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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I'm outta here!

In response to Mike's letter (Problems with the System, 20th December 2016) I have just tried unsuccessfully in my Thai government school to set up a two-tier system where those choosing to live here for many years could have the choice of a contract where they are able to teach 25 hours a week for a salary of 45,000.

Those new to Thailand must start on 18 hours a week at 35,000 as they need the time to prepare and increase their pedagogies. Our turnover of staff is about 60 to 70 % each year so with a second tier, for those staying a few years, we would have more teachers stay and fewer teachers needed to be employed due to extra hours us living here would cover.

As I said, I was unsuccessful so I am off to see more of South East Asia where i will receive the same salary as someone with no experience but will learn much more as I travel around.

Like Mike, I started teaching in Thailand 12 years ago. I achieved my BE in 2009. I do feel like the only person who benefited from us farlangs was us. I have learnt so much. The kids have not unfortunately. As John Lennon once said "Life is what happens to you while you are planning other things"

T Mark

Problems with the system

Problems with the system

I'm at the final stage of a Diploma in Education which I had to enroll in to be able to continue teaching in the Kingdom of Thailand.

After 12 years and four different schools, I have come to the conclusion that the "quality of Thai students' English skills" did not improve within the last 12 years. But how is that even possible when more and more NES teachers with experience and degrees in education teach Thai students, even at smaller schools?

Here are some problems:

Too many agencies sign a contract with corrupt school directors who only want to fill their pockets. If the students learn or not isn't really important to them. All agencies have great brochures with information that makes people believe that thus agency provides plenty of experienced NES teachers with many years of experience. The truth is that a lot of them are NNES guys and I don't even want to call them teachers now. They are only there to fill in because they couldn't find an experienced NES teacher who signs a 10-month contract with a monthly salary of 30K, or even less.

I know from the past that these agencies have a hard time finding such people and they even look in tourist areas, approach people from English speaking countries and a week later they enter a Thai classroom for the first time. Some of them were planning to travel, but making some extra money and leaving after the first salary is quite common.

I've met ex- students who told me that they had seven different foreign teachers in one term? A shocking example was a 19-year-old girl with her 18-year-old brother and both were my students at a well-known primary school in grade six. They "Waied" me and I soon found out that the English they were taught at primary school was completely gone. After six years of high school at the best high school in town, they couldn't even answer the easiest questions. When they were in grade six, both could communicate and understood when English was spoken. Six years of high school, taught by experienced NES teachers and all of their English was gone down the drain?

Students have to fail when they are not good enough to do their assignments.

Teachers need to learn more about child psychology.

It's time that somebody stops all the fishy agencies that pay so-called teachers, often only backpackers, a 10-month salary only, many of them don't even have a degree. If a teacher didn't go to university, it's a very bad start position.

The school directors are only interested in signing up with agencies because they make good money by doing so. The best teachers are those who've got a lot of teaching experience and hired directly.

A 12 months contract, visa and work permit paid for is a must and only shows how a school is treating foreign teachers.

A lot of foreigners are long enough in the system to understand what should and has to be changed to see much better results. The students from today are the future of tomorrow. We don't need some shortsighted people who don't understand the importance of a good education. And when I hear that education in Thailand is free until grade 12, I only have to smile. Nothing is free and hidden fees have to be paid too often. To get a student into a school with a good name is already expensive.

And if a Thai teacher who worked 30 years in a smaller town wants to work at a school where he or she is living, the schools usually asking for 400,000 baht. people have to buy their teaching position.

Students til grade 12 are not allowed to ask their teacher a question because they could lose face by not knowing the answer? It's time to stop this insanity, nobody can lose face, we can only work together and create a good environment, learn from our mistakes and help each other.

The use of Multi -media in class these days also helps a lot. I could go on and on and on all night long, but it's time for bed.

I wish all teachers a great time, please write about your own experiences and there might be one day where we all are united and have some say in this big circus called education. Sawasdee khrap.


Live like the locals

Live like the locals

I don't understand why people keep saying they cannot live like a Thai in Bangkok. I live in Seoul but I've been to Bangkok a few times and I had noticed that the cost of living there is very cheap compared to where I live now.

I'm not a teacher or even a native English speaker but I have friends who teach English here and they generally get paid about 2,000 US dollars a month plus free accommodations. An officetel (it's a tiny studio) rent is around 800 dollars so if you include that in the salary then a monthly income of an English teacher would amount to 2,800 dollars.

That's actually even less than the average graduate salary in Korea but expats here still enjoy a reasonable life in Seoul. On the other hand, despite the huge difference in the cost of living between Seoul and Bangkok, expats' living expenses in these two cities seem somewhat similar as I see people claiming that you could struggle even with 80,000 baht (which is approximately 2,200 US dollars. )

Obviously that's because expats in Bangkok are trying to live a much better life than average Thai people. Here in Seoul, people don't do that. We just go to the same restaurants Korean people go to and we shop at where Korean people shop at. That's why even though expats here are not generally well off, we don't struggle with money.

So probably it's about time for people to adapt and live like average Thai people since you are in Thailand.


Education should be entertaining

Education should be entertaining

Education should be entertaining no matter what the subject is.

When I was at school my music teacher made learning to read music something fun. It wasn't easy - but I persevered and learned it. She inspired us. My swimming teacher was just a sadist. He turned something that should have been fun into a terrifying experience! But that was half a century ago and things have changed, right?

Well, actually - not that much. Kids are inspired by fun and imaginative teachers and will usually find interest in most anything in their worlds.

Edutainment gets a bad rap here for a good reason - teachers often use it as a crutch to stumble past their lack of subject knowledge and classroom experience and/or training. Also - subjects that are difficult for Thais (and English is a good example) absolutely NEED to be as much fun as possible or students will quickly lose their interest in learning if they are not.


No perfect jobs!

There is no 'perfect' job. There are very good jobs, but familiarity usually breeds some contempt. I'd always advise any teacher to avoid working for an agency. Really, the best compliment I've heard about any agency is "Well, they always pay on time". The bar is clearly set too low.

I worked for two schools through two different agencies. Both schools were great, but the agencies were always a pain. Anytime anyone from the agency came to the school it put the foreign teachers on edge. Often it made people nervous because the agency were too overbearing about looking and behaving perfectly. They were obsessed with looking good and keeping their contract. That's fine, but have some faith in your teachers. You employed them after all. Both agencies paid on the right day, but you'd never know what time. It was never before lunch and one time it was at 9 o'clock at night. There's only really one thing I expected from my agency, pay the money on the day and preferably in the morning. You have one job.

Now I work directly for a school and it is awesome. I have a boss who studied in the US so I can talk directly to her. There's no middle man diluting or simply not passing on information. She's a businesswoman first, but she's smart. She sent me on a course to learn how to use and utilize my interactive whiteboard. I have a projector, laptop, printer and awesome wifi. I even have a pleather office chair. I got an extra 5k for summer camp and a 'thank you' because we had a lot of students signing up. That really made me happy. Even just a thank you sometimes makes a huge difference. It does to me. People need to feel the love sometimes.

It must be tougher for agencies now to find teachers. Salaries are still rubbish and places like Bangkok are becoming more expensive. I know one young guy on 35k who recently quit. He said the money wasn't enough and he didn't come to Thailand to work two jobs. He's going back home. Thailand is an amazing place to live, but nowhere is fun to live if you don't have enough money. Me working directly for the school has netted me an extra 15k a month. I wish it had happened sooner, but I think I've earned it now.


CEFR has come to our school.

CEFR has come to our school.

Hi All,

I was in the photocopy room at school the other day and noticed a 90 page academic document that was to be copied 25 times and handed out to the teachers.

The document was
Manual for Language Test Development and Examining
For use with the CEFR.

So I went back up to my computer and found the document can be downloaded for free on this website.

So it is coming and after researching a little bit i do think it is a good Idea.

It seems to be leaning towards similar tests such as IELTS. Slightly different in terminology and at first glance maybe a bit Facist. Seems to be about business communication and conversations around the water cooler. ( I need more time to learn more so please take that last comment with a grain of salt).

So why my letter and hopefully it being put on the Ajarn website.

Well, I want to know more. I live out of the Bangkok and work in a Government school. (by choice)

I would hope that as the realization that this is the next hurdle we will all need to jump (us Farlang and the Thai teachers) that sharing information may give us all the skills we need to continue our existence here in Thailand and also use this as a benefit for finding work in other countries as well.

So if you have any info. I have gigabytes of sample tests for IELTS but I have not found any for the CEFR. So sample tests would be a good start. Than we can look at the actual test procedure and pros and cons.

As with most assessments understanding the goal of that assessment is often more important than the knowledge required to take it.

Have fun

T Mark

You can win if you want

You can win if you want

It's sad to read so many readers' posts asking for help and reliable answers to questions regading Thai law and taking employers to court over unfair dismissals, etc.. There are two courts which do help. For private employers, it's the entirely FREE Labour Court. Find yours in your "region". Chiang Mai's is in region 5.

Government schools can and should be sued in administrative courts. Pay a 2% fee based on the amount claimed. Get someone to write the complaint in Thai... Yes, it takes a while. No, you can win. By giving up on just claims, many reward such behavior, making it more difficult for all others who follow them. Be that SS contributions, lack of notice, breach of contract. Whatever.

The Labour Court has a settlement conference, pushing hard to settle there and then. And you will be provided an attorney. The only cost will be a translator (can be a friend).

Do something for the fellow chalkies suffering from injustice and fraud.


Why blaming everyone else is getting us nowhere.

Why blaming everyone else is getting us nowhere.

I have just spent an hour researching the new testing regime being introduced by kruusapha (Thai education Authority).

So it is based on TOEFL, IELTS and many other tests that have been around for ever and a day.

Personally having taught IELTS, I like the structure. I like the goals it seeks. Learning the language for communication. Passing on ideas and conversing everyday. Great, exactly what is needed. Exactly what a language is for.

So back to my time teaching IELTS. The students I was teaching, would sit for the test once a year and most surprised themselves when they were receiving 3 and 4 gradings. The school was in the Issan region so please do not expect to much. Considering where they started, from the teachers I was working with were so happy for these kids when they surprised themselves.

The students would always comment on the head teacher's ability to get a score of 7 and how great she was. I would work with this teacher on a daily basis and had to speak Thai to her as she could not understand English.

After further investigation I was advised that this teacher never actually sat the exams but another teacher who had lived overseas would do it in her name. Apparently, well not really, Truthfully as someone who was in the position through nepotism could not be seen to have a lower level than the students. After further investigation by quietly talking to parents it was already understood how the head teacher had received the qualification. The parents said nothing, except to us westerners, and only wanted us to please help the students. I never stay in the same school for longer than 2 years as I am here to learn and travel. I can give many more examples like the one above about nepotism.

I suspect many of those leaders in Kruusapha are legitimate in their qualifications and were lucky enough to live or study overseas and see the benefits of the CERF-t system. Unfortunately the current paradigm in Thai culture is to muddle through. The next level did not have this luxury and directors in government schools must do what they no best. What they have been doing for the entire careers.

It is sad that a nation cannot accept just how successful it has been by using other peoples money. How history shows us that Thailand has always become rich by allowing others in to run the country while pretending they are. Although they have never been colonist they are being controlled.

So my point is this.

If Thailand wants to improve its educational standards maybe it needs to look at how it educates. Can Thailand please stop blaming everyone else and look at itself. Many other countries have succeeded at improving English in their country using back packers. These countries also design things that change the human race and accept they lost a world war or have been colonized.

By the way so many teachers are leaving Thailand at the moment that my school needs teachers. Even with no experience. The parents just want someone to help. They pay big baht for a very low level. Unfortunately when push comes to shove they just want the final grades to be falsified so their kids at least have chance.

Have fun.

Mark, Chantaburi

Reasons to be cheerful?

If you know that your salary is low, and just accept that you will continue to work in Thailand earning a low salary, then I hope that the "I do it because I love the lifestyle" argument has much substance to it, because it sure seems that the reasons people stay here are silly and often selfish reasons.

Foreigners working in Thailand, mostly as teachers, will often say that the low salary is okay for them because they love the lifestyle and love living in Thailand. It is an old, recycled argument that true believers will continuously fall back on. I hear things like "My salary might be low, but it's enough to support my lifestyle and still save a little." Great. Good for you. I'm proud you believe that.

I would love to see a list of 10 or so things about this "lifestyle" that people keep referring too. Sadly, when I ask, people are taken aback and quickly scramble for a greatest hits generic list that often starts like this: "Well, the people are nice, the food and transport is cheap, travel is cheap, the beaches are amazing, and culture is fascinating , etc." Ughhh....

To which I reply: "How many countries have you been to?? There are load of places with "nice" people, cheap, food and transport, fascinating culture, etc. There are literally thousands of nice beaches in the world. You know you have been in Thailand too long when you keep revisiting the same cities, the same islands, and the same "hotspots"

It seems that a bunch of the "stuck-in-the-mud-with-no-options-and-nowhere-to-go" types here (and there are lots of them) have just given up. Being away from family and friends and meaningful relationships so you can pretend you are younger than you are and go to full moon parties, Khao San Rd or Cheap Charlies on weekends (before it closed - oh, the the hundred of comments I read about it closing and how people were absolutely or sit in an air-conditioned cafe in Chiang Mai with wifi for hours on end updating your Facebook status with selfies and check-ins to share with everyone (often people they haven't seen or talked to in years) about their "amazing" travels.

Yes, it is an amazing journey from the air-conditioned guesthouse to the air-conditioned cafe.


The revolving door

The revolving door

To me the saddest part of the low-TEFL wages in Thailand are the Thai students who end up being taught by a rotating crew of inexperienced, untrained foreigners who will probably only stay in the job for a year or two at the most. But thats the result when the salaries are what they are. So long as that's the case, TEFL in Thailand will be a good option only for fresh graduates seeking a 1-year adventure abroad, or retirees looking to pad their pensions.

Committed, trained career teachers will either end up teaching the elite in an international school, or quickly move on to greener pastures


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