Benito Vacio

The end is nigh?

Is the Filipino love affair with Thailand coming to an end?

I have noticed many Filipino English teachers have gone back home. What makes them leave Thailand for good? Is teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) no longer challenging to them? Is it something to do with the remuneration they receive?

In response to these questions, I talked to a number of Filipino teachers who are leaving in a term or two and tried to get some answers and find out their reasons for leaving.

Can't support my family

A teacher from an agency in Bangkok said," There are so many reasons why I have to go but the main reason why I want to quit my job here is because my earnings these days aren't enough for the people I support back home. With my meager salary as a foreigner I can hardly cope with the rising cost of living in this country. I don't really understand why the administrators of the project which I have been teaching in for ten years have never given us a salary increase."

Three months of poverty

Another Filipino teacher from Nonthaburi said, "I am only hired for 9 months with a 7, 000 baht allowance with tax for March, 7,000 baht with tax for April, and 6,000 baht with tax for October. So can you imagine how I live in this "Land of Smiles" considering that I have to pay 3,000 baht each month for an apartment excluding, food, health, and other expenses? Enough is enough."

A teacher working in Pathumthani province complained, "on semester breaks, I can't get tutorial jobs from language centers because language center owners prefer native speakers or don't have tutorials because I teach public school students."

Too much change

One directly hired teacher said, "It's really high time for me to say goodbye to Thailand because I am already tired of encountering so many changes in our project's policies. In addition, supervision is becoming rigid and no consideration is given to an experienced teacher like me during observations. I am treated as if I am like a newly hired teacher. "

"During the renewal of contracts" said another teacher, "needless additional papers are required to be submitted. Notwithstanding the stricter labor and immigration laws nowadays, the practice of "no failure policy" and unmotivated students are all contributing to my departure."

Better students

One homesick teacher said, "I miss teaching back home because the students are more dedicated to their studies. I can discipline them because they can understand me. In this country, I can hardly be understood. "

An excited teacher commented, "The reason why I am returning to teach in the Philippines is that a teacher in the Philippines (new graduate) will receive 36, 000 pesos (more than $1,000). On top of that the teacher will receive 4 thousand pesos (over a hundred dollars) allowance for chalk and teaching materials. Worth mentioning are the 13th and 14th month pay which Filipinos never enjoy here."

I never thought that there are still teachers who feel this way but here are few more comments.

You can't get sick

"The most discouraging policy in my project is that the committee discourages us from using our one day leave a month. We are advised, if possible, not to incur any absence which is tantamount to saying "It is unlawful to get sick", as if we are machines. If I don't go to school, I hear negative comments from my Thai counterparts."

This is appalling.

"Imagine, I cannot leave the school earlier than 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon to submit records in Bangkok at the end of the month even if my school is more than a hundred kilometers away. The reason they give is that the secretary will wait for us anyway up to 6:00 o'clock in the evening. They never consider the time, the distance and the traffic we encounter in going to and fro considering that it is a pay day and we have to go to work the next day. "

"I am going home for security reasons, nothing more. I have no future here. What happens when I grow old? Unlike in the Philippines I can enjoy the benefits of the social security system of which I am a member for 10 years already.

"Why am I going home? Well, I am going home for personal reason. My family needs me and after having lived and worked in Thailand for some time, enough is enough. I have learned to value my family."

This is a very encouraging comment from a friend of mine.

Exploited by agencies

"If conditions were better than before I might have had second thoughts about not going home. You know, I can speak Thai already. I have been tolerant of the Thai philosophy of "Mai Pen rai" or "Mai mi panha" and the "Jai yen yen". In other words I now understand Thai culture and I just have to dance with it. But this is the end of the road."

"I have loved this country, my school, my students, my Thai friends and the low crime rate because of the extreme honesty of Buddhists. But sad to say, I have to go. In fact, this term 6 teachers in my project or even more than that from other projects will go back home. With the unpleasant experiences of Filipino teachers being exploited by teaching agencies, time will come, and not very far from now, our very good, hard working, and efficient teachers will all go home.

As the incumbent president of the Philippines said in a speech," overseas foreign workers (OFWs) can come back to the Philippines after 6 years because at that time, the country will be better."

Inspired by our Filipino saying, "Mahaba man ang prosesyon sa simbahan din ang tuloy. (No matter how long a church procession goes, it will surely return to the church). "After all, there's no place like home."

It is unfortunate that Filipino teachers have started to leave Thailand because of stricter immigration laws, unending new policies, intolerable school practices as well as the positions awaiting them back home.

May better things change in this country in favor of foreign teachers in terms of higher salary, annual raises, health insurance benefits, and job security so that Thai students will continue to benefit from well-trained, experienced, and effective Filipino English teachers. But will that day ever come?


I think Filipinos are misinformed about the salary increase. The public school teachers in Metro Manila are still better off than their private school counterparts with the 18,000 pesos a month and government-mandated benefits but I am not sure if the promise of Duterte will really come true. Even now, his promise to double the salaries of the police and military men cannot be enforced because like other politicians, he overpromised when there are no funds for the hefty increases in salaries. Aside from corruption, the Philippines subsidizes a lot of programs to help the entitled poor (I am sorry but many of our poor, not all, have become leeches instead of trying to work their butts and the middle class and working class like me have to foot the bill without getting anything in return.) Oh, guys, you must also know that SSS premiums will be increased since politicians again promised a 2k increase in the pensions of seniors. I told my pensioner mom before the elections that I was sure an increase of premiums will be asked of the SSS members to foot the bill and I was right. I told her that she would be happy but the working SSS members and employers who pay 1/3 of the premium won't be that happy. Anyway, there are more taxes to be burden the working class and even non-working class so the proposed lowering of income taxes won't be felt at all in the long run. The rehabilitation of poor drug addicts will also be shouldered by the taxpayers even though most of them won't really kick the habit they started in the first place. So you can come back if you like but you will be surprised that when it comes to the financial gain that you think you will have here, it won't be as good as you think. But, you will be with your family who should also be working and not depend on one OFW in the family to meet their daily needs. I don't know if being with your family is a good sign or not since it will depend on what kind of family you have. However, if you are exploited in Thailand, better leave. Indonesia has better work conditions but the Indonesian government has cracked down on Filipino English teachers. Filipinos can teach other subjects in Indonesia but not English like before.

By Judith, Metro Manila (15th January 2017)

I think there's more to it than Apriel's analysis.. IMHO, in Thailand, foreign teachers are, to a large degree, commodities.. By that I mean they are not seen or dealt with as "career" employees, but rather on short(er) term employees.

As such, I think the issue tends to have a rather large economic part. By that I mean, in Thailand - rightly or wrongly - there is a premium placed upon those teachers who come from an English-is-the-official language country. I'll say this again, I think an argument can be made that the nationality of the teacher is not a leading variable to their teaching ability- but it does say that (for the most part) there is a "sound" component that the marketplace (like Thailand) places a premium price.

The follow on with that then becomes supply and demand. Given that there appears to be a demand for NES' -- and combined with that a supply that (again IMHO) appears to either meet or fall just under that demand level, the salary that the marketplace offers must be sufficient to meet demand.. For non-NES' I think the supply and demand balance tips.. in that there is a demand, but (again IMHO) the supply appears to be more than adequate to meet it -- therefore I'd argue, there is no economic need/necessity for the marketplace to 'pay up' for a non-NES given this supply-v-demand balance as I see it.

I've long said that IMHO the nationality of the teacher is not a (to me at least) and indicator of his/her teaching ability or effectiveness in class.. I think great teachers can and do come from a wide range of nations - some NES countries, and many not -- so I don't think the correlation is country-to-salary, but rather supply and demand for "X" types of teacher, as opposed to "Y" type of teacher.

Will this change? Perhaps, but I think the driver to that change would have to come first and principally from the marketplace effectively removing any premium on NES as compared to non-NES speaking candidates.

By Michael, Bangkok (28th September 2016)

John, thanks for reading my blog. Yes, there is is a typographical error not
"living" but "leaving". You and my Filipino compatriots are right in saying that these days they receive a reasonable salary. What I failed to expound in the blog is that next year, when the bill is approved by the president of the Philippines, a beginning teacher in the government will receive more than $1000 with other benefits.

By Benito Vacio, Nonthaburi (24th September 2016)

The typo in the blurb for this article is quite amusing; 'find out their reasons for living.' It made me think 'Things can't be that bad, can they?'. I've had many Filipino colleagues over the years and have nothing but praise for their dedication, professionalism and abilities. They are overworked and underpaid. However, I did 'fact-check' this article with some of my colleagues and I didn't find much support for the idea that a newly qualified teacher can earn $1,000 per month. Most of my colleagues felt that applied to a few top schools in areas with high cost of living. They felt their earning potential was greater in Thailand, despite it being lower than NES teachers. Most of my Filipino colleagues support family members back home, yet when they return they are treated as 'rich' and expected to spend even more on gifts and treats as they've been abroad.

By John, Bangkok (24th September 2016)

Hello Bob, if I were you I would get straight to Saudi and make some money. The chance may well be gone in a couple of years as Saudi is getting short on money due to low oil prices. The money you can make in the ME will last a long time in SE Asia. Strangely enough, working in Thailand can be more stressful than working in the ME. In Thailand you will find plenty who resent the money you make. In the ME, they can't believe how little you make even though it's A LOT more than Thailand!

By John, Bangkok (6th September 2016)

Maybe, but I have been hearing ESL teaching in Thailand has been going to the dogs for over 20 years and unless conditions change there will be no foreign teachers left; but there are still enough teachers to fill the jobs available and I doubt any of the teacher room chatter or online posts complaining about salaries will have much impact. I suspect both the complaints and the arrival of replacement teachers will continue.

By Jack, In a chair at home (6th September 2016)

I haven't been to Thailand yet (meaning i have plans to) but I have read some postings and heard some stories of the condition of our brothers and sisters there who are in the teaching profession and it breaks my heart that we are being judged by how we look like and not by how we are trained or educated or even experienced. There are also job postings I've read that goes: "salary for NES: 35,000-40,000 and salary for Filipino: 20,000-25,000." These are very degrading on our part, although i know that as Filipinos we are very practical people. I just hope that institutions there would treat Filipinos and NES equally, in the sense that if they have equal qualifications and are applying for a single position they should at least be given an exam or be asked to have a demonstration teaching to see who is more capable for the job and not just say "NES are a priority." Also, yes i did mention that we are practical people but I've heard stories of teachers imploring the help of teaching agencies and end up having to divide their salary into "HALF" with the agency, i just wanted to know whether this is true...

By Apriel, phnom penh (6th September 2016)

That's right. If you feel you're not being paid what you're worth and can find better pay and conditions elsewhere, then move. Thailand does not own you. Never forget that.

I'm a native speaker and will be returning to Thailand next month after completing my studies in the UK (MA Education). However, I'm only planning on staying for a couple of years before heading to the middle-east. I just want a couple of years relaxing near a beach if possible while doing a bit of teaching to support myself, before putting myself through the Saudi experience.

Thailand has made it clear that she does not really care about the education system enough to warrant increasing salaries/rights for foreign teachers. Sadly, there are many that will work for peanuts in Thailand and there is an abundance of these types.

Teachers with a few years' experience (and say a degree in English and a DELTA) can find it more difficult to get work permits than brand new backpackers off the plane. That is not how you improve an education system.

Thailand is fine for a kind of 'working holiday', but unless you're lucky enough to land one of the very few plum teaching jobs, you'll just be getting by (and woe betide you if you get sick or end up in hospital - most schools won't help if it's serious/expensive).

I'm not sure who will be left in 10 years if the Thais don't change their attitude towards all foreign teachers. I can tell you that I doubt much will change and that I will only be there for a couple of years.

By Bob, UK (5th September 2016)

As a native speaker i have to support the Filipinoes. I have seen it so often. All these comments are so true. I also hear many of these complaints from native speakers as well. I for one am looking for work in Cambodia or Laos as the start of a 10 year journey through Asia, China and The Stan countries. Asia has lost its fun. The problems are being faced by the Thai teachers as well. 12 hour days. Parents thinking that if you pay lots of money the student will be educated. Unfortunately the parents do not realise that the students must own their education. We are there to point them in the right direction.

The problems we are all facing are the symptoms of a failed education system over a 20 year period. Those running the country are educated in other countries but the middle management (principles, area officials etc) were not and are light years behind the times.

I like to think this is only a problem that has occurred since money and finances became the cornerstone of Thai society. I go to the local markets in all the cities I have lived in and the elderly selling me my veges for dinner seem to be the only ones that do not use a calculator. i have lived in 6 different cities over a 12 year period.

I must say that I will miss the country of Thailand. it is beautiful. The people not so much.

Have fun

By Paul, Chantaburi (5th September 2016)

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