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.
Wow! Myanmar obviously didn't agree with Lydia. But don't use that reason to 'slag off' teachers and schools in the country (Ajarn Postbox 5th July)
I've been teaching in Myanmar since 2012, and like me, there are many dedicated and very good foreign teachers (and local teachers) working hard to improve the education of the students.
Unlike the government in Thailand, the Myanmar government recognises that the educational system needs to be overhauled, and they are very happy to accept advice from foreign experts to achieve this goal, (unlike Thailand, which often refuses advice from foreign experts - remember the flooding in Bangkok a few years ago and the government's refusal to accept advice from Dutch flood avoidance experts).
Just a few weeks ago, a new Primary Grade 1 curriculum for learning English was introduced in Myanmar state schools, having been created with advice from Japanese educational experts. That new curriculum will be rolled out to higher grades over the next few months.
'Democracy has a long way to go'? At least it is going in the right direction, unlike another country I could mention.
Many teachers drink in bars, (I'm not one of them). Come to think of it, many people who are not teachers also drink in bars. As long as they do not become dependent on alcohol, and as long as it does not interfere with their work, then I can't see the relevance of your statement.
"... and ignoring the massive poverty and broken down infrastructure around you". One reason why many foreigners come to work in Myanmar is to try to alleviate the poverty and to improve the infrastructure. I teach in Naypyidaw on weekdays, and then join local volunteers to teach free at the local orphanage during the weekend. Other foreign experts that I meet are helping the Myanmar government to improve the sanitation systems in Yangon, or to analyse and advise on improvements to the electrical grid network.
"The authorities often do not check credentials or criminal record backgrounds of teacher - a number of whom come with fake qualifications". Er hello!! Are you talking about Myanmar or Thailand or Cambodia or .....?
The rents are high in Yangon, due to the shortage of available accommodation. That's why many schools pay to accommodate their teachers in hotels. I have several friends who stay in 4 and 5-star hotels at their school's expense.
The frequent power cuts are due to the weak electrical grid, which cannot yet meet the growing demand. As for the long rainy season, I'm afraid that is one issue that no-one can change.
"It is kind of the dumping ground for teachers who can't get well-paying jobs in Thailand". Perhaps you need to ask why they can't get well-paid jobs in Thailand. One reason often mention is because of the age discrimination against experienced teachers that many schools in Thailand are famous for. I'm 58 years old and hold down a $3,000 USD/month teaching job in Myanmar, teaching kindergarten and lower primary. No school in Thailand would entertain my employment because of my age and, well that's their problem, not mine.
As in any country, there are some schools that are run purely for profit. Lydia, don't tell me that schools of that type don't exist in Thailand.
In conclusion, it sounds to me that Lydia didn't do her homework before accepting her job in Yangon. I can also suggest that Lydia is a 'glass half-empty' sort of person, which really is not the right attitude to have when working in a developing country.
Good luck with your freedoms in Thailand :)
After having read comments from teachers whinging about demo lessons, I am beginning to understand why schools look down on many western "teachers"! I have spent 30+ years "edutaining" here in Thailand and now, in retirement, mainly spend my time recruiting people, many of whom have no knowledge, no experience and no interest in teaching. Their only interest is in getting as much money at the end of each month whilst, doing as little as possible since the last payment.
Demo lessons are there to try and exclude the weeds (of which there are many) from the flowers. The demo lesson is held to establish the following;
Is the applicant able to show confidence to the student?
Is the applicant able to keep the class interesting?
Is the applicant able to keep the attention of slow learners?
Is the applicant just babbling on at the interview stage? (Many do!)
Does the applicant have any understanding of the subject he is teaching?
Can the applicant show any empathy with the student or, is he or she, too busy with his or her own thoughts?
For newbies, that is all you need to know and concentrate on. Don't listen to other opinions, or your future written resumes will show what a useless teacher you really are. How? By your never being offered a second contract at the same school!
Having spent 2 years working at an international school in Yangon, education is at a developing stage and democracy has a long way to go. If you want to spend all your time in bars, drinking cheap booze and ignoring the massive poverty and broken down infrastructure around you, this is the place for you.
The authorities often do not check credentials or criminal record backgrounds of teacher - a number of whom come with fake qualifications. Rents are very high and some schools stick teachers in a total dump. Power cuts are still frequent and the rainy season is long.
It is kind of the dumping ground for teachers who can't get well-paying jobs in Thailand. Beware of money grabbing school owners who are related to thugs and can get very nasty.
Thailand has far more freedom than Myanmar.
A letter to Asia,
I am 52 years old and have had a career in business and been a business owner / consultant, since 1999. I have trained people all over the world.
I first visited Thailand 12 years ago and fell in love with the country. Since then I have visited many parts of Asia. I looked into living here permanently and did five months in Phuket.
Thus when I returned to England, I decided to get a qualification to allow me to teach. I have a TESOL and a HNC. All that was needed - a degree or equivalent or so I thought. Being motivated I enrolled on a Level 7 in Business and Leadership, City & Guilds.
As you can see this is a prestigious award. It should be recognised in Asia. City & Guilds of London Institute founded 1878, the institute has been operating under royal charter, granted by Queen Victoria.
I decided to take this professional award, so I spent hours researching, studying, as well as keeping a business and all its work. It all cost far more than a degree in time and effort. To my amazement I am finding it difficult for Thai or Asian employers to understand this award. Why I ask?
So to all future employers please keep up to date with Ofqual , (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England) Please employers take a look at your qualifying system; surely this needs to be reviewed. Things are changing in the UK
Teaching in Thailand is now a complete joke. The education system is one of the worst in the world, yet this doesn’t deter the system from demanding the sky and the stars above in terms of qualifications.
There are jobs offering 28,000 baht a month, but require a master’s degree in an education related field. That’s right, half a fast-food wage! In addition, you have to put up with nonsense such as a lack of discipline in classrooms and student satisfaction surveys, that completely undermine your ability to do your job properly- along with the obligatory white monkey duties that schools usually require.
Agencies and schools have become increasingly greedy in the three years that I’ve been here, lowering wages and reducing what little benefits that were in place to begin with. 10-month contracts, health insurance that wouldn’t cover a band aid, no pension, corruption, and shrinking end of contract bonuses.
Other readers have rightly pointed out the fact that you feel, for the most part, that you’re tolerated (at best). Add to this the inability to manage things properly, the cultural sensitivities, the pride (I’m never wrong) and you get the feeling that Thailand is some kind of lord of the flies’ island that’s run by children.
The ignorance is profound; my friend informs me that his high-school students have never heard of the second world war! Next time you are met with the “I don’t know what the problem is with less than 40k a month… bla bla bla”, ask that person when the last time they visited their family was and how much did it cost them. Show them the price of a return ticket to your home country, and explain that this is why you haven’t seen your family in X amount of years.
The sense of entitlement over here is astounding. You have your future to think about; Thailand isn’t going to look after you when your chips are down or when you grow old. Of course, they’ll happily hold a passport from your country of origin, but don’t expect the same in return, no matter what you do! In fact, Thailand has some of the most bureaucratic visa laws in the world, and with the latest round of draconian penalties announced, for those who don’t posse the correct stamp, it’s becoming less desirable to stay.
Now the white knight brigade “I thought 35k was a great wage 25 years ago, what’s the problem?” are always quick to point out where the airport is, or that you need to improve on your qualifications. I am, in part, inclined to agree with them, however, for those like myself who are stuck here in university, the former isn’t an option and none of this justifies exploitation.
So what’s the solution? Simple, don’t work for (or with) these clowns anymore. You don’t have to!
Over the last 12 months, online teaching has really take off. There is literally a plethora of companies out there that are crying out for teachers. Of course, China is one of the biggest recruiters, and with the new visa laws that have come into place in China recently, making it more complicated to acquire a Z-visa (work visa) than it is in Korea or Japan, the number of teachers applying to work there in person is likely to decrease. This will likely, eventually, translate into more demand for online teachers.
Now if you are in Thailand, the Chinese are likely to require that you work evenings and/or weekends, this might be ideal for those who study. If you are to accept such a position, don’t, under any circumstances, accept a job that pays below 15 USD an hour, these are peak demand hours, especially for children. I have found, through experience, that those that offer less than this tend to mess you around the most and have the most amount of BS rules. After all, China has some awful ESL jobs just like Thailand (or anywhere else).
On the whole, when you find a good company to work for, you’ll find that you get treated far better than you would at the vast majority of schools in Thailand. I personally make around 700 baht an hour, and I don’t have to travel through the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. The materials are all provided, and I’ve never had to pay for resources out of my own pocket because a billionaire school director didn’t think it was his place to do so.
If ever I’m asked to work more, I’m paid more. Yes, I know, imagine that!
There are companies that offer day time hours, for those who bark at the idea of working in the evenings or at weekends, however, they tend to pay less. I wouldn’t recommend accepting less than 10 dollars an hour for those positions and I would avoid Taiwanese companies, as they deduct a sizable amount of your salary in Taiwanese income tax.
Overall, I find it refreshing to teach students that are well behaved and actually want to learn. I have five and six-year-old students that can speak and read English better than any M5 or M6 Thai students that I have ever taught in a government school. Additionally, Chinese staff are willing to listen to your suggestions and feedback and value your hard work and input, they are also more open to new approaches to delivering a lesson.
In conclusion, you likely come from a country that has fairly strong unions, labour laws and equality laws. Forget about it in Thailand, you have to be your own union rep by voting on your feet.
The demand to learn English across the globe is rising considerably on an annual basis, and technology is providing a way for teachers and students to connect from remote corners of the world. The game’s up for lousy Thai schools, who have become spoiled by the amount of foreigners available to teach. We no longer have to do it the “Thai way”.
If there's one thing I miss about teaching in a school, it's the foreigners I worked with. Sometimes I'd question what I was doing working with some of these oddballs, but now when I look back on it, these guys really did brighten up my day and give us normal ones something to talk about.
I was once in the staff room for a Monday morning meeting. The new young guy came to work on crutches with a broken ankle. He hobbles into the staff room and our boss asked what happened. He told everyone that he'd been drinking the night before with his friends, and he broke his ankle when running away from paying the bill. I just burst out laughing thinking that my school have actually employed this person as a teacher.
The second guy was 'the functioning alcoholic'. He admitted he was an alcoholic but he said he was 'functioning'. He was teaching some four year old kids who informed him in class that there was a snake in the shoe cubby. He took a look and told the students it what just a toy. 20 mins later the kids told him again. He told them not to worry, walked over to the snake and actually touched it. The snake moved and then he realized the snake was indeed real.
I've always imagined being in that class, watching him stumble around half-cut teaching terrified kids with a snake casually observing from the cubby. Like something from a Salvador Dali painting.
You can choose to take these kind of people seriously or just be entertained by them. They have certainly given me plenty of stories to share over a beer. Cheers, to all those nutters.
I've been working at a Thai government school for three months. The foreign teachers feel like they are tolerated, not wanted. Every month they ask us to do more and more work like running spelling bee competitions, standing at the front gate in the mornings to wave at students, creating curriculum etc. The director of my English program where I work comes to work two hours late every day, but only stays for 30 minutes. One day she came in during our lunch break, and told me to get to work! We don't have teacher's editions of textbooks, no internet in the office, and the six of us have to share one computer to write lesson plans, tests, etc. How can the school management possibly be this incompetent?
The agencies in Thailand are an absolute blight upon the whole hiring teachers from overseas scheme of things. Thailand is turning into Japan in terms of the cowboys operating to maximise profit. Many Japanese kids have been through the whole school system with ALTs in the classroom but have no ability to speak the language.
Thailand seems pretty much the same - trashy operators selling karaoke boxes and scripted trash as communicative education. Oooops-almost 'named names' there.
I was apply for teaching jobs in Chiang Mai whilst still living in the U.K. I got a Skype interview with a well known private school there which went well and I was told I had been successful. They wanted me to leave the UK a month before I had intended, so I booked flights and off I went.
When I arrived the school said they wanted me to come in for a tour and a meeting, however when I got there I was met by a panel of five senior members of staff. They asked me to show them how I would teach (which was not mentioned beforehand).
After a panic and trying my best to improvise, which I did with some success, I was then told that they couldn't employ me because I wasn't American and they thought their students wouldn't understand my accent.
It took me two months to find another job, meaning I spent a big chunk of my savings.
In response to "Get more realistic Thailand" (Postbox 16th June)
"I think Thailand needs to be more realistic about what it's looking for with TEFL teachers..."
I don't think that Thailand has much of an idea what it's looking for. There's certainly no practical vision for the future in this area of education.
A 'realistic' approach would be to find all the native English speakers who want to live here (that have a verifiable four-year degree) and give them a simple hassle-free residency visa which is valid for as long as they are in full-time employment at a school.
Then train them to teach the Thai English language curriculum... after it's been designed to be fit for purpose of course! Once trained, the farang graduates would be posted around the country as and where needed.
Pay them a set salary into their own special teachers' Thai checking account directly from the Department of Education. Leave the schools and agencies out of the money equation. It's simple and it would generate an army of willing and capable teachers. And it wouldn't cost much either!
I don't see any reason to raise the rates of pay. The new teachers would be saving a fortune in visa runs and legal expenses, etc.
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