Ajarn Street

A 'local hire' in an expat world

When all the other teachers have a bigger package than you!

I know the question is coming every long holiday and I can't avoid it, "what are your plans for the holiday?" they ask. I just want to roll up in a ball and die.

It ‘s not the worst time of year to be a local hire in an international school, but it is not far off. The staffroom is full of exciting plans of skiing in Japan or long breaks on tropical islands in expensive hotels. There is talk of buffets and afternoon tea and staff parties - and I'm wondering when they find the time to cut the grass or paint the bedroom.

An almost parallel universe

The school morning e-mails are full of 20% off promotions for staff at really expensive hotels that I can't afford, even after the discount, and then there's the "donation" to the Thai staff at school, Secret Santa, the social Christmas meals out on Sukhumvit - and I can see my wages diminishing rapidly.

The second worst time of year is just before the summer holidays. The staffroom is buzzing full of free flights home and exotic travels to faraway lands. Mine mainly consist of taking my daughter to school every day because the school she attends works on the Thai education calendar, not the British one.

The absolute worst thing about working at an international school is having to listen to all the holiday recounts on the first week back and then attempt to make mine sound vaguely interesting.

The pecking order

I'm a TEFLer in a PGCE world. I'm very low down the hierarchy and I know it. I get it and I understand it, but it is not just the wages that are dissimilar.

The teachers on expat packages get premium health insurance (I get the same insurance as the gardeners). They get free flights home, (I'm a 'local', so get nothing). They get two free places for their children (my daughter isn't deemed important enough). They get a housing allowance that's three times the mortgage on my three-bedroom house in the suburbs of Bangkok.

And that's just for single people! Teachers with partners who are not earning 100k+ a month receive a salary as well!

Me and the maids

I've never felt more second class than when there was a Christmas Fair at work - 100 baht to enter and everything was hideously expensive. Who the fuck buys expensive jewellery and home furnishings at a school fair?! I found myself in the back with the maids, searching through the "second hand" donations that were more expensive than most of the things I normally buy.

It is not that the expat staff treat me any differently, it is more that they don't realise how bad the local hire package is. It is embarrassing trying to explain why my daughter does not attend the school I work at while their children attend for free. The expat teachers just assume we all get the same/similar benefits. Or maybe it never occurs to them?

A dream lifestyle?

Many of the expat staff live in a bubble. They live, socialise and take holidays with the same people they work with. They have maids, nannies, cooks and drivers that give them the freedom to enjoy Bangkok without the baggage that family and household chores brings.

The amount of times I have turned up to a work social with a baby/toddler is unreal. I get looks like there is some magical babysitter available to me at all times. There isn't. I work all day, I go home, clean the house, feed the dog, argue with the wife, and look after a toddler whilst they go to yoga and eat at a restaurant as the nanny/maid/whatever deals with the children.

Don't get me wrong, the expat teachers work for the benefits, they really do. 12-hour days are not uncommon. Working from home in the evenings and at the weekends is pretty much guaranteed.

I'm very jealous of the package they get but I don't think it is worth it. I will stay as a local hire immigrant thank you.


What is the age thing all about? I have a Masters in Social Work and a certificate to teach English as a second language! I have taught in American schools and colleges for years. I am not even considered here for my age!! I am an excellent teacher!

By Jodi Evans, Phoenix (31st January 2018)

@Liam, I agree
@Roland I'm nnes and I would say that I don't get overly paid and I don't go to the beach on weekends and I don't carry expensive handbags with me. I'm sorry if you've had a bad experience with nnes, but you shouldn't stereotype. Are all nnes specifically Filipinos bad teachers or bad in English? No. Each English speaker has a different accent, and teaching ability doesn't solely lie on NES.
Btw, in the US, Filipino teachers from the Philippines are being hired to teach in US public schools. So who is to say that nnes cannot teach English?
However, I do agree that the big payout is in the Middle East.

By Cha, Trang (2nd December 2017)

This is the kind of attitude that sows discord between NES and non-NES speakers. Working for almost a decade at at 4 schools plus plenty of part time work tutoring, corporate, and so on, plus the accounts of every single teacher I've met and befriended here says the same thing. EVERY school in this country the Thais and non-NES whined about their salary and gossiped and sabotaged western teachers for being overpaid.

All this while carrying around Gucci and Prada and Armani items and BRAGGING about how much they cost. They frequently have the newest iPhone, post instagram pictures of themselves at 250 baht a drink bars every weekend, and then get upset when they hear a farang teacher is taking on an extra weekend job tutoring (once, about 6 years ago during a private conversation that involved no money in that school's canteen) a Thai "English Teacher" stamped up to us and said "YOU NO MAKE ENOUGH BAHT NOW? Well actually, especially back then, the answer was no, I didn't. I didn't have a 25k Baht phone or 45k Baht Handbag, and I was trying to save a little money.

I'm sorry but if you don't like it get another job. When you live in a country that makes 80% less than the NES' teacher's home country in an industry with a desperate shortage of skilled workers and are surprised when they make much more than you...maybe you should go back to school. My Thai girlfriend will probably make as much as me in 5 years because she actually worked on learning English and got a job at an international advertising firm straight out of uni. She's literally told me she would have never gotten in Thailand's top University and graduated with 15 job offers on the table if she hadn't been in a program where she was taught exclusively by NES in everything. You can say if the same was true but they were all Filipino instead she calls BS and so do I.

I'm not blaming you for feeling like the system is unfair, it is. But such is life, especially when you're dealing with a country that desperately needs to speak English, and Thai "English teacher"s who I can't hold a conversation with because their English is so bad. The only reason the income disparity is more like 2x instead of 10x is so many ignorant westeners showing up taking (by western standards) dirt pay in hope of going to the beach. Look up teaching jobs in KSA or Kuwait and tell me the problem is farang get paid too much vs. local hires.

By Roland, Bangkok (2nd December 2017)

I am a teacher on a tourist visa, no degree, but I will probably go to a Thai university to get it just so I can have the non-b.

My salary isn't huge but comfortable. I get a housing allowance, health benefits, etc. The kicker for me...I am American. There are teachers that have degrees from other countries, and I make more than they do. I was also asked this year to be the head Mathematics teacher for the international program. Do I busy my arse, yes. Do I love what I do, hell yes. Do the kids and parents like me, most definitely. I am often asked to go to dinner with their family.

So it is possible to set yourself apart no matter if you have a degree or not? Yes.. You will be noticed if you go above the "just doing my job" mentality. Once I get my degree would I leave where I am to get a better salary, most likely. And I would continue to bust my butt to get noticed for the work I do.

By Paul, Nonthaburi (26th November 2017)

I agree with the comment by James. It is entirely dependent on reaching a balance you feel comfortable with: a laid-back lifestyle that may not necessarily provide you with a high level of income, or working harder and creating a career path for yourself that will achieve that. (Whether that extra money will make you happy is an entirely different matter.)

I work at one of the big three, and I am personally very happy. We clock in at 7:30 and we're out at 4:00, Monday to Friday. There are the occasional nights when there will be work to do in the evenings, but it's by no means all-consuming. In other words, those of us who work more, including me, usually do it because we enjoy it. Many of my colleagues don't fly off for "exotic travels". They often spend their holidays with our students on service trips, or volunteer in poor, rural communities here in Thailand and abroad. In some cases they do this on their own (not using their annual flight). I just enjoy work in general, so I typically take one holiday back to my home country for two weeks a year, and that's it.

The school that the OP works for doesn't sound like the norm to me, and I agree that it doesn't sound like a a school that has its priorities straight. (In fact, I'd agree with Eddie: not offering places to children of local hires as opposed to international hires is despicable.) I've worked in multiple international schools in Thailand, having started at one where I earned 60,000 baht a month, with very basic benefits. Yet local and international hires were all on that same scale and had the same benefits. It's also true of several others where I have access to the pay and benefits information. They all have also supported professional development: EARCOS conferences, IB workshops and, yes, advanced degrees.

At my current school the local hires do not initially receive the housing allowance (though they can re-apply to get it later, which is common), but they have the same insurance, their children can be enrolled and they're on the same scale...which starts at 150,000 baht a month. It doesn't matter if you're a native speaker or non-native speaker; what matters is whether you're qualified. Is it worth it? I'd argue yes, particularly if you are a very driven educator who enjoys growing professionally and really is passionate about teaching as a career. We work hard, but we do love what we do. The vision of burnt-out teachers who do nothing but work seven days a week is a myth.

To be clear, I would also argue that there are "international schools" and international schools here in Thailand. I've been fortunate enough to work in the latter (though even there, some parts of it fell into the former), and do I mean very fortunate: I didn't even know what an international school was when I first came here. Not everyone has the chance, or, as others have pointed out, sometimes just don't want that to take that path. Ultimately, if you're not happy with where you're at...change.

By Daniel, Bangkok (23rd November 2017)

@Cha 'I'm trying to point out here is that there's discrimination by schools to only hire native speakers without really checking on their qualifications and ability to teach'

Of course, ha ha. You think many schools with TEFL teachers are in this for the betterment of the kids? They're businesses. Unfortunately, most parents want young, white and attractive 'people'. This is what the schools give them. If the school could simply employ whomever was cheapest, they would. They'd stick in the cleaner if they could get away with it.

My boss has told me that I can do whatever I want. Follow the syllabus, but the rest is up to me. She's not an educator. She's a businesswoman wanting to make money. At least she's honest. I guess she can see that I come to work and do my job. She trusts me and knows I'm good for business too. She also used to employ the young and beautiful. She didn't learn (probably still hasn't) until me and a colleague called her bluff and said we'd leave unless we had a bigger input into who she employed. Things have never been better than right now. The trick is to get her to think these good ideas are hers.

I can tell in about 10 seconds of reading a cover letter if the person writing is just another div. The people who are good will stand out straight away. We then process the information and invite them for an interview. To be honest, I've only been part of that process once. That teacher is still here and doing a good job. Might he quit for a better job? Sure. But I know he'd give at least a month's notice because he's been treated well. Amazing the loyalty people will show if you treat them well and with respect.

Many Thai schools used to be able to get away with treating teachers like they were disposable. Now they're slowly and painfully learning that they can't. I predicted this about 2 years ago after they started cracking down on people on tourist visas. I thought it would happen sooner, but we are now witnessing it gather pace. Be rest assured that it's happening.

If you're good at your job, Cha, you will now start to feel the benefits of that. At my old agency they used to have the full-time teachers climbing over each other to get the extra work. Now the agency can't even threaten them into doing it.

As for the posters last comment on the package they get, fuck that. I'm sure it's amazing. But working 12 hour days and doing work at home and weekend isn't worth it. I'm sure they get lots of time off, but I came to Thailand for the balance. I put my shift in, but I'm not getting married to a job. I know expats in other fields who earn ridiculous amounts. All they do is work. All they do is talk about work. They buy expensive shit that they don't need and have girlfriend's and wives who hate everyone. One guy I met a few times died recently at the age of 53. Big fat guy with a red face who seemingly coped with the pressures of work by eating and drinking too much. No thank you.

By Liam, Somewhere (23rd November 2017)

"I'm very jealous of the package they get but I don't think it is worth it. I will stay as a local hire immigrant thank you."

I think this sums it up. This is someone who is happy teaching EFL and doesn't aspire to become a fully qualified teacher.

This is not the case of a local hire getting screwed. It's a EFL teacher being paid what EFL teachers get paid.

By James, Thailand (23rd November 2017)

@Big John, hahaha I'm not Thai. Sure, can you do an IELTS 8.0- 8.5 to prove your proficiency? Doubt so. Also, some native speakers don't speak a 2nd language fluently or at all.

@Eddie- I know that the iPGCE is not the same as the PGCE from the UK, but accepted by some international schools + experience should give one a foot at the door.
Also, I think the author should try to negotiate more than what he's getting now or go elsewhere.

@Craig- sure a CELTA, DELTA would help, but I think it will be hard for this country to require that because it's Thai teachers in English can't even pass a TOEIC. So, putting all the qualifications and requirements will be a tough task. Start out with the English proficiency test first, then make them take the CELTA or Delta.
I'm not moping about white privilege, what I'm saying is, not everyone who is a native speaker can actually teach. Just because someone sounds cool doesn't mean students learn anything.

I teach in an EP program (total bs) and the M4-6's are terrible and they were taught by native speakers. Recently, we had an M6 student take the IELTS in the hopes she can get into the int't programs for uni (IELTS 6.0 is required). Guess what (btw, she's in the honors list):
Overall- 4.5
Listening- 4.5
Reading- 3.5
Writing- 5.5
Speaking- 4.0

What kind of miracle can be done to raise her overall band score to 6.0?
What I'm trying to point out here is that there's discrimination by schools to only hire native speakers without really checking on their qualifications and ability to teach.

By Cha, Trang (22nd November 2017)

In a similar position. Maybe the qualified teachers in my school don't live in quite as rarified an atmosphere as yours, but it still hurts when you are constantly bombarded with reminders about how comparatively poor you are (Wine Connection seemingly twice a week, hiso gyms and spas, holidays etc).

Qualified teachers do lots of work, but not really tons more of it, and as teachers they often aren't really better than experienced local hires (in fact, they often have problems relating to students, and I have seen my fair share of rubbish teachers giving awful lessons).

A middle ground between low pay and luxury would be nice, and I really don't know why a housing allowance isn't in the picture for local hires, as a foreign teacher is not Thai and therefore may be subjected to ye olde double pricing (which definitely goes on- a Thai university lecturer I am acquainted with lets her houses out for prices multiple times of that she would charge a Thai. Why? Because they -the qualified teachers- don't know the real value, or care, though this does put the prices up for everyone else).

It is, I guess, understandable that local hires get less. However, I would draw the line at not providing your kid's education- that really is despicable. I don't know why the OP stays at such a place. Treat the teacher differently, okay (begrudgingly). But it's not as if an extra student in the classroom really puts costs up much. Lunch, trips etc., sure, charge the teacher extra. Tuition fees? If not waived, your employer is an elitist snob, cheap, or both.

Cha- international schools, or thai schools when it comes to foreigners, rarely ever support anything which mean you could truly progess. Seminars, competitions, yes. Getting a teaching qualification? Not at all (being fair, if you want one from the UK, it has to be done in the UK).

By Eddie, Bkk (22nd November 2017)

@ Cha - 'For a fair assessment, how about all teachers- native and nnes take the IELTS then?'

How about more teachers do a DELTA? I did a DELTA and many of my colleagues didn't. They only earn about 10k less than me. Bloody non-delta-privileged teachers. DELTA should be the bench mark because 'I' did it.

An IELTS test is designed purely to test your English proficiency. It doesn't test your skills as a teacher. The IELTS examiner could ask me to talk about the economy of the UK, and I could just reply with the biggest load of old factually incorrect bollocks - it wouldn't matter. As long as I was stringing sentences together that were coherent and grammatically correct, I'd pass my speaking section with flying colours.

Being a native-speaker doesn't mean I find it hard to listen for when the bus arrived from Heathrow into Victoria Bus Station. As a native-speaker it would just mean that I was concentrating at the time. It wouldn't be a proficiency test for a native-speaker it would just be a concentration test. Here's an example of part of a question in the listening test;

Listening = "The bus leaves at 3pm. No, no. Sorry. Not three - it actually leaves at 4pm, madam"

A native speaker knows it's 4pm without even having to think about it. That trick doesn't work on a native-speaker. They could be half listening and only get the last part and they'd know the answer. The test is designed purely to test the level of English for persons of who are not native-speakers. Regardless of how good they are, the colour of their skin or their country of origin. There are plenty of dumb and useless native-speakers. Interview them for 2 mins and you'll know.

At a TEFL level, the government would be much better having their own 'teaching test'. They can cover grammar, public speaking, interaction with students, teaching style, etc. They can charge people to do the test. If you complete it, you get a cert and you can teach at a lower level. If you fail, you give up. Or you can study harder and try again. It shows dedication to teaching TEFL. Separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

As for the comments on 'white privilege' and being native-English speakers, what can we do? Apologise? Sorry the country I was born in happens to be the home of the English language. Sorry I was born white. Sorry the world had to have one common language which just happened to be mine. If I were to give you some money from my wallet, would that ease the pain?

I don't care about what other people are earning or what qualifications they have. That's none of my business. What I do care about is that I'm working for decent people. People who are honest and show loyalty. People who know how to utilize their teachers to not only benefit themselves, but also to benefit their teachers and students. This is what we should all be working together to encourage. Speaking out more about the rats in the business here who are just looking for a quick buck.

If schools are employing people based mainly off the fact they're white (and they often absolutely do), shame on the schools. But don't put that blame on the teacher who got the job. Don't hate the player hate the game.

By Craig, At my desk (22nd November 2017)

To Cha from Trang

Maybe you should improve your English because.......IELTS 7.5 IS NOT A NATIVE SPEAKER, maybe you could improve your sa-peaking lol

By Big John, chaing mai (22nd November 2017)

Thats Thailand in a nutshell! Be it Education or any other business. Huge gaps between have and havenots

By Mark, Bangkok (22nd November 2017)

I think if you want to get a better package, go and upgrade your qualifications. Your school should support it.

I think you're lucky to be hired despite a TEFL. I think it's a white privilege because of your passport. Like you, I have a TEFL, an MA from the UK but my passport says I can't have the same salary as you guys because I'm non-native. Took the IELTS Academic last 28 Oct and got an overall band score of 7.5- Listening and speaking, 8.0, Reading 7.5 and Writing 7.0
Time and again I have to prove myself that I can use the language, just like Native speakers.

For a fair assessment, how about all teachers- native and nnes take the IELTS then?

By Cha, Trang (22nd November 2017)

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