Personal Note: I was half-way finished with my blog topic for this month when I happened to read a comment on my previous article that distracted me to write on a separate but very relevant issue concerning foreign teachers in Thailand.
My previous article titled “The Education System: An Opportunity to Reform” elicited the following comment:
“It always makes me smile a little when I hear people talking about changing the Thai education system . This isn't new. Cast your minds back 10, 15, 20 years or so most can't because they weren't in the game. Anyway, farangs have been spouting this in one form or another. Now just have a think what if Thais really did reform the education system. Wouldn't most farangs be back in the same boat they were before - flipping burgers back in farang land! Think ahead before shooting yourselves in the foot!”
By Mr Dave, Thailand (10th April 2022)
Upon reading this rather cynical opinion, I realized there was a very poignant point to be made regarding foreign teachers in Thailand.
Whether you agree with Mr. Dave or not, I have heard the same point being made by many foreign teachers in high schools in Bangkok and Chang Mai where I was previously employed.
The problem I have with foreign teachers who hold this viewpoint is that of their implied lack of understanding of the concept of education which appears to stem from their own insecurities as so-called “teachers”. Most educators who hold this perspective of education in Thailand lack either any teaching certifications or understanding of teaching methodologies such as development of organized and effective lesson plans, classroom management, student centered learning to name a few.
Education as a business
It is unfortunate that Thai schools are more focused on education as a business than a source of discerning legitimate knowledge to the next generation of Thai leaders. This is especially true of those high schools that have so-called English Programmes (EP) which have MOE guidelines stipulating that 80% of instruction must be in English.
This issue therefore has created an issue for these schools with recruitment of foreign teachers with legitimate education certification and classroom training. The real problem is two-fold: foreign native English teachers demand a higher salary and parents demand foreign teachers to teach the English Programmes.
So how have these school in Thailand addressed these issues? Very creatively, to say the least!
Remedy No. 1: Hire teachers from predominantly non-native English countries that have enough English skills to get away with being presented as “English” teachers. These teachers mostly teach science and social studies subjects that don’t require a strong understanding of English language teaching, but pass as “foreign” teachers.
Remedy No. 2: Pay these teachers the minimum required which is generally half or one-third of native English language speakers, but 25 - 30% more than trained Thai teachers, thereby increasing the schools profitability.
Remedy No. 3: Hire a bare minimum of native English teachers to teach English language subjects to appease the parents who pay the school exorbitant fees for their children to be enrolled in the EP under the assumption that those kids are receiving a superior level of education.
The problem with this whole scenario is that most schools have elected to compromise their basic recruitment and on boarding principles by ignoring their very own guidelines relating to teacher certifications and training.
Schools have stooped to suggesting that a simple Bachelors Degree in any field without any teacher training is acceptable to work as a teacher as long as you are a foreigner, and as a matter of real consequence, the whiter you are, the better. While this may sound blatantly discriminatory, it is a known fact.
To make things even worse, if the teacher cannot qualify for a work permit due to the lack of certification, the schools will simply “hide” the teacher until the immigration officer checking credentials at the school has left! I have seen this happen with my very own two eyes!
Another massive fraud that is continually being committed relating to hiring foreigners is that of recruitment agencies that have mastered the art of forging certificates and transcripts to provide to the schools.
The right to an education
Therefore, when I read the comment from Mr. Dave to my earlier article, I have to confess that I was initially stunned. However, upon second thought and some objective reflection, I could see some merit to his point.
If the Thai education system was in fact reformed where certifications and teachers qualifications were vetted, then so-called teachers like Mr. Dave would indeed have to resort to “flipping burgers” in their native countries as he states simply because they have no real qualifications to represent themselves as teachers.
My entire argument, however, rests on the premise that education globally is an individual right, not a privilege and ergo, the right to an informed level of education for trained professionals. Thailand is no exception.
Mr. Dave’s argument is that reforming the Thai education system to provide a better overall education experience with qualified and certified teachers would be pernicious to so-called teachers like him and he is perfectly correct.
The problem with this kind of reasoning, however, is that these so-called teachers cater to a sense of entitlement and privilege which cannot be questioned or threatened. They feed off an egocentric, arrogant and purely in narcissistic motive bordering on fraudulent misrepresentations that people like him embrace with absolutely no consideration for the general Thai population and especially Thai children and their families.
It is precisely for these reasons that the Thai MOE has to begin the formal development of rules and regulations aimed at maintaining and sustaining an education process that provides a high standard of education with certified and trained teachers. The Thai political and socio-economic structures need these properly educated leaders of tomorrow to guide their beautiful country and its people into the new world.
Parvez (Par) is the Business Administration Program Director at Raffles International College in Bangkok.