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What about a teachers association?

I am very happy to see that many foreign teachers are now becoming aggressive with Thai school compulsive thieving ! Several years ago, I had a conversation with one of my Canadian friends, a Brit and myself. I wanted us to start a Foreign Teachers Association. In which we would retain legal counsel ( on retainer ), have two general meetings per year, and it would be the attorney’s job to act when it’s required. He would also draft up our work contracts. Therefore when one of our members when to a job / interview, and the school liked him or her, they would produce their contract. I loathe the pathetic foreigners who bow before Thai directors such as Thai people do. Look at it this way, if your were at home, and an employer didn’t pay you as per normal, would you not file charges with the Ministry of Labour ? YES you would !

Johnny Kay

Putting an end to the severance pay issue

Putting an end to the severance pay issue

If Thailand gives you a teaching license and a work permit than every teacher has labor rights.
I have met with my lawyer and two letters will be sent to two schools for money I am owed from severance pay as per Thai labor laws. The letters will have to be signed as received and the schools will have seven days to respond to the letters regarding severance pay and 7% interest as the law specifies. If they don't respond the lawyer will take action and it will quickly go to the labor court.

There is a labor law book in English that is available in Thailand but it helps to have a lawyer take action. The process is simple and inexpensive as actually most lawyers don't do this kind of work as Thais just go to a labor office and submit forms themselves. Then a labor inspector will go out to the school and collect the facts. The school will either act to avoid labor court or they will have to face a court which will follow the laws in place. The process doesn't take long as specified in the labor court book.

I will see how long it actually takes. My lawyer is interested and hungry for a victory because he realizes the future work in this area with regard to foreign teachers. If everything works out his name will be included in Part two.

The Dude Abides

A Sad Story

John’s Sad Story

Chapter 1: History
John is a student at big city school. He lives with his father and mother. John’s teacher is Ms. Jones and the head of the department at big city is Mr. James

Chapter 2: The perception
Ms. Jones has been teaching English at big city for several years. Mr James is proud of her because the students always get good grades. This pleases Mr. James and it also pleases John’s father and mother.

Teacher Jones uses text books provided by the Department of Education. Some of the workbooks are new and some have been used. The workbooks come from well respected publishers. There are many examples of vocabulary and grammar. The books are designed so that each student, alone and on his/her own enters answers in the workbook. (This is called the self learning process)

The school system is wonderful. Teacher Jones’ status in the community is high, and she makes sure that all the students pass her course. She is the only one who determines the grades of each student, so it’s easy for her to make sure that everyone passes. The test she gives are multiple choice so they are easy to grade. It doesn’t take much of her time. She also likes it because she can focus on grammar most of the time. Grammar is easy to teach. There is always one correct answer and this is easy for her to explain using the Thai language. Teaching grammar means that she can avoid speaking English most of the time and still teach.

Mr James is pleased with this system too, because he doesn’t have to get involved. When all the students pass, people in the community see him as a good person. If all the students pass, then he is a good departmental head, Big City is a good school and he has many good teachers.

When teacher Jones conducts her English classes, she speaks Thai most of the time. That’s because her English pronunciation is very poor, and she is afraid of teaching her students “poor English”. Some of her students have contact with foreigners and they might laugh at her, so she avoids asking questions in English. But this is a false fear, because she has a big stick and the students know better than to laugh at her. They know they must pretend to understand what she is trying to teach them. And the best way to do this is to say nothing, fall asleep or play with their mobile phones.

Chapter 3: The reality of the situation
Student John was put in a class where the group of students stay together for many years, he has joined a “Group bond” who are his close friends, and that bond may last a lifetime. John makes sure that he does not bring shame to his group bond so he buys a workbook from last year’s student that has already been filled in and shares it amongst his group. If the workbook has been changed, the school system always has some good students in each class that can give him the answers. This is a good because when the teacher asks a question the good student always shouts out the answer first, this is a good thing because the group can then concentrate on doing other more important activities. John has also learned that when the teacher asks him a question directly he doesn’t have to answer the teacher he will first ask another student what the answer is.

Teacher Jones sees the workbooks turned in by her students. It is obvious that some of the workbooks are from last year, because all the exercises are completed. And it is obvious to teacher Jones when one student gets the answer from another student because the wrong answer is identical down to every letter every punctuation mark. It is of little concern to teacher Jones that the answers are “nonsense” English. The main thing is that each student turns in something, right or wrong. After all she is her surrogate mother, and they are her adopted children. She lives in a culture where discipline is avoided, so she is reluctant to scold her “children”.

Teacher Jones sometimes comes up with new ideas for her students, that may help his students understand English better. But if those new ideas mean that the students will no longer use the materials selected by the Department of Education, then she will not do it. Her rejection of the choices made by the Department of Education would be viewed, not in their merits, but as insubordination to higher authority. After all, the executives are higher in status then she is, and she wouldn’t ever consider criticizing their actions.

Chapter 4: the Misperception
John’s mother and father are happy because their son gets good grades. However John’s mother and father also know that he seldom studies. Instead he spends his time playing computer games when he is not visiting his friends. Mother and father know that John copies his homework from other students just like they did when they went to school. It’s called “information sharing”.

Somchais’ mother and father have now decided to “upgrade their status” as well as their sons’ and have decided to enrol John into the English Mini program at Big City. When John takes the performance tests, his scores are low. But that means that there is something wrong with the test, because John is a good student, Teacher Jones is a good person the head of the department is a good person, and John’s mother and father are good people.

After much persuasion John is in the English program. John has already developed a strategy for the English program. Here he will join a new group, the group is his extended family, and he will work hard to help his family members get through their studies, just as they will help him get through with “information sharing”.

John’s new Thai and ferang teachers know John’s system and many go along with it. But “wait” that is not true of all his Thai teachers and ferang teachers who are concerned about the welfare and the future of their students.

Unfortunately John is in one of these classes with a teacher that knows the system and certainly doesn’t agree with it. That’s when John’s fantasy world begins to unravel. John must now learn to learn.

Chapter 5: The conclusion
A dedicated teacher never lies about a student’s grades, it is considered shameful, unethical and punishable by instant dismissal in the western world. The teacher would be charged with unbecoming conduct and blacklisted

Should a student fail his exam, time and a separate classroom should be allocated for a re-test consisting of 2 hrs of study prior to the re-test; this usually takes place during the week after last class or on Saturday mornings.

Should this not be possible then it shows the true character of the Education institute, who are not serious about educating students.

The norm of the student has failed because of a poor teacher, without the proper assessment done, is utter nonsense and encourages a teacher to be unethical and dishonest.

Apso Olivier

Thailand's factory education model producing disappointing results

Thailand's factory education model producing disappointing results

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.

John Weathers

Teaching in Thailand

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 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.

Dude Abides

The color is grey

The color is grey

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!


Unbelievable but true.

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?


Teachers' night

Teachers' night

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 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.

Bangkok Phil

How to win friends?

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?


Labour protection for teachers at private schools

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

Showing 10 Postbox letters interviews out of 727 total

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