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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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.

John


Thailand v Korea comparisons

Thailand v Korea comparisons

Thought I would list some of my experiences with TEFL in Korea (Gimhae, Busan) vs Thailand (Pattaya, Bangkok). I taught for a year in Korea before doing two years in Thailand.

Schools

Korea - A hagwon (language academy). More of a business than a school. Long, hard working days from 10 am till after 9 pm at night sometimes. Long days, odd hours and tiring but the students are more respectful and interested in learning English than Thai students.
I pitied a lot of my students as many were forced by their parents to do extra studying on top of their already arduous schedule. Schools are more organised than Thailand and follow set curriculums although offer opportunity for games and funtime too, especially with kids. A lot of shady, hagwon horror stories but I got lucky and fared ok.

Thailand- two different government schools with Pratom and Mattayom. More fun teaching than Korea but I felt like more of a rent-a-clown than a teacher. Classes based a lot more around fun and games than proper learning. Students generally ok but largely uninterested in English.

Thai students often lack critical thinking due to terrible rote-style learning from their Thai teachers and are more afraid to speak up for fear of losing face. Some very noisy, chaotic and naughty classes, particularly with younger kids (often leaving the room with a sore throat!).

Schools are unbelievably disorganised and frustrating to deal with last minute changes, compulsory staff meetings in Thai language etc. Much more freedom in the classroom but far worse conditions (40 students to a class, dodgy facilities, some classrooms had no air-con etc). Some very dodgy Thai government schools indeed but I fared OK.

Not recommended for more serious teachers as it will drive you crazy.

Visa situation

Korea - Difficult and expensive initially getting required documents (apostille, etc) and also fairly trapped to the school on an E2 visa. But at least no 90-day check ins, re-entry if you travel abroad and generally better once "in-country".

Thailand - Absolute nightmare. Ever changing rules and requirements for legalisation of documents to get a non-B visa, some of which were so laugh-worthy they were a farce. On top of that, 90-day check ins, re-entry permits to go abroad and having to leave the country and start the whole ordeal again should you change school.

Weather

Korea - Sucked balls. Blistering summers, arctic winters, typhoons and not much in between except a couple of weeks in cherry blossom season.

Thailand - Awesome, perfect winters, always warm and usually sunny. Just what the doctor ordered after a tough Korean winter.

Things to do

Korea - Cool mountains and beaches relatively OK but suck for the cold half of the year. Cleaner nature and some interesting things to see. Snowboarding in winter too. Cities cool but nightlife not as fun as Thailand.

Thailand - Awesome, jungle treks, stunning beaches and cool islands. Loved the crazy cheap nights out, pool parties, riding my moto down the palm fringed beaches and forests at dusk. Only downside is the polluted beaches/rivers in parts, especially nearer to Bangkok. A lot of rubbish, poverty and stray dogs everywhere which is pretty depressing.

Infrastructure

Korea - Far better, good roads and high speed trains anywhere in the country. Clean, modern cities with lots to do. But drivers sucked

Thailand - A lot worse but more interesting. Standard developing country affair of noisy, dirty and chaotic cities, bad public transport and terrible drivers. More "character" but can definitely become suffocating and after a while you long for a beach/nature getaway.

People

Korea - I found Koreans to be more contrasted, some very Westernised with good English and interest in the western world, others very unfriendly and curt. More reserved than Thailand and often times ruder too. I considered Koreans to be the "Germans of Asia" if that makes sense?

Thailand - Far friendlier than Koreans but also more likely to try scamming you, particularly in tourist spots. Generally worse at English but more willing to talk to farangs.

Dating

Korea - Worst place I experienced in Asia for dating (Korea, China, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand). Loads of beautiful girls with zero interest in farangs unless they work for Samsung/similar. Humble English teachers particularly looked down upon.

To make it worse, local guys can be the worst. Although there are quite a few girls who are interested in westerners, I only scored a few dates the whole time I was there.

Thailand - A single farang man's goldmine. Lost count of how many dates I scored there. However, pay attention as a lot of them might just be gold-diggers in disguise, particularly in tourist areas. Also, harder to find girls you can have "intelligent conversation" with besides shopping, facebook and Thai TV/music (but also some really cool, worldly minded Thai girls too).

Overall

Korea - Sweet teacher packages (free apartment, flights, end of contract bonus and much better salary) but generally less to do outside of work (unless you live in Seoul or Busan). Generally attracts more "serious" teachers (as opposed to backpackers extending their trip).

Weather sucks and locals are less friendly but the country is much more developed, modern and first world. EPIK generally safer than hagwons but you might get placed in the boonies and be the only farang in the village. Good for first timers or those looking to save money as you are totally spoonfed with programs and can put away easily half your salary if you are frugal.

Thailand - Much more laissez-faire and possibly more intimidating to the first time teacher as you aren't babied nearly as much as Korea and with it being a developing country.

More "interesting" mix of expats, some cool, some not so cool. Cheap costs but the salary sucks and it'll be hard to save anything unless you can fully live like a local in a crap, Thai-style apartment, eat Thai food every day and not party or travel, although lets be real, no farang goes to Thailand to live like a monk.

Lifestyle far trumps that of Korea (beaches, travel opportunities, nightlife, climate) and much more of an "exotic adventure".

Either way, both destinations couldn't be more different to each other and both have merits and downsides worth checking out!

Jey


Problems bringing a Thai wife or husband back to the UK

Hello Phil, I've followed your website for over twelve years now, and even though I don't teach in Thailand anymore I still like to have a look every week or so. I teach in other countries, but my wife still lives in Thailand so I still spend a lot of time there.

One of the sections in your site that is interesting is the "great escape" section. For a lot of people, teaching in Thailand is something they'll do for a few years. After that they may well head back to their home country.

Now getting to the point, a lot of these teachers will get married to a Thai citizen during their time in the country. If they are from the UK, they will find it difficult to take their spouse back home with them. To get a settlement visa for their spouse the sponsor must find a job earning 18.6K per year or more. They can earn less than this if they have savings, but only if the savings are more than 16K. The visa is also very expensive and is often rejected, meaning that people pay out thousands of pounds for absolutely nothing.

I recently joined a Facebook group called "I LOVE MY 'FOREIGN' SPOUSE: defend the rights of cross-border couples" This group has over 10,000 members. Last week the admin of the group created a petition to parliament to ask to change these laws. Maybe it can't happen right now, but if people keep on bringing the issue to the government's attention something might change in our favour one day. I think that you must be aware of these rules as you are British too!

Here is the petition:

If you could feature this on your site, then that would be amazing. It's quite a big issue that must affect hundreds, if not thousands, of your readers.

Kind Regards.

John


The visa runaround

The visa runaround

The process for getting a teacher's visa in Thailand (non-B) is anything but simple (as of my experiences with Jomtien immigration when I was last there).

First, I needed original proof (housebook or letter from owner) of where I was staying. If the accommodation you are living in is owned by a farang (condo) then you need this letter from the Thai building owner. If you are staying in a hotel/hostel, you need a letter from the owner of that (whether or not they are actually in town/country doesn't matter to the officials, you still needed it). This then had to be authenticated by the city hall.

Secondly, I needed to get my (original) degree certificate sent over from the UK. A photocopy would no longer suffice. It had to be the original certificate.

Waiting for the required documents to arrived was a long and stressful process (what if they got lost in the Thai post?!)

My time on my tourist waiver ran out and I had to take a border run to Cambodia (getting a grilling of who I was, what I was doing in Thailand and why I was there from the stern Thai official at the re-entry border).

I was then told to obtain photographs of myself including one of me "teaching" students, one of me with a Thai colleague and one again stood by the sign for the school name at the front gates (although when I questioned them asking me for pictures of myself teaching without a visa that allows me to teach would have been illegal, they became agitated and said "I tell you already, why you no understand!?"

Of course nobody in Jomtien immigration office spoke English or even explained anything to my Thai partner when I took her with me. It seemed they didn't even know the rules themselves. The request for photographs was way beyond Thai logic and the whole thing would have been hilarious if it wasn't so stressful.

I then waited for more than a couple of weeks for my monumentally incompetent school admin to produce the contract and proof of my employment document.

In the time waiting for this, my 30 days again ran out and I took a weekend trip to Kuala Lumpur, getting another 30 days (and another grilling off Thai immigration at Don Muang).

Thirdly, I had to take this to be legalised and authenticated by the British Embassy of Bangkok.

Jay


Some teachers and schools DO care!

Some teachers and schools DO care!

Regarding this blog on ajarn.com about a Thai school being almost like one long party with lessons thrown in, this is certainly not the case in my school, or many others across the country that take education seriously and try to implement some standards and quality teaching methodologies into the Thai system.

Teachers here take pride in designing curricula, schemes of work, lesson plans and engaging teaching materials that engage and progress a broad spectrum of learning styles and levels represented in the classroom. On top of this we have a continuous cycle of incremental assessment and report writing to measure each student's progress and identify individual areas of development.

While there is always time for fun and games, teaching anywhere, including Thailand, should certainly not be a "non-stop party" and by suggesting otherwise it trivialises the whole role of education. I, like most other professional teachers, take my job seriously and realise that the lessons we give today will impact our students' and in turn society's opportunities tomorrow.

Yes, there are serious flaws in the Thai education system but that does not mean we should give up on the concept of developing our students intellectually, mentally, morally and emotionally. We do our best to nurture young minds and strive to find innovative ways to overcome the obstacles and frustrations the Thai education system gives us.

I find this article rather demeaning to those of us who do improve our students' language and knowledge. The author seems to take pride in reporting that a Prathom 6 student has not made any progress since Kindergarten and even boasts that they might have "RE gressed". This is abhorrent to any real teacher and would not be tolerated in any decent school in Thailand. Perhaps the author should think about the disservice he and his school is giving their students and reflect upon the future ramifications of this!

James


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.

Brian


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.

Nigel


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.

Mark


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

Roger

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


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