Are those teachers over 45 suddenly too long in the tooth?
My name is Christopher, age 55, TEFL/ PELT TESOL qualified with I years experience teaching in Thailand. My last assignment was through Ramkhamhaeng University's Nonthaburi Project but Filipinos were preferred to Native Speakers. To be honest I have struggled to get work ever since I have been in Thailand and I know age is the main problem. I have a job starting in May but the salary isn't great considering the responsibilities. This month I must have contacted at least 10 schools through your website without any response and it doesn't come cheap answering ads.
A lot of schools are happy with inexperienced backpackers who can produce a fake degree certificate as long as they are not over 45. I was able to get a work permit with a business diploma.( I am aware that it is common for schools to accept fake certificates). If you know of schools accepting old fogies like myself please let me know.
I fell out of a tree 61 years ago and started teaching Mathematics in a secondary school MEP program in Nakhon Sawan two years ago. I started in the middle of the first semester in the first year of the program. Prior to my coming there were zero Math teachers. After developing 2/3 of the Math material to follow the Thai textbooks I have just been told that my contract will not be renewed next year. I'm too old and they want somebody under 50. When the start of the next year rolls around I bet that they don't have a teacher and no curriculum to teach. No one in the Thai Math Department speaks or reads any English. Now that they are doing M1 -M6 the problems that they had the first year will be multiplied by 3. Oh well I don't think that they will ever learn!
I read with interest your comment about schools/institutions requesting teaching staff in the 20 to 45 age bracket. In the past I have contacted such schools asking why they have an 'ageist' policy. Surprisingly enough most did respond by saying that younger people were more reliable.
I shall continue to do so in the future and if you are interested I can forward any responses to you. I think this attitude is disgraceful and schools/institutions that have such a policy should be 'outed'.
I am finding the age limit in employment advertising to be quite common and even if it isn't in the ad, it later rears its ugly head when an employer sends a request for documents including one that "proves an age of less than 50 years" as the one I recently received from a Christian school recruiter with schools all over Thailand.
I am considering leaving Thailand for just this reason. I am 58. My mother is a retired teacher in the US and still substitute teaches as many days as is allowed by law; she is 81. To be told, at 58, that I am too old to teach English in Thailand is unspeakably insulting to me. This is not PE or football coaching that I am applying for!
I speculate that this trend is due to Thailand's educational system being more of a social institution, where students and school administrators require teachers to be entertainers rather than educators.
I would really like to know what the schools claim to be their rationale for discriminating against teachers who, in the West, would be considered to be in their prime teaching years.
You are absolutely right, what is wrong with those schools that do not want teachers at a certain age. To me this is pure discrimination, the same counts for those who only want females. Teachers are not worn out at 45, not at all. Actually I know of a guy who is around 80, still teaching and is liked by everybody. He is probably one of the best and most experienced teachers around, so to all schools that requires young and handsome teachers: "you are creating problems to yourself and the more experienced teachers".
An other thing that I would like to comment on is salaries. Dear fellow teachers, stop applying for the low paid jobs if you have a real TEFL certificate, please!!! Schools are getting used to paying much to little for their English teachers.
I would like to comment on the ageism trend you've noticed in Thailand.I see it in another form with ' only EU nationals' : My question is "If Europe is such a base of democracy, why the hell do they restrict employment in a way which is so clearly undemocratic? They limit people's rights purely on the basis of country of origin, which is akin to racism, but they are quite happy to invade Iraq because ' it needs democracy'. Ageism is just as bad, and does not take into account that older teachers are more experienced and more likely to stay in one job than younger globetrotters. Be happy that you have the website for income. I'm 50 next birthday, and it's much worse for me.
If you could do more on your website, all of us 'oldies' would appreciate it. Whatever happened to the Thai/eastern/world tradition of respecting and honoring your elders?
I'm a vigorous 59 year old. I think I have skills to offer in teaching English. You're right, they are shooting themselves in the foot. But I don't mind, that just makes those employers' ignorance audible, I just don't bother applying to those places.
I have to say that I was a bit shocked and pleased to see your comments on Ajarn.com. I was first shocked that someone would actually bring up this subject and on such a visible arena, Ajarn.com. When I first came to Thailand, I began my job search by looking through the news papers. I was amazed at the number of job postings that had age limitations.
I was pleased because I think you mention two really good points. First, I also believe schools use the copy-cat methodology for job posting. I think they do this because often the person writing the job posting probably doesn't know a lot of English in the first place and instead of writing a job posting that fits their requirements they simply takes the easy road of copying someone else's job posting. Secondly, I agree that these schools may be shooting themselves in the foot. I also think that these schools are missing the point of "work experience and developed skills" that are found in experience teachers. I worked at one school were a young 20 something year old guy couldn't handle the noise the kids were making in the classroom. He would often blow his top and start yelling at the kids which didn't leave a good impression on the Thai staff at the school or the students he was teaching. These blow ups really highlighted his lack of experience in handling a classroom environment.
With this said, I have to say that although I have seen these adds in the papers and web posting, I haven't found that they have limited my obtaining teaching jobs. I first came to Thailand when I was 42 year old and found my first teaching job fairly easy. After teaching for able a year, I then found a job in my professional field, Information Technology, pretty easy too. I still continued to teach, but only Corporate English classes, evening and weekends. I've been do this for the last 2 plus years and although I still see the age limitations in some job posting, I've still be able to keep my schedule pretty full over the past two years with teaching corporate English classes.
In conclusion, I believe that a positive attitude has been the key to me landing my teaching jobs. I know that age, skin tone (how light or dark you are) and country origin are factors here in Thailand and probably in other parts of the world were they need English teacher, but I still think that unless you are well over 60 and really have no teaching experience or ability, you will still be able to find a job teaching English somewhere in the world. A friend of mine just returned from India a few weeks ago from a year long contract. He's over 60, but they still asked him to come back for a second year.
Again Philip, thanks for bring up this important point in the first place. I certainly hope that schools will start to become more focused on the teacher's qualifications, teaching ability and professional references rather than his age, color or country of origin. After all the end result should be the students learning English, not taking a picture along side some young, US or England born student traveling through Asia who thinks teaching English in a foreign country is a cool way to make money while traveling. Please don't get me wrong Philip, I know a lot of good, qualified, and capable young English teachers. So, I ‘m not saying that age determines whether you are a good teacher or not, I'm just using this as an example to making a point.
I read your note on the internet and understand how you feel about ageism. Quite frankly, when I see a position that I know that I am suited for, I apply, regardless the age thing. Don't make the sale unless I ask. I left Canada because of the prejudice of age, sex, divorce, blah, blah, blah.
The school that I am at, has a Thai Head of English Department who is 58. My colleague is 48. He said that he is having a difficult time to find interested native speakers of any age. Having worked with the backpackers from North America, it seems that the ones who are truly interested in the education of these youngsters are us, the baby-boomers.
I just keep on keepin' on, trying to keep myself in demand with skills, dedication and positive focus on the future (as well as keeping my fingers crossed). So far, so good. If all else fails, I can go back to South Korea. Anyway, those are my 2 baht's worth.
As a newbie in Thailand, I totally agree with you. I am 57 years old and have been employed by two universities in 8 months. Some of the worst teachers I've encountered here are either younger or the "backpackers". They may be young, but they are not TEACHERS. Just because someone can read and write English does not make him/her a teacher.
I have taught for 25 years and still love it. It keeps me young.
Mark Twain said it best. "Youth is wasted on the young."
I'm Peter - I am an Australian. In December 2004 after 38 years teaching i 'retired' from the Victorian Education Department. I then took an 88 day trip to Asia - got back to my hamlet, tendered to my garden and said after 6 days - hell! is this is what i am going to do for the rest of my life. The upshot was I applied through ajarn.com for jobs. got 3 in Bkk, 1 in Khorat and took the one at Kalasin. Why Kalasin? - the Isaan people.
I am 60 years of age (turned 60 in 2005) - staff and parents were shocked with the amount of energy I have; exceptionally pleased with my teaching practice and willingness to be involved in Thai culture, community spirit etc. Parents, staff and students have expressed their disappointment at my decision to leave Kalasin They are very keen for me to stay but I have bought a share of a language school in another part of Isaan. The twenty five year old guy who came with me got bored with the night life etc and walked out on December 2. This happened despite the school bending over backwards to meet at times what were unrealistic demands.
Nearby schools would say that they have changed their focus from recruiting young teachers to that of recruiting more mature age teachers because the latter are far more reliable, focused, don't have to go to disco's every night and have the interests of the student (and let's face it - that is what it is all about) as their priority. If I wanted to continue full time work in the classroom I would stay here - no doubt about that. I have gone to part time - my choice.
Phil I have been tempted to apply for one of these - max 45 years schools - and use referees from this school just to see what happens. To me age is no barrier - and if you want the job done get someone who is reliable and focused. Thanks for the opportunity to air my comments. As an aside - it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I learnt more about Thailand and its people in 11+ months than in many previous trips here.
I have never cared for the age and sex restrictions nor the picture request. However, as a previous executive who did hiring in the USA, I can see how this could cut down on the deluge of unwanted resumes and ghastly number of inappropriate interviews, but usually this filter is much too rigid and broadly applied. Much of the criteria and restrictions seem arbitrary to me.
I know a very good teacher with 15 years experience. He has trouble getting work at the doddering and grizzled age of 47. I find this absurd. In Thailand youth means "active" (as Thais inform me.) Hence, sales executives and teachers cannot be slow old lumps of low energy. These same sage hiring experts also desire teachers to be handsome, so youth wins again. I believe the optimum age is 30 -40 years. This candidate is perceived as young enough to still have his looks while old enough to be respected.
Now that my ranting tirade is over, let's have a look at me, so that we can see this is not the result of bitterness. I am male which is a plus. I am 37 which is a plus. I am viewed as being very handsome and make for a nice photo. Yet, I think this type of selection methodology is ludicrous.
I've written to you on this subject before . . . a couple of years ago, it seems. I have a Ph.D., three master's degrees, CELTA, University and teaching experience of years (my own and other schools). I also have fifteen years in the fund-raising business, having helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars for NGO's. You'd think I would be seen as a valuable commodity by most any employer.
I have applied for many university jobs in Thailand, yet rarely hear from anyone. Strange. I wonder why? My age, of course. I don't tell them my age but they presume it from all my experience and background. I look 45 but am 63. I have had half a dozen interviews and job offers from Silapakorn, Chula, Bangkok U, and others. They hire me instantly, then when we proceed with the paperwork, the job "disappears." Silapakorn was kind enough to tell me why . . they are not allowed to hire anyone over 60, they say. I don't fashion working for a private school. So, shall I just roll over and die now?
I should not spend my time commenting on this matter because aside from this means less sleep for me tonight, I am not yet belongs to those teachers that are rejected because I'm still 40 but soon to be 41. Don't ask me to invite you on my birthday because I don't celebrate birthdays. That is contrary to by belief (just kidding but its true).
Can I just call you Philip? You know Philip, the school idea perhaps is older teachers have less energy and enthusiasm in teaching while the younger ones are the opposites.
They are right but what important in teaching is the ability, sincerity and dedication. If I lack something please fill it.
Teaching is not a job that needs strength so that it needs younger ones to perform it. It is the work of mind. As long as you can still dance, sing a song (but my songs are Elton John's and David Pomeranz's) has a strong voice, not sitting in a class while teaching, you can deliver your lesson well, etc. that's it!
To these schools who advertised this, hope that you will not get any older and jobless. Otherwise, you will feel the pain of qualified teachers but disregarded, discriminated and stripped of the opportunity to teach and to share their teaching knowledge just because of their old age. We all get older and nobody can oppose that rule of nature.
Thank you for letting us to share our opinion on this matter. More power!
Being 52 myself, just what are those people implying? I sure as hell don't feel I've got one foot in the grave yet! Could it be that they think that; I am too old to be effective; that the students themselves wouldn't appreciate a mature, experienced and arguably a wise individual to teach them what they need to know; that we don't have the energy required to keep up with the students or maintain their interest or what?
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments regarding those "not over 45" job postings. It's discriminatory and illegal in our western societies.
Of course the schools have the right to disregard an applicant of the grounds of age, but to include it in the job ad is right out of order, and I think it would be very wise for you to ban this before it does get out of hand. I seem to recall you put a ban on ads that read "no flips or Indians" a while back.
I've been working in teaching in Thailand for 25 years now, and I've seen more trouble coming from younger teachers than the older ones. The younger teachers are more inclined to hit the bars/pooyings during the week and either take many days off or roll up late and hungover, whereas the older guys are more stable, more in control, as more often they're already married or in stable relationships. Also older teachers have more experience, not just teaching experience but experience in life, in handling people and relationships.
I employed teachers for 15 years at one Thai school. The most trouble I had was with young farang female teachers (which is what most Thai schools are dying to find) I found them dreadfully unreliable, quitting without notice to run off to Koh Samui or Koh Samet to meet their Thai boyfriends, or just getting homesick and vanishing after payday. I also had frequent trouble with young farang male teachers (for the reasons I state above). But no trouble at all with older teachers (45 upwards) who were all married to Thais, interested in keeping their jobs, able to control their drinking, genuinely interested in teaching.
Anyway, I'm glad you raised this issue of age and hope you can put an end to it. Keep up the good work!
I have read your page on the debate about older teachers and I wanted to share an alternative view :-)
First of all to say that I understand the frustration of the older teachers in finding jobs. I have met many of you guys and I am sorry that there aren't more "teachers" needed in Thailand, but that's just it.
Quoting Lily from the debate page: "school administrators require teachers to be entertainers rather than educators" - that is exactly true.
Thai teachers teach English to Thai students and most kids here can read and write basic English (most better than I could speak French when I finished my eight year at a British public school). The job of the ferang teacher, I believe is to encourage the students to use the English that they have learned in a real environment with "a real native speaker". The best way to do that for a teacher is to "edutain" and make friends with the children. In actual fact, what would be most beneficial to the children would be a native speaking friend. (I have some Thai friends who, through knowing ferangs, speak far better English than most university graduates)
So a teacher of 60+ could be a great teacher, probably the best but what these students need is not more teaching, they know enough, they need a reason to speak English and young "edutainers" provide that. Young teachers in school give students a reason and the enthusiasm that they need to really learn a language.
To love learning a language is not something that you can give someone, they have to really want to! Thai students do not need more teachers, they need people to talk to in English. That is why, even a khao sarn road bum could be more beneficial to a child's English skills than a triple masters degree bore.
I'm over sixty and I have been teaching in BKK for the past 7 years as both a teacher and a head teacher. The branch I work in has been described as having 'more maturity' than the other branches in the company. The majority of our teachers are over forty five and we have a reputation of having the best teachers' room atmosphere in the company. Here's why.
The older teachers are usually in Thailand because they have made a personal commitment to live here, not because they are taking a year out for adventure. Some have private income and so don't regard the salary as the most important thing in selecting a position. They have had their careers elsewhere and have little to prove in terms of their new position as teachers and that makes them less competitive with one another, less likely to move around if they are happy where they work. Generally, certainly not always, they are more tolerant of the idiocyncracies of others because they have lived more and that makes for less tension in the workplace. They have more life and business experience than younger teachers, though most would have to yield to younger teachers on the subjects of technology and pop culture.
Contrary to popular belief in both Western and Eastern culture, many older people are excellent teachers of the young-there is just something about the passage of time that makes one appreciate young life more. Many of these teachers are the fathers that never were (I'm the only teacher at my school who is a father and I can tell how attached some of these little kids are to them and I can tell by the way the teachers talk about their students how much they care about them). Teachers of my generation, and this is just a personal observation, have a different work ethic than today, one that was born out of the concept of duty and a time before having to have everything was possible. We don't take sick days unless we simply cannot get to work and certainly, no matter how much damage one might have inflicted upon self in the course of lifestyle the night before, we always show up for work. Our peers expect that we will be there, so do the students, and so we will be there. This rubs off on the younger teachers because we let it be known we aren't carrying anyone.
My work experience and observations about Thai management style over the past seven years has led me to the conclusion that little premium is put on staff as an essential input into a business. That probably comes from the farming culture where one farmhand is generally interchangeable with another. There is also a view, likely from the agriculture culture, that a man/woman is worn out by the time they are in their fifties. Thais have little experience with the 'live 'til you die' culture of the West.
If a school principal wanted to make his/her job easier, they would forget about age and concentrate on, first, hiring staff that will stick around for the long term and deliver a reliable, consistent teaching service. Second, they would do their utmost to make their teachers' room an enjoyable and tolerant place for the teachers to want to be. Third, they would support the teachers with resources and amenities that convince the teachers that the principal/owner of the school wants the best possible service for the students. Pay is an important consideration for both the school and the teachers, but it is less important for certain teachers who are in Thailand for the long term.
Hiring on the basis of age is the least important issue in running a professional school. If you are an upcountry school, you can keep pushing for younger teachers and live with the vacancies and turnover or you can make life easier for yourself and your students by just trying to find people who have the staying power you need. That was what I concentrated on when I was a head teacher and, young or old, I hired the staff I thought would fit into the teachers' room and who held the work, communication and tolerance ethics that were part of it.
Nice collection of statements from people. To add minor insult to injury, my own university (RMUT Srivijaya, Trang) just posted an ad on ajarn.com with a specific 45 years age limit. We have a new dean and echelon of vice-deans, I think those who hired me in 2004 would never have allowed such an ad. I'm being pushed out end of May, but may be one of the oldest Americans teaching at any university in Thai, now 68.
The four autonomous state universities here have no age limit anchored in law, nor do any of the private college and universities and schools. Payap U in Chiangmai offered me a job last year and said explicitly 'age no bar', so you might advise a few older TESOLers you know about the autonomous state universities (like Suranaree in Korat), and the fully private institutions, they are 'free' to hire anyone.
How the university here in Sikao was able to hire me and get around some clauses in the law for state universities is not fully clear to me, but has something to do with the category of funding from which they financed my position, which apparently was locally generated money (rent from land for date palms, such stuff) available to the campus. My dean, retired last October, definitely wanted a teacher closer to his own age.
PSU, the biggest university in the south, repeatedly told me they could not hire anyone over 65, but have some way of offering a regular contract to a foreign EFL teacher between 60-63 if they so decide. This too is some kind of loophole, since official cut-off nationally for these state schools is 60.
I read all the reactions on this age-limit-question for certain job applications as English teacher.
My opinion is that, if this tendency of putting people of 45+ aside goes on, this will be an ugly development for the aging teachers and for the Thai students in general. Like others before me already stated: the more experienced people (and I mean experienced not only per se in teaching but in knowledge of life in general) will be gone and only (to put it "bluntly") the blue eyed, blond beach boy who can entertain the youth with their bullshit will be the ones who are going to be responsible for the "education" of the Thai youngster.
This "fashion thing" of hiring the good looking young type, just to impress the parents or whatever, is absolutely stupid. If all these parents who have the money to educate their children properly would use their brains, they for sure have to come to the conclusion that the older teachers will be at the end the ones who are more motivated, more experienced, more stable, so the outcome would be more quality teaching for their children with people who have experienced some more in their lives than just whoring and drinking and going to the disco.
If they stay ignorant to the fact that most, not all, of these young teachers are just ships passing by in the mist paying for a nice "2 year holiday" with their teaching tricks, then don't be surprised if Thailand stays behind in comparison to the other developed Asian countries: go to Malaysia and everybody speaks English perfectly and in a country such as Thailand with many, many years of tourism only a lucky few speak English to a certain point of acceptation and then most of the time the ones who speak English well you meet in a bar in Pattaya and those have learned the lingo through their horizontal acrobatics, if you get my picture....so maybe they should hire some of these people to teach English: for sure you have your entertainment there and you learn English to trap a tourist! If they want their youth to be educated through this kind of circus.....No, without the jokes, I think, really, that if they continue this age-thing they will be the next "sick man of Asia". Their economy already went down and the lack of a good comprehension of the English language won't do any good to their tourist-industry in due time.
Anyway, I was disappointed that there were hardly any comments on your board coming from younger people. Most reactions came from teachers aging 50+. In fact there should be some kind of union of foreign teachers in Thailand who take the defence of all the things that shouldn't happen to foreign teachers doing a good job in Thailand like this age question, schools who don't pay the teachers their final salary when they get rid of them in the last term of their contract etc. etc.
The lack of hardly any reaction of younger "teachers" to this particular case shows already the indifference of the younger people to a problem that in time will affect also the younger teachers, but....they don't give a shit because it was just an extended holiday right? If they were really motivated teachers then they would have stood up for their peers and joined the discussion. At age 45+ they will be back in their home countries living the "decent" life, building a pension with a white woman, having left the drinking and whoring and "teaching" behind as a memory which has faded away in time.....
If schools want entertainers and not teachers, then maybe they should put a big widescreen t.v. in every classroom and just put MTV on and a f**k**g X-box and then you have entertainment enough. And yes, I am still far from being 50 but I believe in solidarity and in fact you shouldn't put any ads from schools like that on your board. Let them find their teachers themselves in Khao San road.
I think there are two main fears working against the 50-plus crowd (honestly I can't understand why under 50 has a problem):
1. Bad image. Lets face it when you go down Soi Cowboy, or Patpong or have a jaunt down to Pattaya. Which group is most represented in the less then family entertainment establishments...the older 45 very sketchy crowd. Sure the under 30 crowd is more apt to leave early but in a country where image is key, I am sure language centers and universities want to distance themselves from people that Thai society has determined to be "bad". Never mind that most of the undesirable crowd are non-native speakers from Germany or France...we all look the same.
2. Reality. I saw many people in their 50's complaining about not being able to get a good job but, try and do it back home,come on, we are waiting.....
3. How can you relate with younger students? I mean a few years ago you were back home complaining how you cannot understand you son's taste in music or why you granddaughter insists on dressing like a tramp at the age of 10. This may surprise you but young Thais are just as different if not more so then the people you cannot understand back home. I am thirty and I have trouble connecting with people in their early teens.
I am not saying it is right but at the end of the day it is how Thailand is, just like mail that never makes it and 20-somethings on koh san road smelling of weed and the same bad song being played at every bar. But instead of complaining about things so much I see two possible solutions 1. go back to America or Britain or wherever and stop whining so much or 2. Get together and start your own language center and give us young uns a run for our money (it would be good I think because it would force my crowd...the 30-40 crowd to stop complaining so much) I hope you choose the second option, it would be good for everyone, but if you are all American, Canadians and Brits (not so much Australians) you will probably go on some rant about how much the world owes you.
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Thanks for the comments which will most certainly be of value in my quest for a teaching position.
I am 71 years of age and a recent arrival living "up country" with my Thai wife and family.
It was my intention to retire on the passive income derived from my insurance brokerage overseas. However,six months of doing almost nothing except renovating our home has led me to the conclusion that I am in God's waiting room with the prospect of boring myself to death.
I love the English language,so at my wife's brilliant suggestion I will enroll in a TEFL course (Text and Talk looks favourable).
The prospect of encountering rejection disturbs me not as I view the challenge as potentially educational and entertaining.
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you.
By Alan, Bueng Khla (1st October 2015)
I would like to answer Jake M's question about the EU only taking EU nationals. The reason, I suspect, is that they don't want to bother sponsoring a teacher for a work permit when they can get an EU national who can teach. It's like applying for a job in the US, for example. If you are not a citizen or a legal resident already, you are not going to get hired unless you are some gifted specialist in some field that the place is dying to have and will sponsor you at any cost. I think some exceptions might be private schools who are looking for people in science or math with credentials.
By EJW, Sweden (31st January 2012)