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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Thoughts on the controversial TM 30

Thoughts on the controversial TM 30

"Expats are leaving in droves" has always been a somewhat over-used and rather dramatic statement but you do wonder if it's rapidly becoming the case"

"I have two friends, both here over 20 years, had good jobs, own homes, have 800K in the bank for retirement visas + excellent pensions. Retirees Thailand should be welcoming. The TM30 was the bitter end. Both are selling their homes, taking their money and going elsewhere" - Dan

"I will be leaving after 25 years without looking back. If I don't leave soon, then when? When I am 80 years old and find the conditions for visa renewal have been changed without grandfathering and I no longer qualify and have 7 days to get out? - Hooligan Abroad

"Thailand is not the nutty, flavoursome place it was in the '90's. Those of us who were here then are like herons beside a dried out pond; we know there is nothing here anymore but we don't know where to fly to"

"I personally still love the place after 17 years but I do empathize with those for whom life here has become difficult" - Russ

"I'll be 95% out very soon, after 20 years. Wife swore she'd never leave but after spending more time away she sees the benefits. Family was always the concern, and the reason I thought we'd never go, but she plans to visit often. I never pressured her either" - Lucky


Undesirable teacher accents

Undesirable teacher accents

I think I have a Malaysian accent but Malaysians think I have what they perceive as a desirable accent and foreigners ask (or aks, lol) how is it that they can understand me better than other speakers of English (regardless of NES or NNES)? Americans think I have a British accent and British think I have an American. (I doth protest and I think I have neither. I have a Chinese accent and I use colloquial expressions that signal my Malaysian-ness.)

There was this time when I worked at a home-stay and we had a Russian, Finn, an educated couple from London, a less educated man from London, an Australian, Dutch, French, an immigrant naturalized American citizen of South Asian descent, an Indian, Thai, Italian, Ghanaian and Iranian all seated for brunch and chatting. As conversation got more complex, I had to interpret English between two people who were speaking English. At one point, the Russian asked how is it possible that she can understand a Malaysian speaking English better than she could an NES Cockney accent? The "lost in translation" episodes were not limited between the Russian and the Cockney accent.

Having had many of these situations happen throughout my life, it makes me err on the side of NES with the caveat that they must have at least a Bachelor's or are aware of carrying themselves, culturally, as middle class. When accents deviate too far from what pop / media culture presents (I cannot understand Russell Brand, actually), it sort of renders all English language capacity null and void.

The only thing I can't stand about Filipino accents is the way they fake the American accent. I had a Pinoy boyfriend who grew up in the US and he had a beautiful Filipino American blend that's as sexy as a South American accent. I also had a Manila wannabe Mestizo boyfriend who was upper middle class and he makes me want to throw up when he puts on his accent.... Which goes away when I get him mad enough to launch into a tirade when we fight. Like how to stay mad in an argument when someone has that accent, really.

What's undesirable about the Filipino accent is how nasal it sounds but it's not across the board. Filipinos must agree with us on this in order to spin an entire cottage industry providing training for people to sound like what they're not. I'm not sure whether it's Ilokano or those from Cebu where the accent isn't so undesirable.

I wouldn't know what I would do if I had an undesirable accent. Would I get training and fake it? That's not the most authentic way to live. But I'd definitely not teach English to anyone who isn't my own ethnicity and compete for legitimacy just so I can make a lucrative living elsewhere. As it is, I only teach English locally to my own people and to Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Thai who come to Malaysia and seek local teachers.


That's no teacher salary to live on

The poor pay and increasingly hostile visa rules are why I moved back and became qualified in Scotland where I now earn £32K a year with free health care on top thanks to the NHS. Thailand is great for a couple of years but 40,000 baht a month, which seems to be the top end of average these days, isn't a salary to live on as a foreigner.


My perfect teacher

My perfect teacher

I've been hiring in Thailand for a long time, and here's the teacher that I'm looking for in a nutshell...

Someone who looks presentable and will show up each day on time. I've turned down better qualified people in favor of someone who I thought would be more likely to stay in the job for a while. I've taken chances on people based on my gut feelings on their potential to grind it out and do the job without kicking up a fuss. It's not a foolproof system.

So, what hints are there that you're the right person for the job? What can you do to persuade an employer to take a chance on you?

Well, if you live nearby and you have a serious girlfriend or wife (and if you have kids that's even better) then bring her to the interview with you. You have a car? Then mention it. Most teachers don't.

Although I would prefer to hire more female teachers, I tend to avoid them. In my twenty years in Thailand it's my opinion that while females make for better teachers, they don't stick around for long and hop from job to job or get pissed off and run back home.

I prefer British people over Americans. Americans don't stay in Thailand all that long and they complain more than Brits. Brits aren't so risk averse and can tolerate changes in a foreign culture better than our friends across the pond. Americans have higher expectations so the fall for them hurts more.

More experienced teachers are harder to work with. They don't easily accept their reduced importance in the grand scheme of things and too many of them have personality problems that aren't easy for them to cover up.

Younger teachers are pretty good bets, except of course that they aren't really here to 'teach'. This sojourn to Asia is part of their great world adventure and they're often too focused on themselves to care about what I want from them.

Certain non-native English speakers are just aggro all the way. They don't listen to good advice and have this unwarranted arrogance and overblown faith in their 'abilities'. Their teaching priorities aren't the same as mine and they refuse to be re-trained to do what I want them to do.

Finally, teachers who take up the cause just to fill in their days are a bust, too. I like to have a little leverage over the teachers that I hire. Therefore, if you've already got a fat pension or a big wad of dosh in the bank, then I will probably look past you in favour of the guy who 'needs' the job.

So.... if you're an Englishman with a degree, around 30 years old, can work a tie knot, and you are already settled near where you want to work, and you don't have another income or much in the way of savings (and you like run-on sentences) you've got the job! Congratulations!


Thailand - a pleasant dream or a nightmare?

Thailand - a pleasant dream or a nightmare?

My name's Adrian and I'd like to share my story for other people to learn from my mistakes.

I decided to move to Thailand in 2016, after I proposed to my girlfriend and she accepted. We both worked for a reputable airline in the Middle East earning more than 3000-4000$ each as cabin crew. After a series of events that led to her dismissal from the company due to company policy of cabin crew not being allowed to get married we decided to move to Bangkok.

I was skeptical at first, not being fond of letting go of my friends, huge salary and the quality of life I got used to over the years, not to mention moving to the other side of the world, far away from my family, however the feelings of love had won me over. I come from Eastern Europe where life is hard and moving to Asia seemed like a better alternative than to bring over my beloved, where she would probably had to endure worse conditions than in Thailand.

The first six months were difficult for me, I couldn't find a job, foreigners are limited to only a certain type of work and mostly in the education system, however she had already managed to find work in the meantime so things were not so bad.

We lived in her small condo in Chaengwatthana which is quite far from the city. After 6 months i managed to get a job as a swimming instructor with a local company. The pay was average but we managed to raise together 90,000 per month. Of course most of the income came from her side as mine wasn't much. One year later we decided to buy a house in Nonthaburi, she chose the location. I wasn't that fond of the area as there was nothing there for me except that it was close to work. It was hard to find friends, living among Thais all day long is not easy. Not many people speak English there and I was kind of forced to learn Thai.

As time went by I felt as I was losing myself more and more, I hadn't made any new friends here, my social life was missing and I felt I was wasting my potential by coming here. I always had this voice in the back of my head, "am I doing the right thing?" but again love prevailed and I just pushed the thought aside.

Fast forward two years later, I had been in Thailand for 2 years without going home at all and it was all starting to get to me. It was all like a dream, I had a beautiful wife, we had a great house,I had bought a motorcycle in the meantime to get to work easier and my wife had her old car and we even got a cat, however I felt there was something not right. I had given away my airline career, friends and family to be with her. We had a house of which I was not the owner, except I paid for it every month ( we bought it on credit on my wife's name and we split the bills), I was living in a country that didn't have any laws to protect me as a foreigner and no prospect for the future, not to mention no pension plan ( we still took care of her parents as is usual in Thailand). Was it all worth it? Just for love? It shall soon be revealed.

In 2018 around the end of the year, after a few months after she had changed her job, things started taking a dark turn. She had met someone at work and I found out she was cheating on me. Of course my whole world crumbled to dust. Why did I do such a stupid thing to let everything go just for the sake of love? She wasn't my first girlfriend, I had had plenty before but no one as special as her I guess and I was the type to go all in when it came to marriage.

In December 2018 we divorced as she chose to stay with the other guy and let him move into our house (I had moved out in the meantime).

It's now the middle of 2019 and I'm getting ready to leave Thailand for good after settling all my affairs and my question to you is "Do you know what you're doing?" I had learned the hard way what it means to take a leap of faith and fall so please don't do it. I'm sure there are other people who had it worse than me but I learned a valuable lesson. If your gut is telling you there's something quite not right about moving to a country like Thailand even when everything is going great, then you'd better listen before it's too late. Take it as a warning or disregard it completely, maybe you're luckier than me.

Don't get married in Thailand, it's just a fake dream, get out while you can. There are no laws to protect you here, you can't own land, salaries in the education system haven't changed in the last 25 years and your opportunities are limited. There is a reason they say Thailand is for Thais only!

My name is Adrian, I am now 31 years old and I'm going back to Europe. Good luck to you all.

Adrian in Bangkok

Find your niche

Find your niche

30 years ago I first started teaching at a small language centre and was paid just 100 baht per hour. The place eventually closed down and teachers scrambled to find new schools. I went out and bought a nice pair of strides and two quality shirts and then told everyone my fee was 1.000 an hour. My colleagues said it was impossible. My fees soon ranged from 1,000 up to 2,600 baht per hour. I was a good teacher and I got clearly notable results. Rich Thai families were all but fighting over my time and I made well over 100,000 working just four days a week. There’s money out there. You just have to find your niche, or create one.


Twenty five years of low wages......why?

In 1994, the balance of 'power' tilted slightly in favor of the employer. The applicants were mostly older white males desperate to stay, there weren't that many Filipinos and other nationalities hadn't yet figured out how easy it was to con your way into a job here...

Fast forward a quarter of a century and the balance of power is still in favor of the employer but by a much larger margin.

While it's true that there are a lot more schools and businesses that are looking for 'teachers', the number of people wanting to fill those roles has absolutely exploded.

Also, in 1994, there was a lot less enforcement of the regulations and almost anyone could find work of some kind or another. As word of this got out, the pool of (un)talent spilled over from mostly white men to pretty much anyone who didn't look they were from Thailand. This includes a generation of braver women who were willing to 'give it a go'.

Right now there are plenty of jobs all year round, but the competency of the labor force is at an all-time low. Basically, parents are being conned into paying for unskilled people at unskilled wage levels.

The smart ones will have started at the low end and quickly worked their way up through either commonsense, ambition or re-training. But that still leaves a big pile of poo at the bottom which no amount of disinfectant can flush away...

...thus no real wage increases! 🙂


There's nothing wrong with playing favourites

There's nothing wrong with playing favourites

Almost all of the literature and advice about teaching kids says you shouldn't play favourites... and I think that's wrong!

I mostly 'play favorites' because I only see my students once a week, but I do it for other reasons, too. It's a balancing act... I sometimes favour the enthusiastic kids, because I think they'll enjoy the class more and benefit from my extra attention in the long run. I sometimes favour the restless kids at the back, because I think that sometimes, a jolt of attention might flip a switch that makes them keener and more attentive to learn.

I favour girls more than boys when the class becomes restless... because if the girls are talking when they shouldn't be, there's a good chance it's about what 'I' am doing. If the boys are chatting out of turn it's probably because of what 'THEY' are doing!

In Thailand, most large (40+) classes are overloaded with under-performers. When your time is at a premium you have to share it judiciously among the crowd. So you have to make hard choices. Students also have different 'roles' to play which can help you to be a better teacher. Some kids will lead the chorus and some will mouth the words that they don't know!

Like I say, it's a balancing act. Some of the quiet kids can surprise you with how much they've actually listened to and retained, so I try not to overlook these kids... which is hard to do, because the quiet kids are almost invisible to the teacher. Asking questions to kids who you know will answer correctly the first time can often help the unsure kids to raise their hands, because they've seen it done and that's how they would have answered... so they think, why not have a go. There's also a lot of in-class 'mentoring' going on where kids feed each other the answers. I used to find this exasperating, but I've learned that, actually, this can be an awesome tool, if it's managed correctly.

In an industry where we are mostly under-paid, under-appreciated, give yourself a good slap on the back for going against the grain and doing things YOUR way!


Don't accept paltry salaries

I have been teaching in Chiangmai for about 10 years now and my salary is now just above 50 k per month. I started back in the day at 28k a month. I cannot believe that even 50 k can be enough to live in Bangkok let alone 30k.

I agree with other teacher's comments, do not encourage these 'employers' by taking their paltry salaries. I realise that many people are settled here with Thai nationals and have children and these people may very well feel that they do not have a choice in dictating or demanding certain salaries, even if they are experienced esl teachers.

Thailand attracts a lot of very young newly qualified teachers who have had no experience teaching in their own countries they qualified from and many of whom are doing a really abysmal job of teaching their pupils. These qualified teachers are not here to stay but are in fact here to have fun, use their salaries on hedonistic activities then leave. These teachers are not too concerned about how much money they make because they are only here to have a good time. I feel that it is these teachers whom are lowering the basic salaries kingdom wide for serious long term teachers by accepting these low paying positions.

Qualifications certainly seem to come before age and experience and this is to the detriment of the pupils in Thai schools. For those teachers who have been here a while and are doing a good job and have furthered their education by doing a pgcei or a masters in education on top of their degrees, should leave Thailand and work in schools where their knowledge experience and qualifications are valued both monetarily and personally.

Another thing to note is that western teaching qualifications do not have a great focus on English as a second language learner and this too affects the children's education in Thailand as specific strategies are needed to teach them successfully.


Winning severance in the labour court

Winning severance in the labour court

I have lived in Thailand for 14 years and worked in international schools for 13 years. I love my life in Thailand and was awarded Thai citizenship in 2017. I was over the moon with this and it was one of my proudest achievements. Unfortunately this marked the beginning of a long labour dispute with my former employer.

The Private School Act states that foreign teachers can be employed on fixed term contracts but Thai teachers must be employed on non fixed term contracts. The act also removed the entitlement of foreign teachers to severance at the end of their fixed term contract.

At the time I had worked for the same international school for 9 years and 4 months. The headmaster decided to offer me a fixed term contract in December for the next academic year. I pointed out that this was not in line with the Private School Act in the case of Thai nationals. He then offered me a non fixed term contract but removed my bonus, flight allowance and end of contract relocation allowance. I pointed out that this broke labour law but the school simply ignored this point.

To cut a very long story short the case went to the labour court in Chonburi. The school offered 4 months pay as severance as they argued I had only been a Thai citizen for 12 months. I asked for 10 months pay as severance for my 10 years of service. I also submitted the Judgement of the Supreme Court,

This case involved 7 plaintiffs taking an international school to court for non payment of severance in which the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the 7 plaintiffs. As a result the judge sided with me and agreed I was due full severance for my 10 years of employment plus interest.

I hope my story and the case number I have provided helps other teachers who find themselves in a difficult situation as regards their employment contracts. If a contract isn't renewed then severance is due. In addition, an employer can't offer a contract with worse terms than the previous contract and again severance will be awarded by the court.


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