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.
Is this lawful?
My boss gave me permission to return to England while my school are currently having to work online from home. I verbally agreed to return to Thailand if the school reopened. He said it looks ‘likely’ the school will reopen 14th June (even though the situation is very serious and there’s no confirmation the school will open). I said I am happy to continue working online from the UK but do not want to confirm returning to Thailand until there is full evidence and confirmation that the school can safely return. He declined my offer of continuing to teach online (despite the fact we have at least 2 weeks left of online teaching) even though it is becoming clearer everyday that things don’t look hopeful for reopening and has instead terminated my contract. We get paid at the end of each month and I have worked up to the 21st May which means I will be owed almost a full months pay on 31st May. However, the school are not going to pay me because I wouldn’t return. Is this lawful?
Native speakers are tops!
When I'm learning a foreign language, I want a native speaking teacher of that language. Native speakers breathe their language 24/7, so it's a native speaker's energy which I the student want for a language parent. That's not to say any native speaker will do; it must be a smart native speaker with many interests who has knowledge of the process involved during language learning.
A reluctance to question the teacher
I've found one of the most challenging aspects of being a new teacher in Thailand is the students' reluctance to ask questions in class. I'm still learning about the complex aspects of Thai culture but it feels like young Thais, teenagers let's say, just don't feel comfortable questioning someone older, especially a teacher. I rarely have this problem with adult learners in fact. Younger students are conditioned to just soak up the information given to them, write it down commit it to memory and then hopefully be able to remember it when test time comes around. I work with foreign teachers who call the Thais stupid but I genuinely think it's because they are scared and don't want to challenge the social norms.
If you're white, you're alright
I am Canadian born and educated with an Indian background. Despite the fact that I have two degrees (one of which is in English), have a TEFL/TESOL certificate, and have over a year's worth of experience teaching in four different countries, I cannot find a job in Thailand, and have spent two months, sending out over 60 applications.
I stopped attaching my picture to my applications and instantly started receiving more responses. However, in every case, when they inevitably asked for a picture, I was not contacted again, or told that there was no work - by the same organizations that had just posted messages saying they needed teachers...???
In one of the only interviews I've had, the woman interviewing me told me that I have an Indian accent, despite the fact that I have never lived in India, and was born, grew up and educated in Canada!?
Is there a bias towards non-white English teachers in Thailand? Without a doubt, YES!!! I even know of a few Germans, who are obviously not native speakers and who obviously do not have TEFL/TESOL certificates, but have received teaching jobs quite easily.
It is quite obvious that Thailand does not care about the quality of education in this country and is only concerned with bringing as many white people in as possible. Actually, this surprises me very little since I have traveled through Thailand many times and have noticed that in almost everything, Thai people always favour whites and will do anything to look, act, think as white as possible.
Teachers are a commodity
Teachers are a commodity in Thailand, like bread, rice and chicken. By treating us like we’re replaceable, they can avoid paying much. The only way I know to counteract this is to focus on every option, even those you may normally not choose. There are more than just schools that need English teachers. There are more countries than Thailand. Universities, language schools, corporate training are a few of the local choices. There are a ton of other countries too that pay the same as Thailand does, many that pay double or triple too. I worked at a public school in Phuket that payed peanuts. They punished me after I left by giving me terrible references, despite me leaving between terms, according to my contract. I enjoyed working at schools, but most often, they don’t understand give and take - only take.
Motivating Thai students to use English
I am a an M5 student in Thai education system. First of all, I would like to express my opinion and my take on the subject of 'Thais speaking English' from my own perspective. It is to be noted that I have always studied in certain renowned schools since Prathom, so there might be something I miss. And I would like to apologize for that in advance.
The main issue occurring in all places is the inability to utilize the language efficiently in all skills (reading, listening, writing, speaking) Even the study I received can be said to have better standards than those in rural areas. Most students are unable to speak or express their sophisticated opinions in English, despite their hours of in-school study and extra lessons.
Why is that so? Because there is no reason we should be able to speak or write fluently since there is no evaluation of such skills in our entrance exam. The understanding of this tragic fact seems to be established among almost all Thai teachers. Students have no ground knowledge and are not accustomed to the language. A lot of my friends still say that they don’t understand what a foreign teacher was saying most of the time.
Most foreign teachers are often disappointed in the education system by our inability to interact with them. But from a student point a view, I can see that most students don’t even care if they can speak English or use English properly as long as they get good grades from the exam.
I think that the most efficient way to change is to adjust evaluation process in schools, improve quality of teachers, and put a little more care into each student, as language has always been a hard thing to be taught. Language itself can be very hard to be taught because Thais don’t use it daily. Encouraging us to love the language and provide us exciting and unconventional ways to study would be really great.
Don't judge a book by its cover
It's really irritating you know when your experience is ignored because of the fact that you are not a native speaker. I have sent so many job applications to international schools and have been ignored because i am not a native speaker. So what if i am not a native speaker? I have taught English to Thai students from M3 to middle aged in a language center and never had any complaints from my colleagues or students. In fact i was appreciated by my students because I delivered the task easier and my instructions were clearer than the other native speakers. Many students are still taking private tuition from me on the weekends and I have seen loads of improvement in their English speaking skills. Being a native speaker is not as important as the experience I have gained in eight years of teaching. I would really appreciate it if we asians are given a chance for an interview before sending our application letter to the trash bin. I really want you to publish my short note on ajarn.com so that we as Asians get a chance to prove our skills and not looks!
Academic research has its place
While acknowledging the majority of stuff published in academic journals is useless, academic/scientific research has a long tradition and is one of the reasons for the dominance of Western cultures around the world and one of the reasons native English speakers can travel around the world and teach their native language.
Academic/scientific research can take a fundamental form where we learn just for the sake of gaining knowledge or in an applied form, the two work together. Without hundreds of years of studying the fundamental nature of electricity, applied researchers would not have found a way to create the devices we are using to communicate right now. Without the centuries of studying viruses the medical researchers would not have been able to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 in record time.
We can make an argument that these principles might not apply in the social sciences, such as TEFL teaching. But I think the evidence does not support that position. Academic/scientific research into education in the Western world is likely a contributing factor to millions of students around the world going to study in Western universities while only a handful (like me) have left the Western world to study in a non-Western environment.
It is believed our current teaching methods are superior to the ones used 50 or 100 years ago, and academic/scientific research and writing in the field of education (not my field) is likely had a part to play in this improvement. Academic writings in educational journals are not really aimed at the 'on the ground teacher', but more so to the writers of textbooks and those developing TEFL programs. I am not sure taking an anti-scientific stance against gaining knowledge is the proper attitude for an educator, although it is easy to make a good argument academic/scientific research in Education and TEFL teacher could be reformed and made more useful.
Some teachers do want change
I understand the people who say it is wrong to change the Thai education system or to want to change it and that you should just go with it or that it's wrong for a Westerner to try to impose something on a developing Asian country. Thai people do not like confrontation or causing trouble and to make changes to something as big as the educational system would cause them to do a lot of both. I am not a Thai teacher but I would think those two things, along with their low salaries, would cause them to not want or care enough to change the status quo and the politicians working in the education department are probably not the best people for the job. However, there are some Thai supporters to overhauling the education system. They just haven't gotten enough support to create any change yet.
Get a teaching degree first!
Mistakes and problems could be avoided if teachers coming to Thailand held a teaching degree. Many people think they are teachers of anything because they come from an English-speaking country. Thailand is changing its teaching requirements from no degrees in education to degrees in education needed. If you want a great teaching position in Thailand then do the following:
A. Pick up a teaching degree in education from your home country.
B. Apply for a job via a good job services program.
C. Come to Thailand qualified with at least 3 years of teaching experience.
If you follow these steps then you can land a wonderful job in one of the many international schools. Do your homework and check out the international school before you sign a contract. Some of the lower rating international schools pay very little but expect a great deal of work. If the school is decent and trustworthy they will tell you the starting salary and all benefits upfront. The ones that do not tell you the salary upfront are usually low paying and not worth your time. Working in a Thai school can be very satisfying and rewarding as long as money is not an issue.
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