Steve Crawford

A new academic year dawns

It's time to refill the marker pens and dust off the blackboards

Well boys and girls, it's that time of the year again! The time when you refill your whiteboard markers, check your ties or blouses for curry stains and dash off for the morning bus with a glint of dedication in your eye and a spring in your step. Or maybe you just roll out of bed, gargle and head off to work, it's all good.

It's the new academic year and this one feels a little different than last year. Aphisit's campaign promise of slashing tuition and incidental fees for all Thai taxpayers has many government schools running scared. One friend of mine works at a government school which has had had 6 foreign teachers for the last six years but only has the budget for 4 this year! Also, instead of only teaching 20 periods per week, they all have to teach 25...that's if they want to keep their job! There seems to be a lot of that going around, schools hiring less people and giving them each heavier workloads. The big, famous government schools probably won't suffer too much because they have very generous Alumni and Parent Associations (if ya know what I mean) and have way too many applicants to fill too few seats. A good Thai friend of mine said that he had to give a "generous donation" of 300,000 Baht to get his 12 year old into a mid-level public mattayom school! That same school was accepting "generous donations" of only 100,000 last year. I guess that the schools are going to find their budget somewhere. So that's (I think) why the job market is a lot tighter this year than last.

Also, that initial tidal wave of fear, resentment, anger and anxiety that accompanied the "Recent Teacher License Unpleasantness" (think of John Gielgud in a smoking jacket, glass of dry sherry in hand saying that) has disappeared like the police at a U.D.D. rally. In typical Thai government fashion, The MOE (Teacher's Council) issued stern warnings like "We really mean it this time people!", "We aint f$@kin around dude!" and "Never listen to a Barry Manilow album after'll ruin the mood!" Now, when we go to The Teachers Council they seem to be handing out those "Temporary Permits to Teach Without a Teacher's License" like dancers of dubious sexual plumbing hand out condoms at the end of Silom Soi 3! Oh well, business as usual. They showed us the carrot but it turns out the stick just may be a wet noodle.

Speaking of Teacher's Licenses, I have some friends who are teaching in private language schools and, at their request, I went to The MOE last week to try to get a definitive answer to the question "Do language school teachers need to get these new teacher's licenses?" The answer I was given was that there are two groups of teachers who do NOT need to bother with jumping through these (relatively) new teacher licensing hoops. They are:

1) Teachers who teach in private language schools, i.e. ECC, Siam Computer, Inlingua, Berlitz, Wall Street, etc.

2) Teachers in colleges or universities, whether public or private.

Who is my source, you ask? My source is Mr. Suphat Boonsong, Head Legal Counsel for The Council for Higher Education in Thailand (C.H.E.T.), the governing body for all colleges and universities here. He got on the phone with Head Legal Counsel at The Office of the Private Education Commission (O.P.E.C.), the governing body for all private, pre college level schools here and that lawyer confirmed it too. So if any of you at private language schools or unis are being told that you need to get a new teacher's license, just have the organization you work for call Mr. Boonsong at his office number, (02) 628-5281, to get yourself off the hook.

So if you teach in one of the mall language schools or at a uni, good on you! Don't even bother worrying about it! If you don't, my sympathies and I'll see ya in the line at The Teacher's Council to get one of those temporary things. I'll be the guy with the stupid grin on his face, wearing the Barry Manilow t-shirt!


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