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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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.

Chris Williams


How old is too old?

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!

Donald Patnaude


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.

Ralph Sasser


Bangkok Post Articles

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...

Asian Teacher


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.

Peter Batchelor


Unteaching what the Thai teachers have taught

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.

Ralph Sasser


What to do about academic dishonesty, plagiarism, and direct copying?


How do the teachers working in Thailand handle direct copying and obvious plagiarism? I work at the number one university in Thailand and there is no academic honesty policy for a course that teaches almost 5,000 students a year. When I report instances of plagiarism, the issue gets buried. When I request a copy of the academic honesty policy and the plagiarism policy, my requests are dismissed. Is there a happy medium to be achieved between the inherent ethical principles of the English language while teaching in a country that follows the Confucian ideal of "Copy the Master"?
I really think this should be a major section of ajarn.com that all teachers can reference to avoid constant problems.Thank you

Mike


Is the writing on the wall for government school teachers?

Yesterday i was told in no uncertain terms by a director of a teacher agency that the Ministry of Education in Thailand is very disappointed in the performance of foreign teachers. they are considered to be lazy and arrogant. I was told that the only reason that foreign teachers are teaching in Thailand was because of their accent. not because of their grammar skills or teaching ability. I was also told that Thai teachers are quite capable of teaching English without the help of foreigners.

Apso

Advertisements with misleading job titles

Advertisements with misleading job titles

Recently, I applied to an advertisement on your website for a secondary school teaching post. The ad posted on the ajarn site website, stated the school is searching for secondary school teachers.

A few days after I applied, I got a call from the school asking me to come in for an interview. They asked me if I wanted to do a demonstration class of any kind. They gave me the option of doing such a demonstration class in any discipline I wanted (math, science, social studies, to name a few of the choices). At the time, I thought this seemed a little strange since surely they would have had a specific need for a specific kind of teacher rather than every kind of teacher. At any rate, I chose science. So I was to do a demonstration class for 10th grade students for a science class.

The school is not exactly in a centralized, convenient location. Its on the outer-fringes of Bangkok and not near any mass transit routes at all. Therefore, I drove my scooter all the way from Payatai in the middle of downtown to the school; a 1 hour+ trip through dangerous traffic in the heat in the middle of the day.

When I got to the school, I filled out several application forms and an older man, presumably a teacher at the school, copied my degree and TEFL paper. He interviewed me and asked me questions about my resume. Then, after about 30 minutes of detailed interrogation, he announced that actually the school was not hiring for a secondary school teacher at all. Apparently, they only had one position available, and it was teaching kindergarten. As I have neither experience for nor desire to teach kindergarten, I politely refused. Following this, he kept on going as if he hadnt heard me refuse-- he told me the next step would be to see the director, fill out more papers, etc. I reiterated to him at least 3 times that I was not interested and there are many teachers who would rather teach kindergarten but I'm not one of them. He told me the school has trouble finding teachers to teach kindergarten. I asked him why they don't just place an ad for the job they need filled rather than one for a secondary school teacher. He told me, "sorry, they have only one ad-form for all their job postings" (which, as you can see from the ad they posted on your website, is specifically for secondary school teachers.)

I find it rather funny that this school has the idea they can get a difficult-to-fill post filled by advertising for it under false pretenses of another job title... do they actually think we job seekers are dumb enough to just say, "OK, that's fine, even though I wanted to be a rocket scientist, poop scooping will be just fine.."? But at the same time, it's really annoying and for a remotely-located school such as this one, its a real time-waster... Anyway, thanks for reading.

Phil / ajarn.com says - Thank you Nathan for getting in touch and keeping us informed on this matter. I can appreciate the total waste of time and energy involved. If you send me the contact details of the person you dealt with, I will gladly give them a call and see what can be done. At the very least, we need to let them know that this kind of recruitment practice is unacceptable.

Nathan Busch


What Nick is trying to say

Ok, This will be short. I think he is trying to say is stop talking about it and do something about it. Put up or Shut up. If you work for a company that discriminates, then stop working for that company. What if all us White guys stopped working in Thailand, who would they hire?...Yeh, I know... Asians, but you get my point I hope. Ok Nick, thank you for sharing and I will put up. Thanks Adam
(Phil - can we consider this particular topic now closed. Cheers)

Adam (English Teacher, Chaing Mai)

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