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.
Having been born, raised and educated in the Philippines, I feel that the education system is at par with, if not better than, other countries.
I am currently teaching Math and I know for a fact that there are only two teachers in my school (myself included) who can actually teach the material since the other teachers are not Math majors. Now, whether or not I am a competent teacher is another story, All I know is that I began my teaching career in Los Angeles and continued in Canada, and so far, my colleagues and students have been happy with how I teach (some of my Caucasian colleagues even ask me to explain concepts to them from time to time).
Why am I saying all of this? I think the Filipino is capable of becoming a good teacher, just like anybody else. However, let's accept the fact that there are also those Filipino teachers who are crappy, just like anybody else. Having said that, let's be more objective and resist the urge to hit authors of articles simply because they point out something that hurts, albeit true.
I am not an English teacher and I do not wish to become one. Why? Because I myself know that I will not be able to teach it competently.
That is not to say that no Filipino can teach English properly. But then, I have read articles written by Filipino English teachers whose grammar is just sad and I also have heard them speak English really badly (and I am not talking about the accent because I also have a thick accent although people have told me that my accent is barely noticeable, probably because I have been in North America for 15 years and maybe, just maybe, I have improved my speaking quite a bit?).
All I am saying is that especially for those who aspire to receive higher salaries (presumably from private schools preferred by the wealthy), if you cannot speak the language really well, i.e. you stammer, you mispronounce, you misuse the grammar, you should not be surprised if schools would not take you in simply because the parents who pay the tuition would normally expect better.
Sit back for a second and picture this: You are a parent of a student and you pay a substantial amount for tuition. Would you not want your child to be taught properly. Do not let your emotions get the better of you. Try not to be overly-sensitive ( a common trait among us Filipinos, is it not?).
I agree that if teachers accept low wages, it will drive down the pay scale. I would not be surprised if Filipino teachers are guilty of this. However, please bear in mind that having a low wage is better than having no wage, get it? You see, the Filipino OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) is, often times, the sole breadwinner.
When the OFW goes abroad, there is no other source of income but bills continue to come in. The OFW, for the most part, does not have the luxury of time to wait for a better offer because any time soon, a call from the family back home would put enormous stress on the OFW to send money quickly. As such, I wish folks would be more mindful of the reason why they accept low wages.
I am just sharing my view, as a Filipino myself. Thanks everyone and mabuhay ang gurong Pilipino!
A Pinoy Teacher
It just seems to me that the problems teachers face always come down to common narratives.
1. Working with the Thai teaching staff (and sometimes other foreign teachers).
2. Awful salary with proper benefits.
3. Using the "Thai Way" or culture card as a constant excuse to avoid actual situations that need to be addressed.
4. A blatant refusal to explore new and BETTER teaching methods.
5. The fact that many teaching environments set up the eager and willing expat teacher for failure, not success.
6. People in positions of leadership, that do not know what that really means.
There can be more points listed but it is already obvious and it would be considered "running up the score", but in my opinion, Thailand contributes enough to create and promulgate its own stigma regarding this issue. Perhaps it gets what it deserves?
The element of autonomy in the teaching world was what appealed to me about teaching compared to other (employee style) careers. The freedom to shape the class how you want it, to plan with students for future events, group discussions, mock exams and much more made TEFL an interesting and fun challenge.
However, in Thailand, especially in the full time government school field, this is often taken from one - or narrowed down to the mantra that one must 'follow the book' but taken literally as in, page by page. After that, students are examined on the contents of a book, rather than on their level of English.
This makes teaching a low level skill that can be picked up by anyone with a bit of confidence and native English. It is a great pity, especially for the students on the receiving end, and can reduce the number of skilled teachers who want to stay here.
It really surprises me that good teachers here still work for paltry salaries. If you're shit, fair enough, but I still see decent teachers who are not adapting to the market and are still working for agencies and crappy schools.
I'm perfectly happy in my job. I make good money and I'm treated well. I teach part-time online as extra cash. When I say extra, I make more part-time than teachers making 35,000 a month. I've asked my online companies if they have full-time positions and they said 'absolutely'. I have no desire to work online full-time as I'm happy. Had I had this opportunity when working for an agency or crappy schools before, I'd have been gone in a heartbeat.
Study the market and check out the options out there. There's no reason for good teachers here to still be making crappy 35-40,000 salaries.
I am currently not working as a teacher in Bangkok, but what often strikes me is that many people claim that one needs the equivalent of a European salary to live a decent life in Krung Thep.
Besides being of the opinion that one can do with much less than 70,000 per month, teaching a common foreign language while making almost three times what the locals make strikes me as odd. Working for a Thai school and making 70,000 baht a month, good luck with that. The international school route is a much better bet.
I had a blast in Bangkok, made 40-45,000 as a non-native speaker, but packed my bags after almost two years. I miss Thailand everyday, but I think I made the right choice.
I have a Masters Degree from an American "University" and some part-time teaching experience on the college level but I was just doing that for extra money. Now I am retired in Thailand. I am 69 and still seem to have all my marbles. Are there ANY options, even part time to teach and earn a few hundred baht for incidentals? I have a good pension from the United States, but i am trying to help out my ailing mother-in-law, while also paying off credit card bills from the USA. No lectures about "financial responsibility" needed, I am hard enough on myself. Just exploring whatever options I may have. (Probably none, but it does not hurt to ask). Please omit the usual comments about what a "geezer" like me should be doing and how I should do it. Thank you very much.
Fred Azbell, Chonburi, Thailand
We've recently advertised vacancies we have at my school.
I would suggest that job-seekers apply their alleged skills in English to that initial contact email and try to show themselves in the best light possible. I have been stunned by the generally poor quality of application emails sent. Surely people must realise that the very first point of contact with a potential new employer is the email? Forwarded content, the word 'Hi' with a grainy picture and a out-of-date document, awful grammar and self-inflated egos (without proof) don't really cut it.
Perhaps prospective employees should concentrate more on that first email, which might result in fewer rejections.
I disagree with the claim that teachers should not care what the agencies are making. The whole reason these agencies exist in Thailand with the current structures they do (a monthly percentage of a teacher's contract), unlike places like Japan and Korea and other related industries, such as international education wherein agencies will only charge a placement fee, is because of the corruption in the education system in Thailand.
There should indeed be transparency and accountability as to where and who this education budget goes to. This is tax money. If Thailand wants to hire and retain good teachers and come even close to the education quality of other countries, they need to do away with this corrupt practice.
Agencies should only be earning a placement fee. This placement fee should be publicized for the Thai public to see. These budgets should be audited by the Thai government to ensure these budgets are going where they were intended. "Kickbacks" and "nonations" to school administration will only continue to hurt social mobility of the Thai middle and working classes who cannot afford private education.
I have noticed over the past five to ten years a shift from the “semi-formal” attire to mostly the business casual look for male professionals here in Thailand, with the full suit and tie look reserved for top executives and the occasional formal occasion. It seems like we have been following the US West Coast trends.
I prefer this trend myself, as I think it is much easier to look smart wearing business casual clothing (slacks, professional shined shoes and either a button-down short- sleeve or Polo-style shirt) than the old-fashioned semi-formal look of a long-sleeved shirt with a tie. It is also more comfortable. Take a walk down the business district of Bangkok during working hours and see how many men are wearing long sleeved shirts and ties. Not many, although it was the look of 10 to 20 years ago.
I personally prefer the business casual look, it looks more confident, but still professional enough to set one apart from the common tourist.
Personal opinion, while a man can look very professional and smart wearing a full suit and tie it needs to be worn in the right situation, the semi-formal old fashioned long sleeve often white shirt with a tie without a jacket looks pretty dorky on most men, although some can pull it off with style.
I am not sure what is necessarily expected at government schools, but I suspect most language schools and other places operating outside official government regulations are comfortable with male teachers wearing clothes of a business casual style, which in my view is both more comfortable and looks smarter.
But of course, this is just opinion, there does seem to be some national differences with some of the English (British) teachers generally preferring the old-fashioned semi-formal look while many American teachers preferring a less formal look, with Canadian, Aussie, Kiwi and other foreign teachers being split on these opinions.
Just an observation.
At private schools money talks. Bigger classes is more money. To reduce the class sizes the fees will go up to international school standards I'm afraid.
Schools also don't need to hire teachers with a teaching degree. I was amazed to see so many colleagues with no teaching background whatsoever. Some of them are really good by the way. On the other hand I see teachers with a bachelor in education or higher with no teaching skills.
In government schools you have, on paper, qualified teachers but in many cases they don't have the motivation to make a difference. Many didn't choose education because they love it.
I agree that many lessons that I have seen are grammar-based (Thai and Filipino). Not saying it is wrong, but it is not my way. On the other hand there are a lot of teachers that come through agencies and are not staying longer than a year (sometimes two). That way you can't build consistency. Yes, if management is amazing it is probably possible. But in general, new teachers have to find things that work and don't work by themselves again.
To keep teachers longer will be hard. The demand of good teachers is high and many native English teachers will go to international schools. Even good non-native speakers go to international schools. What is left are many teachers, but nowhere near enough to fill schools with middle-class children.
Also the communication to parents is something I obviously agree on. I work at a school where 95 % of the parents speak at least basic English and are all on LINE. Also they are open to talk to you after school. In my previous school, half of the parents could speak English but many of the kids lived with grandparents. They didn't speak English and were not that engaged. It was more difficult to reach these (grand) parents.
In my opinion the biggest step forwards that Thai education could make is improving the teachers. I know that the government spends a lot of money to improve teachers. At the moment this money goes to trips around the country with no benefit to the schools whatsoever. Also colleges get a lot of money for buying equipment, but most of that money goes in people's pockets I'm afraid.
I hope the government could change this somehow. Also monitoring schools is based on documentation rather than (classroom) observations. I think there is enough room for improvement here. Whilst not seeing the whole picture, I think this is the first thing to change.
Knowing that my English isn't perfect (non-native English speaker here) I hope that my reply will be commented on content rather than its grammar and spelling.
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