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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Which student is guilty?

Which student is guilty?

I am teaching in a migrant school, teaching students from the Karen ethnic group from Eastern Myanmar and with refugees around Mae Sot. The area I'm interested in is the difference in attitude towards the two people involved in copying person to person as opposed from the internet. The Karen people characteristically see no fault in the person whose work is being copied. They see it as a normal social act of helping others who might be in difficulties.

One incident at this school a few years ago illustrates this. An English born teacher identified a copying situation and called out both parties in front of the class, which was outdoors. The other classmates accepted that the one who had copied was at fault but balked at the idea of punishment for the one whose work had been copied. As punishment the teacher told both parties to run around the football pitch. What followed was that all the class students ran around the pitch as a gesture of solidarity with the one whose work was copied. I am curious if you have seen this phenomenon with other ethnic groups?

It makes me question our Western attitude to the one whose work has been copied. We tend to view them as part of a conspiracy to defraud the school or grading system. Increasingly I am seeing this as a self-serving attitude perpetuated by the school because it helps the school administration, Does the student have a greater duty of care to the school or to their classmate? I think you could certainly argue in favour of the latter, especially as one is a real person and the other an institution.

Loyalty to the institution is a learned behaviour taught mainly by the institution itself and arguably for its own rather than any community benefit. The person copied from is frequently a high academic performer and has little to gain academically from the practice; maybe a small amount of social kudos but not a lot. I don't have a clear cut resolution for theses questions but what is becoming increasingly clear is that it's not just a black and white, open and shut case.


When speaking Thai is discouraged

Many schools will actively discourage or outright ban teachers from using so much as one word of Thai in the classroom and for good reason. If they wanted someone to teach students about English in Thai, they'd just hire Thai teachers and not pay the premium rate for a native speaker. Because schools want full immersion; students have to listen and try to understand as much as they can, to English as spoken by a Colonial or a Britbonglander, and speak it as much as they can. Same with any language. Hence my Thai ability increased dramatically when I lived in Thoeng, a small town near Chiang Rai. I trained Muay Thai with an Ajarn, who spoke zero English and neither did the local dudes I trained with. Because for a couple of hours a day I was in a position where I had to listen and try to understand as much as possible, and speak it as much as I could.


Poor HR in Thai schools

Poor HR in Thai schools

Yesterday I was about to sign an employment contract with a primary school in North Thailand. The verbal agreement was for a part-time post, teaching year 5 (15 set hours). This school has a designated English program.

The school approached my wife (a Thai) and pleaded that they needed me. They had asked me to teach last year but I was only prepared to take a part-time role and they insisted on a full-time post. So no arrangements eventuated but now they really needed me! I am a retired Director, Manager, University Teacher, School Teacher, and trainer and have worked all over the world. My last senior role was in Equatorial Guinea as the Director for People Development for a major oil & gas corporation.

I delivered a demonstration lesson on Monday morning in front of three senior Thai school personnel (including the school principal) after which I was told that I was hired and must stay with the school until the school term ends in April next year even if I don't like it! That should have been a warning sign statement. Nevertheless, I agreed.

After delivering a lesson early morning yesterday, I accompanied my wife to the school meeting room to sign the contract. On my explaining that the verbal agreement had not been adhered to and that asking me to teach a year 2 and year 3 class and adding an extra hour to the weekly agreed hours was not appropriate, they added that they were now only offering the job until September. I indicated that I would not be signing the contract and the meeting ended and we left the school.

Annoyingly I had delivered a few hours teaching and spent many hours preparing lessons and had developed a good rapport with the children. No offer of compensation was forthcoming. This would never happen in a Western school.

What I also observed in my short time at this school is a system of poor HR. Schools are crying out for qualified, experienced teachers, especially as Thailand currently has no access to English speaking staff due to COVID 19. I was very happy to help them out until April next year on the basis of what was verbally offered. Why then change the terms? Who knows? but I can guess and I'm of the view that it is all about control and self-importance. Farang is not Thai and therefore must be kept in their place and Thai teachers are very important people so whatever they do is always correct! Its that Farang again not respecting our Thai culture!

The reality is that there was no HR in this school and any farang I know would not want to work for a school that is as manipulative and dishonest in their recruitment processes as this school demonstrated. I only hope such practices are not widespread, but sadly I have my doubts.


The problems with teaching job ads

The problems with teaching job ads

I am trying to help a Spanish friend find a job in Thailand. I see that many schools advertise for NES teachers while stating only a handful of nationalities are eligible. Some schools do advertise for Non-NES as well, and yet others for teachers from the Philippines. However, though often the Filipinos are fully qualified, they are offered less than half the money NES teachers can get for similar job roles.

I find it hard to believe that AJARN condones this type of overt inequality of pay. I should refuse to advertise "jobs for Filipinos" if they cannot offer the same rate of pay as for NES, since most of them have near-native abilities anyway! Someone should agitate with the government of Thailand to stop this sort of reverse colonial racism.

My friend is Spanish, trapped in Bangkok. She has been trying to find a job in Thailand since March, and yet she only got a couple of interviews in all that time. Despite being fluent in English with only a trace of an accent, she has little chance of landing a decent job. I find it very strange that this double standard exists. If individuals have demonstrable language skills, they are not allowed to show them to the schools.

As I understand it, there is no formal law against hiring non-native speakers, but many schools make the pretentious claim that there is actually a "law" stating that they "must" hire only NES for job roles. This is patently false, and Ajarn is condoning this twisted, racist vision, for what end I cannot conceive.

You should actively criticize schools and the government for promoting discriminatory and racist practices that take no account of the actual abilities of potential candidates. But it doesn't disturb white people like us, does it? Why should we care about the rights of people different from ourselves if our own privileges reign supreme?

BTW: I have also noticed, particularly for job postings at universities in Thailand, many of them contain strict and VERY narrow age requirements for local Thai people, like "must be between 30 and 35 years old. What is this? Why do the Thai people tolerate such bizarrely narrow and ageist limitations!? Who would ever want to live in such a squashed society of patriarchy, racism and ageism?


Tourist to non-B visa?

Tourist to non-B visa?

Has anyone had any success or know of anyone who has managed to change a tourist visa to a non-B visa yet? Rural immigration offices have refused and advised it can only be done in Bangkok. Just gathering information for a couple of schools who are in desperate need of appointing teachers they brought over for 'demonstrations' or already in-country that have been waiting months for a resolution, not being allowed back out/ in.


The health insurance runaround

The health insurance runaround

I am getting frustrated at how the requirements to enter Thailand just aren't clear enough! I have called the Thai embassy on the phone, only to get told off for asking too many questions and that I should accept the "rules in Thailand" I am curious to find out if any of these schools looking for teachers (with teaching degrees) are willing to cover the health insurance policy showing a minimum medical coverage of 100,000 USD in Thailand and covering the Covid-19 Disease. Mine isn't.

The only health insurer I found that covers the requirements to enter Thailand is Pacific Cross at a price of $1800 NZD per annum! They do not offer monthly coverage nor travel insurance, which sucks! The government school I have been offered a position at deducts social security off the teachers' pay. I do understand that it's important to have health insurance until you are granted the full work permit, but why would I have to pay for a full 12 months health insurance policy when I am already paying for social security?!

I pay 700 NZD bucks a year for mine here in New Zealand with Southern Cross and it is unlimited! I am really hoping that the government makes some adjustments to the requirements for skilled migrants, at least for those wanting to move to Thailand to genuinely teach/work and not just there for a few weeks holiday or plastic surgery


It's not about being liked

It's not about being liked

One thing that I think is grossly overlooked is comparing teachers and using being 'liked' as a measure of anything.

What about comparing a teacher who has a good work ethic, a diploma possibly from a decent university, years in the game, a PGCE, a professional license. In short, someone that has something behind him and something to offer? Then you have the edutainers and the frauds. One, by and large enjoys the job. The other is just a means to an end, much like every hack job before. They spend as little time on campus as absolutely possible. They hate the work. Well, they hate any work. It shows. Often, these teachers are liked because they are slack, waste time, give ridiculous assignments and easy grades. What's not to like?

At the better schools, the students know the difference. At one very good school, I had students complain to me about teachers just taking the piss and cheating them of opportunity. At my current school there is a teacher who seemed to be well liked at the beginning of the year. Throughout the year he was never prepared, called class early, never had quality materials and made a bunch of promises to help students with this and that unfulfilled. His concept of grading was lazy. When the students came around he was gone early. Soon they didn't bother. I rarely ask students about what they do in another EFL class but the few times I did, it was met with eye rolls. The class was often just one big chat session. He ran out of games midway through the year.

His personal touch wasn't about caring but about sharing a superficial laugh. If they were a few years older they'd see how shallow the act is. Children will often be grateful for wasting time and a lack of homework.
Winning hearts and minds is about genuinely caring for students. That might mean helping with some writing, a scholarship essay, practicing IELTS. In the better schools when you help students achieve, really achieve something, you get something better than merely being liked, you get respect.

Teachers that are merely liked never go anywhere unless they've got a friend with an inside track. Luck, pure insufferable luck. Being liked I guess if that is a strategy, lets them live another day. You want job security? Achieve respect. Change lives and I mean that with the deepest sincerity.

Ice cream is liked. Pizza is liked.


Online teaching is useless

Online teaching is useless

I'm sorry, but after a lifetime in education and a keen inspector of all methods of sharing the knowledge, on-line teaching simply isn't effective at least not for kids. You may as well show them cartoons all day. Learning on line is next to useless for kids. Just because people do it and businesses profit from it doesn't mean it's any good. It's about as effective as a healthy person taking vitamin tablets. I've written about this at length before but in a nutshell....because of the impersonal nature of online contact teaching, there are many physiological and psychological issues that can't be overcome to provide an efficient learning environment. Sure companies are making money doing it, but for kids, it's not something a parent should embrace with any high expectations of academic progress.


Covid health insurance info for Filipino teachers

Covid health insurance info for Filipino teachers

I was asked to find insurance for my teacher friend from the Philippines trying to return to Thailand and who needs Covid insurance in order to return. Here is what I found.

Trawick International seems the cheapest and easiest with Covid coverage to obtain, plus it is headquartered in USA and their policy is in English. Trawick International policies do NOT cover pre-existing conditions, which is one reason they are cheap, but I don't think any Thai company policies cover pre-existing conditions, do they? You have to get a complete physical for many Thai policies and the reason they make you get the physical is cause they want to eliminate coverage for anything that shows up in your blood work, etc.

For a 55-year old Filipino, Trawick International is around $700 for a year of coverage of $100,000, choosing the highest deductible, $5000. I think it will be less the younger you are. You can cancel at any time and they refund the balance, pro-rated by the day. Their policies cover Covid but no not cover pre-existing conditions.

Note there are two different names for health insurance policies they offer. 1) Safe Travels International and 2) Safe Travels International Cost Saver. I spoke with a phone rep from Trawick International and she told me both policies offer the same benefits and she said fill out both forms and then choose whichever is cheaper. (If you want the cheapest price on either policy make sure and choose the highest deductible you can, $5000).

Anyway, I priced two Thai company policies that will cover Covid for a returning-to-Thailand 55 year old female Filipino teacher: 1) Magellan and 2) My Health (by April International) and they are both very expensive, at least $1500 up to around $2000. I don't know if they refund anything if you cancel, say, 6 months down the road.

Note: the company I use for my insurance is IMGlobal, a USA company, but as of March 26 they stopped covering Covid on new policies written, so this company won't work for a Filipino teacher trying to return to Thailand to teach at her job.

Harrell Guy Graham

Tread carefully when applying for teaching jobs

While I don’t blame the schools, I would think twice before accepting a position with schools at the moment. It seems likely they are recruiting teachers on either a temporary basis until their existing teachers and new hires can return, or on a contingency basis if their existing teachers or new hires are unable to arrive or decide not to come.

When you recruit/hire two people for one job it is likely some people are going to get thrown under the bus, either existing and already hired teachers or those now being recruited. Before accepting a position like this, it is probably a good idea to be assured the school plans to throw the existing teachers under the bus before doing so to the new recruits. I suspect many of the job ads we are seeing from agencies are following a similar strategy, recruiting applications in case there is a need to replace existing teachers.


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Need Thailand insurance?

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The Region Guides

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