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've been reading your posts and those from the other contributors on your site for some time now, and feel that maybe I have something to offer back regarding finding work in Bangkok at the moment. The following is my story of arrival in Bangkok: I arrived in Bangkok at the end of September with bounding enthusiam and my degree and TEFL certificates. Having left England on a quest for a more enjoyable life, I was extremely keen to find a job and get started.
Things however didn't go exactly to plan. I gave myself a week to acclimatize (get drunk and party) before starting my hunt for a teaching position. Of course, the first resources I went to were job message boards. Everyone I had spoken to, and everything I had read led me to believe there would be plenty of jobs to be found during the month of October. Unfortunately this didn't seem to be the case.
I emailed the schools who were advertising and made little headway. By the first week I had been offered two jobs, but neither were particularly attractive, more down to the school and their working conditions rather than salary. Another week passed with another offer from a similar school. A further week passed with nothing. Not a interview, not a job offer, nothing! By the end of that third week I was becoming concerned. I was meeting many teachers (both employed and unemployed and some newbies like me) who were bemoaning the lack of jobs. Their attitude began to make me feel despondent.
I realised I had a choice to make. I couldn't carry on searching for work if I wasn't going to do it with a clear mind and a vision of what I wanted. So I promised myself two more weeks would either get me a job, or force me to look at teaching somewhere else. At the start of my fourth week of searching, I started googling "Bangkok schools" and other keywords and emailed schools directly. In two days I must have sent over 100 emails. Friday rolled on and still nothing. My luck changed on Saturday morning when my present employer phoned me.
I've just completed my first month at this language centre. I waited for a good job rather than accepting one I wouldn't be happy with and I'm very pleased with my decision. I've earned just over 40k this month, and I am very confident my income will rise in the coming months. While the school is owned and run by Thais, the DOS and all the other teachers are native English speakers. The atmosphere is pleasant at its worst and friendly in the staff room.
Why have I written this? I promise it is not to rub job-searching teachers noses in it. I've written this because one simple aspect of finding a job seems to be escaping many of the unemployed teachers I've met in the last two months. You have to want the job. If you write polite emails, eventually you will get an interview. If you get an interview, you have to make the employer feel like you actually want the job (that is obviously assuming that you do really want the job!). If not, someone else will get the work.
There is probably less work out there than before. Everyone seems to be saying that, so I can't disagree. What I can say is that I am not surprised why so many teachers I meet are unemployed. Their attitudes are all wrong. Before I get feedback complaining that not all job-seekers are the same, I do know that. I'm not painting everyone with the same brush, I'm just painting the majority.
I am Canadian born and educated with an Indian background. Despite the fact that I have two degrees (one of which is in English), have a TEFL/TESOL certificate, and have over a year's worth of experience teaching in four different countries, I cannot find a job in Thailand, and have spent two months, sending out over 60 applications.
I stopped attaching my picture to my applications and instantly started receiving more responses. However, in every case, when they inevitably asked for a picture, I was not contacted again, or told that there was no work - by the same organizations that had just posted messages saying they needed teachers...???
In one of the only interviews I've had, the woman interviewing me told me that I have an Indian accent, despite the fact that I have never lived in India, and was born, grew up and educated in Canada!?
Is there a bias towards non-white English teachers in Thailand? Without a doubt, YES!!! I even know of a few Germans, who are obviously not native speakers and who obviously do not have TEFL/TESOL certificates, but have received teaching jobs quite easily.
It is quite obvious that Thailand does not care about the quality of education in this country and is only concerned with bringing as many white people in as possible. Actually, this surprises me very little since I have traveled through Thailand many times and have noticed that in almost everything, Thai people always favour whites and will do anything to look, act, think as white as possible.
Dear Philip, I hope you can to publish this letter in your postbag section for public access.
I have enjoyed reading your website for its informative and helpful advice for years not to mention its useful jobs section. However, I think you are doing a disservice to teachers by allowing your website to be used by institutions that promote age discrimination when they advertise for English teachers.
Surprisingly, a respected top university in Thailand was one of the first to promote this kind of blatant prejudice against teachers. Someone there has decided for some reason that anyone over 50 is braindead and incapable of teaching English to undergraduates! Usually teachers at this age are experts in their profession and are quite capable of working for at least another 10 years. I can understand why a profit orientated language school would prefer to hire cute young studs or pretty gals to entertain their students and get them to keep signing up for another course as they are in the business of edutainment. In developed countries with just labour laws it would be unacceptable for an institute of higher learning to publicly discriminate against older teachers. So why is this happening in Thailand?
An institute of higher learning ought to act as a role model for society by avoiding discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, skin color, (or in Thailand’s case skin complexion!) religion, race or age. It's time Thailand became serious about teaching English. For too long the teaching of English, even at college level, has been tokenistic and pretend. Teachers should be judged by their work record not by their age or how pretty,or “ribroy” they look on the outside. Would a Thai institute of higher learning have employed Professor Albert Einstein if he had applied to work here. His hair may have raised a few eyebrows or he probably would not even have got to the interview stage because he was over 50! Students can actually enjoy studying when they are learning something serious. They don't need to be entertained by bright young things all the time.
If one college decides on 50 as the cut off age this may set a precedent or even worse, other colleges may decide to bring down the age. Actually, recently another third level college has done just this by advertising for teachers between the ages of 23 and 37! Where did they get these magic numbers from? From scratching the bark of a sacred tree? Ajarn.com is a service to help teachers, not to make life more difficult for them. These colleges of higher learning could be persuaded not to be so blatantly ageist in a public forum if their ads were to be politely rejected and hints given as to why, so as to put a stop to this unfair employment practice that makes no logical sense.
Phil's response - Thank you for the letter KD. As a man of 45 years old, I know what it feels like to suddenly realise you just might be on the wrong side of the tracks. However, I'd like to make a few points. Firstly, this 'ageism' thing in ajarn.com job ads is NOT something new. I noticed the trend and wrote an article about this topic over four years ago. Personally, I don't think the trend ever became par for the course. You will always have the odd employer who is looking primarily for the younger teacher but that doesn't mean every employer and job advertiser follows suite. There are still many employers out there who recognise the value of experience and usually they are the ones worth working for. I've always had a saying where teaching jobs in Thailand are concerned - what schools want and what schools get are two entirely different things. I'm willing to bet that your 'respected university' changes its tune when it realises that there probably aren't enough good teachers under fifty years of age applying for the positions. We'll wait and see shall we?
In ajarn.com's defence, your idea of me, little old me, trying to educate these establishments not to be so ageist just won't work. I'm sorry but it won't. Advertisers will simply lose face and stop placing job ads altogether. And of course we haven't got into the issue of how time-consuming it would be to contact these 'rogue advertisers' and actually talk to the target person. Then again, perhaps refusing to post their job ads until the employer sees sense will serve as a form of punishment? But what about the teacher who is aged between 23 and 37 and who is desperately looking for a job? Won't they get punished as well if the job ad doesn't appear at all? Let us know your thoughts.
In March I was offered a job through a teacher placement agency. They offered a great package which included free accommodation, a great placement, a decent salary and 50% insurance. This gave me another opportunity to live and work in Thailand; a country that I love. However, it it turned into a nightmare that I will never forget.
I had visited Thailand once before in October 2008. I did volunteer work for three months and I was desperate to return after several months living back in the UK. I did loads of research to get the right information on the company and I got friends to double check on this research. At the time everything looked fine. I sent off for all the documents I needed to start the job, signed the contract and received the Non-B visa. I was finally ready for a fresh start in Thailand and to continue my work as an English teacher. I booked a one-way flight not knowing when I would be returning.
I arrived in Bangkok a few days prior to the training course to settle in. The agency had already arranged the hotel so I started to relax. A few days later I met the agency staff and the training course commenced. The first day of the training went fine, however on the second day around 2pm, they asked to speak to me in private. At the time I thought this was odd. They sat me down and told me they didn't like me and that they wanted me to leave.
After speaking to some friends, they liased with the agency on my behalf and the company managed to find me a suitable position. However, they were unable to tell me the conditions of work. On arriving at the workplace, I was told that I'd be working 30 minutes a day for 4 days a week and for a salary of just 5000 baht per month. I have been struggling to find work ever since and as a result I am returning home to UK next month. This is an important lesson for me and I hope that others don't make the same mistake.
Phil's comment - Please note that under no circumstances will ajarn.com actually name names in postbox entries of this nature. So the post will be edited accordingly. You have to appreciate that I only have one side of the story and the company concerned rarely / never has the right of reply.
I was recruited in Bangkok to teach at a well-known university in Phuket. Unfortunately, I failed to ask myself an important question. That being, "Why would a university in Phuket come to Bangkok to recruit when Phuket has so many teachers?" The answer, of course, is because no one in Phuket wants to work for them. Failing to realize this proved to be a very costly mistake. My meeting with the school representative involved promises of two incentives. The first was being able to live in an apartment on campus and the second was a guarantee of overtime (work after 15 hours) to make up for the below average salary of 35,000 baht. In Phuket you need at least 40,000 baht to live in the corruption. The school's representative also boasted that many corporate hotel contracts become available so teachers may earn extra money (you find out that it's for pathetic wages).
My investment to move to Phuket involved losing an apartment deposit in Bangkok (7000baht), paying for a non-B visa run to Penang Malaysia (3000 baht) and then losing another apartment deposit to leave Phuket (7000 baht). Then I had to pay another apartment deposit to relocate to Bangkok (7000 baht). Grand total 24,000 baht and it gets worse.
When I arrived at the university, I was told no apartments were available and I had to live off campus at an inflated price. Then during our first teachers meeting the Thai manager of the department (hospitality and tourism) didn't want to pay overtime wages and tried to say that it was the recruiters mistake to offer this (apparently the recruiter was fired and not paid and they didn't tell him he was fired). After three months of working overtime I had not received anything (a loss of 18,000 baht). New grand total of losses: 42,000 baht.It gets worse.
It didn't take long for teachers to get upset as three months had passed and nobody had a contract. Moreover, it began to surface through office tension that this university in Phuket knowingly and willingly hired teachers without documents. This resulted in terrible work relations. One day the Thai manager brought a few hundred 13-page work internship essays in to be marked for 20 baht each (they took 30 minutes to mark one). No one was marking them so he threatened to fire people if they didn't do what he asked. This was enough for me. No contract, no overtime and threats equals no teacher.
Many schools in Phuket operate with a factory worker mentality and it is obvious as they are constantly advertising for teachers. I find it hard to believe that a so-called prestigious university operates without following basic Thai labor laws or MOE standards. This was a very costly lesson for me and I hope no one makes the same mistake.
Derrick the trusting fool
I am an African American woman. I traveled in Thailand and throughout Asia in the early nineties and will be returning to Thailand this month to consider retirement there. I did not teach in Thailand, but I did for many years in Japan and for about six months in Taiwan.
I had lovely experiences and no shortage of employment at all levels at any time. Within two days of my clueless and broke arrival in Taiwan, I had two jobs. I'm certain it did not hurt that I am actually qualified to teach EFL, but I do not believe those hiring me were initially aware of that.
I just want to say that prejudice is everywhere and some whites who traveled before me had definitely tried to pollute the waters and some, I know for certain, actively campaigned against hiring African American teachers. It is sad that some people think the world is so small and life so mean that they have to hog what little joy there is for themselves. I did not find this to be common, but it was not rare either.
Thankfully, to me, the world is wide and full of joy and opportunity. If we want Thais and others who have little experience of African Americans to know us, then we must travel and make our own mark and not bemoan the lack or negativity thereof.
In my experience, it is easy to turn a suspicion into a phantom or a confirmation, depending on what sort of encounters people have with the unknown. I, too, have had the experience of following in the wake of an African American who was well liked and reaped the benefits. I'm sure it could work in the reverse. People are people and tend to generalize there experiences, however, all people are malleable. Thais are nothing if not innately averse to personal misconduct and there is your 'in'; just be normally civil, knowing a bit about their ideas of civility of course, and I believe you should be able to do just fine. I believe it so strongly that I am considering making my life there!
Good luck to all the beautiful young ambassadors of light of whatever color who travel and in doing so, expand their own minds and the minds of others.
The situation of the worlds economy, which is quite dire will be affecting all of us for quite some time. The good news for us here in Asia is that there is a fundamental restructuring the world's economy with a shift of wealth and growth from the West to Asia. The bad news is that this shift will be very painful for everyone. There are reasons for this downturn and why it will continue. Under Bill Clinton the Glass-Stegall Act was repealed which made it possible for investment and savings banks to integrate and thus allowed investment bankers to place high risk bets with peoples savings (their homes). This was the cause of the sub prime crisis.
This Glass Stegall Act was passed during the Great Depression for a good reason and under Clinton it was removed. George W Bush certainly did his part to exacerbate economic problems by signing into law 8 trillion in medicare entitlements and fighting a nonsensical war in Iraq. Barak Obama is continuing and expanding on Bush's "monetizing of the problems" (creation of new money) by printing up trillions of dollars in a doomed effort to stimulate the economy. Europe has followed a similar path as America and is also responsible but the US is the big player. When the dollar fails, as countries around the world realize that it is becoming worthless, the US will be unable to sell its debt and the US will experience hyperinflation radically affecting economies worldwide. Already China is selling off its American debt and just last week confirmed what many have suspected that they were significantly augmenting their gold reserves.
Compounding exponentially the world's economic problems is the prospect of a nuclear armed Pakistan. Under the control of the Taliban oil prices would escalate radically and force the west in to another long protracted expensive war which can never really be won. Also you may want to consider the impact of the western baby boomer generation retiring and what this will mean as social services are stretched beyond their limit. You may think that I am some kind of nut for endorsing such a bleak economic forecast but may I cite the following sources:
PAUL VOLKER-former head of the Federal Reserve and current top economic advisor to Obama is warning of forthcoming economic hardship. "I don't remember any time even during the great depression when things went down so fast so uniformly"
THE IMF-The world economy will shrink for the first time in 60 years in 2009.
THE ECONOMIST- The renowned journal has stated that what we are experiencing now is more akin to a depression than recession. A depression being characterized by a bursting asset bubble, a contraction of credit and falling prices.
GERALAD CELANTE-A well noted trend forecaster offers a more apocalyptic vision which
is quite disturbing. In his career he has correctly predicted Black Monday(the stock market crash of 87), the fall of the Soviet Union, The Asian Financial Crisis of 97, and the Subprime crisis last year. Celente has predicted total economic collapse of the American economy by the end of this year.
PETER SCHIFF AND MARC FABER-both well noted economic trend forecasters with proven track records who although do not go quite as far as Celente in their predictions both are calling for a severe long-term economic downturn.
WARREN BUFFET-"the economy has approached close to the worst case scenario
BARAK OBAMA-When selling his economic recovery package has warned of economic catastrophe if nothing was done. The list of highly qualified people who question if the recovery program can possibly work is unfortunately long and distinguished. Obama himself has offered no guarantees.
These are just a few of the noted watchers of the current crisis who are saying that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better and do not subscribe that a recovery will occur by the end of the year but rather that we are at a turning point in history (exclude Obama on that).
How ill this affect us teachers here in Thailand? My bet is many, not all, will find themselves if they are still teaching in Thailand working for a Thai teachers wage at a public school. I doubt too many private institutions will remain. The school will give you room and board and and the equivalent of a few thousand baht a month. I currently work at a language school and am the only full time employee. I a working with the owner to devise a curriculum where one teacher can teach 3 classes simultaneously using the help of Thai assistants. The good jobs will be more competitive as more people will be willing to relocate to far away Thailand in search of a better life. Having been a teacher in America that is why I came here years ago, I suspect many more will be willing to do the same in the future.
In regard to the sign a new contract every year as a way for Thai business to avoid severence pay is not a case that holds up with a labour board. Most teachers are not willing to look into the foreign workers department at the Thai labour department to find out what they are entitled to by law. If a person works a minimum of 120 days they are entitled to 30 days severence pay. If you sign a resignation letter you will not get a severence and most Thai schools try to trick you into signing a resignation letter.
If Thai business uses the excuse of you are only on a yearly contract than by law they would have to pay severence pay every year as they are terminating contracts yet rehiring teachers that they want to be back for another year. It doesn't hold up in the labour department and most foreign teachers don't know how to pursue severence pay when it is deserved to them.
I have one friend that went through this process as his thai wife knew what he was entitled to. He was a good teacher and he was let go after 6 months by the foreign principle (a drunk with no degree) who preferred to hire no degree teachers like himself. My friend was awarded 90,000 baht and the school had to pay
As an Asian American who has been back to visit Thailand several times, I’ve noticed many changes over the years. Like any big city there is always construction and building work going on. What I definitely like is the Bangkok Mass Transit System (or BTS). I think that part made it so much easier to travel around particularly in the Siam area. However, there are also some negative things: the growing traffic and the recent political unrest to name a few. With the recent recession and bad economic news from around the world, let’s think about a positive change for Bangkok. I think it would be nice to do a B2K. What’s that? I’m suggesting that Bangkok changes its name to Krungthep. This will have many benefits. Thais already call their capital Krungthep. Bangkok is an old name. It’s like calling Thailand, Siam. People understand it, but it sounds more updated saying Krupthep rather than Bangkok. Krungthep sounds much better than Bangkok. In Thai, Krungthep means the city of angels, where as Bangkok translates roughly to fruit grove.
Bangkok also has negative connotations associated with it. In English, unfortunately it can be easily connected to sex, especially if the second syllable is stressed. The name change should help the city move away from the emphasis on what many male tourists come for, and make the city sound more family-oriented. The cost will be many million baths to make the change, but I believe it will be worth it. Also, it has been done before. China changed its capital name from Peking to Beijing. India changed its capital name from Bombay to Mumbai. I’m curious to hear the thoughts of my fellow teachers on this subject. I think it’s a good thing if we make this change. But, feel free to disagree!
I also investigated the possibility of getting severance pay as a previous employer did not renew my contract after three years of service. Unfortunately, as the contract expires every year, I was not entitled to severance pay as my employment wasn't terminated. I, like most teachers, do not have a rolling contract. I went to the department of labour in Lamphun who told me that because the school didn't actually terminate my employment during contract I did not qualify. This is why schools don't give two year or rolling contracts. In addition, the schools can also increase the hours that you work each year without increasing your salary. Why does the expression "white slave trade" come to mind?
So, if you sign a new contract for a second year with an increase in hours and then you do the absolute minimum of work possible to compensate, they school won't sack you because they would rather keep you as a loafer than pay you for not being there. The moral of the story is: if you are in a job/school that you don't like and find it impossible to leave/get another job at the end of the contract, then sign for another year and do as little as you like. Either way, you'll get paid for doing nothing.
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