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.
I disagree with the claim that teachers should not care what the agencies are making. The whole reason these agencies exist in Thailand with the current structures they do (a monthly percentage of a teacher's contract), unlike places like Japan and Korea and other related industries, such as international education wherein agencies will only charge a placement fee, is because of the corruption in the education system in Thailand.
There should indeed be transparency and accountability as to where and who this education budget goes to. This is tax money. If Thailand wants to hire and retain good teachers and come even close to the education quality of other countries, they need to do away with this corrupt practice.
Agencies should only be earning a placement fee. This placement fee should be publicized for the Thai public to see. These budgets should be audited by the Thai government to ensure these budgets are going where they were intended. "Kickbacks" and "nonations" to school administration will only continue to hurt social mobility of the Thai middle and working classes who cannot afford private education.
I have noticed over the past five to ten years a shift from the “semi-formal” attire to mostly the business casual look for male professionals here in Thailand, with the full suit and tie look reserved for top executives and the occasional formal occasion. It seems like we have been following the US West Coast trends.
I prefer this trend myself, as I think it is much easier to look smart wearing business casual clothing (slacks, professional shined shoes and either a button-down short- sleeve or Polo-style shirt) than the old-fashioned semi-formal look of a long-sleeved shirt with a tie. It is also more comfortable. Take a walk down the business district of Bangkok during working hours and see how many men are wearing long sleeved shirts and ties. Not many, although it was the look of 10 to 20 years ago.
I personally prefer the business casual look, it looks more confident, but still professional enough to set one apart from the common tourist.
Personal opinion, while a man can look very professional and smart wearing a full suit and tie it needs to be worn in the right situation, the semi-formal old fashioned long sleeve often white shirt with a tie without a jacket looks pretty dorky on most men, although some can pull it off with style.
I am not sure what is necessarily expected at government schools, but I suspect most language schools and other places operating outside official government regulations are comfortable with male teachers wearing clothes of a business casual style, which in my view is both more comfortable and looks smarter.
But of course, this is just opinion, there does seem to be some national differences with some of the English (British) teachers generally preferring the old-fashioned semi-formal look while many American teachers preferring a less formal look, with Canadian, Aussie, Kiwi and other foreign teachers being split on these opinions.
Just an observation.
At private schools money talks. Bigger classes is more money. To reduce the class sizes the fees will go up to international school standards I'm afraid.
Schools also don't need to hire teachers with a teaching degree. I was amazed to see so many colleagues with no teaching background whatsoever. Some of them are really good by the way. On the other hand I see teachers with a bachelor in education or higher with no teaching skills.
In government schools you have, on paper, qualified teachers but in many cases they don't have the motivation to make a difference. Many didn't choose education because they love it.
I agree that many lessons that I have seen are grammar-based (Thai and Filipino). Not saying it is wrong, but it is not my way. On the other hand there are a lot of teachers that come through agencies and are not staying longer than a year (sometimes two). That way you can't build consistency. Yes, if management is amazing it is probably possible. But in general, new teachers have to find things that work and don't work by themselves again.
To keep teachers longer will be hard. The demand of good teachers is high and many native English teachers will go to international schools. Even good non-native speakers go to international schools. What is left are many teachers, but nowhere near enough to fill schools with middle-class children.
Also the communication to parents is something I obviously agree on. I work at a school where 95 % of the parents speak at least basic English and are all on LINE. Also they are open to talk to you after school. In my previous school, half of the parents could speak English but many of the kids lived with grandparents. They didn't speak English and were not that engaged. It was more difficult to reach these (grand) parents.
In my opinion the biggest step forwards that Thai education could make is improving the teachers. I know that the government spends a lot of money to improve teachers. At the moment this money goes to trips around the country with no benefit to the schools whatsoever. Also colleges get a lot of money for buying equipment, but most of that money goes in people's pockets I'm afraid.
I hope the government could change this somehow. Also monitoring schools is based on documentation rather than (classroom) observations. I think there is enough room for improvement here. Whilst not seeing the whole picture, I think this is the first thing to change.
Knowing that my English isn't perfect (non-native English speaker here) I hope that my reply will be commented on content rather than its grammar and spelling.
I taught for seven years at a post educational college in the UK and spent two years studying for the City & Guilds 7302 diploma in delivering learning. This was enough for my TESOL provider to enable me to sit their course which I completed earlier this year. All jobs on the Ajarn site require a BA minimum requirement. I have applied to several of them with the majority replying, sorry we cannot consider you for the post advertised as they would not be able to apply for a work permit without a BA, and then pointing out it is illegal to work in Thailand without the permit. Any suggestions welcome as to where the non BA jobs can be found.
Re: "Let's hear it for assistants" by Mark on July 22nd, 2018
There was a time, when assistants rarely showed up. When they showed up, they might be half an hour outside the classroom, making private calls. Today, I wished I had a TA. Why not a student from a university?
A special needs class, only boys. Naughty, unruly and noisy as some prisoners banging some metal objects on prison bars in movies (using bottles and rulers). Well, some autistic boy had a mental breakdown and screamed like the victim of medeaval torture, encountering white hot iron. SCARY. - - - I wished there had been a TA! The homeroom teacher's comment afterwards was "don't worry" (be happy, as in the song)?!?
Aren't there standards regarding the number of teachers and their qualifications? The kids' parents seem to have money as the classroom has air-con. Can it be that the school wants to get rid of foreigners who are given special needs classes? Just wondering and feeling bemused.
" Increased costs across the board are hitting many retirees in Thailand where it hurts, as is the high baht......"
It really is time we got away from the delusion that, somehow, the Thai baht is "high" or "overvalued". It's NOT.
As Westerners, many of us seem to have an ingrained sense of superiority that extends far beyond the usual - education, worldliness, earning power etc - to the status of our home currencies. The 2008 financial crisis was a game-changer; global central banks deliberately debased their currencies (which were already overvalued anyway) with ultra-expansionary monetary policies. THAT is why GBP, EUR, CAD. AUD, SEK etc are worth less against the baht.
This situation isn't irreversible but it's going to take more than a few impecunious pensioners leaving for destinations with cheaper living standards to prompt the Thai central bank to emulate its Western counterparts by debasing the baht.
My advice would be to hope and pray that the next economic catastrophe strikes in Asia before it erupts in the West; then convert as much as you can while the baht is depressed. If it happens the other way around, all bets are off.
Most teachers are working in Thailand illegally. The reason for this is simple - most agents or schools don't provide costly work permits. A school justifies it by saying an agent should provide the work permit and the agent justifies it by saying the school should provide the work permit . Meanwhile it is the foreign teacher at risk. Does the school or agent care? Actually schools and agents are hoping a teacher lasts only one year because they can have a fresh face the following year. Besides having a teacher with years of experience is not important but having a handsome or beautiful teacher is because of selfies.
One more thing, Thai teachers usually give "the foreigner" all the shifts they themselves don't want during the day. That's why the newcomer usually works the early morning and late afternoon classes. My advice is to smile more and say yes to everyone. Be humble and do other people's jobs. Be thankful you get to work with people who smile at you but dislike all foreigners. If you understand the Thai language, laugh as much as you can when you are the butt of most jokes. And remember if you don't like it you can always go back home. There will be another young newbie to take your place.
I find much of the discussion about what makes a good teacher or what is needed to do the job well mostly ignores the student’s perspective.
I suspect most teachers have spent a little time in the classroom attempting to learn a foreign language, but often we fail to reflect or utilize our experiences.
While there are many types of “English teacher” and exam prep and preparation for passing specific tests might require specialized skills and knowledge, there are no magical ways to actually “learn” a foreign language. Obviously some techniques work for some learning styles while others work better, but no foreign language teacher is going to have any special insight into the language which is both useful and unknown to most native speakers.
I have seen research suggesting it takes about 10,000 hours of study and practice to become fluent in a language (including our native one). Another study suggest it generally takes about 7 years of intense study to become fluent in a second language.
Looking at my own experience in learning foreign languages, I see most of the advice given to new teacher on this site conflicts with my own experiences. Although my studies have occurred as an adult which might be different from the perspective of younger students.
I can’t say there is any one style of teacher I prefer, of course there is nothing wrong with having some fun in the classroom, but generally I like a teacher who can provide structure, explanations, useful examples and some gentle corrections of my errors.
But there are two types of teacher I have had which deter my learning.
The first is the babbler. Once you get to the upper immediate of advanced levels schools tend ban the use of English in the class and students are expected to only speak in the language beginning learned. Fair enough, but there are times when 10 minutes of explanation, examples and confusion could be avoided by a 10 second translation. But also some teachers babble on just like they were speaking to another native speaker. Hey, if I knew every word in the language I was learning I wouldn’t need to be taking a class. Slow down and choose your vocabulary carefully.
The second is the type of language teacher who abuses their position as head of the classroom to expound on their own personal philosophical, religious, cultural or political views. I consider myself a highly educated person with a wide range of knowledge, generally far more than my language teachers. I really don’t want to spend my time listening to half-baked ideas, stereotypes and misinformation, I am there to learn the language. If I want to understand philosophy, I will take a class taught by someone who is an expert in the subject.
I prefer a language teacher who creates structure and provides guidance in learning the language, mixes explanation in both the native and target language and sticks to the topic they know.
But maybe I am a usual type of student. So I don’t necessarily follow the idea of speaking only English in the English learning classroom or as a language teacher try to impose one’s own specific values and world view upon the students. A love of languages and a desire for life-long learning, ok, but don’t abuse one’s position as a teacher to advocate one’s own specific values.
All the teaching 'assistants' I have are awesome and we work with each other very differently. If they want to get involved, I embrace it... if they want to sit at the back and mark books or check Facebook, I'm OK with that too. The longer you stay in one job, the easier it gets to be accepted and the antagonisms diminish. The 'secret' for me has been to completely distance myself from co-workers socially and to ONLY interact with them professionally. No chats, no lunches, no social meetings outside my classroom. It's 'work' for them and it's 'work' for me, however you choose to interpret the word.
As we all know things change here by the day and if you ask 10 questions, you'll get 9 different answers regarding work-permits. Now I believe the school has to be the one to actually go to the labour office and cancel it and in many cases they don't inform the teacher that it's been cancelled, which creates all sorts of problems with visas. My question is if we were looking to change schools, can we just leave the country and get another non-B visa for the new school and will it be registered at the border crossing that a person has a work permit? We know the actual visa will be cancelled.
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