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.
Keeping up with this topic
More and more, English teachers in Thailand are seeing ads saying "Teachers Under 45 Wanted"
No English teacher that has spent any time teaching in Thailand is surprised to see job ads in local newspapers saying "Thai national only. Must be 25 years of age or younger, female and attractive". In Thailand, Discriminatory ads like this are completely acceptable and legal. In the last few years though, more and more job ads for western English teachers are stating "must be under 45 years of age". Age discrimination? Sure it is. But why is this acceptable in Thailand and, if you are an older English teacher over 45 years of age, can you still get a teaching job in Thailand?
Why do Thais discriminate against teachers over 45? - Primarily, teaching English in Thailand is all about 'edutainment', meaning if you teach English in Thailand you must be an entertainer as well as an educator. Thais hate to be bored at any time so English class too has to be 'fun'. If it's not fun, they don't pay attention and consequently don't learn anything. But the prevailing thought in Thailand is, for a teacher to be entertaining and fun, they must be young. Not true, but that's the way Thais think.
Secondly, the retirement age in Thailand is 60 years of age and many middle-class Thais retire well before this, in their late 40s and 50s. When I asked 30-something Thai students when they planned on retiring, most of them said by age 45. Asking why so early, the replies I got were most of them figured they wouldn't live much past 60, so they wanted to enjoy retirement age while they could. I was shocked when I heard most didn't expect or want to live past 60 years of age, but this is often because, in Thailand unlike in the west, many elderly people are in very poor health and younger Thais nowadays don't want to be like that. Thus the discrimination against western teachers older than 45 too. Thais are presuming westerners will be frailer in their 50s and 60s like so many Thais are. (In actual fact, this isn't true about modern middle-class Thais either - it's only that many Thais are still living with the mindset their parents had about age in the 1950s and 60s, and it's difficult to change that).
I'm quick because I am only 49
Hello my dear confused friend Tency Tupper. So I get it now. You are saying forget about all the corrupt governments, politicans and those financial institutions around the world that brought us into this worldwide meltdown recession. It is all my fault by placing an article about useless older people who probably had intention to retire in peace and ________ (well you fill in the blank) is all my fault. These so called offical retirees came here to relax and took some viagra and now probably have a Thai girlfriend, who can be like a grand daughter because of age difference, needs to work to support her habits. Please share with me the name and contact information about a school looking for a teacher who is 65 years old and a former bus driver for 23 years after he was paroled from prison because he needs a job quickly while the supply and demand is so great and that he has so much experience with children. Please note that I never said people shouldn't teach after their 60th birthday. I am saying if someone hasn't stepped into a classroom since their university or high school completion should not at the age of 60 years old come here to Thailand and put their resume online and pretend to be a teacher because this is the last thing this wonderful country needs!
Phil says - this topic of when is a teacher too old for the clssroom is always going to be up for heated debate. But if we are going to continue with the topic, I would like to see some impartial input and opinion rather than contributors taking swipes at each other. That's OK on a discussion forum but the ajarn Postbox is not a discussion forum.
Age does matter as well as experience!
In response to Chris Williams. Well, it does seem like at least one farang may disagree with me on my posting of: How old is too old?. Yes I strongly agree with you on some part of your comment like (the best wine comes in old bottles) and just to mention that my Thai father-in-law is now 72 and he still wakes up at 4:30 just so he can walk and jog about 5km. every morning (he has entered many races and other type of competitions in all 76 provinces) and continues to do so.
Now take a good look at your comment and see if you can figure out what is wrong with it Chris. (It should be a case of pure supply and demand. Look at all the vacancies on Ajarn.com and elsewhere. I know of schools who just want ‘a foreigner’ never mind even qualifications, nationality, TEFL certificates, let alone age, fair hair and blue eyes and you’re in). What demand? I will bet that you have been here for less than 3 years. Because I have been here for almost 9 years and the job market or supply and demand, as you call it, has shrunk about 50% in the last 3 years. Therefore the demand can't even justify your comment.
Also, who wins - the 72-year old experienced athlete teaching English in a Thai school or the students who can be rude and cruel to say it politely? Who wins Chris? Surely all the qualified applicants will not benefit and this will just cause more Thai adults as well as students to look down on foreigners much more than they do now. I do want to say that there are a lot of students who are not cruel and rude and are really trying to achieve the best possible education that they can under a broken system.
Don't be quick to judge
Dear Donald I really don't like people generalizing, especially when it comes to age.
Many of the baby boomers were stuck, economically speaking, taking care of parents and being squeezed by their children, to be left with no retirement funds to speak of. Not to worry, one day you will be there, trust me. So when you offer advise to give any service for free, all I can tell you is that is probably what got us to the state we are in now, giving our time and energy to others for years for free, besides working a day job. I truly am a firm believer in performance evaluations. If a teacher is able to give a class that is creative and effective, then that should be proof enough that they have what it takes.
Many people over the age of 60 are brilliant teachers. Many physicians still practice into their late 70s. After all, wouldn't it be a waste to let all that knowledge go down the bin? I have seen young teachers come in late with glazed eyes and no consideration of the quality of attention their students get the "day after" they partied till the wee hours the "night before". Even worse, I have seen some actually flirt with their students all class long, trying to pass it off as testing conversation skills just because they didn't put in the time to plan their class in advance.
So don't be so quick to judge, and if you can teach do so. If you are any good, you don't need to be intimidated by others with more experience. We are all in this together.
Age doesn't matter
In response to Donald, It should be a case of pure supply and demand. Look at all the vacancies on Ajarn.com and elsewhere. I know of schools who just want 'a foreigner' never mind even qualifications, nationality, TEFL certificates, let alone age, fair hair and blue eyes and you're in. Others insist on 'experience' - this comes with age. I know of some gifted farangs who have changed their former careers for teaching, Yes they 'retired' early and not so early, but their wealth of knowledge in the real world is priceless, at any age.In the Commonwealth games to be held in Scotland this year, a competitor has been selected age 72, his eigth games, Good on him I say. Remember the best wine comes in old bottles.
How old is too old?
Please help me. I need to know!!! How old is too old to be a native English teacher in Thailand? This is really a joke in itself but I'm not laughing. I've actually wanted to start a blog on this subject a while back but had no time to do so until now. Also my motivation is at its peak for this topic because I am a bit disgusted at the age of some retirees posting their resumes and thinking someone wants them to work as a teacher.
Definition of retiree: source: Macmillan Dictionary
Someone who has stopped working because they have reached the age when they are officially too old to work.
Therefore I know that here in Thailand if you ask this question: What is the offical retirement age? Ask 100 people and you will get 100 different answers. Probably the youngest some Thai person will say is 45. The oldest some farang will say is 75. Thai teachers are required to retire at age 60 and I did confirm this with a dozen teachers at the three former Thai government schools that I worked at in the past. In my own honest opinion for what it's worth I strongly disagree with the ages 45 & 75 years old and I strongly support 60 years old as the offical retirement age.
Today I was browsing through the job advertisements on ajarn.com as well as the resumes, competitions (my favorite section) and everything else in between as I do on a daily basis. I found eight resumes that had been posted by teachers with ages between 61 - 71 years old. So yes this bothers me a lot because each one of these (offical retirees) know damn well that firstly they wouldn't apply for a teaching job in their native country over the age 60 and secondly if they did apply, no school system in a native English speaking country would consider their resumes.
If you are over age 60 and you do want to teach then volunteer as that would be a great service to Thai people and Thailand especially in the remote areas of the north. About 5 years ago the so called 45 rule started and just about every other job advertisement would read over 45? then keep on looking (but not these exact words). My thought on that is whoever started, supported or agreed with that as some sort of cut off age - well then you know where you can go!
Concerning plagiarism and copying
I am responding to a letter from Mike concerning cheating, plagiarism, and copying.
That has been a problem here as long as I have been here and long before that. I hate to be the barer of bad news, but every teacher I know of has tried to stop it, including myself, with no success. Only to be labeled as trying to force our western ways on the students. That is the way the heads of schools and Thai teachers got their "education". (sic) So, they are not about to do anything about it. If they couldn't copy good enough to get a good score, money sure would.
I am not one to give advise, but once you accept Thailand's education system the way it is and teach the ones that want to learn,(which are the only ones you can teach anyway), you'll do just fine. In other words, roll with the punches. You'll surely sleep a lot better at night That doesn't make it right I know, but that is the way it is. Welcome to Thailand.
Bangkok Post Articles
Here are some thoughts on two recent Bangkok Post articles. Both articles focused on the lowering of standards within the education industry. The first article was about students having access to the internet and the second article about Thai teachers failing exams or tests in their own subjects.
1. The problem is not access, the problem is the control and dissemination of what is taught and what the student's 'should know'. Critical thinking is of course totally out of the question and in one seminar I taught in Bangkok several years ago to teachers, was told in very strong terms that this was something that did not need to be taught.
2. Even when the Internet is installed, schools block such basic resources such as Wikipedia and Google Images. I recently was asked by a student here to tell her what a 'scale was. When I went to the school's network to show her a picture, I found Google's images function blocked. Wikipedia was also being blocked.
4. When the network was down, I was told 'it was not important' by my Filipino teacher colleague who has a 'Masters Degree' in education.
5. The Thai head of a very large English Program told me that she was too old to use the Internet and email. She of course is responsible for what is taught to these curious minds. As the students get older, their curiosity gets crushed. It is much easier to teach children in Thailand before their teens as the system hasn't totally destroyed their curiosity yet.
6. Every student perceives a computer as a 'game machine'. It is a vicious circle of trying to overcome the prejudices of this with teachers, administrators, parents and students. When new computers are introduced there is no concept or idea as to how to use them. The vast majority of the time they are there for show.
7. If a school of 3,000 students has an Internet connection of over 1 mbps, it is exceptional. One school with 3,500 students and over 400 computers only has a 1 mbps connection (most expensive and 'prestigious' school here) . In my apartment however, and within walling distance of the same school, I have a sustained 7 mbps connection. Guess connectivity and bandwidth is not important but since anything of use is blocked anyway, I can understand this.
8. Social networking sites, blogs, personal web sites, 'tweet' (2009 word of the year), etc., all get blank stares when you try to discuss this with students (even high school juniors and seniors). At least 'Google' (word of the decade) most know...now. Forget trying to use a blog for sharing lessons and knowledge with Thai students and teachers.
9. When I walked into the copy room recently, I was astonished to find a HUGE stack of photocopied material on the components and names of a very old manual typewriter. It wasn't even an electric one! OK, I thought, maybe something you need to know in Burma or Laos where there is no electricity, but here in one of the biggest cities in Thailand? Being taught to the up and coming, upper middle class students? There is a disconnect here to say the least.
10. The problem is not the infrastructure or the students, the PROBLEM IS THE SENIOR TEACHERS (the administrators)! Most are TERRIFIED of new things as they just might have to learn something new to keep up with their students or new teachers (e.g. how many times has the age of the universe changed in the last 20 years according to astronomers?). Sit in a Thai classroom day after day as I do and listen to the lectures. Hour after hour after hour the teachers talk, with no questions ever being asked by a student to any subject being lectured on. But the Thai and Filipino teachers always ask 'do you understand?'. Why don't students ask, 'Why? Answer that question and you are on the way to understanding the problem...
Thailand's teachers fail exams in their own subjects
11. In a very large public school outside Bangkok I was invited to lecture to teachers for a couple of weeks. Having asked many times before I showed up for the material, it of course was never sent. I understood why however when I arrived on the morning to lecture because every single page of the many 100s of pages in the material given to the teachers was in Thai. Not a single exercise or page was in English, and this was for Thai English teachers. (This could be why Thailand has the lowest English Standard in SE Asia.)
12. In the same place there was a student fair where they were showing their projects. One young lad had a project in which he was depicting a 3-D rendition of Yugoslavia as a geography project. When I tried to explain to him in a very kind way that the nation of Yugoslavia in his book had broken apart many years ago and was now a place of many new nations, he pointed out to me that I was wrong because in his book, it showed it as Yugoslavia. The book was of course dated 1955.
What astounded me about this was his unwillingness to verify if I was right or wrong and use the Internet to verify his 'research'. His arrogance and his sureness of being right also bothered me. The project of course was in the show and no other teacher (and I guess also his geography teacher) challenged the project's accuracy.
Forget trying to explain to many that 'Peking' was changed to 'Bejing' 25 years ago...
13. Recently I was told how important it was for the English Program students to read 7 books for the semester and write a book report on each (Considering the average student reads 5 books a year, mostly comic, this was an exceptional goal I thought.). As I started getting the reports in, I noticed that several students had copied the reports of earlier students who had read the same books. When I went back to the department head and informed her of this, the rules immediately changed as 'it was just a writing exercise' now. Of course the students who had worked hard and done the actual work now got their own work downgraded to those who had cheated.Would have liked to know the 'new rules' before I read, corrected and graded 100s of reports on my weekends...
14. No one fails. Excellence is not something that children and young adults are encouraged to achieve by their teachers. It is actually frowned upon if the truth be known.
15. I have taught in Korea. Been everywhere in Vietnam. Taught in Cambodia too. (Germany and the states as well.) The Korean children are light years ahead. Vietnam understands the importance of free, high-speed broadband and education. Everywhere in Cambodia young children can communicate with you in English. Thailand better get on the bandwagon or else cultures and economies such as Vietnam are going to leave the Thais in the dust (Actually they already have.). Combined with political upheaval such as the recent Red Shirts protests and shutting down the 8th largest petrochemical facility in the world at Map Ta Phut, one can only wonder where this country is headed.
Companies have options where they can locate their facilities and who they will employ. Even Japanese companies in Thailand require English knowledge as I have tested many of their employees for their personnel files. Promotion is nearly impossible without it. English for the Japanese manager is the medium of communication as well as for massive European based companies such as Siemens in Germany and Areva in France.
16. I could write pages more, but it has all been said before and nothing will change, even if they do want to spend billions of baht for a 'new breed of teacher'. For those however thinking about teaching in Thailand, do not expect to make a difference or change the 'staus quo'. That is NOT YOUR JOB! It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out why the people that rule the country got their education outside it.
And here also.
I will once again be blasted for writing the above and having an opinion. I will once again hear, "If you don't like it, leave!". (That always solves a problem...)
I will no doubt also hear again "why are you here in Thailand? Why don't you go back to your own country and work' from a perfect stranger (another Thai teacher) while waiting for copies in the copy room.
There are so many problems at so many levels, it appears to be a problem that can't be fixed. Discussion of the issues is out of the question. But that is the way it is designed. Education of the masses is a very dangerous thing. I remember the rise of the labor unions in the US as the 'baby boomers' became educated. This was followed by massive 'civil disobedience' in the 1960s and early 1970s. Thailand is on the same path as America and those that rule the country know this. My guess is we are in for a bumpy road ahead which could be why the military wants a new division of 25,000 men to be established in Chiang Mai. Imagine however what all that money and resources could be used for if it went for education...
Ralph has hit the nail on the head
An excellent post by Ralph Sasser. He's hit the nail on the head with those M6 notebook excerpts.
I would like to add this for what it is worth....In my apartment block are many university students. In the common room, where they are found hard at work revising and completing their homework, I happened to come across two students struggling with an English lesson. I offered to assist. It was my first peek at a university created English test paper and quite frankly it was a disgrace. I wrote down the questions word for word - letter for letter)
Two of the many questions posed (as written up by the university "experts" aka as Thai university lecturers with degrees in English) and I quote.....
"Learnning writing experieences"
1. Write on Wen what intresting action you can hav with wen explloring hill regions.
2. Desciibe under 200 sentences how we can wengo flat altter wheel on carr....(unquote)
Incidentally one of the students advised me that his parents were paying 40k a term for his attendance at the university...along with paying for his apartment and living expenses in Bangkok. Of course he will pass with top marks in English.......money talks.
I recently returned from Yala in Southern Thailand. Whilst there I had the pleasure of spending a day at a local primary/intermediate school which caters for students up to 12 years of age. I asked whether they had an English teaching programme in place as part of their curriculum. I received an enthusiastic reply...yes we have. I was then invited to sit in on a lesson or two. Both the Filipino and Thai "English" teachers who conducted the English programme were obviously very nervous at my presence although I had no intention of taking part nor interfering in the lesson - and didn't.
The English lesson was nothing short of a farce (and I am not and did not take the holier than thou attitude in my general appraisal) For a start the very simple worksheets handed to the 12 year old students were saturated with grammatical and spelling errors...along with this were picture sheets compiled by the teachers showing ten different animals written with the Thai and English description for each of them. From the picture sheets - illiphant (elephant) - kanroo (kangaroo) A picture of a turtle had the description 'frog' underneath it. I asked why the school did not employ an English native speaker and was told "we get our two English teachers (the Filipino and the Thai) for the same price as one farang teacher so this way is better for school"
Better for the school....but certainly not better for the student......money issues again. This was not a government school. The pupils pay 8000 baht per annum each in school fees. In the near future the lack of correct and proper learning of the English language throughout Thailand is going to hit the economy, business, and many walks of Thai life like an out of control steam train.
Unteaching what the Thai teachers have taught
I am responding to a letter dated July 3, 2010 from Apso “Is the writing on the wall for foreign teachers in government schools?”
The writer states he was told by a recruiter, in no uncertain terms, that the MOE isn’t happy with the foreign teachers and that Thai teachers do a very good job of teaching English. He continues to say that the only reason foreign teachers are here in Thailand teaching is because of their accent(s).
Let’s look at the reality. Thai teachers do teach grammar and vocabulary, although I don’t see how considering most can’t even speak a coherent sentence in English. Most of the ones I have worked with in the eight years teaching here in Thailand have a difficult time responding to “Good morning. How are you?”
If the Thai teachers do a “very good” job of teaching English as the recruiter states, why are the test scores low and most students that complete M6 unable to say much more than “Good morning teacher”? Of course there are exceptions, but not many compared to the number of students.
It’s common knowledge that the reason we are here teaching is simply MONEY - as with everything in Thailand. We make the schools and the government too much money for them to get rid of us. I personally do not believe they care about education or if they do, it is very low in the pecking order after Buddha, the temple, sports, competitions, teacher’s day, sports day, etc.
Until the Thai government gets serious about education, Thailand will stay a third world country as it has for many years. The students have no accountability or responsibilities, so they skip classes at will. No one cares or even checks to see where they are. With a “no fail” policy and no discipline policy, what is the incentive for the students to come to class?
The following are some excerpts from a upper level M6 student’s notebook that a Thai teacher wrote, “exseleant work” at the last school I worked in.
Dialog 1 (in part) Laura- What a beautifully day.
Manit- Sure that a good idea
Dialog 2 (in part) John- I go shop and no open
Juila- That to bed
Dialog 3 (in part) Clerk- One monent, I will arrange him
Wangla- Yes, could you tell me what call breakfast ready?
Dialog 4 (in part) Wangla- No, I to go to market with my mather.
Keep in mind that this was an upper level M6 student. Obviously, I think it is clear as to why we are here. Trying to “unteach” what the Thai teachers have taught wrong is one of the most frustrating aspects of teaching here.
So, to hopefully answer Apso’s question, I do not believe that, “The writing is on the wall at the government schools” now or anytime in the near future. This is a money hungry country, but the Thais aren’t stupid enough to get rid of the foreign teachers. We make too much money for them. But, then again, this IS Thailand and anything is possible.
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