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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The South African viewpoint

The South African viewpoint

As a potential farang in Thailand, I have found your website most informative. I would now like to add my twopence worth.
Firstly, the debate about whether native English speakers make better teachers than non-native English speakers:-
I am, what the advertisements presumably hope is, a native English speaking South African. In South Africa we have 11 official languages: English, Afrikaans and 9, so-called, indigenous languages (the languages spoken by the 9 Black tribes in the country.) This does not take into consideration all those thousands of South Africans who are of Hindu, Tamil, Urdu, Dutch, Portuguese, Greek, Lebanese, Italian, German and French descent, and who probably regard themselves as native English speakers, although they still speak these languages in their homes. It is quite obvious therefore that the vast majority of South Africans are not English first-language speakers and that many will not have the language skills necessary to teach English here in South Africa, let alone anywhere else. So, how does one define a South African native English speaker, and how does one determine if he/she is fit to teach this most diffiucult language to others?

Secondly, the issue of having a qualification that says one can (supposedly) teach English to foreigners:-
Following on from the above, it is quite obvious that most South African English teachers will have taught English to second-language students at some stage in their careers, and that most South African teachers will have taught other subjects (in English) to second-language students. So why do we need TEFL or TESOL qualifications? We get enough experience right here in our own country!

Thirdly, the issue of the Thai Government's licensing requirements for foreign teachers:-
In South Africa (currently), the B.Education is a post-graduate qualification originally introduced (many years ago) to encourage people with Bachelor Degrees to teach (most teachers studied for the B.Ed.part-time while teaching.) Otherwise (currently), all high school teachers are required to have a Bachelor's Degree plus a Teacher's Diploma (4 years of study) and primary school teachers simply have a 3 year diploma. BUT, when I qualified, all we needed to be able to teach was a Bachelor's Degree with a teaching subject as a major, and on the strength of this, I taught for 4 years, before entering the field of librarianship. So where do I fit into the Thai scheme of things? I do not have a B.Ed. but I do have a degree in English, a post-graduate librarian's diploma and 4 years' teaching experience. I do not mind the concept of the Foreign Teachers Thai Culture Training Programme (if it is worthwhile), but I am not interested in spending another year and thousands of Baht on getting some qualification which will probably duplicate what I have already learned in my own country. According to the official I spoke to at the Royal Thai Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, the employers should be paying for these courses anyway, not the teachers.

Fourthly, the issue of "visa-runs":-
Again, the Royal Thai Ministry official told me that this is nonsense. As a South African, I purchase a Non-Imm.B.Visa here in SA, which I then renew (for a fee) after 3 months in Thailand, and Thai Immigration then gives me a 9-month extension. At no time do I have to leave the country on any cross-border visa runs. If I renew my contract for another year, I simply request another extension. So why are you ex-pats chasing visa renewals across the border?
He did warn me however, that private schools in Thailand must have a certain income to be able to employ foreign teachers otherwise these teachers are illegal. So it appears that teachers should ask to see balance sheets before accepting teaching posts.
Finally, are there any South Africans in Thailand who can share their experiences?

Marguerite Huson

The need to be realistic

I’m sympathetic to the problems AN’s school has recruiting teachers (North Eastern Woes, 7th August) but you have to be realistic. Hardly anyone wants to live in these remote parts of Thailand, and those that have a romantic notion about it soon discover that it’s not as wonderful as they first thought (they probably didn’t think it through in the first place).

AN suggests retaining 10% of the salary until the end of the contract. The first problem with that potty idea is that salaries aren’t high enough to live on if you deduct 10% every month. If the salary is over 40K then sure, but where do you get that much outside Bangkok? You’re having problems recruiting now and you want to make it even harder by telling candidates that they won’t get their money until next year. This brings me to my next point. I’ve hear of many horror stories about teachers who are expecting to get either a bonus, withheld salary or simply their final month’s salary only to be told to get lost as their contract won’t be renewed next semester and we’re not going to pay you your money. By the way we cancelled your work permit a week ago.

Sorry AN but this is just yet another way to screw the teacher. If I hear anything like what you suggest at an interview I’ll get up and walk out. I’d like to suggest to that schools advertising teaching positions state any subversive contract clauses to avoid wasting people’s time.

Mr John

North Eastern woes

North Eastern woes

I am over in the North East of Thailand we had 4 Falang teachers including myself. At the end of June just after pay day our friendly Kiwi packed his bags and shot over to Ubon. Well the contract did say and does say one month's notice. At the end of July, well what do you know, the Aussie and the Brit packed their bags and left as well.

Now I love my job, my students and my school and put an advert on and hey presto, 60 applicants but not one native speaker. To tell you the truth it is not important if the teacher is a native or not, it is the person that is reliable, honest and keeps to their side of any agreement. I managed to rope in a Filipino and by a year's time if he sticks here and proves himself then he will get the salary of a native speaker. He has no TEFL [certificate], but his life experiences and his commitment in acquiring the 20 hour Thai Culture Course Certificate told me this guy is worth having. I agree whole heartedly with improving the educational system in Thailand though I wonder how long we all will go bald, with the frustrations of having ideas but not thinking them through as the Teacher's Council has painfully demonstrated over the past few months. At 48 I never dreamed of studying again. at 46 I got my TESOL that was hard enough for me but gosh a year of the Graduate Diploma the mind boggles about all the hardships that one may have to endure especially in traveling 10 hours one way to Bangkok every Friday night.

The school have asked me how we can attract native speakers. I plainly said they are only interested in the money especially in the middle of nowhere, but you can create an English programme seek only truly qualified professionals and pay them 35-40K plus housing. Just do not offer the course to 2600 students as it simply does not work. Well as we all know, Thais love to nod - and I got a nod!

However my main gripe is how does one prevent teachers from behaving dishonourably by not abiding by their contracts? The only solution I could think of is to retain 10% of their salary and pay it to them when they leave either at the end of their contract or by serving their notice period of one month. In addition the school pays for the Work permit and for the Brit well they paid a year up front for him and he left after 2 month's. The hardworking parents are being messed up by these unsavoury characters. Anyone got any ideas on getting great teachers that not only teach English but behave as respectable decent ambassadors of their own country, if so please send to the postbox


Views from Laos

Hi. I just cannot help but respond to some issues raised in recent posts concerning teaching in Thailand. My background is that virtually my whole teaching career has been in Asia and, I suppose some students may one day soon be labeling me as a “crumbly”, so I’ve been around for quite some years, including mainly for visits but also for work in Thailand. Like Greg of Taiwan I see the attempted introduction of some checks and training in the teacher “acceptance” scenarios of Thailand a positive step by the Ministry of Education. The fact that there are seeming inconsistencies and missing logical steps in new procedures introduced should not pose as a major problem nor present as a complete surprise to those familiar with planning, scheduling, organizing and communication difficulties that are commonplace in Indo-china as a whole. Patience is a virtue in Asia and the acceptance of necessary change is a virtue everywhere.

In fact there should be no surprise to foreign nationals that the Thai Ministry of Education from an educational perspective is trying to improve matters in relation to hiring foreign personnel. I read a recent Yahoo survey which claimed that 40% of foreign teachers in Taipei, Taiwan, hold some false documentation, notably fake degree certificates that they bought in Bangkok. Yahoo did not provide an account of their procedures in obtaining this information or survey results; however, from my personal experience of working in Thailand as a teacher trainer, Yahoo’s article seems both factually credible in essence (even if the numbers turn out to be inaccurate). It would be interesting to read properly researched reports of the numbers or percentages of fake educational diplomas presented to schools by foreigners within Thailand itself.

Notwithstanding this, unsupported criticism of the Cambridge certificate is unacceptable. It is what it is. To the best of my memory or knowledge the initial motivation for introducing the former RSA certificate/RSA-Cambridge certificate/now the Cambridge CELTA etc. was that English had already moved firmly into being the major international language of communication but there were simply hardly any trained teachers to meet the vastly expanding needs for teachers of

the students of the world. The quick fix was a condensed short initial training course so that the varied mix of characters who had begun to appear as teachers in classrooms all over the world had the opportunity to study and practice on a survival course which also resulted in the award of a certificate. The expansion of TESL has been so great that the quick-fix course framework has never experienced a time frame sufficient to be replaced by or integrated into a full-course qualification. So the quick-fix mini-course in teaching has never been replaced but, rather, it has been extended upon such that there is now a sub-first degree level diploma.

The fact that many language schools in Thailand now seem to offer their own mini-course versions in TESL is not necessarily a good thing in all cases, because there is no qualified third-party agency such as a top university, e.g. Cambridge, to monitor standards and formats to maintain high standards. It is a common experience to find that TESL-certificate wielding Western bricklayers are working in Thai schools but have little clue to what they are doing. That’s perhaps just one reason that Thailand comes out bottom of the world league in internationally recognized testing systems.

So, good on the Ministry of Education. I trust that the format of their new system will gradually revise and improve through their gradually working through any difficulties that arise. Perhaps one day Thailand will host many foreign teachers who are skilled enough in a greater variety and range both of English language skills and up-to-date language teaching skills. Perhaps by then both the certified Western bricklayers and their trained Filipino colleagues will know how to write and present acceptable job-winning application letters and resumes – but that’s another topic that needs addressing in another letter or article.

Stephen Thomas in Laos

The native speaker myth

The native speaker myth

One should understand that language acquisition is a skill which has to be taught by people who are skilled. It doesn't matter which nationality or color one appears with. The native speaker myth as believed and promoted by many academics around Thailand is that only a certain tribe of people from selected countries can or should teach English. The truth is that there are no real native speaker who know the language any more in this earth simply because what language is taught in the classroom and in prescribed text books are not used by common people in those countries.
English is not a language owned by any country and for that matter it is spoken (communicated) appropriately by a larger population of people in countries other than those mentioned as native speaker countries namely U K , U S, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In simple words more people speak English outside these countries that all the countries put together.

The main reason for the widespread need to learn the English Language arose due to the advent of the computer, where in programs are written with English text and words. Many folk have much to gain by using unskilled workers to teach English so as to weaken the abilities of a larger population of learners, this in turn will enhance the population of low wage laborers, flesh traders and host of other professions that require very little or no knowledge of a foreign language. The native speaker myth looms over the downfall of the language acquisition abilities of poor innocent Thais. Simply coz the folks in charge want to earn a quick buck and con as many people into believing that they can learn best from someone who was born with the language spoken all around him/ her.

I am a native speaker myself but would not come out front and speak out loud to disturb my bosses or the financiers coz teaching English is what brings food to my stomach. I do however want to create an awareness that would enlighten the educated folk and academics into selecting people who are interested in teaching and not just people who need a job so they can hang around the country for fun( no offense to whom it may disturb but one cannot be a computer programmer if one has not been taught or trained to). To take appropriate steps to make sure that the selected people are genuinely interested in teaching and enhancing the abilities of the local children.
All the best to those desiring to live and work as teacher in the land of smiles.

Y. Coarter

Thai English teachers

I teach at a large government school. The students tell me their Thai teacher doesn't ever speak to them in English, even when their lesson is English. After being at this school for a while, I've noticed that very few know enough English to even say, " good morning."

I was told, not asked, to participate in the English Club every Friday. The teacher over it is of course a Thai that literally slaughters the English language. At the first meeting, she said a total of six words in English. I counted every one. At the second meeting last Friday, she said a total of thirteen words in English. Last weekend, we had "open house". While the other foreign teachers were there, several of us were taking to the director of the English Department and she ask us for ideas on how to improve it. I told her, "for a start, make the teachers and students speak English when they come in the office." One of the other teachers agreed and told her, "this is the English Department, so the students need to speak English when they come in." Another teacher agreed and basically said the same thing. The director said, "I am going to implement that." You must understand, she barely speaks enough English to be coherent herself. Anyway, the very next morning, six students came into the office to talk to the teacher over the English Club, who sits beside me, not one word was spoken in English. The director was also in the office and joined in the conversation with the students. In Thai of course.

Later that morning, I went to my class and all my students were gone. I ask a student teacher passing by, "do you know where my students are?" She told me, " they are watching a cartoon in the Assembly Building. I said, "a cartoon?" She said, "yes, about Bangkok, it's kind of like a game show." Of course it was in Thai. I went back to my office and the director was there. I told her, "it's no wonder why Thai students can't speak English." She said, oh?" I told her, "until schools get serious about learning English, the students will always speak pigeon English or no English at all." She just shrugged her shoulders.

I do not understand how the students learn any English at all.


Black American teachers in Thailand

Black American teachers in Thailand

Let me start off by saying that I am not a black teacher in Thailand. However, I am a black male in my early 30's who recently returned from vacation in Bangkok, Pattaya and Ko Samet about 2 1/2 weeks ago; it was my first trip out of the States. I also want it to be known that I am a college graduate with a degree in English and journalism from Western Michigan University. Currently, I live in Los Angeles and I am a talent executive for a major cable network.

Though I have not been, nor am I black teacher in Thailand, I felt compelled to e-mail you my two cents after reading the disheartening, but honest e-mails from some Black Americans teachers in Thailand. Overall, my experience in Thailand was a positive one. I felt most of the Thai people were very friendly at restaurants and other business establishments, except at one of the money exchange centers near my hotel in Bangkok who was completely rude and barley looked at me, if at all.

Throughout my travels I did very much get stared at. Heads often turned as I walked down the street. When I was in Ko Samet I definitely felt the hesitation and/or fear of dealing with me by some of the Thai people, even at restaurants. I went with a group of mostly white men and one half Taiwanese friend and felt they were paid attention to more than I was, but that happens here in the U.S. as well. I met a young Thai female who told our native Thai friend that she had never met a Black American before. I wasn't that surprised. Clearly, I was the fish out of water and truly felt it, but I was also completely fine with it.

Needless to say, I had an amazing time in Thailand and definitely would return. I stumbled upon your blog because I was looking for teaching programs in Thailand. I have decided that I too would like to broaden my horizons and teach in Thailand so I thought, until I read the various blogs from former black teachers. I must say, I have more than a little trepidation about teaching in Thailand, as I certainly do not want the added stress of prejudice and discrimination when I'm in another country, which is already stressful enough. I am fully aware that the perceptions, stereotypes and flat out racism reach far beyond North America. We as Black Americans can not escape our badge of color; we will live with it through sickness and health, 'till death do us part.

If there is someone out there who could shed a little more light on their experiences teaching in Thailand or another country I would greatly appreciate it, as I do not want someone else's experience to turn me away from pursuing such a rewarding, life changing opportunity and journey across continents.

Evan Majors

A great opportunity

A great opportunity

Teaching in Thailand is a great opportunity and market to all Filipinos who desired to venture here in order to alleviate the family's condition in the Philippines. Needless to say, we all came here for the sole purpose and that is to earn more and save for the future and family. But recently, I heard lots of rumors about Filipinos here who worked with the salary below the waist like 10,000 baht/month and worst 8,000 baht without free accommodation and food. But when I tried to ask them why they took the job, the reply is simply NO CHOICE than nothing. Some of my friends who worked for 2 years in the same school and earned 20,000 baht/month were fired because here comes these neophytes who themselves offered to the school director that 8,000 baht/month is enough for them. What a crab instinct! Pathetic! But it's the reality.

I always heard comments that we are better than those with white skin and blue eyes, more qualified and more industrious. Why won't we use these propagandas to ask for a better and higher pay? As for me, it's not a matter of no choice. We always have the choice to say NO and look for somewhere else better. Thai schools nowadays have opened their eyes towards the capacity and fluency of Filipinos in terms of English language than before. This I say to remind you of our purpose of coming here. How can we help our family and future if we earn less than we earn in our country? We always have the choice. To put a price on ourselves and believe that we deserve this pay because we deserve the job and we can do it! Our luck here in Thailand depends on how we look into ourselves. I can say this from my heart because I met this kind of situation, and I fought for it and won, and I have proven to myself that we can get what we want if we only believe in ourselves. Lastly, we must stop our bad attitude such as the crab mentality. It won't make us prosper...Thanks and mabuhay sa lahat!

Rey Murillo

More time studying please

More time studying please

I have just finished trolling through some of the comments about ageism in the TEFL arena, as well as other topics in your teacher info section, which I think is a great idea because it gives everyone a chance to air their opinions regardless of race, age, religion or any other defect your readers can think of.
My reason for writing is two fold; first, the number of people who claim to be English teachers that cannot write so much as one short paragraph without making spelling and/or grammar mistakes. Any person who has had a good education and who takes a pride in their linguistic abilities should be able to write one short paragraph without a single mistake, or at least check it with the grammar and spell check tool on their computer. These are the same people that shout and scream about the poor conditions that 'farang teachers' have to endure in order to survive in Thailand, I would suggest that they spend less time complaining and more time studying the English language, at which they claim to be expert enough to be able to call themselves 'teachers', they are a disgrace to the profession.

Second, having read the comments in the Filipino section, most of which boasted that the Filipinos are as good at teaching the English language as any 'native speaker', I was again aroused at the temerity of these people. I recently had the distasteful job of checking the English exam papers (where I work) for spelling and grammar mistakes, all had been prepared by Filipino teachers (I use the term 'teachers' loosely) and was appalled at the number of spelling, grammar and vocabulary mistakes that had been made. I gave the teachers in question the benefit of the doubt and assumed they were probably genuine mistakes, but when I pointed the mistakes out they all showed their true colours and arrogantly insisted that I was wrong. The matter was resolved when I handed them a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and a copy of the Oxford book of grammar and told them to check their work again, then come back and apologise.
As an aside, I have a Masters in English Literature, as well as two other degrees and I am very proud of my profession.


Don't take racism seriously

Don't take racism seriously

I am a Black American ex-pat (African-American? I'm not African, dude). I do not teach in Thailand, because I work in the Middle East. However, Thailand is like a third home. Yes, racism exists everywhere and in many different ways. However, there is one thing Americans need to know and this applies to every country where they are an ex-pat. If you choose to work in a foreign country, this means that you are going to have to adapt to the foreign country (values, morals, culture and non-existent civil rights). It's not your country, you cannot expect or change it to be like your country, and you cannot enforce this country to immediately embrace your American values...unless you're a multi-billion dollar conglomerate or fascist military. You can only enlighten some people and let them take it from there. Yeah, Thailand can be racist and racism is ignorance, but obviously it's not bad enough to make you go back to Uncle Sam.

Whether in the Middle East or Southeast Asia, my fellow Americans have made an art of bringing self-inflicted headache and drama overseas. Try to avoid it...or what are you doing overseas in the first place? However, this is a good discussion forum. In a world where almost everyone wants to be White (except for rebellious Japanese youth) Black people will always need a place to vent. When African-Americans go to Africa, they leave the 'African' at home - Anonymous


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