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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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


Think outside of the box

Think outside of the box

I have been reading the postbox and I've got to let you know. I have tears in my eyes. Not tears of sadness, tears from laughing so hard. The pictures of the departure lounge at the airport probably is the one that made me laugh the hardest.

So this new law goes into effect. All teachers must have a education degree to be a legal teacher in Thailand. Meaning a work permit and teachers license. OK fine. How many illegal teachers do you think are working in Thailand now? A lot I'm sure. I was one for a year. So we have the new laws, now there won't be any illegal teachers? Ummmmmm. I don't have a degree in education and I can assure you I will still be here.

Yeah, one more thing. I am so sick and tired of listening to those teachers with MA's in education etc. Talking about how great and qualified they are. Having the MA only makes them a good student it doesn't make them a good teacher. As for the man who wrote about grammar and that most of us non education degree holders can't teach it. So what? Is it really necessary for a 8 year old in prathom 2 to be able to dissect a sentence? NOT!!!! Passion for teaching and the ability to make your class exciting and fun for the students is how to teach. Many schools have a teaching program for the teacher to follow.

A question for all of those VERY well qualified teachers with the MA's and CELTA's and Teaching Certification. What are you doing in Thailand working for 40,000 THB when you can be in Japan making 80,000 - 90,000 THB a month or even in Taiwan, China or Vietnam? Oh China and Vietnam are communist countries. Well I think it is safe to say their government is more stable than Thailand's. I think the big reason all of you VERY well qualified teachers are in Thailand working for pennies is because the other Asian countries that pay twice as much as Thailand, all require their teachers to submit finger prints and criminal history verification. Could this be the real reason all of you VERY well qualified teachers are here in Thailand? Who knows, just food for thought. I am here in Thailand because I love teaching. I enjoy helping people to learn English. It is my passion that drives me. If it was the money and bragging rights to all I have accomplished, I would go back to my high profile corporate chef position in South Florida.

So, in closing I will weather out the change in laws even if it means I don't have a work permit and teachers license. OK. I will exit Thailand one time in six months and apply for a 90 tourist visa and then do border runs to Cambodia. Or maybe I will over stay my visa 364 days AGAIN. The MOE will see the error of their ways. When there are only a handful of Native English teachers in Thailand, all demanding salaries that the schools can't pay, and the schools staff their English departments with Filipinos who are excellent teachers with the exception that they can't speak English. I will still be here when the MOE changes the laws once again.

For all of you whiners our there whining about having to leave when the law goes into effect. Get creative, think out side of the box.

Richard Burgess


Humble pie

I have been in dispute with a good friend of mine for a long time about the ability of english teachers. My side is that if you know your grammar and have experience that you are more capable of teaching than someone with a B.A who has no experience. I told him in Thailand that it is just a question of legality. Even though I have a B.A in Civil Engineering I feel this does not give me an advantage unless I am teaching it or it is the favored subject of the student. My friend disagrees and told me that knowing grammar is neither here nor there when it comes to teaching English.

I left him to his own devices and let him learn the hard way. When the job he had been waiting for finally arrived, the one with the big pay and prestige that would allow him to walk the corridors of the elite, he fell flat on his face because when the Director of Studies questioned his abilities, he was tongue-tied and his background let him down (and stubbornness). This was a prime example of degree holders being snobbish and insecure about there abilities. A lot of teachers here aren't insecure about their abilities but only the legality of not having a real degree. If you have a degree in English language then I think you have a great advantage over the ones who don't and could quite easily fill a position of an English teacher even without experience. I think in time the Thai MOE will become the laughing stock of South East Asia for being both ignorant and incompetent.

In the next ten years Thailand will pay the price with India emerging as a superpower and Vietnam who will inevitably take over as the Economic superpower in this region. Gun, bullet foot syndrome. I begin to hear more horror stories than good ones as time goes by, reports that the islands down south are empty are another indication that people are now saying no to Thailand and the teachers are looking elsewhere for a better way of life, more money, more security and a simple bit of hospitality with a genuine smile.

Willem Ward


Let's start failing students

Let's start failing students

After all is said, it is really who you are, what you can achieve, what results you get and acting accordingly in any line of work. If you don't make the sale the you are out and that's how it should be with teaching except that the deal is already done because when it comes to exam time everyone passes. If they start with this kind of educational corruption that takes place at almost every international school that affiliate themselves with overseas and use their name for profitable gain, and stop the everyone passes method then you can have a real evaluation of all your teachers and students who represent the standard of the school they are at. If you are churning out students who cannot speak a word of english then you are quite simply deceiving the paying parents who are your customers. Parents are beginning to ask more questions, they want better results. Schools will hire teachers in desperation to fill the positions to show they are able.

Unfortunately Thais cannot face failure so this means Joe Bloggs and his dog are in with a chance of getting a job. Schools should have their own methods of evaluating for the good of the school and not the good of their pockets. Unknowingly and not realising that if they were to fail students then this would give their school a better name and more custom because the parents would know that they only want successful students who are willing to learn. The cliche that teachers are well respected in this country is what we call absolute b==locks in my country. The children in these school have no discipline, no sense of achievement and only know that their parents will be buying them the new x-box as soon as it is out.

Thai teachers constantly fail to support the falang teachers in most schools because of the jealousy factor which means they do not care about the students education in the least. As long as the pay check gets through who is to care, who is going to ask question coz the MOE certainly won't because they are paid to look the other way. They seem to do it ass half backward here. The Presidents of all the top universities here sit on the government board determining the country's future and education. They bring in the laws to make it difficult to obtain an education at a young age and make it more expensive as you get older.

As Mr.Thaksin said "we should invest our money at the Grassroots level". Now all the big shakers are draining the availability of education from the countryside and making it more exclusive to Bangkok which enables them to raise the fees through the roof. Let us not argue who is the better teacher ESL or B.A, but let us focus on competence of the teacher, school and student. No results - no custom. Create a real standard and a truthful standard and build from the bottom at the grassroots level. For all his faults and allegations of corruption, maybe Mr. Thaksin had it right. When they talk of corruption, we know that one evil will only be replaced by another, its just a case of who is less corrupt. If children are to be educated in this manner then that is how they will act accordingly when are released into the world of reality. They will lose plenty of face if they go to an interview in the west with their degree from a University with everyone passes motto.

JP Robinson


Good morning Vietnam

Good morning Vietnam

How the tables have turned. I don't know about Thailand but I think it is Vietnam that is an exciting place to be. With the coup here causing there to be an unstable government to Vietnam where the government is totally stable because of its communist ruling. I should imagine Vietnam joining the WTO will waken the Thais up economically and show they aren't the big fish in this pond. If people want to address the real problems here then it is simple. The smiles are gone it is now here comes the falang the walking dollar sign , how much can we get if nothing - don't worry another one will be along soon. This is one thing we have to deal with constantly whilst living here. The other is the constant backstabbing from everyone you work with because nobody really knows what they are doing and they are in it for the money.

Then you have the total illogical way of how Thais do everything compared to the falang. You have the drunks, sex fiends and brainless teachers who are here for no other reason than self indulgence which means they are occupying jobs that could be taken by real teachers. You have the pathetically low wages that aren't going to tempt you away from your home comforts at home in your home country. But of the biggest problems this place has are the international schools who pass the children no matter what. If this was to stop then it would be a big step forward. When you are encouraged to do this , this means the school is in it for the money, and this is called a scam. If they were to fail students it would also tell you how good your teacher who you have employed really is and is he good enough to be at your school.

How can you measure progress with the same result? Stop passing failing students and evaluate you teachers by their results. As for the teachers being drunk and sex tourists it not as though you can ask them to stop. Thailand would have to close every bar and massage parlor down to even get close to stopping this problem. The teachers who like a drink , there was a Professor at my University who was constantly on the sauce, this is not just a problem here. It happens everywhere. You cannot simply eradicate this problem. The Thais love a drink more than anyone. Maybe Thailand will look at Vietnam's stability and consider the same path. Let's hope not. I see a lot of bad teachers who cost the real teachers so much ( those with and without degrees ). It is totally up to the schools to evaluate their teachers and who they hire, it is them who cause the problems because they want the cash.

Those schools who pay the MOE to look the other way hold back the progress of the entire educational system of Thailand and that is why the language schools are full on the weekend because the parents realize their children cannot speak an ounce of English by the time they have left school. Start with the fat cats who own these schools and then install a standard exam that every student must take and mark them genuinely. Fail the students who dont' pass, they don't bother because the teachers can't be bothered and then you'll know which are the best schools and who are the best teachers. Truth and honesty breeds integrity which I don't see much of in the schools or anywhere else.

JP Robinson


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