to get the new non-B. There will be an attempt to extend without leaving on a visa run, but it may not be possible.

Obviously, visa runs are not looking like an option this year for those changing jobs. People also need to go to immigration for other reasons, such as proof of income for other visas.

Surely it's time for the immigration dept in Thailand to try and stop people needing to go to their packed offices at present? As a UK national, flights home are being canceled left, right and centre anyway right now. Furthermore, if I went home I would need to stay with my parents who are in a high risk group. My wife also has health issues which put her in a high risk category.

My message is this. If Thai immigration make me choose between overstaying or risking the lives of my mother, father and wife by getting on planes or going to their packed offices every other week, then it's a no-brainer for me.

I will not be risking the lives of those very close and dear to me because of Thai bureaucracy. The staff at the immigration department are also putting their lives (and the lives of others) at risk too. It's now surely time for some common sense?

I suggest scans of visa page to be emailed to Thai immigration who could then post/email a slip to be printed and kept inside people's passports. These slips could be exceptional extensions of stay due to a humanitarian crisis (or however they want to word this). They could be done 60 days at a time, for example. Then when this is over, transferred into passports for people to either extend (workers, retirees etc) or go home within a 7 day period. Payments for the extensions could be made via online banking or at a 7/11, for example.

Compassion, common sense and understanding needs to be shown towards all during this devastating period. My big concern is that xenophobia will rear its ugly head and the lot of us will be rounded up and booted out if food shortages/hospital beds become too scarce.

But overstaying versus risking the lives of others close to me, is absolutely no contest in my book.

Good luck everyone.


Health Cover in Thailand schools

Health Cover in Thailand schools

The recently declared pandemic has brought to light the terrible situation that exists regarding health insurance for teachers working in Thailand.

Many schools and agencies provide only the most basic accident cover. Those that do provide some sort of health insurance, generally only issue very basic cover with daily limits that severely restrict the sorts of things that can be claimed for.

This is not a situation that is simply confined to agencies and low end of the market jobs, such as government schools but also one that affects many so-called ‘international’ schools. Many of these schools require professionals who have education-related qualifications to fill their roles. I don’t believe that it’s unreasonable to expect decent medical cover.

Some may argue that it’s the teacher’s responsibility to provide cover for themselves. However, salaries are already very low in Thailand for teachers and the cost of living has risen sharply over the last 5 years. Additionally, lots of schools and agencies are only providing their staff with 9-10-month contracts and decent health cover could amount to more than a month’s wage for many.

It is fair to say that the government should probably provide some sort of cover for foreign teachers who work here legally. However, recent comments made by the health minister are indicative of the contempt in which Westerners are held by this current regime.

Even without the outbreak of Covid-19, Thailand now has some of the worst air pollution in the world and some of the deadliest roads.

Ultimately, when making a decision about where to teach, one should consider the level of health cover being provided by an employer. If you find yourself in a contract that does not provide adequate cover and you don’t feel safe, now might be a good time to consider your options.

When this pandemic comes to an end, there will be a plethora of schools and agencies across the region looking for teachers. Make sure that you put your own well-being first and when looking for a new job in the future, you chose a nation and school that takes good care of their staff.

Ant, Bangkok

Thank you for the kind words and encouragement

Thank you for the kind words and encouragement

Thanks for your support guys (Tony and Tim on Postbox). I know I have it easy compared to many and have little to worry about. Yes, I could go elsewhere but I have a wife/family here so not so easy. I had a great offer from China recently, but that's a no go now due to the Coronavirus outbreak. I was never really sold on China anyway, despite the great offer (around 130,000 baht a month).

We plan on living in the UK in the end, as I can't stay out in Asia forever. I'm thinking of pensions, possible medical bills as we get older if we stay here, not to mention the difficulties in staying here (visas) if you need a few months off sick (I'm never ill, nor is my wife, but as you get older you never know, of course).

Let's be honest, as soon as you're of no immediate use to the Thais (or anywhere in Asia for that matter) you've got to go (unless you have a huge pension in place or are a millionaire). "You've got a Thai wife? What's that? Been here twenty years without as much as a parking ticket? Paid a ton in tax? Off you jog, son. And do it today or else."

There is no loyalty from the authorities (or most schools if you say, broke your legs in a car crash that wasn't your fault and needed two months off) here. No pressure groups on TV lobbying government for your rights to stay, like back home in the West. It's a one-way street when it comes to rights for foreigners as far as Asia and many other countries are concerned. Not saying they're wrong either, it's just the way it is. And I accept it and that it's not going to change anytime soon.

And yes, I could stay here longer (but lets' see what happens with this damn Coronavirus first!). I have been offered a job now about 10,000 baht / month less than I would normally expect as a minimum, but it's a good school and I also have just been accepted for an online teaching job with Dada (China), so my overall income will be reasonable, at least, but I'll be working hard for it! Pretty much 7:30 a.m. to 8.00 p.m, doing two jobs (weekdays only though). I will get about 8 weeks paid holiday though.

Therefore, we can live in a house near a beach for 3 or 4 years and save about 30,000 - 35,000 baht a month until we go back to the UK (the wife has a job too, but will need a new one when we move). So, I should, and will, stop moaning. It could be much, much worse. It is what it is out here. I accept that. Thanks again guys, and good luck to you too.

Old Bloke, Bangkok

Bitter aging one

@Old Bloke (I can't get the top teaching jobs anymore, Postbox 2nd March) Just don't worry about age, I'm still here well past my retirement age and I love it. The jobs are there. So what if some younger cowboy got the job. It shows them up for the kind of school they are for not hiring you, right? With your credentials you could be doing well and at 50 still have plenty of time.

Tony Roberts

But why Thailand?

Regarding the teacher who said that he can't get the top teaching jobs anymore (Postbox, 2nd March), why is it a binary choice between Thailand and going home to teach? There are many countries in the world that need native English speaking teachers and don't suffer from the pig-ignorance that Thailand has and will never rid itself of.

I have a Thai friend who works as a PA. She's 40 years old, she's been in the same job for 12 years and is bored stiff. However, once you get to 40 nobody new will want you, so your only option is to rot away in the same job for another decade or two. No wonder so many Thais think of their kids as a pension fund that will support them to retire in their 40s.

No middle-aged foreigner should be working in Thailand in my opinion. It's asking for trouble and almost guarantees misery as one moves into later life.

Tim, Kaohsiung

I can't get the top teaching jobs anymore

I can't get the top teaching jobs anymore

Ageism has been an issue in Thailand for a while and it's not going away, sadly. It's even worse for Thais. Just go on any Thai jobsite and try and find jobs for anyone over 35. It's similar for us foreigners too, but the 'age limits' vary and aren't nearly as downright nasty as they are for Thai nationals.

I'm 50 now, have an education degree and twenty years' teaching experience. However, I can't get a 'top job' anymore, despite excellent references and experience. Recently, I applied for a job paying 70,000 up. It stated that you must have an education degree/QTS etc. I applied and they didn't even reply to my email. However, they did reply and offer a job (at 85,000 a month) to a young handsome chap I know with no B.Ed or QTS. Fair play to him for applying without credentials deemed 'essential' in their advertisement.

There was no 'age limit' mentioned in the ad, but obviously there was. There was no other reason to reject my application out of hand (they just asked for Certs, CV and a photo to be sent). And yes, I know how to write a good CV.

I'm happy for the chap. Good luck to him. But it has made me realise that I need to look at going back home to teach there. In Thailand, it's all down to private schools wanting pretty young faces representing their schools on the website, on the billboards and just for the parents to swoon over. Young, fresh-faced teachers help to sell the schools here. And money is important to those running some of these rackets, I mean schools.

I'm still getting some good offers, but not at the level I'm used to. And it's only going to get worse as I get older. I've now realised that you can't help feeling angry and frustrated at times due to the rampant ageism here, but that you need to just let it go. They aren't going to change. Cash is king.

Old Bloke

Poor pay means a higher turnover

Poor pay means a higher turnover

When you pay poorly you will always get either lower level candidates or high turnover. Teachers, like the rest, need money to live.

Years ago, I delivered sailing yachts all around Europe, the Med, from Europe to The Caribbean and the States, etc. The vast majority of these deliveries were through agencies. The pay meant it was long-term, non-viable. However, it was always sold as "But it's the lifestyle, right?" Sure, for a time. Long-term it was unsustainable though. Same with any job the world over. In that industry, there was always a fresh and regular turnover of yacht skippers sold on the lifestyle. Dress it up how you like, but until that underlying issue is addressed, it'll be same-old, same-old.


Ways to recruit more foreign teachers

(Regarding the news that the Thai government wants to recruit thousands more foreign teachers) I sincerely believe that the issue isn't just one of pay. Of course, professionally qualified native English speakers demand high pay, but that's not what 95% of Thai schools actually need. You don't hire chefs at MacDonald's.

More (and better) people willing to teach would be lured to Thailand AND STAY LONGER if the conditions were changed. And there are many ways this could be done. Offering a path to citizenship, reducing the ridiculous red tape and expenses, having government-approved contracts covering hours and pay, etc, offering health and accident insurance... the list goes on. Despite what you may have heard from one government official, there are no serious, meaningful attempts to recruit able 'teachers' from abroad - and there never will be.


Vietnam is calling

Vietnam is calling

(Regarding the news that the Thai government wants to recruit thousands more foreign teachers) First of all, you need to increase the pay with inflation. Consider the countries you're competing against for teachers, which are paying higher. Also, you need to make it easier for teachers to stay. As it stands, there is an education degree requirement for the teachers license; teachers with no degree in education can only get a couple of waivers, and then have to leave after a few years thus depriving the country of individuals who have a few years experience under their belt, who are familiar with the culture and the language, in favour of backpackers who mainly just want an extended working holiday. As it is, having no education degree, I have one more year here and then I'm going to have to bid my home in Chiang Rai a fond farewell, and set my sail in the direction of Vietnam.


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