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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Too many are clueless about money

Too many are clueless about money

It's hard to believe how uneducated people are on here about money, when they say "You'll make three times what a Thai does," or "You have to live like a Thai!" Total rubbish. The salary one makes as a teacher, first of all, is three times more than the minimum wage in Thailand. Yes, this is true. But when you factor in all the circumstantial costs, opportunity costs and expat costs, a Westerner making 30,000 baht a month will, in the long run, have a lower standard of living of Thai who makes currently 10,000 baht a month.

People are bloody clueless. Consider the following factors:

Expats pay for work permit costs and criminal record check costs, etc.

Expats pay for visa run costs

Expats pay more for Passport Services

Thais get access to free healthcare

Thais get access to bank loans and credit and local brokerages for investments

Western teachers are often paying off loans from expensive universities that cost up to 20 times what a Thai university costs

Westerners pay more for national parks, taxis, and pretty much any other good or service

Westerners were born in colder environments. Science proves that your sweat glands and optimal temperature are developed and adapted when you are around 2-5 years old. Therefore, air conditioner costs are higher for Westerners

Western Food that Westerners grew up with (although not a necessity to live, it is something they are adapted to eat) is two to three times more expensive than Thai food.

Thais have their family networks to draw on at all times and can share resources

Thais do not have to spend money to fly home for funerals, weddings, reunions, etc.

Thais are generally smaller in stature, so they do not have to eat as much

Thais are not constantly having to bargain with touts and vendors who treat them as tourists

Thais have more right to the laws and are less likely to have to pay bribes, get ripped off in a legal dispute or not get paid

It is much cheaper for a Thai to retire in Thailand than it is for a Westerner who needs x amount of money in the bank for a retirement visa

The amount of money a Westerner needs to retire in his/her own country is four times what a Thai would need in Thailand

Thais are legally allowed to work a second job

Thais are legally allowed to own property and a business

A Westerner is expected to pay the lion's share for his/her Thai Spouse's lifestyle and family

A Thai does not have to pay fines to immigration for not checking in every three months

Westerners have to pay more for moving and shipping costs (presents, bank cards, documents, etc) than the average Thai

Thai entertainment, such as television, books and movies are also much cheaper and more available in Thailand

Thais can invest in their own furniture and not have to pay the "service" for serviced apartments, while only long term Westerners with a Thai spouse could and would be able to do this

Expats have to pay remittance costs and exchange rates to move their money to and from their home countries

Expats have to pay for Skype/Google Hangouts to be able to call family and friends back home

If they want to integrate, Expats have to pay (one way or another) for Thai language lessons

If they want to get married, go to a dentist, write a will, etc., a Westerner will have to pay a translation fee or premium for an English speaking service (unless they can read Thai very well and I have never seen this)

Although paltry, Thais are entitled to social services and programs that Westerners are not

Thais (in slightly higher tax brackets) can write off expenses and purchases - like the genius first time car ownership tax deductible that Yingluck introduced

Thais don't have to do their taxes twice, or have the possibility of paying an accountant, tax documentation twice, and they don't have to worry about the residency/non-residency bullshit.

Thais don't have to worry about the work or fees of keeping bank accounts in two countries.

Am I missing anything? Perhaps the above was somewhat rambling or petty, but I still believe that people need to "Wake The F.... up" and stop falling for this argument. I would never consider living in Thailand again for anything less than 90,000 a month.


Passing a test takes hard work

Passing a test takes hard work

I remember working part-time in a language centre that geared mainly towards IELTS, TOEFL and TOEIC. The ladies at the front would tell the students any old bollox. Didn't matter how low level your English was they'd push you to do a the course.

The first thing I'd do is tell the students how difficult IELTS can be. If you're at a level under pre-intermediate, you will struggle (these students harboured ideas of studying in the UK, etc, so needed at least a 6.5 score). I told them they'd be better off learning general English for a while and then come back. So, I'd get that out of the way and I'd introduce the course. We'd get to the first activity and I would see the students' faces drop. That sudden realisation that this was proper hard work.

No word of a lie I had a student ask me; "Teacher, if I did this test in Cambodia, would it be easier?" to which I replied "Is that a joke?" I could see some of the students eyes light up as they thought I was going to reply 'yes'. Unfortunately for them, I had to break the news that this is a standardised test. It's the same all over the world and the reason it exists is to test your level of English. Faces dropped again. I explained to some of the nurses one time that doing their TOEIC test can be a question of life and death for some poor bugger in hospital. The questions aren't trying to trick you - they're trying to make sure you're listening properly and have a good grasp of English.

I think many people believe studying IETLS, etc, to be a status symbol. I've had students study it thinking it was merely an advanced level of learning English. It's not. It's a test that anyone can take to test their level of English. If you wanna spunk god knows how much money up the wall on doing a 60+ hour course and then an exam, go nuts. But understand the reason for studying English proficiency exams. It's not about learning English - it's about learning how to pass a particular test. Your English has to already be good to get a meaningful score that will help you progress to university abroad, etc.


Teachers pets

Teachers pets

I disagree that teachers shouldn't have favourite students. It's pretty easy for me to determine early in the school year, which students get the best of my attention and which ones will benefit most in the long run from a little favouritism.

My favourite students are the ones who are the most attentive and involved in the class. I play to this section of the crowd. If the rest are quiet, I leave 'em alone.

I'll never forget a TV interview that the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys gave (Jimmy Johnston) after he had fired a player for sleeping in a player's meeting. He was asked if he would have fired Troy Aikman (the quarterback) if HE had slept during the meeting.

His answer was: "Of course not. I play favourites."

Made sense to me.


Take it easy!

Take it easy!

In my humble opinion, teaching in Thailand is not that harmful. Some people rather allow external factors to harm them. I believe that teachers with proper qualifications, like degrees in education and so on get paid well. For the other ones, who get paid less, the golden rules for a happy life in Thailand are always the same: Just ignore, or at least don't get too involved in all those things that make no sense to us, or that we, as foreigners, cannot change. Get a life outside the working place and surround yourself with positive people. Well... at least for me it works, and I've been here almost a decade. Peace


The Status Quo

Dear All, I taught in Thailand about ten years ago at a government school. Over the last ten years or so,I have taught in Japan, China and now in Dubai.

I occasionally visit this website to see how things are developing in regards to salaries and working conditions. To my surprise it seems that the salaries have remained the same and in some cases working conditions have got worse.

I enjoyed my stay in Thailand, but from week one, I knew it would only be for a short period of time. I still don't understand why teachers stay in Thailand for a period of of more than a year.

Poor salaries, poor conditions, lack of respect from some Thai teachers and students whom have no incentive to study hard.

Good Luck!

Keith in Dubai

A crazy job interview

Earlier this year I had an interview at one of Thailand's most prestigious schools (in most top 5s). The panel interview went fairly well, as did the demo lesson. However, after this (I had been there for almost 2 hours at this point) they asked me to write some lesson plans and gave me a text book at the pre-intermediate level. The woman gave me about twenty blanks sheets and basically told me to start 'from the beginning'. I asked 'How many do I need to write?" She just said "Do all." They then left the room.

I started and nobody came for about an hour. Then one of the bosses came in and asked "You ok?"

My reply was to ask again, "Do I need to complete 20 lesson plans right now?" The reply was "Yes, please." I laughed and said "This will take me all night." I had done about four plans in an hour and on seeing my rather perplexed look, the woman said "Ok, you can go now. We will be in touch."

I didn't get the job. I just wonder if they would've kept me there until midnight!


Finding teachers just wasn't me

Finding teachers just wasn't me

What makes a good teacher? In a county like Thailand where you can teach kids with zero qualifications or experience, I'd say being normal is the biggest thing. Having a good work ethic and integrity will enable you to learn as you go, try your hardest and simply do the best you can do.

But let's get away from the teacher, and focus on their surroundings. Let's look at a good boss. A good boss is responsible for finding the best teachers hers/his budget allows. You can only work with what you have. If you take from the budget because you're a greedy boss, looking for good teachers will become increasingly harder and karma will rear its head now and again. I was given the job of finding new teachers at my old school and two of them couldn't have been better. The 3rd one turned out to be awful and was quickly replaced.

Instead of whining and moaning about this guy being a bad teacher, I took full responsibility. I told the school to employ the guy and the buck stopped with me. I got a new guy in and he was 'okay'. It was hard really. The budget was limited and their were no perks to offer. I tried to reward the two good guys as much as I could, but they quit at the end of two years because it really was a disposable job, and they were headed home anyway.

In the end, I went back home. I was in two minds when leaving and this swayed me. The final straw was telling the new guy that it was a 12 month contract when really it wasn't. It was 12 months if the school wanted to retain you and you wanted to continue another year. If you wanted to go or the school wanted you gone, it was 10 months.

Lying to the guy didn't sit well with me at all and I really felt like a scumbag. Fortunately, he left after four months. I decided that it wasn't for me. Loved my teaching, but hated having to find new teachers. It takes a certain kind of person in this environment to lie and not give relevant information just to get someone in the door. That really isn't me.

I left early in 2016 and it seemed to be getting so hard to find good teachers. As I told my school when they complained about wanting good teachers, "good teachers are not obliged to come and work for you". Basically 'pay up or shut up'.

My advice to any schools in the current climate is, if you find a good teacher, hold onto them for dear life. I fear it's becoming near impossible at a TEFL level now in Thailand to find new good ones.


Check out 'formal' online teaching

Check out 'formal' online teaching

In addition to ESL online teaching, there are also many opportunities for more “formal” online teaching in universities and even primary schools. For example, online higher education has become pretty well established and is provided by both totally online universities and as part of mixed programs of online and face to face courses provided by many traditional universities.

Almost all American universities provide some courses online. I have been teaching online at a variety of universities around the world for going on ten years now, teaching undergraduate and graduate level courses as well as acting as a dissertation chair and committee member.

Most of the work is part-time and the pay is the same as adjunct faculty members get anywhere in the world, while not high by Western standards it does provide a pretty good standard of living for those of us who mainly live in developing/low income countries like Thailand. While I most often combine online teaching with more traditional employment, I almost always make more money from my part-time online teaching than any full-time job in a developing country (unless when working at a Western University in China or other neighbouring country).

My online teaching has paid for my two children to attend university and paid for the house we recently bought.

Also there are opportunities for qualified teachers working with students in the USA being “home-schooled” although I don’t have any specific experience with this.

Does online teaching work? There is extensive research comparing the outcomes of online versus traditional university education, without coming to a simple answer. It seems for some people at some times, online education produces as well or even better results than traditional education, while in other people in different situations the outcomes might not be as positive.

But, if some students think it is worth paying for, then the market says it works.

I don’t have any personal experience in online ESL teaching, but I doubt online ESL teaching, due to the abundance of competition, will ever be a guaranteed path to riches, but I suspect for many teachers it could be a decent supplement to meagre ESL wages and even an alternative for a few people to having a traditional ESL teaching job at a school.


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.


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