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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Tall poppy syndrome

The tone of the letters here is often such that if you’re qualified and want to teach in Thailand, there’s something wrong with you, because otherwise you’d be elsewhere accumulating capital. This kind of ignores the fact, though, that if you’re a graduate from one of the traditional disciplines (pure science or humanities) or even a graduate from education, then the greater the depth of your reading the less likely you are to be obsessed with wealth, and thus the more likely you are to judge the merits of staying in Thailand on ‘personal happiness/interest value’ criteria. After all, most calls for social justice, and more importantly the theory and research that can back these calls, find their origins in these fields.

Perhaps the observation to be made here, then, is that this type of literature clearly demonstrates the traditional cultural mould that Western thinking occupies? And, of course, why, regardless of whether they’re struggling with the same encumbrances themselves, people from other cultures would be wary of this type of thinking, and why its proponents might subsequently feel disgruntled? While there indubitably are qualified people around who for one iniquitous reason or another are unable to find a job in other places, should we not mention also that there might be a tinge of sourness to these grapes?

Which is not to mention either, of course, that there must be plenty of well-qualified people teaching in Thailand who are there because they are married to Thai people, and have chosen with their partner to stay with that half of the family; we might imagine they too would feel mightily offended by such suggestions. I mean, for the qualified, it is actually more than possible to make a decent living, and for those who have the right to permanence to enjoy a high quality of life in Thailand (hence all the more reason, if you intend to stay, to become well qualified); to include these people in blanket accusations of rock-spidery and criminal behaviour does seem just that little bit harsh.

Anyway, half of the problem with Western society must be that, despite the wondrousness of having made it available to all, there is still such a stigma attached to the desire to become educated.

PS: The staff with whom I worked in Thailand, in a public university, were the most wonderfully educated and enlightened English language teachers (although were somewhat restrained, of course, in respect to the extent to which they could articulate themselves), and certainly taught me more about how to improve my professional practice than I’ve ever learned elsewhere.
Nor do I, against accusations of sycophancy, ever intend to return; one of the best things about Thailand, though, or what truly set it apart from working in the West, was the opportunity it afforded to be surrounded by such people.

Let's unite

Let's unite

There is a lot of bad feeling and difference of opinion between teachers in Thailand - which makes the work place very uncomfortable. There are those who think they are qualified and those who can teach. This divide slows progress. I do not feel bad towards other teachers because they earn more money or they are a better teacher. Because of the law, the B.A holders think all jobs are rightfully theirs. We must show a better example to the children and the Thais. Why would the Thai teachers be arguing and backstabbing in their school?

I have seen degree holders sacked for incompetence and I have seen non degree holders treated like shit. I've seen teachers have money constantly deducted from their wages and their job dangled in front of them. The only people that win are the people who own the school. Teachers shouldn't snitch on each other. I must admit I would be pissed off if an incompetent drunkard snitched on me. If you want to wing it you can, if you like the sound of your own trumpet then that's cool, but at the end of the day if you do not produce the goods you are fooling yourself and if you are the best then why are you working here for this pittance?

Life is easy here and that's why people want to stay. Most teachers here are here to enhance their career and stamp on the teachers below them. Most of us are here because life is good and even though we do not earn as much as we could back home we can easily survive, save and slide through the traffic of life as if it wasn't there.

Thailand is a wonderful place to live and work and most of us just want to live, work and be happy without assholes complaining and judging. To the B.A teachers, you do not have some God given right to all jobs in Thailand and to the wasters who cannot survive unless they are doing some evil to others please get a life and crawl into the holes you come from. Teachers should respect each other as people first - then as teachers - and help each other and maybe then you can learn from each other because I'm sure we all have some good qualities of our teaching to share.

JP Rob

Think outside of the box

Think outside of the box

I have been reading the postbox and I've got to let you know. I have tears in my eyes. Not tears of sadness, tears from laughing so hard. The pictures of the departure lounge at the airport probably is the one that made me laugh the hardest.

So this new law goes into effect. All teachers must have a education degree to be a legal teacher in Thailand. Meaning a work permit and teachers license. OK fine. How many illegal teachers do you think are working in Thailand now? A lot I'm sure. I was one for a year. So we have the new laws, now there won't be any illegal teachers? Ummmmmm. I don't have a degree in education and I can assure you I will still be here.

Yeah, one more thing. I am so sick and tired of listening to those teachers with MA's in education etc. Talking about how great and qualified they are. Having the MA only makes them a good student it doesn't make them a good teacher. As for the man who wrote about grammar and that most of us non education degree holders can't teach it. So what? Is it really necessary for a 8 year old in prathom 2 to be able to dissect a sentence? NOT!!!! Passion for teaching and the ability to make your class exciting and fun for the students is how to teach. Many schools have a teaching program for the teacher to follow.

A question for all of those VERY well qualified teachers with the MA's and CELTA's and Teaching Certification. What are you doing in Thailand working for 40,000 THB when you can be in Japan making 80,000 - 90,000 THB a month or even in Taiwan, China or Vietnam? Oh China and Vietnam are communist countries. Well I think it is safe to say their government is more stable than Thailand's. I think the big reason all of you VERY well qualified teachers are in Thailand working for pennies is because the other Asian countries that pay twice as much as Thailand, all require their teachers to submit finger prints and criminal history verification. Could this be the real reason all of you VERY well qualified teachers are here in Thailand? Who knows, just food for thought. I am here in Thailand because I love teaching. I enjoy helping people to learn English. It is my passion that drives me. If it was the money and bragging rights to all I have accomplished, I would go back to my high profile corporate chef position in South Florida.

So, in closing I will weather out the change in laws even if it means I don't have a work permit and teachers license. OK. I will exit Thailand one time in six months and apply for a 90 tourist visa and then do border runs to Cambodia. Or maybe I will over stay my visa 364 days AGAIN. The MOE will see the error of their ways. When there are only a handful of Native English teachers in Thailand, all demanding salaries that the schools can't pay, and the schools staff their English departments with Filipinos who are excellent teachers with the exception that they can't speak English. I will still be here when the MOE changes the laws once again.

For all of you whiners our there whining about having to leave when the law goes into effect. Get creative, think out side of the box.

Richard Burgess

Humble pie

I have been in dispute with a good friend of mine for a long time about the ability of english teachers. My side is that if you know your grammar and have experience that you are more capable of teaching than someone with a B.A who has no experience. I told him in Thailand that it is just a question of legality. Even though I have a B.A in Civil Engineering I feel this does not give me an advantage unless I am teaching it or it is the favored subject of the student. My friend disagrees and told me that knowing grammar is neither here nor there when it comes to teaching English.

I left him to his own devices and let him learn the hard way. When the job he had been waiting for finally arrived, the one with the big pay and prestige that would allow him to walk the corridors of the elite, he fell flat on his face because when the Director of Studies questioned his abilities, he was tongue-tied and his background let him down (and stubbornness). This was a prime example of degree holders being snobbish and insecure about there abilities. A lot of teachers here aren't insecure about their abilities but only the legality of not having a real degree. If you have a degree in English language then I think you have a great advantage over the ones who don't and could quite easily fill a position of an English teacher even without experience. I think in time the Thai MOE will become the laughing stock of South East Asia for being both ignorant and incompetent.

In the next ten years Thailand will pay the price with India emerging as a superpower and Vietnam who will inevitably take over as the Economic superpower in this region. Gun, bullet foot syndrome. I begin to hear more horror stories than good ones as time goes by, reports that the islands down south are empty are another indication that people are now saying no to Thailand and the teachers are looking elsewhere for a better way of life, more money, more security and a simple bit of hospitality with a genuine smile.

Willem Ward

Let's start failing students

Let's start failing students

After all is said, it is really who you are, what you can achieve, what results you get and acting accordingly in any line of work. If you don't make the sale the you are out and that's how it should be with teaching except that the deal is already done because when it comes to exam time everyone passes. If they start with this kind of educational corruption that takes place at almost every international school that affiliate themselves with overseas and use their name for profitable gain, and stop the everyone passes method then you can have a real evaluation of all your teachers and students who represent the standard of the school they are at. If you are churning out students who cannot speak a word of english then you are quite simply deceiving the paying parents who are your customers. Parents are beginning to ask more questions, they want better results. Schools will hire teachers in desperation to fill the positions to show they are able.

Unfortunately Thais cannot face failure so this means Joe Bloggs and his dog are in with a chance of getting a job. Schools should have their own methods of evaluating for the good of the school and not the good of their pockets. Unknowingly and not realising that if they were to fail students then this would give their school a better name and more custom because the parents would know that they only want successful students who are willing to learn. The cliche that teachers are well respected in this country is what we call absolute b==locks in my country. The children in these school have no discipline, no sense of achievement and only know that their parents will be buying them the new x-box as soon as it is out.

Thai teachers constantly fail to support the falang teachers in most schools because of the jealousy factor which means they do not care about the students education in the least. As long as the pay check gets through who is to care, who is going to ask question coz the MOE certainly won't because they are paid to look the other way. They seem to do it ass half backward here. The Presidents of all the top universities here sit on the government board determining the country's future and education. They bring in the laws to make it difficult to obtain an education at a young age and make it more expensive as you get older.

As Mr.Thaksin said "we should invest our money at the Grassroots level". Now all the big shakers are draining the availability of education from the countryside and making it more exclusive to Bangkok which enables them to raise the fees through the roof. Let us not argue who is the better teacher ESL or B.A, but let us focus on competence of the teacher, school and student. No results - no custom. Create a real standard and a truthful standard and build from the bottom at the grassroots level. For all his faults and allegations of corruption, maybe Mr. Thaksin had it right. When they talk of corruption, we know that one evil will only be replaced by another, its just a case of who is less corrupt. If children are to be educated in this manner then that is how they will act accordingly when are released into the world of reality. They will lose plenty of face if they go to an interview in the west with their degree from a University with everyone passes motto.

JP Robinson

Good morning Vietnam

Good morning Vietnam

How the tables have turned. I don't know about Thailand but I think it is Vietnam that is an exciting place to be. With the coup here causing there to be an unstable government to Vietnam where the government is totally stable because of its communist ruling. I should imagine Vietnam joining the WTO will waken the Thais up economically and show they aren't the big fish in this pond. If people want to address the real problems here then it is simple. The smiles are gone it is now here comes the falang the walking dollar sign , how much can we get if nothing - don't worry another one will be along soon. This is one thing we have to deal with constantly whilst living here. The other is the constant backstabbing from everyone you work with because nobody really knows what they are doing and they are in it for the money.

Then you have the total illogical way of how Thais do everything compared to the falang. You have the drunks, sex fiends and brainless teachers who are here for no other reason than self indulgence which means they are occupying jobs that could be taken by real teachers. You have the pathetically low wages that aren't going to tempt you away from your home comforts at home in your home country. But of the biggest problems this place has are the international schools who pass the children no matter what. If this was to stop then it would be a big step forward. When you are encouraged to do this , this means the school is in it for the money, and this is called a scam. If they were to fail students it would also tell you how good your teacher who you have employed really is and is he good enough to be at your school.

How can you measure progress with the same result? Stop passing failing students and evaluate you teachers by their results. As for the teachers being drunk and sex tourists it not as though you can ask them to stop. Thailand would have to close every bar and massage parlor down to even get close to stopping this problem. The teachers who like a drink , there was a Professor at my University who was constantly on the sauce, this is not just a problem here. It happens everywhere. You cannot simply eradicate this problem. The Thais love a drink more than anyone. Maybe Thailand will look at Vietnam's stability and consider the same path. Let's hope not. I see a lot of bad teachers who cost the real teachers so much ( those with and without degrees ). It is totally up to the schools to evaluate their teachers and who they hire, it is them who cause the problems because they want the cash.

Those schools who pay the MOE to look the other way hold back the progress of the entire educational system of Thailand and that is why the language schools are full on the weekend because the parents realize their children cannot speak an ounce of English by the time they have left school. Start with the fat cats who own these schools and then install a standard exam that every student must take and mark them genuinely. Fail the students who dont' pass, they don't bother because the teachers can't be bothered and then you'll know which are the best schools and who are the best teachers. Truth and honesty breeds integrity which I don't see much of in the schools or anywhere else.

JP Robinson

Principles and principals

Principles and principals

Since the concerns of the M.0.E. are focused on teachers nothing has been mentioned about the focus on principals and principles.

To begin with the first subject, I have read from someone on Post Box that credentialed teachers cause trouble in schools, they are snobs to unqualified teachers, argue, and are ambitious in the pursuit of power. The reality to this statement is the majority of teachers who come to Thailand stay two or three years and are replaced with others who do the same primarily because they want to experience Thailand. A small percentage pursue long term leadership positions. In my experience, when problems in staff rooms occur the roots lay in a divide in worker related harmony. Conflicts develop from teachers without credentials and those that have them. Since impostors always live with the fear of been discovered the great divide emerges in the form of an "us and them" situation. To make up for this divide and insecurity, many impostors feel security lays in positions of leadership and power. In many cases the fake teachers become drinking buddies with the principal who in many cases does not have a degree either.

Principals are the first to know about who has proper credentials and who doesn't. In many cases they rely on fake teachers as snitches (informants) to give them information about the teaching troops. Having already proved themselves as liars these informant teachers ruin the reputations of good teachers by whispering negativity into the ear of the principal and thoroughly establish themselves as Shakespearean "Iago" characters. Teachers have good and bad days, we are always learning and growing and this is supported by intelligent leaders (regular staff meetings). Impostors fear losing their jobs when incompetence becomes visible. They react by trying to project their incompetence on others usually reacting first with fear, then intimidation. This often leads to finding something wrong with nothing and pinning it on another who has discovered their secret. When back-stabbing behavior is rewarded with leadership positions it creates the contradiction of the uneducated in power and the educated unrewarded or fired. When this situation develops many problems come with it. The end result is teachers come and go and students suffer for it. A good principal knows how the teaching troops morale is they do not need informants. They have nothing to hide and support their teachers through stressful periods (good and bad).

On the topic of economic principles relating to teaching wages. Most of the money made goes right back into the Thai economy as teachers travel the country. Having said that, regardless of the size of the salaries most of the money goes into the tourist industry and is contributing to a self-sufficient economy. Money may leave the hands of school owners but it is redistributed from schools to Thai people who own businesses. History shows that cultures have more stability, satisfaction, and harmony with a large distribution of wealth. Poverty gives way to the emergence of middle classes. This usually attracts more foreign investment as security, stability and growth becomes a part of the economy. The overall effect on the country is modernization (the process in which society goes through industrialization, urbanization and other social changes that completely transform the lives of individuals). A strong distribution of wealth means more disposable income which may lead to more risk taking in the form of establishing small businesses and helping family members.

It seems that the education for profit industry in many cases has failed in providing a proper product for Thai families. Sadly, like many products in Thailand they look good, break after a month and then you throw them away (resembles teacher turn over and the degrees that many get from universities). The owners are happy, what do they care? They have your money. When does it end?
John Smith

John Smith

My life as a farang teacher

My life as a farang teacher

You or your readers might find this little cautionary tale amusing. Despite it all, I still love being a teacher here! Enjoy

I probably should have seen the writing on the wall when I was asked to sign a contract in a foreign language, without a translation. I should have just slowly backed away and then run for the hills, but I was a new Farang teacher and so happy just to have gotten a job! One term later I know that in the future I should always trust my instincts. When I first moved to Thailand I had no intention of becoming an English teacher. I was actually looking forward to an early retirement here in the Land of Smiles. I have always loved Thailand and had visited many times before. My darling wife was Thai, and after spending six happy years living in America we decided to move to the city of L. (and its not Lamphun) We both liked the North, but didn’t want to live in Chiang Mai. For us, L. is perfect; not too big and not too small. We quickly settled in, made many Thai friends, and built a lovely home. In short I was here to stay!

It wasn’t long that people starting coming out of the woodwork, asking me to teach themselves or their children English. Of course I was happy to do so. I wanted to be a good neighbor and perhaps rack up some good karma. Often I did so at no charge. Of course my wife, like most Thai women, controls the purse strings, and quickly decided that if I was going to be teaching, that I should be paid for it. So why not apply for a teaching position at one of the local high schools. Why not indeed? I have a degree in Education so I might as well put it to use. It wasn’t long before I was joining three other Farang teachers and preparing for my first day of class. Two of them, Ajarn M. from Australia and Ajarn D. from America had started here last year. Ajarn R. from Australia, like me was a newbie. All of them were first rate educators and great people. It was nice to make some Farang friends. I love the Thais, but sometimes you just want to talk to some folks who share your background and interests.

The Thai members of the English department seemed friendly enough, but from the very beginning were useless as far as giving out any practical information. Was there a syllabus? Were there text books? No, just make it up as you go along. Okay, no problem. I have plenty of ideas and there is no much information on all the ESL web sites. What were the policies and procedures that needed to be followed? No answer, even from the department head. Okay….just use my best judgement and common sense. Can I have a copy of the academic calendar? To date I still don’t have one! The only way I know if there’s an upcoming day off is when I say to a class, “See you next week”, and the students tell me that there is no class that day. Ajarn M. and Ajarn D. have been as much in the dark as myself. They told me never to hold my breath waiting for any information what so ever, because it would never arrive. They of course have been 100% correct.

Work permits? Five months have gone by and we still don’t have one! There is always one excuse or another, but the end result is always no work permits. Ajarn M. and Ajarn R. have wound up in plenty of hot water because of the school’s inability, (or unwillingness) to fulfill their legal obligations. Ajarn R. had to fly to Lao last month and spent quite a lot of money out of his pocket. Since the teacher’s visas are tied to the contracts and work permits, not having the required paperwork is completely unacceptable. But try telling that to the school officials. All you’ll hear is that we are a bunch of ingrates. That they have done everything for us and that all we do is complain! Luckily, I’m married to a Thai national, so I simply went and got my own Visa. But if I had waited for the school, I would be in violation now and would have incurred an astronomical fine!

To say that there is a lack of communication here would be an understatement. We have been in full mushroom mode since day one. Perhaps it is because when you come down to it, the Thai teachers resent the presence of Farang teachers at their school. We get paid more than they do, we have more freedom than they do, and of course we know more about teaching English than they do! This brings us to the actual job of teaching. This is where most of my real headaches begin. I’ve been teaching 18 classes, one period per week. Most of they are Matiyam 4, with a few Matiyam 3 classes. The average class size is close to 50. I of course knew that because of cultural differences that there would need to be some adjustment as how to communicate. My Thai is extremely limited. When I want a good giggle out of the class all I need to do is speak some!

What I encountered on my very first day was enough to drive one to tears…or to drink! With all the Wais Thai’s perform everyday, one might think that the typical student would be more polite and respectful than his or her American counterpart….well you would be wrong! My first classes were complete and utter madhouses! The students would not even lower their voices to listen to me. I was reduced to practically shouting to be heard. I thought, well maybe they are just giving the new teacher a little initiation. Next time it will be better. Wishful thinking on my part. When I commented to the department head on my problems, I was told that I don’t understand Thai culture. Why would I expect the students to be quiet? And after all, they probably just didn’t understand me, and were discussing among themselves what I was saying! So begins the real trip down the rabbit hole.

Among the other things I “learned” from my Thai supervisor during the following months were: The reason they are doing other teacher’s homework in your class is that that is more important than what you are trying to teach them. The same is true as to why they are not doing the homework you give them…and why are you giving them homework anyway. You were brought here to teach conversation. (maybe because the amount of English vocabulary they understand is pathetic?)

I should say that in the end most of my students were fine. After a period of adjustment most of them learned to appreciate my style of teaching. Out of over 700 + students, 70% wound up getting a good or excellent first term grade from me. (of course I was a VERY generous grader.) But the other 30% were simply taking up space, if they bothered to show up at all. When they did, the girls spent more time putting on make-up and doing each other’s hair than listening to me. Or they were playing with their cell phones, reading Anime books, or just plain old gossiping. The boys spent most of their time simply being surly. Any and every attempt I made to discipline them was met by a stern rebuff from the English department. Of course as a faring I knew I could not use corporal punishment, so I tried all kinds of other techniques. I had them stand in the corner of the classroom, until I ran out of corners. I tried marching them up to the English department, hoping that they would at least receive a lecture on respect. Of course they didn’t even hear one sternly spoke word, and once out in the corridor simply laughed at me in a mocking way. I had them write 1000 times: “I must be quiet in Ajarn Larry’s class”, or “I must do the homework for Ajarn Larry’s class”. Needless to say that I was told from the powers to be to stop this “cruel” punishment. I tried simply throwing them out of the classroom so that I could teach those students who wanted to learn. Not allowed. I have lectured that there are no naughty students, that I am simply not “motivating” them! Sometimes I feel that I’ve been sentenced to some kind of Orwellian alternate reality, where Ignorance is Bliss. We Farang teachers often joke about this school as being the Ministry of Love.

Fast forward to the time for giving out grades. We were given a flash-drive with a grading program completely in Thai. No one, despite many requests would show us how to use it! Ask Ajarn M. I was told, he was here last year. I’m too busy. Unfortunately Ajarn M. had only the vaguest clue how to use it! Somehow all of us stumbled through the process without having a clue of whether what we were doing was correct! When I handed in my results, I was in for another nasty surprise. Apparently this school has top ranking in the area, and so NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO FAIL. That includes the 90 students who I gave a score of zero. These are the sweet boys and girls who: came to class only if they felt like it, and then came 15-20 minutes late; would not pay the least amount of attention; disrupted the class continually, and finally did not hand in even ONE piece of homework for 5 months! I was told to change these 90 grades, not only from zeros, but to passing grades!

Oh, I see. This is how the school has such a high ranking! It gets even worse than this. Ajarn R. teaches Matiyam 6. When he gave his classes a test for written English, 75% failed. The Thai solution? Post the test in the hallway, so that the students can learn the correct answers, and then retest them! Not surprisingly, every student received a perfect score! Guess which test results were recorded? I have steadfastly refused to change ANY of my grades. If the administration wishes to do so, they can go ahead and do so, but I won’t be part of that little scheme!

What I wound up doing is going over EVERYONE’S head here. Luckily I am friends with the former director of the school. Last year I tutored her two grand daughters, and she likes my wife and I. Three of us teachers visited her home and poured out to her all that I’ve talked about here. Now this woman is a formidable lady and extremely well respected in the community. When she talks, people listen! She immediately set up a meeting with the English department to discuss all our concerns. Immediately the atmosphere got extremely frosty around here. The meeting turned out about the way I expected. The Thai teachers kept going on and on about how we simply didn’t understand Thai culture, yada, yada yada. There was a lot of shouting. Luckily the former director is still on our side. She conferred with the present director, and promises were given about improvements for the future. And my 90 failures? Their parents will be contacted. They and their children will have to attend a special meeting, and the students will have a few intensive days to make up at least some of the work. I was willing to accept that compromise…..if it truly happens!

And the future? Hopefully I can make it through the end of my contract with no major incidents. After that I’ll just have to wait and see. There are plenty of other schools in the area if things don’t improve. Despite all of my problems, I can I honestly say that I enjoy teaching in Thailand. The good students make it all worthwhile. I have a dozen girls who come over to our home each weekend to learn cooking from me. (I have a degree in Culinary Arts) You’d be amazed how much English you can absorb by learning to make pizza, cookies, ice cream etc.!

And the best news? Last week my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! Hopefully he will be able to integrate the best of two cultures into his life.

Larry Gellar

Who can truly teach?

Who can truly teach?

The letters from the people who are trying to project their self intellect and portray themselves as educators (or trained mechanics- thank ya Mr. Meade) and not English teachers who are teaching English as a foreign language please get a grip of common sense. If these people want to be worshipped and praised then that's fine but can you actually teach ESL?
Education and ESL are two different things. Its that simple. What does a degree in Astro Physics have to with teaching a foreign language to a 9 year old for example? I would say this connection is minimal. Ask how many of these "graduates" know what a predicate adverb is and they'll fall flat on their faces. Ask someone with a degree in Sports science" what your Gluteas Maximus is and I'm sure they'll tell you its the arse muscle - what these self proclaimed educators use to talk with.

CELTA is the number one qualification for teaching ESL - so say the University of Cambridge, whom I'm sure people will agree is a recognized University by anyone's standards. The University of Cambridge, I think knows better. The reason these people keep writing in and saying that being as highly educated as them is needed to be a teacher are only saying it because they know if there is a lack of teachers in this country - and that will force the schools to pay more money. This meaning they are only motivated by their own self-gain and greed and really do not give a monkeys about teaching English at all as long as they get more money. If I want to study Chemistry then I would need a Professor with all the right qualifications in that field. If the Professor was qualified in accountancy then he would not be much use to me. I have an education and I am not a great teacher. I have worked with teachers who only have a CELTA or TEFL and they run rings around me. What is the point in having Celta schools advertising "do your Celta in Thailand" if you can't work here.

As we all know, most people who have degrees do not decide to make their fame and fortune by becoming a teacher in Thailand. Lets be fair most salaries are a joke compared to what they could get in their fields at home. People end up teaching because they discover what a great job it is and to be able to work in amazing Thailand is a great opportunity to stay. When you come to Thailand as a backpacker, you do not decide to do a Celta course and earn enough money to continue traveling because Celta courses aren't cheap. They could obviously use this money to continue travelling. As for the Canadians who were sent home because they only had a TEFL then I really do feel sorry for them and I'm sure some of them would have made great teachers. It wasn't their fault that they didn't meet the legal visa requirements, It wasn't their inability as an ESL teacher that caused them to be sent home. it was in fact, quite simply the rules of the needed visa requirements which were that you needed a degree.

Maybe, they were people who lacked opportunity in their own country and went abroad to teach in a wonderful profession to see if they could make a life and career for themselves like the millions of immigrants who poor into Great Britain and United States etc to seek careers and a better education, legal and illegal. Are there that many degree holders who want to leave their field and come work for a quarter or less of what they could earn at home who want to work as ESL teachers in Thailand. I think not. If it is the future of children's ability to make a career for themselves through the learning of the English language that you care about, then I'm sure you' agree with the statement CELTA is No.1. Astro physics degree holders please apply to Nasa, the wages are much higher if you are competent enough and remember, no one likes a smart arse. I think if Mr. Meade and his followers actually stop and listen to something apart from the sound of their own voice that continually keeps reminding them of their greatness then they would realize that the Thais are the educators and we supplement their system by teaching ESL. As long as we act accordingly and do not abuse our own education for wrong doings then I'm sure children will will act accordingly to. I'm sure, not even Mr. Karr acted like Jim Carrey on ecstasy in his school.


Let's expose dodgy teachers

With the recent news about an alleged paedophile murderer hiding out in Bangkok as a teacher, perhaps you could do some investigative journalism run a story about how few employers in Thailand actually do background checks on teachers and how easy it would be for a psycho to get a job here probably in a matter of minutes. Perhaps the city of Angels hides more deeply sinister figures than we had hitherto imagined.

In the UK for example, every single person involved with children or other vulnerable groups must provide a recent police disclosure of criminal records (either full or partial based on the kind of position applied for). Proper background checking involves contacting academic registrars at universities and records officers at training providers, it also involves contacting superiors or former employers (not colleagues or acquaintances as most EFL teachers here seem to think).

Sadly so few employers in the EFL business in Thailand actually take the time to check qualifications and backgrounds, that I am often insulted and accused of being some kind of verification nazi or beaurocratic fool for attempting to get some basic background information from candidates, beyond the fact that they may be white, which many teachers assume is qualification enough, it seems.

You will say “Caveat emptor” or the equivalent – ie employers should check, or it’s their own fault if a teacher turns out to be a potentially dangerous liar or phoney. But I hope that you can understand that contacting academic registrars and referees takes time – weeks or months usually – and often those employers who do check are forced to either recruit only from abroad (with a significantly lower number of fraudulent applications in general) and / or to install a ‘probationary period’ of 3 months or so in order to buy time to complete the verification process.

While it is admirable for a website like ajarn to champion the rights of foreign teachers in Thailand, I also feel there is a hand in hand obligation to acknowledge and understand the high proportion of ‘dodgy’ native English speaking EFL teachers out there at the moment. The EFL community in Thailand needs to take a long hard look at itself and examine the sometimes exploitative, commonly cynical and occasionally openly hostile and racist attiudes that prevail in some parts of the community. There also seems to me to be a kind of middle-aged, boys dinking club mentality common to many staffrooms.

The all pervading conspiracy of silence when it comes to the behaviour of western EFL teachers in general can be seen in far too many places. “It’s them against us.” But who is for the students, then? It is more likely that a person will be ostracized for speaking up against errant behaviour, than the person who is spoken out against, although I understand this is common to Thai culture as well.

In Thailand I have had to turn away literally hundreds of western teachers for want a a single reference from a former employer, let alone anything else. I would also conservativelty estimate that amongst the applications I receive from native English speaking teachers (and I recruit for positions which are generally above average as you can see from my postings) and of those I attempt to check, at least 30% or even more are fraudulent in some way. 30%+!!!!! Is there any other field or place in the world where this would happen? That is an epidemic! (I know: TIT.)

I know your solution: offer higher salaries and attract better teachers, but there are several of the usual objections.
1) Increasing higher salaries does nothing to discourage ‘dodgy’ teachers – in fact it only emboldens and attracts them to become more and more brazen as they think of their lifestyle here with considerably more cash in their pockets.
2) If average salaries went up, all the flotsam and jetsam and free loaders of the world would be in Bangkok overnight (that’s not to say they’re not here now, either!) as well as the good teachers who are just as likely to come for an average salary, knowing the enormous cost of living differences which make average salaries here quite livable and who comes to Thailand for the money, anyway?.
3) Salaries can increase when the average middle class Thai family (who our schools mostly serve) can afford to pay more for tuition without being forced to withdraw their child from school. All those Mercedes and other signs of conspicuous consumption were not bought for cash, I hope everyone understands, and Thais generally spend more on their cars than on their houses! Take a look at the average Thai wage and tell me if EFL teachers get positive discrimination here or not!

Anyway, I think the foreign teaching community should stand together to put its collective house in order. Is it permissible to tolerate and condone behaviour which we would find completely unacceptable in our own countries in the foreign teachers staffrooms here, simply because it is a different country and the misogynists, sex-residents and alcoholics are here in significant numbers? I don’t believe something stops being wrong simply because lots of people do it.

I bet that if we ourselves started speaking up, we would find that actually the bad teachers are a minority and only get away with things because they are never confronted by anyone. Thai culture prohibits Thai staff from doing this, so perhaps it is time we took the matter into our own hands.

I’m sure there are other alleged paedophile murderers and other seriously unsuitable people still lurking or hiding as teachers in Bangkok and Thailand. I know for a fact that something like 30% of applicants based in Thailand who apply to me for a job are liars alone. I have no means of knowing what else they may be. That to me, as a hopefully rational, reasonable person with normal standards of decency absolutely shocking and an utter disgrace for a so called ‘profession'.

I’m not advocating a witch hunt, but I would suggest that something could be done to raise the profile of the problem of “dodgy’ teachers to the level when all western teachers would be actively thinking about what they can do to help. Thais may never feel able to do this openly, so perhaps we should import some of our western values into largely western staffrooms rather than turning a blind eye because we are in a foreign country and Thai culture prohibits it.

Anyway, I think the recent news story might be a good chance to post some articles encourage to employers to check teachers’ backgrounds much more carefully than at present and for western teachers in general to try to clean their house up a bit and to stop condoning unacceptable behaviour from colleagues simply because they are in a foreign country.

Chris Pennington

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