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.
When governments make laws that involve education it is done in the best interests of the people. Most countries have laws that regulate the number of students in a classroom. Unless one is in university, modern countries have a class size of no more than 25 students in order that each student may recieve adequate attention and that teachers may get to know their students.
Thai schools which have class sizes of fifty students are operating a model of education run like a factory. Many of these so called good schools use the front or face of a private religious organization in order to justify charging high fees and are, in fact, not run like the Western model they are claiming to represent. One organization I know of allows student to fail on a regular basis and charges penalty fees to the parents. This results in many students who get high school certificates but are not prepared for university entrance exams and have to accept entrance into low prestige universities.
In classrooms of fifty students many are lazy and choose to copy others work. Factory model schools put pressure on teachers to let students hand in very late work or redo exams many times until they get a passing grade. If teachers do not do these things then they are fired or run off by parents who care about nothing other than what their kid wants. I have even seen one spoiled high school brat threaten a teacher with a pair of scissors because he could not pass his exams--nothing was done to the student.
Many kids learn how to do nothing original, copy others work and get what hard working students get yet many say this is a country of merit. Basically, the factory school model of so many Thai schools socializes students into learning how to do the wrong thing and expecting rewards for doing it. Then the kids grow up to be adults who do the same thing and people wonder why corruption is very prevalent in Thai society when it is learned right in the school system.
If there is anything that prevents or slows modernization it is corruption and the many have to suffer because of the few who choose to not live by honest principles--calling something a compromise instead of looking at it for what it truly is does not make a person a good member of society.
I find it very ironic that many of the religious schools in Thailand do not do the right thing and produce many students who are "learned useless" and without moral character. Parents must be very disappointed when they use their power and family name to get a son a good position in society when he is incapable of making a sound decision.
In the worst case scenario students get government scholarships to study overseas and within the first week realize that they are incapable of taking a note in class and have no clue what information in the lectures are important.
Ultimately, they come back to Thailand and feel betrayed by the Thai system that told them they were good enough when in fact they were not prepared for the overseas challenges.
What about those who graduate and stay in Thailand? Are they prepared for the challenges of their own country?
With the amount of problems that regularly occur in the country I would have to say that the future looks very predictable--the schools make lots of money and the students end up disappointed or like many products from Thai factories they look good but don't work well.
To get freedom from something you need freedom to something--this is the beginning of educational reform.
The word expectation is very strong. When expectations are not met we are often disappointed. Assumptions tend to involve common sense and seem to be less harmful to us. Or are they?
1. Foreign Assumption: If I sign a contract it will be honored.
Thai Assumption: We will do what we want now that we got you here. Maybe we will have honor.
2. Foreign Assumption: Those who have power are concerned with education for young people.
Thai Assumption: Why benefit a country or people when you and your buddies are making lots of money? Besides, your kids will get your job courtesy of our corrupt network.
3. Foreign Assumption: Schools value knowledge and expect you to contribute yours.
Thai Assumption: We don't care just put on the factory uniform. You’re lucky it's a shirt and tie.
4. Foreign Assumption: In a very hot country you can drink water in class as you are speaking a lot.
Thai Assumption: You'll be fired for drinking water in class and no food allowed in the staff room.
5. Foreign Assumption: You will get your bonus and have a job next year as you honored a contract.
Thai Assumption: We don't care how long you have been here. We can pay less as you have too many years. We invented a new rule to not pay your bonus it’s called subject to change at any time. Get a lawyer!
6. Foreign Assumption: People you work with will be professional and not interfere with your life.
Thai Assumption: Professionals have degrees. If we can hire whitey for less, get away with it and create fear to control then that's all that matters...profit, profit, profit.
7. Foreign Assumption: Merit is emphasized in a country of merit.
Thai Assumption: Ha ha ha ha. Family name and money is first. Who cares if a kid's lazy and dumb? More money for penalty fees. So we lost a poor intelligent student...no biggie.
8. Foreign Assumption: Honesty is a part of the school process—especially religious schools.
Thai Assumption: Honesty doesn’t pay the bills or allow for expansion—we need to build another school.
9. Foreign Assumption: Accepting corruption means you are not corrupt.
Wrong Assumption: Real teachers cannot do the wrong thing for long it goes against our code.
I came to Thailand as I had friends from my college years who traveled through Asia. They all enjoyed Thailand, however, none of them worked here.
I think it would be safe to assume that if a single teacher wants to save money and do what is best for the future than Thailand is not the country to work in. Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Korea and the Middle East seem to have a better idea of labor relations and the rewards are much better.
The common Thai practice of ignoring corruption or the attitude of calling it a compromise is really quite unbecoming of the culture and nothing to be proud of. If people with power do nothing about corruption then they are no better than the corrupt. The sad thing is that young people are learning corruption in certain school systems that have no accountability for the youth and characters that they are developing.
It may be safe to say that any assumptions in Thailand are probably not a good thing to have.
I have been teaching as a volunteer at a government run elementary school officially since last year, unofficially since two and half years. My work permission was excepted at the employment office a year ago and with a trip to Lao I got a non immigrant B visa which was extended for one year when I returned. I was told then by the admin staff at the school that I would need to do a course to get a teachers permit. What this is I don't really know, but anyway the teacher who did this paper work for the visa extension last year retired six months ago and the new admin person who was meant to look after my paper work fell sick which kept him away from the school for two months.
Meanwhile the paperwork mounted up and my papers got forgotten. The time came for my visa to be extended and I still hadn’t done anything. So last week the immigration refused to extend my visa and I was forced to take another trip to Lao and apply for another 90 day non immigrant visa. Now that I'm back and the clock is ticking I have another problem and that it is the holiday period and the administration naturally have no interest in coming back to school to complete the work. and I'm unable to do much myself as I can't read or speak Thai.
While I was trying my best to sort things out during the holidays I came across one of your feeds, which read; How do I stay working as a teacher here for longer than two years? I presume you are talking about the two-year waiver that the TCT (Teachers Council of Thailand) granted teachers that were not qualified enough to apply for a teachers license but could show they were making the effort to actually get qualified. Well, for many teachers - especially those who have done nothing in the past two years - the two-year period is up. In many cases though, employers have been successful in getting a second extension to the waiver agreement (or so I’m led to believe) but other employers have been knocked back and teachers now face losing their jobs.
As with so many rules and regulations in Thailand - the colour is grey!
I recently traveled a considerable distance to attend an interview for a position at an International school in the far north of Thailand.
All went swimmingly until I mentioned that I was Buddhist. After the interview the Foreign head teacher informed me that being Buddhist had raised a "red flag" with the christian owner. At no time had the school advertised for non buddhists.I didn't get the job, not that I would have taken it after such a display of religious intolerance. I guess its got to be a first. Discrimination in a Buddhist country on the grounds of being Buddhist. Only in Thailand!!!
As a matter of interest, is religious discrimination covered by any Thai statute?
In answer to Renee and the other ladies who have written in to the Postbox - all it takes is a little bit of organisation. Quite a number of years ago, we used to have an ajarn.com teachers' evening at The Londoner on Sukhumwit Road and they were very popular. I've been toying with the idea recently of re-organising such an event on perhaps a fortnightly or monthly basis. I think in these uncertain times, there are even more reasons for teachers to get together in an informal atmosphere and share information. Whether it's a ladies only event or open to all is neither here nor there. Female teachers would hopefully turn up in droves and naturally gravitate towards each other. It would be just nice to make a few new friends I guess. The first thing you need of course is a venue and there's never going to be a shortage of offers from restaurants or bars looking to fill the place early in the week. It also needs to be somewhere that's easy to get to for everybody. So if anyone has any suggestions on a venue, then I would happily talk to the owner or manager and I can give 'a teachers evening' all the publicity it needs on the ajarn website.
I have been approached before by that Mexican restaurant near the mouth of Sukhumwit 33, and indeed they started to promote a teachers evening. I never went though and I'm not sure if it was a success or not.
In response to both "Good Women are Hard to Find" and "Where are all the Good People?" I know what both of you mean exactly.
I have been working in Thailand for over 7 years now and yes, it is sad to say, I have never really made any female friends at all. Sure, there are a few that I work with, but they are in their early 20s and only interested in going out to Khao San or wherever and partying it up every night. Needless to say, that is not my scene.
So - for all the "normal" foreign females out there who just want to get together for coffee, shopping, a few drinks, a movie, etc. - how do we meet each other? Where do you find women that are over the partying-every-night-stage, but too young for the my-husband-has-a-Thai-girlfriend stage?
I am writing in response to the letter posted by Justice for Chalkies.
Every person working in Thailand, who receives money for their labour, have the right to labour protection. If you are a Thai or foreigner, a doctor or a street sweeper, employed legally or illegally. You have rights under the Labour Protection Act of 1998 to fair working conditions, working hours, rate of pay, holiday, severance pay and so on.
However this is not true if you are a teacher or principal - foreign or Thai, working as a teacher at a Thai Private school. You are specifically excluded from the Labour protection Act, as from January 2009. And it appears there is no law in place that protects your rights as an employee.
The implication of this is immense.
Effectively it means that a private school can do whatever they like, provided that it does not violate the conditions of a signed contract. For example. If a contract states that the school will deduct xxx baht if you are late a few times, or for leaving your aircon running overnight, they are in their rights to deduct this money - even if it is strictly prohibited under existing Thai Labour Law. Even though it would be unlawful if any employer in the Kingdom deducted money from their employees paycheck to impose a fine, its fine to do so if you are private school.
It also means that they can hire and fire you at will, and do not need to give you a reason to terminate you on the spot. If the contract states that you work say 10 hours a day, or 12, and you have to work 6 days a week, or 7 without a break, and you signed it, you are bound by it.
It also means that you have no right to legal recourse if you are on the receiving end of any unfair labour practice. You would also not have any claim to severance pay. So if you have worked for a school, regardless of whether it is on a rolling, or fixed contract, you will have no right to severance, no matter how long you have worked for them.
This has immense implications on the powers a private school has over its teachers. It implies that they have carte blanche on just about anything, and as a teacher, you have even less rights than the illegal/legal burmese worker that has been hired to clean your classroom.
Effectively it leaves a glaring hole in Thai labour Law, one which would need to be challenged in a Supreme Court.
I am not sure how an amendment like this got passed by the parliament , without anyone working for a Private Thai School not raising the alarm on waiving their most basic right as a worker in the process.
It is utterly demoralizing that this amendment gives free reign to private schools to use and abuse professionals at their will.
It will be interesting to see if, and when, someone wakes up and sets right this appalling oversight which effectively gives an illegal labourer in the Kingdom more rights than a Thai citizen.
No Justice to the Chalkies
Well, I had hoped to bring some good news to the foreign teachers of Thailand, but alas it is not to be. In fact, it is very bad.
Our case went down like the Titanic today. We had our labor law book and even the attorney that wrote the book. We had done our research and were trying to get ready to petition the school for further damages when we pulled the school registration and then the bomb went off.
I cannot address the issue of severence other than if the school is private it is up to the kindness in their hearts on this matter. But they have no law to force them to give out severance pay. However, public or for-profit schools are forced to pay. I did not ask about the international schools.
Several of us from a well know private school went to file a class action against the acts committed against us, ie..unfair dismissal, failure to notify, failure to abide by the Labor Protection Act, failure to follow contractual disciplinary guidelines, and also severence pay. What we found out was as follows.
For the rights of teachers at private schools. You have none. PERIOD. We just left our attorney and it has been shown that private schools are above all Thai laws. In fact, there is no law to regulate them. The only thing they must go by is their contract with the teacher. That is correct....They do not fall under any law or provision of the Thai Labor Protection Act. They are exempt.
It has now been shown without a doubt that the school owners have found a way to avoid paying benefits, severences, or exercising any form of labor rights for its employees while they get richer.
If you as a teacher work for a private school you are to expect nothing more than the contract they give you. So buyer beware......They can terminate at will, work as they chose, offer or not offer what they want and you have no recourse under Thai Labor Law. If you do not believe me you can go to a reputable lawyer of which we did and he/she will show you the law. And before you ask, "Yes, the Thai Supreme Court upheld this right to the private school".
It is simply amazing that the Thai government will not protect even it's own Thai citizens from the type of neglect and abuse from owners that have chosen to get around the labor and social protection laws to make themselves richer.
If you are working in Thailand or planning on coming to Thailand to teach, you need to be aware that you have not one single right under Thai Labor Protection Act if you work for a private school and they know this. They exploit this and the Thai government support it. Go elsewhere if you can. We are all leaving this great land and recommend it to no one except for a vacation.
schools that are not private or non-profit are accountable to the laws. If you have a renew letter or intent to renew a contract the contract is not viewed as a fixed term but a continuous contract. All laws apply to any other schools not in the above category. If our school were not private we were to be awarded seven months total pay plus our final 2 months and bonus.
We were just dumbfounded that the government would allow this obvious ruling to get around the law. It makes us think a major payoff was committed at a very high level. All in all, our law firm was just great. In fact, because we were dropped dead in the water, the law firm wavered all fees and charged us nothing. That in itself really impressed me.
The key is for teachers not to work for private schools. Nearly all the complaints we have found where teachers did not get paid was from privates and those paid were not privates. The worst schools seem to pay the best salaries just to keep the teachers in line and compliant. I do not have any information on international schools or how they are regulated. If I have to teach here agian, my first question will be are you registered as private or non-profitable? However, I highly suspect I will be leaving Thailand asap. China and Vietnam offer better pay and at least it cannot be any worse.
Justice for Chalkies
I guess the majority of ESL teachers in Thailand regard the Thailand Teacher's Council requirement to either complete a nine month weekend study Graduate Diploma of Teaching, or pass a set of exams (which all the evidence suggests are poorly written, highly subjective and for which the pass rate is pitifully low) as an unwelcome impost.
Nevertheless, for those of us who are committed to Thailand for the mid to long-term for whatever reason, this is a reality we have to deal with. At least two institutions in Bangkok offer a weekend study program leading to a Graduate Diploma of Teaching that fulfils the TCT requirements: Ramkamhaeng and St Theresa's. But nothing has been available for those many of us teaching upcountry.
Recently I inquired whether Ramkamhaeng would be willing to offer their weekend progam in Khon Kaen if there were sufficient numbers. Their response was yes, they will do it if we can find 14 people willing to commit. The price is 66,000 baht which is not chicken feed for those on a teacher's salary, but it is a lot less than St Theresa's program. They will accept payment in two instalments: the first two weeks before the course started (likely early June if numbers are there) and the second payment mid-term. We would probably host the program here at Mahathai.
I have at least three and possibly four teachers at Mahathai Boys School who want to do it. I wonder if there are other teachers out there in the KK province who would be seriously interested. If there are, I invite you to get in touch with me by email email@example.com. Please only do so if you are willing to make the commitment to enrol. General information about the program is available on the Ramkamhaeng website.
Is it true that The Ministry of Education requires teachers attaining the age of 60 to prove their capability of teaching ie ability, health etc.? My current school have said that an application has to be made to The MoE together with references before a contract is issued for the new school year. There is nothing on ajarn.com about this. Is it another nail in the coffin for foreign teachers?
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