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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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.


Are English teachers non-essential right now?

Are English teachers non-essential right now?

I am sure there are people in very different situations, but the information/rumors I have heard is at least some private schools and universities have seen a pretty substantial decline in enrollment for the coming term and the personnel concern of the leaders of many organizations here in Thailand is to try to not shed too many jobs while cutting costs elsewhere.

Although I am sure enrollment might not be an issue at government schools, budgets will be. We are currently in a situation where there are hundreds of millions of unemployed people globally and governments and other organizations have incurred additional costs and are looking for ways to cut expenses. This doesn't seem like the time most English teachers in Thailand are in a strong bargaining position. Although if you are in the field of medical research I suspect you would be in a much stronger position.

It is always difficult to give general advice as each person has different goals and opportunities, but it might be a good idea for many teachers to take what is offered, within reason, and wait until the situation approves before expecting to be able to bargain with employers from a position of strength. Like at all times, one should take the best offer one has, but I suspect there will be fewer and fewer attractive offers for English teachers in Thailand in 2020, English teachers are non-essential personnel right now.

Being an optimist is helpful to motivate oneself but it does not change the economic and political environment we are working in.


International schools and Summer break

International schools and Summer break

I would say it is highly unlikely that international schools will make up for lost time during the Summer break. I work at an international school in Bangkok and I am not aware of any schools that will do this. I can only see this happening with smaller schools that have had parents complain about paying full fees for online learning.

Most of the feedback I have seen online from parents with students at decent schools has be very positive and supportive of the distance learning that their children have received. Additionally, a lot of teachers are planning to move to new schools over the summer and will not be available to continue working at their current schools. I, for example, have accepted a job in Vietnam and hope to move there in June/July, covid permitting.

I will add this may be the chance for someone with a little teaching experience and a degree in a specific subject to make the jump into an international school as a late hire because someone from abroad can't make it to Thailand in July.


Beware of the sinking economy

The sinking economy in Thailand is going to put a huge dent in the future of TEFL teachers here. People will be out of work, lots of them. They won't have money to pay language school fees, let along regular school fees and many university students will have to take an unplanned gap year. Unemployment could be hitting 20% by the end of May, and the economy here is expect to contract around 6 percent, the highest of any ASEAN member country. Foreign teacher pay is the LAST thing they will be thinking about. They will hire Filipinos on the cheap and that will be the new normal. Khrusapha rules will stay the same.


A positive picture for TEFLers

A positive picture for TEFLers

With regards to university admission numbers, as someone who works at a high level government university, I don't believe that the numbers in Thailand will decrease too much.

The big decrease will occur in the numbers of Thais going to universities in the UK, USA, Australia and other countries. They will have less money and have the risk of CoVid as a good excuse, so Thai universities could benefit this year.

As Chinese universities are oversubscribed, more Chinese students are also choosing Thailand. My workplace has certainly seen an increase in applications. Some private universities - those providing weekend and evening courses - may suffer as their students are at the bottom end and maybe won't have funds for tuition. However, a number of private universities might pick up students who move down from slightly better institutes.

Fewer Thai children are going to schools overseas, but some do and more of this group will stay in Thailand, which will filter down the ladder. Maybe some of the "the owner once went on holiday there" international schools or private schools in tourist areas will suffer, but overall I think that numbers will be dissimilar.

Also, I think the potential decrease in teachers will match the reduction in schools. Many teachers went home for natural reasons and many more because of the CoVid situation. With no new teachers arriving before July, teachers already in the country will see more and more opportunities. I work online and my hours have increased 6-fold since January. This might be reduced as the Chinese go back to school but if you have experience and are being badly treated by your agency then there are many more agencies and a seemingly endless supply of kids.

If you are negative, negativity will find you. Be positive, look for the opportunities.

Rob, Bangkok

A somewhat bleak picture

A somewhat bleak picture

When schools re-open, governments schools are likely to have increased budget constraints (this crisis will most likely result in a shift in government spending and a sharp decease in government revenue) and they are likely to be forced to reduce expenditures by reducing the number of foreign teachers.

The loss of millions of jobs throughout the economy will likely result in fewer people being able to afford to send their children to private schools and the reduction in both the number of students and revenue will require a reduction in spending, most likely including on salaries.

What the impact of the crisis will be on university enrollment is not clear, but an economic dip of this severity will likely result in a reduction in enrollment as well and could even make the international programs less attractive. But the impact is likely to depend on the severity of the economic decline.

With so much of the Thai economy based on tourism and foreign trade, my guess is the economic impact is going to be worse and longer lasting than many people are considering. I hope I am wrong. And without foreign visitors and a huge reduction in foreign trade the demand for English speaking staff will also decline cutting into the jobs available at language schools.

And I suspect every qualified teacher and millions of unqualified English teachers around the world are applying for online positions, not all of them are going to find any work.

I am generally an optimist, but we can't shut the world's economies down without major impacts on people's lives and I don't think anyone has an answer on whether the world will soon get back to normal or we should prepare for a new normal.

Just my thoughts, I don't have a crystal ball but I do quite a bit of research on the impact of economic conditions on individual lives.


Future demand for English teachers in Thailand

Future demand for English teachers in Thailand

Looking from a broader economic perspective with the shutdown of the world’s tourism industry and a major reduction in global trade, it seems close to a certainty the global demand for English teachers, along with many other occupations, is not going back to normal anytime soon.

From a political perspective, with already over 7 million Thais out of work and unemployment reaching record proportions globally, those of us living in Thailand but coming from other countries might have trouble getting help from either our home or Thai government.

Even if it were possible to return home, the competition for the few open jobs would be expected to be intense, and it is likely the majority of language schools in Thailand will not return to normal, in 2020, anyway. I suspect when government and private schools do open back up it will be with far fewer English teachers.

I have no specific advice, each person is going to have to figure out a strategy to get through this crisis, much like the millions, maybe even billions, of other people around the world affected by this situation. The world’s economy is based on its productivity and a global shutdown ends nearly all production and this is going to have a lasting economic effect which is going to take a long time to recover from, even if the world comes back to normal in the coming months.

So far, the number of deaths in Thailand have been fewer than the number of fatalities from traffic accidents in a typical weekend, but it appears the economic impact is just starting to be felt.

I have always tried to have the strategy when living overseas of having multiple streams of income just in case of an emergency. I am still able to work from home from both my day job and my secondary jobs, so in the short term I am much better off than many people but there are no guarantees about the future. Although just about everyone else in my family, both here and back home, have lost their jobs.

Stay safe and sane. Easy to say, but I suspect hard to do when one is not sure where the next meal is coming from.


Focus on user-friendly

Focus on user-friendly

Regarding students studying online while schools are closed, if students are stuck at home, then they will probably have access to the internet on multiple devices already. Shouldn't the focus be on rolling-out user-friendly apps and programmes for actual learning, rather than a blank digital canvas? Also, how many schools have tablets sitting in an unused 'library' or 'IT' room. Not many schools have a thorough tech-support system in place though.


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.


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