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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Make sure to get that contract

Make sure to get that contract

I am from Canada, and I have been teaching here for 6 years part time. Most of the time my contracts are there, everything is great and work is fine. I just arrived to start my teaching time here in Thailand and was offered a 5-week intensive training contract in Trang. My specialty is hospitality. The intensive program was in Hospitality Training at the big resort outside Trang.

The school offered me the job over the phone and by email. We talked several times and I felt good about it. They asked me to get to Trang ASAP, so I bought a train ticket with no offer to help with the cost. Then the school said oh, you need to fly here please. I said the ticket was expensive, so they offered to pay half. But didnt mention that I would lose half the cost for the train ticket. I arrived 5 days after accepting the job. The school was to source or arrange for an apartment. When I arrive there is nothing set up, the whole day is spent looking for an apartment for 5 weeks, the school seems annoyed that I would like to have a fridge in the apartment as nowhere seems to offer a fridge. I finally settle on buying a cold box. I pay for 1 month plus deposit. I feel a bit put off that they didnt offer to pay for the apartment if I fulfilled the contract...Oh the contract...Still didnt sign anything, still going on we do in Canada, because people dont rip you off in the work environment. The wages were discussed, hourly and for the total program. But when I calculated it, the wages were much less then what I was being told. I was feeling this HAD to be dealt with. So when the Thai boss was alone I showed her the calculation and said this is 250 baht per hour by your way, not 350 baht an hour...oh, she said..yes, well the school has added more people and were losing money on the contract..its okay you work for 250? I said no, not really, you promised 350 several times and in BKK before I left, now I am here its not fair you change the wage. I said you should honour the original agreement. She thought about it a bit and said okay.

The next day she gave me the contract to be signed, it was very unclear about hours of work, details of the teaching schedule and very one sided. All the clauses were about things not done by the teacher, like not going to work, or swearing in class, but nothing about the school not giving me materials to teach, or the school witholding salary..etc. I felt uneasy about one particular read that if for any reason, any reason at all that the client cancelled the contract, so would my agreed contract for 5 weeks pay also be cancelled.

I meant to bring it up, but then things got faster and faster and the school had clearly stated they would provide the lesson plans, not me. On Sunday night at 8 pm I am told they didnt make a lesson plan and did I have any ideas? Tomorrow is the first day of the program, the first day to impress the client, and the school has done absolutely nothing..again..strange feeling...I pull together some ideas and try to get a good rest, I am teaching the entire day from 9 am to 5 pm.

I arrive at the school with the husband of the Thai who is from England, I am from Canada. We do have differences in our speech. The students are slow to arrive and I only have 5 out of 20 students. I am starting a warm up with greetings. The husband's boss starts rolling his eyes and shaking his head as he observes me. This was what he said he was doing for the day...observing my teaching to offer support or changes at the end of the day..I feel disrupted everytime I look over his way, he is showing disapproval all the time.. I have only been there 20 minutes. Next thing, he gets up and takes problem, I dont me what you would like..BUT the part that gets me is he teaches the students to say:

What duh yuh do?...Not...What do you do?...he tells the students there is no need to pronounce everyword..just say the sentence quickly and people will understand?

Really?...The second class starts and I begin the warm up again, students are shy, afraid, not ready and I like them to warm up with English greetings and feel relaxed and ready to learn. This time the husband comes up and starts to tell me in front of the entire class that I am doing a very poor job and to stop the lesson right now and go to a work sheet. I refused. I told him the lesson was a 2 minute warm up and the students could finish first and we would go to the worksheet next. Then the husband said, well I think your finished right now...and I said no, I will finish the class and then you can take over or do what you want. He said fine, your fired.

So I am now with an apartment rented for one month, no income, no proper discussion about anything, just paid to come all the way here, didnt sign the contract or ask for one first in Bangkok, but came here on faith, only to be fired within 2 hours of the first day..and you know what happened??? They fired me, because the client demanded they find a hospitality NES, they did, and then fired me, so they could say that they would teach the course and pocket the whole contract themselves..the whole thing was just a big fat lie and I was the dumb one for not getting the contract dealt once again teachers...get the contract first.


Why Thailand is not ready to upgrade to English

It really isn't ready.

And the problem is two-fold and because of the levels that I teach at, I can see where the problems lay. I teach first to fourth grade.

Firstly there are MoE budgets and the policing of native speaker teachers and the constant changing of goal posts for what is a relatively small salary. How about a clear mandate on what is supposed to be taught and in what flavour of English? It seems far more important to me than sitting a Thai culture course and having to travel to Bangkok to get a teachers license. Then there's the almost total absence of phonics and basic letter writing in kindergarten. Those years are largely wasted. More than 70% of the English language can be read and pronounced using phonics, but the kids here are largely taught whole word recognition.

This means that first grade gets hit straight away because so much of what should have taken place in kindergarten has to be squeezed into each term. 50+ class sizes with 50 minute periods also make it nigh on impossible for one-to-one verbal interaction and this means that rather than learning English, students learn 'about' it. Lots of students per class equals lots of papers to mark which equals gap fills and multiple choice tests because they're easier to mark.

So, we skip happily through first, second and third grade, without any of the students being able to produce free form language of their own, verbal or written, and only having the ability to answer basic yes or no questions. They might be competent with notebooks, workbooks and worksheets, but they're still not actively using any of the language, beyond funny and cool words like Mr. Bean and Ben 10.

And then they hit fourth grade where past, present and future tenses are suddenly introduced and it leaves at least 50% of them dead in the water. Fourth grade should really be a two year course, with half of it focused entirely on listening and speaking.

I've also taught fifth and sixth grade where the English becomes even more complex and impossible to use in active conversation. And then they move on up to their teenage years where they get the A to Z of English grammar day in, day out. How incredibly dull and boring it must be for them. And again, they're not learning English, they're learning 'about' it.

And the end result of all of this? A noticeable percentage of Thais who can get the gist of what you are saying but cannot reply in kind, beyond yes, no or don't know.

Mr Oh, Thailand

Food By Phone

Food By Phone

Hey fellow teachers/ajarns! Check it out. First of all one and a half hours for delivery at 200 Baht delivery charge!!! Yes I do live what they consider the Thonburi side of the river. I live near The Mall Bangkae. Umm! It took me about 45-60 minutes to travel to the old Immigration office during rush hour. Then the first lady couldn't speak English so she had to put me on hold until the English speaking Thai woman could take my information and to tell me this is a 200.00 Baht fee for delivery because I live so far away. What is's connection here Phil besides the advertisement fee you are paid? I think I got to run with this one. Cheers!

Phil says "Dear Elvis Presley (I'm so glad to hear you are alive) Firstly, Food By Phone doesn't pay me a penny for advertising on the ajarn site. I give them a few free impressions ads because they very kindly sponsor a monthly competition where someone can win a 1,000 baht gift voucher to spend at a nice Sukhumwit restaurant. It's an exchange agreement. I personally make absolutely nothing on the deal. But a lucky ajarn reader (perhaps even a teacher) does get to enjoy a nice meal and a night out I suppose. I don't wish to sound disrespectful, but Food By Phone's target market is undoubtedly middle income and higher income expats living in the Sukhumwit Road area who come home from a hard day at the office, and don't fancy eating another microwave meal as they gaze at that wonderful skyline from the balcony of their 27th floor luxury condo. So they pick up the phone and have a nice Indian curry delivered or maybe something Mexican or something Japanese. I would guess that FBP are not keen on having one of their delivery boys tied up for an hour plus as they battle their way over to Bang Khae and back with a chicken masala and a couple of popadoms. It just doesn't make good business sense. Perhaps the 200 baht is to 'put people off. In your case, it sounds as if it worked. Philip has left the building"

Elvis Presley

Heads up on the 90-day "yes, I'm still here' form

I could never quite figure it out. They give me a one-year visa, and then tell me to come back every 90 days to confirm I am still here. One of the mysteries of the Land of Smiles, I guess. But my 4th 90-day slip runs out about a week ahead of my year-long visa. Last year the secretary phoned the visa office and asked if it would be ok to let it ride for the extra week until I came to do the visa, and they said fine, and no problems later. This year we did the same thing. And then when we showed up for the new visa, and gave them the 90-day renewal form, they got all huffy about the law is the law - and nailed me for 2000 baht because it was about a week late. I've also been tagged 600 baht per for my last couple of Amazon parcels - maybe there's a new 'steal from the farangs at every opportunity' drive going on - just a heads up to be sure to dot your i's and like that if you're thinking of letting a 90-dayer go for a few days.

Dave Patterson

Contract headaches

This is a real story. I have two and half years experience teaching in Thailand. I took a contract in good faith through an agency in Songkhla. Postion English Teacher, 11 month contract, 32,000Baht per month. Sounds fair. Start teaching May 17th. Workers from the agency come to the school to sign a contract and copies of my paperwork to enable processing of work permit and Non-immigrant B visa. I then completed my one month probation. I enquire as to when my visa and work permit will be ready. Soon I was told. I then got E-mails from the agency asking for all paperwork from teachers. I contacted the office and my paperwork was fine. July passes but still no word on the visa and work permit.

I had a current Non-B up to the 8th August. I got a note from the agency. We will complete your Visa/WP on Wed 4th Aug, Please contact the office to confirm availability. I did so numerous times, only to be told I needed to speak with the Thai manager. She did not answer my calls. Morning of Aug 4th still no word. I sent an SMS at 9:20am that morning informing that they would complete the paperwork on Fri 6th Aug. After completing my classes that morning I arrived at the office of the agency. I got a phone call from manager, "Don't tell the Work Permit staff that you work for this agency or this school, you must say you work for this school". Hmmm sounded a bit odd. I got to the work permit office to recieve a WP until the end of Sept, not March 2011 as agreed on my English contract.

I enquire as to where my Thai contract is. The agency had only made a Thai contract until the end of Sept. To top things off I was not being paid until the 3rd of each month also with 1400Baht being deducted for tax and social security. (I pay for) This month September I wait until the 3rd to be paid. No money. No phone call no SMS,but an E-Mail sent at 1pm that day stating that we won't be paying you until we have your assessments. Hmmm.... semester ends at the end of September, not August. I had completed them anyway and had to wait until the 7th to be paid, with 6,000+Baht deducted without any explanation. I am still waiting for the explanation and for all money to be returned to me.

At the end of the day, if you are not given a Thail contract say within two weeks to one month of commencing work, then leave your job. Be warned! I have numerous E-Mails to confirm the above. I am still waiting to be paid and for my work reference.

Ajarn Andrew

Ads for low paying schools

Ads for low paying schools

I agree with Phil (Postbox 14th September) Let the low paying schools advertise that they are cheap and only care for profit above your needs. This way you know who they are. Make a list and keep this list near your heart. I have had some really bad experiences with some privates here and I learned a lot about them. Also, be sure when you ask about the pay, learn how they figure out the day rate. Most will also add in Saturday and Sunday when they get ready to pro rate you. My school figures 30 day months when you in fact by contract, only work a maximum of 22 hours. This will keep the rates per day lower if you get ready to leave before pay day or work a few non-contract jobs at 'day rate'. So figure the time you are required to be on site. Usually 8 times 22 for a total of 176hours. Divide 60,000 by 176 and you get just a little over 340 baht an hour. If I made 500 baht an hour I would make 88,000 baht a month. I am not a math teacher so I appologize if I am off, but you get the message.


I worked for 50 baht an hour

Amazing Thailand. Last year (2009) I was teaching at an aviation college, teaching aviation engineering, maths, physics, and advanced technical english (all in English) and I was supplying my own teaching aids and precision equipment to adult Thai students who wanted to be involved in aviation in Thailand.
At the time I was being paid per month, well below the standard rate, and I asked for a raise and he offered me an extra 2,000 baht a month. And if I worked overtime he would pay me 50 bt an hour. But get this - when I asked for extra money, he looked at me in disgust and commented "the average thai man gets 6000 a month". So I politely resigned on the spot, and now he has a Thai man teaching what I was teaching, and probably for 6000 baht a month.


300 baht an hour is daylight robbery?

Regarding "Say no to schools paying low rates" (Postbox 14th September) A quick and different take on this is that if you teach five hrs a day at 300B an hour that's 1,500 baht a day. Which is 30,000 a month. Isn't that what a lot of people work for anyway? I know that you probably wont teach five hours a day five days a week but the principle is the same. Very few teachers are actually earning 500B an hour for each hour they are at work, as it would mean they earn about 80,000 a month! Wait up, yeah I'm calling for a union to be set up with demands for an hourly minimum wage!!

James Phillips

Say no to schools paying low rates

Say no to schools paying low rates

I see ads on here from the companies hiring at ESL language centers and test preparation centers for IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC and SAT's etc but some companies (too many) are stating 200 baht per hour as the pay rate. It costs 40 baht to go from Phrakanong BTS to Sala Deang station which is 80 baht return. Yes I know you can buy a card for less.....But my point is for companies to advertise 200 baht an hour on any site for teaching in Bangkok is a joke and insult to professional teachers.

I have lived here for 11 years and remember when the baht was 42 to a 1USD$ and back then the standard pay rate for test prep work (IELTS etc) was 500baht minimum.....every teacher knew that. Now the cost of living is higher and the pay is lower. I think you should not allow companies to advertise on your site unless it is 500baht an hour. 200 baht an hour is an insult.

Phil's response - Thank you for your comments. I agree with you totally that 200 baht an hour is an insult. I think that 300 baht an hour is an insult. I was earning over 300 baht an hour at a language school 15 years ago! Perhaps these school owners will realise that when they can't attract teachers to work for them, they need to re-think their pay structure. But the emphasis is on the word 'perhaps'

Sorry though, but I have no intention of refusing to post job ads because the likes of you and I deem the pay rate to be too low. I sincerely believe that someone, somewhere needs that job - even at 200 baht an hour.

It's easy for us to say "if no one took the job at 200 baht an hour, then they would have to raise their pay rates" but firstly, things rarely seem to work that way here and secondly, perhaps the teacher who works for 200 baht an hour, does so because that's all they can get. I would rather see a teacher earning 200 baht an hour than having no work at all and wondering where the next meal is coming from.

It's really pretty simple. If you think the pay is too low - then don't apply. We all have that freedom of choice.


Catholic schoolteacher caught caning students

Permitted, should teachers be permitted to throw objects at their students? Should teachers be allowed to cane their students? Well, I hope you're like me and say 100% NO WAY! It does look like some Thai teachers may disagree with me on this because two Thai teachers (both teaching in Nakhon Ratchasima) were both caught within a week doing exactly this. The female teacher was caught throwing a whiteboard eraser at a student, hitting him in the eye. The second, which is more serious was an unqualified male Thai teacher caught on video caning about 40 students. I can only hope that these teachers and any other teachers will always receive the maximum penalty allowed by law if found guility. This is my sincere honest opinion for every teacher on this Earth. No exceptions. Please look at the video on Youtube.

Donald Patnaude

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