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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Nothing but disrespect

Nothing but disrespect

"Guilty until proven innocent" seems to be the prevailing attitude of Thai educational administrators and bureaucrats towards foreign teachers. After three months in Bangkok studying the potential for foreigners to teach here, I -- and a number of other foreign TEFL teachers I have met -- plan to return to China and elsewhere where foreign teachers are not treated with suspicion and a surprising lack of respect. My credentials are good which is why I was selected as a teacher for one of Thailand's best teaching jobs at one of the top universities. I have thirty years of teaching experience including 5 years at an American university, TEFL certification from a high quality course, bachelors and masters degrees, and many years working in business, education. and the arts in the U.S. as well as in Japan, China, and Egypt.

Why then did the technology and communications department of one of Thailand's most renowned universities present me and other new foreign teachers with a "no compromise" contract demanding:
-- 2 months notice required of intention to quit the position,
-- only 3 times per year when leaving was allowable,
-- and (worst of all), if the teacher decides to leave before the year contract ends, they are expected to repay 1/2 (one half) of all payments received from the university?

Further, no provision was made for the expenses and difficulties of starting a new life in a new country. Contrast that with the many schools in China which compete to offer foreigners a free apartment outfitted with broadband and cable TV, roundtrip airfare to their home country, one-month holiday pay plus national holidays, and a salary that is normally at least double the typical local income. As one qualified but disgruntled foreign teacher wrote on the very valuable and informative TEFL website, www.ajarn.com , "Why would anyone come here to teach?"

Repeatedly, foreign teachers have complained to me that Thai administrators have little concept of a teacher's needs or rationale for teaching in a foreign country. Teachers are expected to punch in at 9 am and out at 5 pm -- a schedule which was explained to me by a department director as "only fair and what was expected of Thai staff." This uncompromising administrator had no interest whatsoever in hearing arguments -- "take it or leave it." I was advised that "In Thailand, no one negotiates with the leaders -- it would be considered disrespectful. " I would argue that the most successful contracts are "win-win" compromises. This attitude seems to be both short-sighted and destructive of morale. Sadly, too, teachers find their students are poorly prepared and unmotivated. to learn. Basic study skills are lacking among even the highest level university students who consistently neglect to do their homework or prepare for tests. Witness a meeting I attended in which the chair (a computer expert) reported students had done poorly on their English exams and asked for a quantitative report of numbers of words learned by students. The foreign English teachers tried to argue that language learning was qualitative, not quantitative. Neither side understood the others' point-of-view and, as there was no discussion, an impasse was reached in which both sides were offended.

Government bureaucrats have attempted to address the problems by imposing a steadily increasing number of restrictions on foreign teachers. When I attempted to find work at a well-known private language school franchise, I was told that in order to begin legal teaching work, it would be necessary to change my non-immigrant B visa to the new school (1-2 weeks), obtain a teacher's license (45 days), and then wait for a work permit (1-2 weeks). At best, it would be 1 to 2 months before the paperwork could be completed. This after the expense of having to leave the country to obtain the non-immigrant visa.

"Teach at an international school," many people said, "Teachers there receive high salaries." But in nearly the same breath, I was also told about crackdowns and interrogations made of foreign teachers in recent years. A few criminals had slipped into the international schools and now governmental officials are hotly pursuing foreigners with falsified credentials. It seems "a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel." With the talk of bombings, shootings, and revolution in the air; censorship of movies and websites; and the daily experience of higher prices charged to foreigners, Thailand seems to be an increasingly uncomfortable place for foreigners to stay.

For those foreigners willing to devote their time and energies to quality teaching, it can be a bitterly disillusioning experience. With the salaries going lower and the benefits (medical and other insurance, housing, etc.) fewer, and the cost of living increasing, teachers who have been here for years are now leaving the country. Faced with contracts like the ones I have been presented with over the past three months, few quality teachers would choose to remain. Thailand has options as it is such a beautiful country with lovely, intelligent people. I urge school administrators and government bureaucrats to look to the 21st Century hiring practices of Human Resource departments in international businesses and enlightened governments in other countries. Please -- understand that a foreigner comes to a new country to experience the best, not the worst, of another culture. Understand that increasing restrictions is a form of imprisonment and that most people will wish to escape authoritarian practices. Understand that if you treat an experienced, quality professional from the start with suspicion, you encourage criminals and mediocrity and will lose the best people. Understand that teaching requires considerable experience and training to achieve quality and therefore should be compensated and respected accordingly.

As for me, I'm going back to China next week -- where I feel physically safer and am a much more valued commodity. I would love to return to Thailand one day when and if attitudes change.


Define qualified teacher

Define qualified teacher

Can anybody please define "qualified teacher"? Qualified by law or qualified by rights? People who hold degrees are deemed qualified by law not by their degree. People who do not have degrees in education are not qualified teachers in a western country but they are here. Education is an expensive luxury that I was able to afford. I do not wish to stay in Thailand for a long time as I feel the schools do not pay enough and aren't really in the running to compete. If you want to pay peanuts then you'll get monkeys. If you want to put your degree to good use then you should work in a western country or at least a developed country. Those with degrees who complain about teachers without degrees, unless you have a B.Ed you are not qualified yourselves. There are plenty of jobs in the western world so why aren't you filling them?

The people with degrees have great opportunities to work anywhere in the world so why have they chosen Thailand? Have they chosen to drop out of their own society to mix with their inferior fellow teachers especially when they are trying to become the supreme educators? Do they feel like they are someone here? The West is booming so why not stay at home with your home comforts and leave the pennies for the non qualified folk to fight over? Thailand is a wonderful place that everybody enjoys for their own reasons so why do people have to complain and whinge about each other here? Are their minds still functioning like a western busybody who looks over his or her neighbors' fence? Sad sad sad is all I can say.

If you want to be a real teacher and get a real teaching job then ply your trade in the West where the big bucks are that's if you really are any good at teaching and you are really qualified. Thailand would be better place if people would leave their Western attitudes at home and start taking the approach of the Thai people and tending to the needs of the students and not their own self-importance.

Barry Parkes


Did the lawyers have real degrees?

Did the lawyers have real degrees?

Master G and A went to jail for having fake degrees! Did their lawyers have real degrees? I mean, those guys don't have criminal records (presumably), and are basically good citizens, why couldn´t they just get probation and credit for time served? Maybe they should have bought law degrees instead. They could have represented themselves, and would have gotten better results from the sound of it. Master A could have displayed his showmanship in the courtroom, Perry Mason style, i.e. "I would like to direct the jury's attention to the evidence, namely my allegedly fake degree. Now I ask you, is that not real? I mean, feel it for yourselves, the quality, the workmanship." Then he could have had his university professors and his mom as witnesses for the defense, along with newspaper clippings and photos of himself at graduation.

The evidence would be compelling until-at the last second- the prosecution calls in Mr P, star witness for the prosecution! You would storm in to the courtroom, and Master A would turn around, in horror, like his worst nightmare just came true as he realizes his fate is sealed. Mr P. could even write a book titled, what else "Master A, Star Witness for the Prosecution in the Thailand Fake Degree Scandal" with a big grinning photo of Mr P. and a scowling Master A, in shackles and chains, and then it would become a made for TV movie, Mr P. would have been set for life.

Seriously, does Mr.P visit them in prison? And presumably, they will be immediately deported upon release, or else they could go work at Sarasas I guess. Since they aren't teachers, maybe they could work at 7-11 or Carrefour, would the court object, since they aren't misrepresenting themselves? Master A could offload milk and rotate the yoghurt, etc, and fill in as a cashier to get more hours. The ultimate question is, why were they so determined to be teachers anyway? They could have been lawyers (but then the fake degree problem comes up again), so why not just do whatever it is they did back home? Perhaps take up a trade, join the postal service, drive a bus, cut grass. I mean it's all honorable work, heck I even moonlighted at a Pad Thai stand until I got my first teaching gig. And Master A speaks Thai, maybe he could be a proofreader or a translator of literature or science textbooks, write speeches for the junta, anything, what was so compelling about teaching?

Maybe they could hire a good immigration lawyer and apply for political asylum or refugee status, they could prove they were fleeing persecution, strife or a civil war in their own country, I mean the options are limitless. The process would take years, in the meantime they would have to be allowed to remain in Thailand until their cases were resolved and they could drive a taxi in the meanwhile under some kind of temporary refugee worker status, or maybe they would have to go on the dole and collect unemployment from the Thai govt., in any case there is always a way!

Ajarn ba ba bor bor


Prove that you're a good teacher

Dear WB it appears it is time for you to, how did you put it? And I quote "qualified folks can pack-up-and-go or shut-up-and-stay ---it is that simple! " Apparently you did not read the latest interview with the MoE in Chaingmai. The MoE does not require 4 year degrees. A teacher's license is not required for foreigners to teach English in Thailand. As for the whining about having student loans, Japan and China both pay about $2,000 a month for their teachers or if you need to make that kind of money, lets see. You could of always stayed in America. Who in their right mind would come to a "developing nation" and expect to earn a salary that would enable them to repay students loans that require American dollars. Once again too much education and not enough common sense.

Here is some information that should bring some hope for those of us who have had very successful careers in America without a 4 year degree. Last week I renewed my one year non-b visa (for the second time). I also renewed my work permit(for the second time). I do not have a teachers license, as it is not required under Thai law. I do not have a 4 year degree, it's not required by Thai law. I do not have a celta/trinity, it is not required by Thai law. Yet, here I am a "legal" teacher in Thailand. So those of you with fake degrees, burn them, you don't need them. Be honest about your education level, show a little bit of self respect.

If you can't get a job in Bangkok without a degree (this is only required by the schools, not the MoE) then move on out to the rural areas and help some people who really need it. If you are a good teacher. If you can get the students speaking English,then it won't matter to the school that you don't have all the certificates hanging above your desk. Work hard be a good teacher. Prove to these people that we are capable of teaching their children.

All of your pervs out there. LEAVE THE CHILDREN ALONE. Seek some professional help with your problems, buy a blow up doll. Anything, just leave the children alone. We foreigners are supposed to be here to help these children NOT EXPLOIT THEM. I think if Thailand would give the death penalty or surgical penis removal of people caught molesting children, it would put an end to this sort of thing. In fact I may write a letter to the government suggesting this sort of action.Finally, enjoy the short vacation that we have now. Take a trip, get refreshed and come back next term and be the best teacher that you can
be. Peace and love to everyone.


What a state to be in

What a state to be in

I have been reading the postbox since it's inception. I find it an interesting read. I enjoy reading the opinions of both the qualified and the not so qualified. I can understand both sides' arguments. An example: At schools in the big cities where the students have a good command of the 4 English skills and are taught by the same native speaker 3 or 4 times a week, I believe the teacher must be well qualified. But for schools in rural areas where a teacher will visit 25 different classes a week and the students are still trying to get a grip on speaking the days of the week, months of the year, basic fruits and vegetables, cannot count in English above 10 and have nearly no reading and writing skills, perhaps the teacher in this school could be less qualified. Now Thailand wants all teachers to have teaching credentials from their country of origin. This is a bit outrageous. Thailand (a developing nation) is equating their education system with that of the world leaders.

Regarding the article from the Pattaya newspaper, where the police chief says "most of these foreigners only have a secondary education", this man fails to understand that in the U.S. students are required to attended school until the 12th grade. Here in Thailand only until the 9th grade. In the U.S. the student must actually pass the exams. Here in Thailand if they don't pass they are given an easier exam. In the U.S. students must actually attend class. Here in Thailand as long as they are registered with the school and pay their fees they will receive their diploma. So once again we have an official of the Thai government equating Thailand's poor education system to that of the leader of the world.

So it boils down to this. If I am a foreigner I must have teaching credentials from my country of origin to teach English in Thailand. If I am a Thai, I only have to have paid my fees to the Teachers School and I can teach English. I don't even have to be able to speak English, I only have to have the credentials. What a sad state for the Thai Education System to be in. Good Luck Thailand

Richard Burgess


The value of our degrees

The value of our degrees

Dear Richard Burgess,
I must have been mistaken; I guess the MoE does not require a four degree.
Many of us "qualified folks" do not what to move to China or any other country for that matter. We would like for our degrees and effort to mean something; I do not believe this is a bad thing. Some of us have to pay those loans, and of course we drool over the prospect of making more cash for our college investments. We do this while competing with the fraudulent teachers who inevitably drive the salaries down, so please give us "formally" educated folks a bit of slack.

Nevertheless, despite your words of discouragement, it is possible to make enough money to pay off college loans here in Thailand, and if the MoE puts a system in place that most countries use (college grads do the teaching), teachers with four degrees, TEFL’s, Masters Degrees and/or formal teacher qualifications from a native-English-speaking-country stand to make more money. The Kingdom can afford it, so please don’t do on about the developing country bit. You may have a point about more rural places. There is perhaps a place for non-degree professionals in those high demand areas, so that any school that wishes to obtain ESL teachers can do so. This would need solid regulation or the freaks that you lashed out at in your last letter will just gain access to the kids again.

Some of us believe that a college degree is a crucial experience for educators in general, especially those who work with children. Many of us that hold a college degree want to make more cash, have better jobs, job-security, and benefits. Many of us college degree people have families, homes, etc and have no intention on leaving the Kingdom. I hope one day our degrees mean something; is that common sense enough for you? I will say that you are correct in the sense that if the MoE never requires a 4 year degree to get paid to teach in the Kingdom (volunteer all you want, any and all!!), then folks like me who are just sitting here licking our chops, hoping for greener pastures, and theoretically safer schools; well, we should just shut-up and deal with it or move to another country. Many of us “professionals” shall be curiously watching to see what changes are installed by the MoE and how they are enforced; China here I come???

WB


A flawed system indeed

A flawed system indeed

After reading the article entitled “What is going on at the MofE in Thailand?’, I felt compelled to say something.
As someone who has visited Thailand on numerous occasions, I recently made a drastic career change and qualified to teach English as a foreign language. I am currently teaching and living with my wife in China. Although it has always been my intention to teach in Thailand, I wanted the opportunity to experience life in another part of Asia first. My wife is also Thai so I guess teaching in Thailand was also inevitable. When I first read some months ago about the Thai governments wish to improve the quality of its foreign teachers and therefore the quality of the teaching, it sounded like a fair and logical idea. However, the new legislation outlined in your article appears to have been cobbled together as one, to address some very separate issues.

For a start, the checks proposed will confirm a teachers experience, qualifications etc. but this in itself will not prevent similar incidents such as the John Karr one unless we are to believe that qualified teachers cannot also be paedophiles. There appears to be no mention of confirming background/ police checks/ or even references. A school can for example receive confirmation that a teacher has taught at a school in their native country but if they do not ask the right questions, like for example if the teacher left or was dismissed, they are not going to get the full picture.

Whilst I can understand the govt. ensuring the level of qualifications for state schools, why must they interfere in the private sector? If a school wishes to advertise that all its teaching staff are degree educated and charge more for that, so be it. Conversely, if a school does not insist on this level and therefore charges students less, let the consumer decide. I can only imagine that many language schools are going to go out of business overnight as teachers unable to provide the necessary documentation are let go. And new teachers are reluctant to teach in Thailand even with the right qualifications after hearing some of the stories of bureaucracy and red tape causing so many unnecessary problems.

I hope that when the dust settles, the govt. can find some middle ground that will protect the students as they should, raise standards as they should, but will also allow genuine teachers with a genuine vocation like myself to teach in their beautiful country.

George Murden


Thai-tanic

Thai-tanic

Thailand is sinking fast. Drowning in its woeful ability to act now, think later - especially at the MOE.
I have been teaching here for some time now. I love it, the kids I teach seem to love my teaching methods. They respond well, interact and enjoy learning English. I love Thailand. I have many Thai friends. I have taken the time to learn Thai, unlike most. I have a wonderful girlfriend, someone I cherish and want to spend the rest of my life with. Everything was perfect - until recently. Simply because I have a fake degree. OK, so I don't have a BA in flower arranging or a PhD in bed testing. I do posses a HND and could go home and complete a top-up degree, which would be another year and about 7,000 GBP. So how do I afford that on 30,000 baht a month? OK, I borrow the money from my family, go home and study for a year. I'd be a 40-year-old sitting with a bunch of kids only slightly older than the ones I am currently teaching. Great. And then what? Come back and teach them all about Design. After all, I would then have a degree in it! No, of course not.

So how does a degree really benefit non-native speaking students? Frankly, it doesn't. What DOES benefit the kids, are native-English speakers, who have good command of written and spoken English and, MORE IMPORTANTLY, the desire to teach - passion, warmth... and a sense of humour! The kids love to have fun. Obviously, non of this matters at the MOE. They are looking for Cambridge and Yale graduates who are willing to teach for 50 pence a year. Yeah, that will happen. I'm sure there are many, many excellent 'teachers' with Master's degrees in lightbulb changing, but there are just as many excellent 'you are no-way teachers' who don't posses these really 'relevant' bits of paper. I'm sure, one day, the police will raid my school and I'll be hurled into the back of a van and escorted to jail, fined and then off to the airport - along with many others who are excellent teachers with families and a real passion for teaching, but have no degree.

I am all for criminal record checks, anything that will keep vermin away from kids. But losing 50% of good teachers simply because they don't posses a degree that doesn't have anything to do with teaching is, well, stupid! Then again, I'm sure that no paedophile, murderer or drug pusher has ever been to university! Just for the record, if you do think that I'm a scumbag who conned his way into teaching with a fake degree, my school told me to go to Kao San Road and get one.

So, come and get me, Mr. Policeman. Ruin my life, my girldfriend's life, and the lives of thousands of families out here. Not to mention the kids, who may have to go without learning English in a non-farang zone.

Monkeyman


Tall poppy syndrome

The tone of the letters here is often such that if you’re qualified and want to teach in Thailand, there’s something wrong with you, because otherwise you’d be elsewhere accumulating capital. This kind of ignores the fact, though, that if you’re a graduate from one of the traditional disciplines (pure science or humanities) or even a graduate from education, then the greater the depth of your reading the less likely you are to be obsessed with wealth, and thus the more likely you are to judge the merits of staying in Thailand on ‘personal happiness/interest value’ criteria. After all, most calls for social justice, and more importantly the theory and research that can back these calls, find their origins in these fields.

Perhaps the observation to be made here, then, is that this type of literature clearly demonstrates the traditional cultural mould that Western thinking occupies? And, of course, why, regardless of whether they’re struggling with the same encumbrances themselves, people from other cultures would be wary of this type of thinking, and why its proponents might subsequently feel disgruntled? While there indubitably are qualified people around who for one iniquitous reason or another are unable to find a job in other places, should we not mention also that there might be a tinge of sourness to these grapes?

Which is not to mention either, of course, that there must be plenty of well-qualified people teaching in Thailand who are there because they are married to Thai people, and have chosen with their partner to stay with that half of the family; we might imagine they too would feel mightily offended by such suggestions. I mean, for the qualified, it is actually more than possible to make a decent living, and for those who have the right to permanence to enjoy a high quality of life in Thailand (hence all the more reason, if you intend to stay, to become well qualified); to include these people in blanket accusations of rock-spidery and criminal behaviour does seem just that little bit harsh.

Anyway, half of the problem with Western society must be that, despite the wondrousness of having made it available to all, there is still such a stigma attached to the desire to become educated.

PS: The staff with whom I worked in Thailand, in a public university, were the most wonderfully educated and enlightened English language teachers (although were somewhat restrained, of course, in respect to the extent to which they could articulate themselves), and certainly taught me more about how to improve my professional practice than I’ve ever learned elsewhere.
Nor do I, against accusations of sycophancy, ever intend to return; one of the best things about Thailand, though, or what truly set it apart from working in the West, was the opportunity it afforded to be surrounded by such people.


Let's unite

Let's unite

There is a lot of bad feeling and difference of opinion between teachers in Thailand - which makes the work place very uncomfortable. There are those who think they are qualified and those who can teach. This divide slows progress. I do not feel bad towards other teachers because they earn more money or they are a better teacher. Because of the law, the B.A holders think all jobs are rightfully theirs. We must show a better example to the children and the Thais. Why would the Thai teachers be arguing and backstabbing in their school?

I have seen degree holders sacked for incompetence and I have seen non degree holders treated like shit. I've seen teachers have money constantly deducted from their wages and their job dangled in front of them. The only people that win are the people who own the school. Teachers shouldn't snitch on each other. I must admit I would be pissed off if an incompetent drunkard snitched on me. If you want to wing it you can, if you like the sound of your own trumpet then that's cool, but at the end of the day if you do not produce the goods you are fooling yourself and if you are the best then why are you working here for this pittance?

Life is easy here and that's why people want to stay. Most teachers here are here to enhance their career and stamp on the teachers below them. Most of us are here because life is good and even though we do not earn as much as we could back home we can easily survive, save and slide through the traffic of life as if it wasn't there.

Thailand is a wonderful place to live and work and most of us just want to live, work and be happy without assholes complaining and judging. To the B.A teachers, you do not have some God given right to all jobs in Thailand and to the wasters who cannot survive unless they are doing some evil to others please get a life and crawl into the holes you come from. Teachers should respect each other as people first - then as teachers - and help each other and maybe then you can learn from each other because I'm sure we all have some good qualities of our teaching to share.

JP Rob


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