Richard McCully

Things I admire about the Thai education system

Foreign teachers shouldn't knock it as much as they do.


Without a doubt the Thai education system is underrated by some foreigners. Some people like to put the boot into Thai high schools but I’ve recently been looking at it in a new light and have seen lots of positives. 

Patriotism

It’s great that Thai students are taught about their country and have a patriotic view. Singing the national anthem every morning is a great way to start the day. During the recent World Cup a lot of my friends didn’t know the words to their own anthem and most English people (myself included) wouldn’t have a clue what the words are in all six verses of our anthem. Thankfully all Thai people know their anthem and are proud to sing it.

Being from the UK I’m used to the idea of a royal family and personally I think they do a great job for our country. You can’t deny that Thai people love their royal family and it’s great that schools encourage this culture and teach the history of the monarchy. I wish we had been taught more in the UK about our royal family.

Discipline

Thai teachers can keep a class in order. The students do exactly what the teachers say and discipline isn’t usually a problem. With 50 students in a class discipline is important and I would love to learn more from Thai teachers about how to control classes that size. 

Suspension and expulsion rates in American and Australian schools are shockingly high. Whilst I couldn’t find any official statistics about suspensions and expulsions in Thai schools I did ask a few Thai students and they only knew of a handful of cases from their institutes. This could show that students are well disciplined or teachers are empathetic towards student’s issues. 

Community

Thai students create a real community at their schools. There is a feeling that everyone cares about their school and the people inside it. 

Just look at how people who went to the same school greet each other when finding out they have this thing in common. They all have their class year and like to talk about their school. 

The Thai education system promotes a sense of voluntarism whereby students help out around the school without the expectation of getting anything back. The schools know they can rely on students to help with events, planning and project work. These are all great skills the students can use later in their lives. 

Schools also act as a place in the community. On special occasions, such as Mothers Day, outside guests are welcomed in to take part in ceremonies. Foreign teachers are also made to feel welcomed with an emphasis on students helping foreign teachers and co-workers assisting too. 

Letting students pass

A lot of foreigners complain about having to let students pass every exam. The problem is this isn’t exactly true, a lot of Thai students have to re-study certain subjects again but in English classes there is probably less pressure to do so. 

In the end if a student is allowed to pass your English class without being good enough, is that really a problem? Many successful Thai people have achieved a lot without having to speak English. Is English more important than science or maths in Thailand? Probably not for most people. What is the point of making a student take a test on the past perfect continuous twenty times if they are never going to need it?

Personally I think education is not always a link to success in the future. Quite a few of my Thai friends are successful despite not doing well at school and struggling in many subjects. In the UK there is a focus of revising and passing all your exams and going to university to get a great job. Here the education system focuses much more on practical skills which are needed in daily life rather than just theoretical knowledge. 

Exams

Seeing progress is a great thing and by having lots of small tests during the year allows Thai students and their teachers to see how they are doing. 

These tests help teachers to see weaknesses in learners and help them improve. In systems with testing every year or two, it can take longer to spot learner problems. Having exams also helps students to prepare for life outside of school by having to deal with deadlines. The issue most foreigners have with testing in Thai schools is that they have to write and mark the tests and that can be a lot of work… 

Activities

Something which you have to love about the Thai education system is how it encourages students to do so many different activities. In the UK there are options to do activities but they are normally voluntary and people don’t care about them. Here in Thailand it’s quite the opposite. 

Students will be given time off regular classes to take part in special events and activities. This could be preparing for a dance recital or doing something for Scouts day. It’s great that the students aren’t restricted and in many ways are encouraged to do things. 

I also love that the Thai system encourages people to support others doing events. Sports day, music performances and shows are all well supported with hundreds of students watching. 

A recent report in the Guardian highlighted that girls are less interested in sports at school than boys. Thailand does a great job of encouraging girls to join in sports activities in school. I remember in the UK our PE classes were always split between boys and girls. Boys would play football or rugby and girls would play netball or rounders. The Thai education has set up school sports that boys and girls play sports together such as badminton or volleyball. It really is an example of how sport can bring people together. 

Rote learning

Rote learning is something which is missing from many education systems. There is nothing wrong with rote learning in certain situations – some UK headmasters even talk of its benefits and so it’s good to see that Thailand uses this useful learning tool. 

Thai students are great at giving out facts and information which they have learned in class. As a teacher, it is great to feed students knowledge this way. 

Thai teachers

I’m pretty sure we all saw the reports of Thai teachers in debt and the equally sad story of a Thai teacher who acted as a guarantor on student loans for 60 students.  These stories highlight two key things about Thai teachers. Firstly, they are underpaid and secondly they care a great deal about their students. 

The average UK salary is roughly £27,500 per year. This article shows UK teacher salaries - and after a year most teachers will be earning roughly the average UK salary. Despite this, there are calls for a strike later this year over pay. Thai teachers obviously face hardships and lower than average pay but you don’t hear them threatening to walk out of the classroom. 

In fact most foreign teachers in Thailand are paid more than local Thai teachers despise being less qualified. I think it is a testament to these Thai teachers that they accept this in such good grace. 

You will also see the great deal of respect Thai teachers get from their students, they must be doing something right! Well they do a lot of good things, They always put effort in and try their best for their students. Many years after finishing school students still greatly respect their teachers and a lot stay in contact with them. 

Why Knock the Thai Education System?

It’s interesting to note that like many things that are different in Thailand than The West, the education system gets knocked by many foreigners. Just because it isn’t the same doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Ask many Thais about their opinion of high school and they will likely be positive about it.  A lot of my Thai friends say their high school years were the best of their lives! 

The key point is that most of the complaints about the Thai education system come from foreign teachers working in these schools. 

Foreign teachers complain about the lack of air-conditioning and computers in every room or that students have to be tested too much. For a lot of Thai students this isn’t really an issue. The overall sense of community and bonds with classmates make high school a great time for Thai students. 

They have an education system which deserves far more respect from those who knock it. 


 If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country  


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Comments

I've been teaching in Thailand about 3 yrs now and I've worked in a number of public schools here and I agree with just about every comment so I won't say too much.

I think this is a post purely designed to troll everyone and generate views and comments. If it is genuine, then the poster is extremely naive. The writer also mentions that they've worked at a Thai high school, presumably in Bangkok. Try teaching in Isaan with an M4/12 class of 40 odd boys in a classroom with no AC, barely working fans, no chalk or board pens, no wifi, random soi dogs walking into class, and constant fights and resistance to learning anything in English.

Public schools out in the countryside and small towns are far more indicative of the true state of the Thai education system. I suggest the writer go teach at an underfunded high school in Isaan and see if his praise holds up.

By Samui Sean, Ko Samui (8th September 2018)

As the writer of the first comment, I have read later comments with interest. I don't wish to prod more, but just a couple- sorry. The OP states that his article received more positive comments in other arenas than this one. I would be interested to know what kind of people made those comments; if they were Thai, they have an obvious bias, and it usually takes a while for the rose-tinted glasses to fall off foreign teacher noses.

He also states that we can agree it is a good thing that students play sport and do activities together. Possibly this is more important in a more collective culture such a Thailand. However, these sports and activities often take the place of education, being done during scheduled classes. Additionally, though I am sure it will have defenders, I cannot help but think that one must be crazy if cheering practice etc can be considered a worthwhile activity, at least considering how long it goes on for, and how generally unimpressive the end results are.

Finally, no, being bad at a language doesn't mean you are (necessarily) thick. However, these students often spend a lot (A LOT) of time studying English. I appreciate their teachers might well be subpar, but it is difficult to imagine how you can spend that much time on something and produce so little (see cheering etc above). Not to blow my own horn (ahem), but I spent much less time studying French at high school than Thai students seem to spend on English, with fewer resources and a non-native speaking teacher, and would be surprised if I hadn't finished with more competence in the respective language than they had (with me certainly not being a gifted student).

Though I admit my French skills are quite rusty now, I often meet PhDs and university lecturers who cannot string a sentence together (and who often have written multiple papers/"lecture" in English); I feel like asking them what exactly they were doing in the English language classrooms they apparently spent so much time in? If they didn't consider the subject important enough to bother with, that says to me a lot about their motivation and their learning ability, and possibly even their morality (in terms of possible cheating/plagiarizing). I don't think non-English speaking Thai students should be let off the hook- if I said that I had studied Thai language for a decade, and that I couldn't produce a single coherent sentence, how would Thai people react?

By JBKK, BKK (6th September 2018)

I have taught at Uni and in government for the past 16 years. Prior to that, I taught in Spain for 8 years, and before that at a London university for 4 years. So, i am able to make broad comparisons.

I can add little to JBKK, and I am 99% in agreement.

Rather than pick on certain points, I would say that the range of problems relate to educational culture and to the superficiality and corruption which may be expressed in different ways but is inherent in this society. I have had frequent conversations around this topic but I had the same chat 10 years ago. Nothing has changed, and the salaries have eroded compared to the cost of living. Every six months, we hear of some new initiative pending (e.g. bring in 1000 foreign trainers and monitor the teachers), but nothing has changed in my 16 years here. The net result is that some schools and unis are finding it hard to appoint teachers who have all of the qualities desired, because we can earn just as much by clowning on Skype or just moving to Vietnam.

Even with enforcement (itself a dirty word), the system will take 50 years to change. No, I am mistaken: it will never change and will continue to lead to burn-out. Thailand was more fun in the 1980s anyway, or perhaps I was so much younger then and able to deal with it all.

Individually, I have met a few very fine Thai teachers of English, but they are like hens' teeth. I just feel sorry for the kids. My UK education was character- building and gave me self-discipline. If you are only interested in your IPhone games, sleeping in class, and know that you have a rich daddy, you are missing out on so much of value.

By soleddy, Bangkok (4th September 2018)

I've taught here for almost 16 years at "good" schools and at two universities (top end ones). In my experience, 80% of the OP's utterings are bilge-water. Most of my points have been covered by others, so I do not intend to write great screeds of criticism.

Sure, you always get two or three excellent kids who sit at the front and present you with beautiful homework, while the other 27 kids are scrabbling around to get the homework copied in the toilets or jabbering into the latest 1000 dollar IPhone. English class for one Thai friend in Uni right now consists of a sell-by date Thai lady who arrives late and then talks about her dogs, usually in Thai.

At one Rajabhat meeting I attended, the English teachers were unable to understand much of my clear Islington-Grammar-School-and-London-University accent. Around 10 years ago I went for an interview at a university, but the harassed US Director of English told me NOT to take the job unless I wanted to herd cats and stock up on Valium for every day's "events".

By Eddy, Bangkok (1st September 2018)

"English isn't necessary" is a ludicrous claim coming from an ESL teacher. It is essential for careers. You have a real opportunity to make a difference in peoples lives.

If you don't see how what you are teaching is applicable to their lives you need to change what you are teaching.

I absolutely agree that "perfect" English should not be a requisite for passing a class and that students should be motivated and have reasonable expectations for their performance.

But If you have the attitude that what you are teaching doesn't matter and you should "just pass students" you need to do everyone a involved favor and find a different career.

By Chris, Bangkok (28th August 2018)

There are several problems with this article but my biggest problem is your "letting people pass" section.

If you're giving your students a test on the past perfect continuous with an attitude that "they're not going to need it anyway" then you shouldn't be teaching English.

1. That's not how people learn to employ sentence forms or communicate in an L2. If you're teaching the past perfect continuous out of context the problem is your teaching method, not the students or the subject.

2. The attitude that your students "are not going to need" what you are teaching them is an awful attitude for a teacher to have.

Absolutely, students should be encouraged to communicate and not be expected to speak English *perfectly* to pass a test or a class, but "letting them pass" without doing work because "English isn't that important?"

If you believe all of that you need to get into a different career ASAP.

By CF, Bangkok (28th August 2018)

Plain and simple.
Keep a few people on the top and most on the bottom.
Make a huge class division based on economics , education and foreign language abilities.
Spend more money on infrastructure not improving education system.
Monitor citizens more and provide a highly policed state.
Encourage superficial spending on brand name items and flaunt wealth.
Be thankful you have enough rice on your table.

By john doe, Bangkok (28th August 2018)

Richard, your last sentence in your reply sums up what other people feel and have responded to you. You said "Anyway I guess some people will always see the bad and can't accept that there may just be a couple of good things in the Thai education system"
And for once you are right. There are a COUPLE of good things but there are more bad things that clearly outweigh the good things.
Most of us do accept there are some positives but most of us can be honest and truthful with saying that there are clearly a lot of problems with the Thai education system and the facts about results and standards are well publicised without any of us having to make a comment.
Thailand's rankings are there for all to see.
Girls and boys playing sports together is a positive you say. I thought we were talking about education?
As I said in my reply, I find your overly positive take on an embarrassing education system commendable, but be honest instead of a fake positive spin on what is a shambles in the eyes of the rest of the world.

By Matt, Bangkok (26th August 2018)

Ask many Thais about their opinion of high school and they will likely be positive about it. A lot of my Thai friends say their high school years were the best of their lives!

Where are you living? Maybe you need to venture out into the provinces and find out just how bad the education system is outside Bangkok.

I've met countless young Thais who speak great English. Where did you learn English I ask them. At 'school'. Oh really I say, your Thai teacher spoke English. Then they divulge..actually no they either watched English movies and used the internet, had English friends, studied abroad or had English speaking relatives.

By Hugo, Thailand (24th August 2018)

English not being important to be successful? It's one of the most important subjects for most Asians nowadays as it's necessary in the global economy. Hence, the Chinese doing everything they can to make sure their students are fluent in it. Thailand just happens to be behind most of the rest of Asia, but it doesn't make it right.

By Rhonda, Bangkok (23rd August 2018)

There are positives in the Thai education system, you just have to be honest about what they are. The same way you have to be honest about the negatives. My biggest positive has always been the students. They're kids. You generally can't go wrong with kids if you're a decent person. Never take it personally and enjoy the fact that most will love you if you put your heart into your job.

I'm like most of the other people on here, Richard - I find it hard to agree with most of your points. But they're yours. It's okay to have different opinions. It's okay to chat with and even be friends with people who share different opinions and ideologies. In fact, I'd implore doing so. Otherwise you get stuck in a echo chamber and surround yourself with likeminded people all the time. That's definitely no fun.

I appreciated reading your article and loved the comments. Somewhere out there is a tiny little South African fella sat in his agency office with his head about to explode. Or maybe he's resigned to the fact that you can't go round telling people what to do or think.

By John, No comment (23rd August 2018)

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

Firstly this article is certainly not aimed at a Thai audience. I'd read so many articles kicking the Thai system so thought I'd be different and think of the positives. I've had a lot of positive feedback about this article and people accepting some of my points (although not in this comments section!)

I certainly didn't say the Thai system was the best in the world and of course there are (widely reported) negatives. However, there are certainly some positives as I mentioned and it's sad people can't accept that. Surely encouraging boys and girls to play sport together and promoting activities are something we can all agree are good in the Thai system?

Finally language ability isn't a link to intelligence or the education system. Judging people based on their English level is pointless. It would be like telling me that I'm a failure because I got a D in art class.

Anyway I guess some people will always see the bad and can't accept that there may just be a couple of good things in the Thai education system.

By Richard, Bangkok (23rd August 2018)

"They have an education system which deserves far more respect from those who knock it. "

Why? It's FUBAR. There is nothing to respect in the system. I've been looking at it from the inside - and outside, as a parent - for 15 years. It's one of the worst systems in the world, based on cancelled-classes, cheering, limited learning of other cultures and a culture of accepted-cheating and copying. Although you're probably not a noob here, you certainly sound like one.

By Ajarn Nuay, Bangkok (23rd August 2018)

Sorry, I think I disagree with most of this. You're not even celebrating mediocrity. You're celebrating brainwashing. "But how can you criticize something that you don't understand?" is always the counter argument. I've been here long enough now. I understand a lot. You don't get to keep playing that same old card to shut down someone's point. I'd say being an outsider looking in gives you a great perspective.

I'm a science teacher. I need my students to think for themselves. It's imperative. I want my students to do well in life. I would love some of them to go on and become scientists and do research for the betterment of Thailand and mankind. You can have all the education in the world, but if you haven't been taught to be skeptical of information, you'll often just believe whatever you're told. Especially if it comes from an official looking source. This is a problem the world over. As the great Neil DeGrassse Tyson said, "It's just as intellectually lazy to believe everything you see as it is to deny everything you see" Learn to inquire. Only people who have something to hide don't like those who ask questions.

"I wish we had been taught more in the UK about our royal family."

Absolutely not. Like the poster said before, that can be learnt in your own time. What exactly is it that you'd like to have been taught? The German connection? Incest? How Prince Harry was rebellious in his youth? They're people like anyone else. Absolute Game of Thrones nonsense.

"It's a culture based on respect, whether earned or not"

I think you'll have to look up the words 'respect' and 'fear'. I have this little Japanese girl at my school. Cute as a button and as smart as the shirt its on. Every time she sees me in the morning she wais me. I always used to say 'Thank you' and then I'd say 'Good morning' back. One day she asked me, "Why do you always say 'thank you?'". I told her it's because she waied me. She told me, "In Japan we bow our teacher, but my daddy said in Thailand you have to wai your teacher". It was a very nice and pure moment from a young mind.

By Craig, Nonthaburi (23rd August 2018)

What about explaining the poor English speaking ability of Thai people? Surely it should be mandatory in this day and age for them to even have a basic level after studying for so long? How they get jobs in banks or international hospitals with terrible English, I will never know!
I could NEVER work in a Thai school. Stick to international schools.

By James, Bangkok (23rd August 2018)

Un realistic sense of Positivity in a sea of mediocrity.
Call a spade a spade, not a spade a wonderful gardening tool.
I'm sorry but I disagree with most of your points.
Discipline/Control by cane or punishment is not control. It's fear.
No Fail policy breeds laziness.
Devotion to national anthem is more subliminal control and brain washing than being patriotic. Herd mentality.
Rampant cheating again means students don't actually learn.
Rote system is learning by memory not critical thinking.
How you can spin all of these negatives into positives is commendable but I don't see things that way.
Sorry.

By Matt, Bangkok (22nd August 2018)

...smoke and mirrors in front of a ball washing ceremony.

That is what came to mind, when I read this piece. While it was not poorly written, it certainly deflected, marginalized and side-stepped quite a few things that ARE to be taken into account.

Yes...it seems it was meant for a Thai audience. Thus, I have seen enough back-slapping for one day.

By J.C., Chonburi (22nd August 2018)

Clean and simple.

This article is probably for a Thai audience.

By Pete Santos, BKK (22nd August 2018)

expelled? well, I taught at an EP in a gov't school and majority of the M4-6 students were asked to leave their private schools, mainly because they didn't meet the grade requirement to stay. The term may not be expelled, but in other terms they were given the boot.
Some are good, but majority have gone worse, knowing that they came in, because they had the money at 60k Baht per year and do nothing to pass.

With the ASEAN region growing, the Thai gov't has to take a hard look at its education system. Their neighboring countries are doing better and English in the region has become more competitive. So looking at the bigger picture, if you're a moneyed Thai, I would recommend sending your kids to quality international schools, or even nearby Asean countries so that they get a realistic picture of how competitive it is.

By Cha, TH (22nd August 2018)

"Whilst I couldn’t find any official statistics about suspensions and expulsions in Thai schools I did ask a few Thai students"

"Or that they didn't understand the question, or your accent, or that they were in a top class of goody-goody types and didn't have this happen in those classes, "

"Most of my Thai friends speak fluent English or have lived abroad so no problems with them understanding me."

In your article you say you asked students, yet you counter a valid point by saying your friends understand you, what does that have to do with students being able to understand you?

By Steve C, Bangkok (22nd August 2018)

Thanks for your reply. I regret that I was probably too abrasive in my manner. Mea culpa- I had not had my coffee when I wrote it.

I appreciate what you say, though I can't agree with much of it. I do, however, acknowledge that people can have different experiences or different interpreations of the same experience.

By JBKK, BKK (21st August 2018)

JBKK - thanks for putting in the time to reply. I'll reply to a few of your main points.

I've been here for 5 years, worked at a Thai high school, two language schools and as a private business English tutor. Plenty of experience with students from all levels of society for all cities etc.

I could write a list of bad things about Thai schools to make them look terrible but I thought I would look at the positives as not many people do that. I could also make a list of ten things that are terrible in every education system in Europe / US etc (or the international schools in Thailand) but that wouldn't be as popular as putting the knee into the Thai system.

Patriotism:

I think it is a good thing. Most of my American friends are from places like Oklahoma and all are patriots and I think that is great so well done to Thai people for loving their country. I'm proud of my country and I would love to hear our anthem more often than just at sporting events. These days we need things which bring people together and not split people. I get the impression that some people move to Thailand and instantly hate their own country and feel that being patriotic is wrong, in my opinion there's no issue with loving your country.

Class size / discipline:

Obviously we know that 50 kids in a class isn't great but it can't be helped here due to budgets and facilities. So many foreign teachers just moan about this rather than finding ways to make it work. We can learn from Thai teachers in this respect. I've never seen them use force (although have read about it). Obviously you can't condone force but I'm sure many Thai teachers control their students without hitting them.

Most of my Thai friends speak fluent English or have lived abroad so no problems with them understanding me. They also talk about negatives here in Thailand so have no reason to lie to me about this. Obviously their experience at high school wasn't perfect but looking at the the American high school system I'd rather learn here in Thailand, at least there isn't a chance of getting shot here.

Thai teacher salaries and qualifications:

Starting salaries are low and getting to the top takes a lot of time, luck and is often more about who you know than what you know. You're right that some teachers do tutoring on the side but if you have to give up your free time to do this then it shouldn't be equated to salary as UK teachers could do the same on a Saturday or Sunday or after work and make even more.Sure some Thai teachers can make a lot but so can some in the UK - I'm looking at starting - mid level teachers really. I only heard of teachers threatening to stop paying back their loans, not to walk out of classes but maybe I missed that...

Thai teachers have official teaching qualifications. A lot of foreigners teaching in Thai high schools may have a four week TEFL course, a lot wont even have that. I'm sure some foreigners are qualified to teach in their own country.

Facilities:

Of course everyone would love AC and computers in every classroom. The problem is many schools can't afford to do this in every room. Rich parents send children to international schools because they have the money and the schools have great facilities. How many people here could afford 200,000 baht a year or more to send their kids to international school? I certainly couldn't do this. You can't compare the two, it's not fair. In the my village in UK we had a government school and a very famous private boarding school. Their facilities were so much better than ours but we made the best of what we had, same here in Thailand.

Students:

I've met a lot of smart, intelligent kids who live in the real world as they've been in the Thai system. If someone has the creativity and imagination they will have this regardless of their schooling.

I've met a few people who studied at international schools and I've not really noticed much of a difference. Some work well with others and some don't. Some don't bother to learn as they'll be working for the family business in Thailand anyway.

In general I think a lot comes down to parenting but that's another issue...

Respect:

Sure respect should be earned. Problem is I get the feeling a lot of foreigners don't give the Thai system a chance. In the end a lot of Thai people will work in Thailand for Thai companies. They'll speak Thai and have a Thai family and will travel locally. If they can't tell you the capital of Peru or know who was the first president of the USA does that matter?

Thai schools teach their students English, Chinese and Japanese/Korean. They are taught about the AEC which will likely be their future. I think we have to stop taking the view that the EU / USA is the centre of the world and the standard to judge people on and respect that the Thai system is doing well for Thai people's needs.

By Richard, Bangkok (21st August 2018)

Wow. Just some counterpoint:

"It’s great that Thai students are taught about their country and have a patriotic view."

Are they taught the reality or a fairy tale? Why is it necessarily good that they are patriotic (certainly in the blind way many students demonstrate)? Can you really dissent in this culture without serious repercussions? Would you say the same to a USA stereotypical type who loved his or her country the same way and to the same level (I would bet you would deride that person)?

"Thankfully all Thai people know their anthem and are proud to sing it."

If the British anthem was 8 whole lines and was heard two times a day, every day, so might British people. So what? And why should we be thankful for someone remembering what is essentially a mission statement?

"I wish we had been taught more in the UK about our royal family."

You can educate yourself quite easily on that, and what you learn might even come from differing points of view!

"I would love to learn more from Thai teachers about how to control classes that size."

Beat them/have the power to get them beaten, or insist on their parents pay for their extra classes with you, and you can do this too! Why should anyone have a class that size anyway? Do you think this size best serves the individual students, especially the less able ones?

"Whilst I couldn’t find any official statistics about suspensions and expulsions in Thai schools..."

Shock. Thai culture doesn't like to expose such things, unless such information is being used in order to blame it on "another team".

"...they only knew of a handful of cases from their institutes. This could show that students are well disciplined or teachers are empathetic towards student’s issues. "

Or that they didn't understand the question, or your accent, or that they were in a top class of goody-goody types and didn't have this happen in those classes, or that no one really cares about discipline to the point of suspension etc. as long as the money is rolling in by whatever avenue, or possibly some students should have been suspended or removed but weren't and to the detriment of the class as a whole, or etc.

"The schools know they can rely on students to help with events, planning and project work. These are all great skills the students can use later in their lives."

Having experienced many of these events, I can say (a) it is rarely "voluntary", especially in large numbers/whole school activities, and (b) 90% of the students do almost or literally nothing for the duration and would rather be anywhere else.

"Foreign teachers are also made to feel welcomed..."

Always? (Before anyone makes the obvious wisecrack in response, no, I am not referring to myself).

"Thai students are great at giving out facts and information which they have learned in class."

Massive generalization. Some are. Many aren't. And possibly the "facts" are not "facts", so what is the value? A party trick?

"Thai teachers obviously face hardships and lower than average pay but you don’t hear them threatening to walk out of the classroom."

They can get paid very (sometimes even very very) well, especially considering the average salary of the country (in fact, I would feel they get a higher salary than UK teachers, if you compare them based on average salary in those countries, the cost of living, and the levels of effort and expertise- at least after a few years of teaching). They also get many benefits foreign teachers cannot get. Many of them have extra classes and make a lot of extra money from doing so (by fair means or foul). And yes, you do hear of them threatening to walk out- it has been in the news a lot recently, because of loans they took out but can't pay back, and this has been a regular news feature since I have been in Thailand.

"In fact most foreign teachers in Thailand are paid more than local Thai teachers despise being less qualified."

Depends what you mean by "qualified" and how it stacks up against western qualified teachers (no, I personally don't believe you can compare them in terms of rigor, even if they spend more time that training than western qualified teachers do). And no, they are not necessarily paid more, certainly not as an overall package; even if they are (which they aren't), westerners don't tell Thai schools what they should pay them; it is what is offered by the Thai schools (an amount which has only changed ion the last 20 years by decreasing, by the way).

"You will also see the great deal of respect Thai teachers get from their students, they must be doing something right!"

It's a culture based on respect, whether earned or not. Corrupt people get paid lots of respect (including Thai teachers I have met).

"A lot of my Thai friends say their high school years were the best of their lives!"

If you didn't necessarily have to do a lot of work over an extended period, you would think that too. Also, don't many westerners say the same?

"The key point is that most of the complaints about the Thai education system come from foreign teachers working in these schools. "

Thai culture frowns on criticism, for obvious and historical reasons. Western culture doesn't do this as much, though it used to in the past. Anyway, what is so bad about complaining? It might be annoying but it can also improve things.

"Foreign teachers complain about the lack of air-conditioning and computers in every room or that students have to be tested too much. For a lot of Thai students this isn’t really an issue. "

So why do richer Thai families send their kids to schools that do have AC and computers? Why do these better-equipped schools usually pump out more able students? Why do some countries in the area which highly value education have such things as standard (such as Singapore)? And why do many students I have met over the years express quite a lot of stress over these tests? Granted, these tended to be the most able students; the less able ones didn't have to try as hard...

"They have an education system which deserves far more respect from those who knock it. "

Respect is earned, not deserved, and nothing you have written has demonstrated that respect for Thai education has been earned, as it is easily disproven. I will say that NOT ALL THAI SCHOOLS SUCK; of course not, and there are some schools which are probably better than many in the West (usually the ones in the West in slummier parts). A handful of Thai schools are even very respectable.

However, your article is amazingly naive. Either you haven't been here long, you don't notice what most of your students actually do or say, you work in one of the more elite schools, or you just defend Thailand against any criticism, even if it is (actually) deserved (don't worry, I am sure they will be some of the usual suspects coming along soon to tear me a new one, even though they won't give a single convincing reason for why I am wrong).

By JBKK, BKK (21st August 2018)

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