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.
In response to "Get more realistic Thailand" (Postbox 16th June)
"I think Thailand needs to be more realistic about what it's looking for with TEFL teachers..."
I don't think that Thailand has much of an idea what it's looking for. There's certainly no practical vision for the future in this area of education.
A 'realistic' approach would be to find all the native English speakers who want to live here (that have a verifiable four-year degree) and give them a simple hassle-free residency visa which is valid for as long as they are in full-time employment at a school.
Then train them to teach the Thai English language curriculum... after it's been designed to be fit for purpose of course! Once trained, the farang graduates would be posted around the country as and where needed.
Pay them a set salary into their own special teachers' Thai checking account directly from the Department of Education. Leave the schools and agencies out of the money equation. It's simple and it would generate an army of willing and capable teachers. And it wouldn't cost much either!
I don't see any reason to raise the rates of pay. The new teachers would be saving a fortune in visa runs and legal expenses, etc.
I think Thailand needs to be more realistic about what it's looking for with TEFL teachers. You don't really need any qualifications to teach TEFL at the real TEFL level other than being a native-speaker and having a CELTA, etc.
Take Spain for example; a great place to a take a year or two out and have a working holiday. At the time I was there they only requested we had some kind of TEFL cert. No degree was needed. You weren't sold the job as being a a real or serious teacher. You were sold it as helping students improve their English. This was generally done by practicing conversation.
They wouldn't have dreamed about asking you teach math or science etc, in a real school. We were restricted to the TEFL level language centers and rightly so.
Thailand needs to be more honest and open if they're serious about improving their level of language. There's no career here for the most part, but if you want a year or two out, regardless of your age, come here and have a working holiday. We can't pay you much but you'll have holidays and be able to get by.
Thailand seems to be looking for properly qualified teachers for less than TEFL level standards. It ain't gonna happen.
If you're a properly qualified teacher, I wouldn't recommend Thailand for the most part. I've known properly qualified teachers here earning 100k a month and they thought it was a lot. But in the grand scheme, it really isn't. Try having kids and growing old here on that.
I knew a guy who came here with a degree and wanted to get qualified. He ended up doing his masters, and maybe even a doctorate here, and then realized that even within Thailand, it was pretty worthless. They wanted qualifications from western universities etc. He ended up starting an agency and basically just lies for a living. Selling an idea of professionalism to people who simply aren't, being instructed how to teach by people with inferior qualifications. Just one big factory of teachers.
If you're a real teacher in the sense you wanna help people, god bless you. It's one of the most noble things you can do in life. You'll always be a teacher so make sure you invest in yourself. If you like teaching but are doing it mostly to stay in Thailand, do not waste thousands of dollars on teaching qualifications that restrict you to teaching the rest of you life. That is awful investment, especially in a place like Thailand.
Online work is the way to go. Affiliate marketing etc. There's a lot of money to be made if you're reliable and hardworking. You need zero qualifications other than a fantastic work ethic and knowing where the money is. I'm not going to tell people how to do it, but there is money online to be made. It's definitely the way forward for people who wanna live abroad.
When Thailand pisses me off, I just hop on a plane with my laptop to somewhere else for a week. I soon miss Thailand and return to her. But as in life, familiarity breeds contempt and I need my away time sometimes.
Foreign teachers often talk about how much money you need to stay in Thailand.
I am Thai office lady. My salary is 37,000 baht. I prefer to cook for myself than eating those street food and sometimes eating out at nice restaurant. Rental cost is around 6500-7500 including electricity.
My company I work for provide us free fitness from Mon-Fri and yoga class every Tuesday and Thursday. Free beverage(hot coffee,ice coffee, tea, milk, etc.) and also provide free health insurance. They also provide free shuttle van to BTS/MRT so I don't have to pay for those bills .
I am lucky that my work place is near my apartment. so the cost of transportation is just 20-55 THB/day depends on what I take, bus or taxi.(It is too near to take train) I don't party much though but I travel outside Bangkok sometimes or effort to travel abroad(in Asia) once a year or two years.
I can send my money back to my parents 5,000 baht every month and save 8,000 for myself. It is not a luxury living but we(me) can live with this salary. :)
This is in response to an ajarn blog on how teachers shouldn't be constantly chasing more and more money.
The fundamental reason we work is to make money. I'd like to think that the money we make isn't just for paying bills and buying useless crap.
I use my disposable income to save and enjoy my life. I have a very nice apartment which I very much look forward to going home to. It has all the amenities and a second bedroom used as an office where I do online work. I work about 55 hours a week and very much love and appreciate my days off and holidays. If I have any more than 2 weeks off, I get bored.
The guy I work with loves to be at work. He comes in early and he leaves work late. He loves keeping busy and doesn't do much extra work as he thinks our full-time job should be the focus of our lives. He's consumed by his job and always tells me the boss will look more favorably on me if she sees me coming in early and leaving late.
I explained that this is just a job for me. I signed a contract, I do what's asked of me, and I go home and live 'my' life. I explained to him that I won't judge his philosophy in life if he doesn't judge mine. If the boss wants me to work longer hours, she can compensate me sufficiently so I have no need to do extra work. It's not personal it's business.
My old farang boss once called all of us into a meeting. It was just before school term finished and we had two months of holidays and summer camp. He was basically trying to encourage us to not do summer camp and take unpaid leave. He did this by explaining that teaching is hard work. You need to turn your brain off and relax. Get out of Bangkok. Get out of Thailand. You need some perspective so get out of Asia for a month, etc. Come back stronger for the new term.
It was all very motivating and solid advice, except for one thing; with what money? You want us to maybe go skiing in the Alps whilst not getting paid?
If you want to live in Thailand long term, you're gonna have to work hard to make it work. In my old job there was no yearly pay rise. In my current job I had to fight tooth and nail to get an extra 3k a month. And of course, there always has to be caveats.
If you're just a gap-year teacher then go nuts. Have fun, don't do any extra work and have nice long holidays. If you wanna live here, you have to work to make it happen. Can't just romanticize being this teacher who dedicates his career to 'the kids'. You need to find a balance and save for the future.
The old notion of "As I get older I want to be working less for more" doesn't apply to foreign teachers in Thailand.
You want more money? You have to take on extra work. Simple as. You don't wanna do the extra work cos you love the kids? Enjoy trying to spend magic beans in Seven Eleven as you hit retirement age where you have little savings but great memories of how you dedicated your life to your full-time job and forgot to think about yourself.
Every school or agency I've worked for has absolutely treated education as a business. Why can't I? Why is teaching the only job where it's all on the teacher to dedicate their lives for low pay but no one else has to? Why can't teachers do their jobs, work hard, and also make money?
To All UK Teachers; Don't Lose Your Vote
To all teachers who wish to vote in the UK General Election but don't quite know how to do it! It is not too late to act. If you are not registered you can register as an overseas voter if you are a British citizen and you have been on a UK electoral register at any time within the past 15 years.
Alternatively, some local authorities may take registrations over the phone. You can find the contact details of your Electoral Registration Officer here.
I believe that proxy is the best road to take. Your proxy can vote in person or by post. Ask for your proxy to vote in person - it is easier for them (by post was default when I registered so I had to request they change it, which they did immediately). Visit this site.
The quickest way to deal with the paperwork is to do everything online. Anything that requires a signature can be printed, signed, scanned and returned electronically. If you don't have these facilities at home there is probably a print shop near you that does.
If you don't have a proxy (family member, friend, neighbour etc) you can always contact the local branch of the party you support and ask to be given one.
Remember, every vote counts!!
As an aside, we have formed a branch of Labour International in Thailand. If after the election you wish to get involved then get in touch with us: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com - we'd love to have you along to one of our meetings!!
Take care and have your say in what post-Brexit Britain will look like
On the topic of the teacher who was ridiculed for being overweight - "Yeah, life ain't fair and the people of Thailand have some different values and ways of doing things than people in the USA have" Maturity epitomized there, ladies and gentleman.
I've been fortunate as far as my looks go in Thailand. I'm tall and fair-skinned. This is who I am. Back home people might say that I'm too fair- skinned. This bothered me when living back home sometimes. I wasn't doing anything wrong, but was made to feel like I was. Now I'm in Thailand it's the opposite. I'm complimented on looking fair. Now when I go home I simply don't care what people say about me being pasty.
I worked with an overweight guy before. The kids would often mention his weight. It was like they had turrets with words associated with overweight. It got him down and I felt bad for him. He wasn't the most confident or assertive fellow in the world, so I told him that he ever needs to chat, come and chat.
Talking about problems really helps. I told him that it wasn't personal and it was just kids being kids. If he wanted me to, I'd have a word with his class when they came to my class (I am a science teacher). I told the kids not to mention about his weight. It hurts his feelings and it's not nice nor polite. I told them that we're not to look down on anyone because of how they look. This is also my job as a teacher to have a safe and pleasant learning environment. This isn't an elitist farang idea, it's also a value shared by Thais. To think it wasn't would be to look down on the locals like "they don't know any better".
The kids were good. They respected me and understood my point. They liked the other teacher but simply didn't realize they were hurting his feelings. After all, they're kids and are still learning about life. He ended up leaving Thailand anyway, but I'd like to think he left Thailand a wiser and happier person from his experiences. I'd like to think more people offered him a kind or supportive word over simply telling him he's not cut out for Thailand.
When we have problems, it's always good to talk about them. Share experiences and know it's not only us. The wrong thing to do is to tell someone "shut up or go home". Adults talk and rationalize. We might not always agree, but we should always talk and share ideas, opinions and thoughts.
Good job with the website, Phil. I enjoy reading comments and seeing what other teachers in Thailand are up to. Their experiences (good or bad) all add to make it a great place to live and work.
Getting ahead in the teaching game can be very difficult. You stay another year at your school, get paid a little more, maybe some more holiday, but that's about it. The longer you stay the more useless teachers you see come and go. You have that mixed feeling of knowing you're worth more in your school, but also how you are now the go-to-guy whenever there's a problem with people like '23-year-old James from Leeds' who loves getting leathered and indulging with the local ladies. He didn't go to uni, but he's wicked good at installing Sky satellite dishes. He thinks he got the job simply because he's special and handsome and finds it hard to cope with any criticism or requests to do work. The break from the honeymoon period has been hard on James. So bad he's thinking of getting a new job! He threatens this in his head everyday.
For every good teacher, I'd say there are three bad ones. The bad ones are usually allowed to coast along until the school finally get their revenge and don't renew their contract. Some like James from Leeds live from paycheck to paycheck so know they actually need their job. They'll come to work on time and not complain for the last few weeks. All the things anyone should be doing in their job anyway. This way the school might think James has turned a corner. At the very least for James, he has his "I've been treated unfairly" card for when the school wanna let him go. He can tell his friends and missus who quit her job when she met him how he arrived on time, taught his lessons and was loved by everyone at the school. Except for one person who had it in for him for 'no reason'. Life's so unfair for James.
Rinse and repeat in many schools. The good teachers watch the bad teachers come and go and wonder why nothing is changing. Often quoting Einstein's definition of insanity.
I have been teaching in Chiangmai for about 10 years now and my salary is now just above 50 k per month. I started back in the day at 28k a month. I cannot believe that even 50 k can be enough to live in Bangkok let alone 30k.
I agree with other teacher's comments, do not encourage these 'employers' by taking their paltry salaries. I realise that many people are settled here with Thai nationals and have children and these people may very well feel that they do not have a choice in dictating or demanding certain salaries, even if they are experienced esl teachers.
Thailand attracts a lot of very young newly qualified teachers who have had no experience teaching in their own countries they qualified from and many of whom are doing a really abysmal job of teaching their pupils. These qualified teachers are not here to stay but are in fact here to have fun, use their salaries on hedonistic activities then leave. These teachers are not too concerned about how much money they make because they are only here to have a good time. I feel that it is these teachers whom are lowering the basic salaries kingdom wide for serious long term teachers by accepting these low paying positions.
Qualifications certainly seem to come before age and experience and this is to the detriment of the pupils in Thai schools. For those teachers who have been here a while and are doing a good job and have furthered their education by doing a pgcei or a masters in education on top of their degrees, should leave Thailand and work in schools where their knowledge experience and qualifications are valued both monetarily and personally.
Another thing to note is that western teaching qualifications do not have a great focus on English as a second language learner and this too affects the children's education in Thailand as specific strategies are needed to teach them successfully.
Thought I would list some of my experiences with TEFL in Korea (Gimhae, Busan) vs Thailand (Pattaya, Bangkok). I taught for a year in Korea before doing two years in Thailand.
Korea - A hagwon (language academy). More of a business than a school. Long, hard working days from 10 am till after 9 pm at night sometimes. Long days, odd hours and tiring but the students are more respectful and interested in learning English than Thai students.
I pitied a lot of my students as many were forced by their parents to do extra studying on top of their already arduous schedule. Schools are more organised than Thailand and follow set curriculums although offer opportunity for games and funtime too, especially with kids. A lot of shady, hagwon horror stories but I got lucky and fared ok.
Thailand- two different government schools with Pratom and Mattayom. More fun teaching than Korea but I felt like more of a rent-a-clown than a teacher. Classes based a lot more around fun and games than proper learning. Students generally ok but largely uninterested in English.
Thai students often lack critical thinking due to terrible rote-style learning from their Thai teachers and are more afraid to speak up for fear of losing face. Some very noisy, chaotic and naughty classes, particularly with younger kids (often leaving the room with a sore throat!).
Schools are unbelievably disorganised and frustrating to deal with last minute changes, compulsory staff meetings in Thai language etc. Much more freedom in the classroom but far worse conditions (40 students to a class, dodgy facilities, some classrooms had no air-con etc). Some very dodgy Thai government schools indeed but I fared OK.
Not recommended for more serious teachers as it will drive you crazy.
Korea - Difficult and expensive initially getting required documents (apostille, etc) and also fairly trapped to the school on an E2 visa. But at least no 90-day check ins, re-entry if you travel abroad and generally better once "in-country".
Thailand - Absolute nightmare. Ever changing rules and requirements for legalisation of documents to get a non-B visa, some of which were so laugh-worthy they were a farce. On top of that, 90-day check ins, re-entry permits to go abroad and having to leave the country and start the whole ordeal again should you change school.
Korea - Sucked balls. Blistering summers, arctic winters, typhoons and not much in between except a couple of weeks in cherry blossom season.
Thailand - Awesome, perfect winters, always warm and usually sunny. Just what the doctor ordered after a tough Korean winter.
Things to do
Korea - Cool mountains and beaches relatively OK but suck for the cold half of the year. Cleaner nature and some interesting things to see. Snowboarding in winter too. Cities cool but nightlife not as fun as Thailand.
Thailand - Awesome, jungle treks, stunning beaches and cool islands. Loved the crazy cheap nights out, pool parties, riding my moto down the palm fringed beaches and forests at dusk. Only downside is the polluted beaches/rivers in parts, especially nearer to Bangkok. A lot of rubbish, poverty and stray dogs everywhere which is pretty depressing.
Korea - Far better, good roads and high speed trains anywhere in the country. Clean, modern cities with lots to do. But drivers sucked
Thailand - A lot worse but more interesting. Standard developing country affair of noisy, dirty and chaotic cities, bad public transport and terrible drivers. More "character" but can definitely become suffocating and after a while you long for a beach/nature getaway.
Korea - I found Koreans to be more contrasted, some very Westernised with good English and interest in the western world, others very unfriendly and curt. More reserved than Thailand and often times ruder too. I considered Koreans to be the "Germans of Asia" if that makes sense?
Thailand - Far friendlier than Koreans but also more likely to try scamming you, particularly in tourist spots. Generally worse at English but more willing to talk to farangs.
Korea - Worst place I experienced in Asia for dating (Korea, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand). Loads of beautiful girls with zero interest in farangs unless they work for Samsung/similar. Humble English teachers particularly looked down upon.
To make it worse, local guys can be the worst. Although there are quite a few girls who are interested in westerners, I only scored a few dates the whole time I was there.
Thailand - A single farang man's goldmine. Lost count of how many dates I scored there. However, pay attention as a lot of them might just be gold-diggers in disguise, particularly in tourist areas. Also, harder to find girls you can have "intelligent conversation" with besides shopping, facebook and Thai TV/music (but also some really cool, worldly minded Thai girls too).
Korea - Sweet teacher packages (free apartment, flights, end of contract bonus and much better salary) but generally less to do outside of work (unless you live in Seoul or Busan). Generally attracts more "serious" teachers (as opposed to backpackers extending their trip).
Weather sucks and locals are less friendly but the country is much more developed, modern and first world. EPIK generally safer than hagwons but you might get placed in the boonies and be the only farang in the village. Good for first timers or those looking to save money as you are totally spoonfed with programs and can put away easily half your salary if you are frugal.
Thailand - Much more laissez-faire and possibly more intimidating to the first time teacher as you aren't babied nearly as much as Korea and with it being a developing country.
More "interesting" mix of expats, some cool, some not so cool. Cheap costs but the salary sucks and it'll be hard to save anything unless you can fully live like a local in a crap, Thai-style apartment, eat Thai food every day and not party or travel, although lets be real, no farang goes to Thailand to live like a monk.
Lifestyle far trumps that of Korea (beaches, travel opportunities, nightlife, climate) and much more of an "exotic adventure".
Either way, both destinations couldn't be more different to each other and both have merits and downsides worth checking out!
Hello Phil, I've followed your website for over twelve years now, and even though I don't teach in Thailand anymore I still like to have a look every week or so. I teach in other countries, but my wife still lives in Thailand so I still spend a lot of time there.
One of the sections in your site that is interesting is the "great escape" section. For a lot of people, teaching in Thailand is something they'll do for a few years. After that they may well head back to their home country.
Now getting to the point, a lot of these teachers will get married to a Thai citizen during their time in the country. If they are from the UK, they will find it difficult to take their spouse back home with them. To get a settlement visa for their spouse the sponsor must find a job earning 18.6K per year or more. They can earn less than this if they have savings, but only if the savings are more than 16K. The visa is also very expensive and is often rejected, meaning that people pay out thousands of pounds for absolutely nothing.
I recently joined a Facebook group called "I LOVE MY 'FOREIGN' SPOUSE: defend the rights of cross-border couples" This group has over 10,000 members. Last week the admin of the group created a petition to parliament to ask to change these laws. Maybe it can't happen right now, but if people keep on bringing the issue to the government's attention something might change in our favour one day. I think that you must be aware of these rules as you are British too!
Here is the petition:
If you could feature this on your site, then that would be amazing. It's quite a big issue that must affect hundreds, if not thousands, of your readers.
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