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 think the biggest issue with TEFL (in Thailand in particular) is the use of agents. Agents, of course, skim off the top of everyone's wages for every single payment from start to end of employment. They are parasites. Every single one of them - no matter what BS they try to pull to convince you that they are 'more than just agents'.
Agents seem to dominate most of the jobs on offer in Thailand so they're kind of difficult to avoid. The agent I work for does things like make all the foreign staff come in weeks before the Thai staff each term to decorate their classrooms (!) Obviously, this is just to make the agent 'look good' to the owner of the school. Rumors abound of agents giving 'kickbacks' from staff salaries to the owner(s) too in many cases. I wouldn't doubt for a New York minute that such a thing goes on.
Salaries have been frozen here for years, the cost of living has rocketed and the workloads have increased. I now have to work online too to make a decent salary. I get about 65,000-75,000 baht a month and it's still not all that great. It's certainly not enough to think about retirement plans etc.
Add to this frustration, a proliferation of Pinoy teachers who have bowed and scraped and enslaved themselves to such a level it has impacted on everyone else.
Let's face it, TEFL as a 'career' of any kind in Thailand is over. Unless you're prepared to work 60 hours a week with few benefits (the 'health insurance' packages are a joke in most cases) forget it.
Stay out here too long and you risk being booted out of the country if you fall ill (no matter if you've got a wife and kids and ten years' of 'helping the nation' by teaching in the government schools). Yup. Time to think how 'valued' we really are to these schools/countries.
Despite this, I don't get angry anymore. The best thing to do (if you enjoy teaching, which I do) is to get qualified. I have obtained an M.Ed now and will return to my home country to get properly licensed. If anyone is in the same boat, you just need to take a deep breath , relax and plan your escape. Everyone is different, but I'll need about a million baht to return and start teaching in my country (apartment / flight / money to support myself whilst I train. etc).
Just choose the path of least resistance when it comes to earning cash to save. For me, that means either The Middle East or China later in the year once I've saved a little.
So please everyone in the same predicament, don't get mad. Don't cry. Just plan your way out and don't get angry at how the education systems in faraway lands work. Do you think they'll ever listen to Mr Farang? You might as well bring your cat with you and ask them to listen to Mr. Tiddles' opinions. It's all about the money and status I'm afraid with many Asian education systems. The desperately sad thing is that the kids' education is barely important to many (not all) schools.
Just do what you can (your best for the students) and don't get angry or upset at things that you will never be able to change. Believe me, I've got myself into really angry moods (punching walls at home once!) at the frustrations of the Thai education system and feeling 'trapped'.
There are ways out if you need one. Find them and use them. Because nothing will change.
On a final note, TEFLing is great for a youngster wanting to try life abroad for a couple of years. Probably unfair on the kids in some cases, but I don't think the (now diminishing) presence of Western teachers makes this education system any worse.
Some TEFLers find that they enjoy teaching and return home to teach in their own countries. But as a career? Well unless you're talking about some of those high paying jobs in The Middle East.
Oh, I forgot. You might make a career out of TEFL if you become an agent. Personally, I couldn't live with myself if I did that. I do have some morals left, even after living in Thailand for a couple of years!
I for one would be interested to hear the views of those, Thai or otherwise, who are responsible for EFL programmes in Thailand. On this website we hear from current or former EFL teachers on what is wrong and what should be done about it; there is no shortage of opinion, some of it seems reasonable. In my short experience of TEFL in Chiang Mai I tried to establish a professional dialogue with Thai colleagues who taught English. I suggested, for example, the possibility of exchanging ideas about what vocabulary to teach and how to do so; how we might help one another in classes, for the benefit of students.
I always received a polite response, sometimes a friendly one, but I sensed that my attitude seemed an alien one. Perhaps they would have been more receptive if my suggestions were dropped in casually in the context of a shared meal or social event.
Unless there are meaningful exchanges between teachers/administrators I don't see how small improvements can be made. Of course we always have the option of adjusting our attitude to the status quo, as I found most of the foreign EFL teachers I met to have done.
UK (formerly Chiang Mai)
I do agree with Mark Newman that Thailand should look at other ways to make the public teaching sector rewarding. Those who have made plans to stay for the long term might start to look at other ways to earn a living. There is a massive demand for on-line teachers for Chinese students. The wages being offered are superior when compared to the wages of a native speaker working in a public school. Besides offering residency or citizenship, the government should create a plan where foreign teacher's can pay into a retirement plan.
Thailand is deliberately making things difficult for themselves when it comes to hiring teachers. Sure, more money would be nice but the ability of the teachers wouldn't change much. The same people may stick around for longer or may move to more remote locations....but money isn't the answer.
The Thai government could make it a whole lot easier for native English speakers to want to be here with a few simple changes that would cost nothing.
1 - Scrap the insane paperwork and the expensive need for 'visa runs'.
2 - Reward long-term English teachers by doing the following: After 10 years of full-time teaching service award residency cards. After 20 years of full-time service, award citizenship.
Make it possible for educators to have a decent life in Thailand and good teachers WILL COME!
Thailand has a smaller GDP than the countries where native-English speaking teachers come from. Those teachers can't expect big money, but they should expect the salaries to rise with inflation. Many salaries here have been 35,000 for 15 years! There are no excuses for that. Well, other than sheer greed.
It's like my Thai friend in Korat who has an agency says, "We can't pay more because the rules are the rules". Like they're not so much his rules but a strict set of moral principles that he won't stray from and people should respect. And as I always say to him when he desperately asks for advice outside of paying more money, "foreign teachers are not obliged to come and work for you. But you are obliged to provide native-English speakers (white people) to the schools who employ you. It's advertised in your brochure and theirs.
My friend in Korat has had it far too good for far too long. In the last maybe three years, his business has gone to the dogs. He can't find new teachers and the ones he has are basically children themselves - looking to take selfies with the kids and post their fake benevolence online. And this is where Thailand TEFL is heading. That's why I teach Chinese people online. I can't help my friend because he's only thinking money. He won't take a satang less.
Teaching in Thailand, I've met plenty of Thai bashers, and I've met plenty of those who wear rose-tinted glasses. I avoid both of them. Nowhere is that bad and nowhere is that perfect. Both parties have their issues and neither party is being sincere. As foreigners, we are all outsiders in Thailand. Embrace that freedom and stop caring about trivial crap. I have no time nor zero desire to change their minds. Why would I?
I work in Thailand as a teacher. I meet endless bad teachers. Teachers who do the bare minimum, teachers who are here to fornicate, teachers who think they're rock stars, teachers who don't wear socks. The list goes on. At a TEFL level, can we really expect much better? When paying 35-40k a month with zero benefits, can we really expect people who care? Looking at how many bad teachers there are, the answer is clearly no. You can appeal to people's better nature, but at the end of the day, this is real life.
The best teachers I meet are the ones who try. If you try, you learn. They make an effort. They put in a shift. They ask questions. They admit they don't know. When a good teacher comes to me and asks, "Why do they never tell me before that my lesson has been cancelled?" I just give a what-you-gonna-do smile. People the world over bitch and moan. It's human nature. I really don't care. I just crack on. What I do care about is working with good people. It annoys me working with the lazy and feckless. It disheartens me. When I meet a tryer, I like it. It has a positive impact on me.
You gotta harness in the good energy and block out the bad. Go with the flow.
A lot of people want to know what it would be like to work in Thailand. After having been here for 8 years I will tell you.
My first job paid was 38,000 a month plus a 2,000 baht travel allowance. That was 8 years ago with no experience. I was teaching IEP and working pretty hard. The salaries have gone down since then for the run of the mill agency jobs. Now I am not openly against agencies but the greed and corruption has become too much to bear.
Most agencies it appears are now grabbing the newbies and I call them “newbies” because they are not yet teachers from the TEFL courses on some island somewhere. 1500$ or something like that and a party in Phuket and Samui and three weeks later they have been offered a job somewhere – in some government school somewhere with some assistance from the agency. It depends on the agency.
Normally the newbies are only too happy to have a job and just say yes to everything and to be fair to them, that is what you have to do. Maybe those of us who have been around for a while have become jaded by the system. Waiing the boss can be pain – unless she returns the favour and wais me back. I will not wai anyone unless they reciprocate – and that means everyone from the boss all the way down to the cleaner. If the cleaner wais me I will wai her back.
For the last two years of so, I had the misfortune to be thrust back into agency jobs and sometimes it was fun and sometimes the kids would want to learn something, but the agencies and their management have become overbearing.
Last year I was on 38,000 for nine months of the year. Holy Christ how things have fallen? And having some self-inflated knobhead coming around barking orders the way he wanted it to be. Given I had 7 years’ experience and am a good teacher – my kids learn something – I am reluctant to take advice about how they think a lesson should be – planning It right down to the micro level.
As a new teacher you could expect 25-30,000 a month. That would be paid 9 months of the year. They will not get you a work permit, no matter what they say, unless it has been specifically mentioned and they do it the day you arrive - it will not happen. You will have to do visa runs to Laos normally. That will cost 6-7,000 baht and you will have to do that every three months maybe. You will then be on a tourist visa. That will be 60 days which can be extended at Chaeng Wattana for 1900 Baht for another 30 days. That might include a taxi there and back, four hours in a queue and some photographs etc. Keep some money for that. Going overstay basically means going to jail (if caught) unless you can pay the fine. It has happened to many. If you think Bangkok as a teacher is all about partying and going to the island every month, think again.
You will be expected to wai everyone including the dog (joke) You will be expected to be at school early, leave late and have a smile on your dial at all times. From the end of February to the middle of May there will be no work around and you will not be paid. You will then have to find money from somewhere else – savings, mummy and daddy back home, or possibly extra work which will be in very short supply because everyone will be looking for it.
Your accommodation will be about 5,000 a month in Bangkok for a decent apartment, 7,000 if you include bills. If you want something better you can find it of course. If you want something worse – you can get something down to about 2 or 2.5K but really not worth the hassle. That said many Thais live like that, no problem. No air-con, no hot water (which is a must in the winter). Morning traffic in Bangkok is murder. You need a way to travel and fast to get to school. Normally a taxi or motorbike (rented) not motorbike taxi.
Taxis are expensive (relatively) unless you share. Staying near schools is recommended but then you are stuck there.
Driving a motorbike is dangerous. Always have a full face helmet. Having an accident often means sorting it out on the side of the road, and paying money there and then. Unless you are so damaged they take you to hospital (another need for hospital insurance) where you can be in for big bucks. Do not drink and drive. It is not worth it. There are road blocks everywhere.
If you think you are going to the full moon party for the whole of April down the wonderful island of Samui, that might be a pipe dream unless you have saved money or money from back home. You may be eating a 5 baht bowl of noodles nursing a beer, trying to see it through the lean months.
Thought that might be useful, direct and honest.
I've been offered a great job in China paying twice my current salary in Thailand (close to 100k per month). I've still got to work for a fair few months yet, but I can't wait to leave.
The agent I have here in Thailand is a slave driver who likes to get his staff in on weekends for free. This is simply to make him look good with the owners in my opinon. It's supposedly all about 'personal development', but that is total BS. He's taking a shed load of cash off each employee, of course.
Funniest moment was him sending a message from his latest model iPhone to everyone in our Facebook group about 'being happy with what you have and that money and possessions aren't everything' or suchlike. This was probably aimed mainly at the enslaved Pinoy teachers (on around 15k a month before tax) and he typed it from his five million baht Range Rover lol (I got the message just as I passed his car in the car park). I bet he never thought about the irony involved right there.
Now he's on thin ice as there are only four native English speaking teachers left out of an original twenty or so. The staff-room now looks like a downtown Manila coffee shop. The Thais love all that bowing and scraping and the fact that they never say 'no' and will work for peanuts.
Decent native English speaking teachers with any self- respect left should be planning their escapes from this place asap. I've decided that Thailand is a lovely place for a holiday, but a crappy one to work in.
Yep. Greedy agents (most of whom will soon be gone from the Thai education industry) and an education system behind the times (with too much grovelling involved nowadays) has done for many of us, it seems.
English teaching jobs at a TEFL level are dying a slow death in Thailand. I still have friends who work for a couple of my former agencies and they said it's getting harder and harder to find teachers. A mix of not having teachers available on tourist visas and the massive emergence of online work. What have the school and agencies done to prepare? Absolutely nothing.
My friend suggested to his boss that they pay more money or offer any form of benefits. He said his boss became so indignant at the suggestion. This kinda mentality of, "I've been earning this amount of profit every month and I will not lose a single satang".
There are teachers leaving and other teachers quitting the extra work to go online. One loyal teacher left after three years to go online. He told another friend he would have continued the weekend work as an extra, but when he quit, they didn't even say thanks. His attitude was, 'f*** you, then". Now they're threatening teachers who don't want to do their extra work. The threats are empty and the teachers know it. It's pathetic.
Teaching is great if you can find that balance of a good job (one where you're left alone and not squeezed to to keep doing more simply because you're good and reliable). Add to that online work, and you can easily be pulling in at least 70k a month with your weekends free. I've found that balance and I'm happy for now. But I keep looking at the jobs. And I know the power is with me now. Same as it is with any teacher worth their salt.
My advice for any agency owners; pay up or pack up. Your time is up. And I for one will be glad to see the back of you.
Until the standards in education are raised, students will never get ahead and the their standard of English will not improve. A lot of it stems from the “mai pen rai” attitude.
I’ve been teaching here a little over twenty years and have heard students say they don’t care if they fail because they know they will still pass. 50 is passing and even if they score lower, they still get a 50 to pass.
I am teaching grade two in IEP and my students do better in speaking and understanding English than the high school students in the bilingual program. I try to make them speak English in class and at lunch time. Have to keep reminding them, but they are doing better. They are only to speak Thai when having a Thai subject.
It is difficult at times because the Thai teachers and the directors do not speak English and this is a bilingual school.
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