I've had a bit of writer's block these last few months. I've been racking my brain trying to think of the answer to three questions:
1) What should I write my next article about?
2) Does anybody actually read any of them?
3) When is Jamiroquai EVER going to come to Bangkok?!
My writus interruptus was blessedly put out of it's misery by the insightful statements of a few Thai government officials.
My thought for July is this...
"If you want to know where to look, for REALLY good drugs, just ask a high level government official!"
Trust me...they must have the BEST stuff. How do I know this? Please, let me enlighten you, as they enlightened me.
First, there was THIS statement, from The Deputy Governor of The Bank of Thailand.
You know The Bank of Thailand right? It's the organization that's responsible for all banking policy and its decisions have a tremendous effect upon everyone who calls Thailand their permanent home, who doesn't just HAPPEN to be independently wealthy. You MIGHT think that one of the top people there would have a good, realistic head on their shoulders...maybe.
Now I don't have a Phd in Economics from The London School of Economics or anything. However, I read "Wealth of Nations", understand the basics of Keynesian Economic Theory, took (and passed) Micro and Macroeconomics in college and like to consider myself a reasonably intelligent guy. I don't slobber in my breakfast either, let's put it THAT way. Not unless I've had a night out partying on the same stuff as the Deputy Governor of The Bank of Thailand! What I this guy smoking? Can I get some...please?! What's his dealers' number?
My guess is he has a large stash of Maui Wowie hidden somewhere deep in the bowels of The Bank of Thailand. Big, controlled access vaults are good for hiding stuff you know! They probably have very high tech ventilation systems too. No orange scent air freshener for him sir! Being that high up has its perks apparently.
If he had said "4 or 5 percent" I could understand. That would be reasonable. Once again, a high level Thai government official has no intention of saying anything that is even in the neighborhood of a little place I like to call "reality". What a surprise.
The second high level government official who MUST be on something is at The Teacher's Council. I am going to refrain from telling you who, exactly, she is because I know her and I don't like the idea of being shot. Suffice it to say that I was in a meeting with her, about a week ago, and a few other high level Teachers Council people. For the first hour, the usual boring policy and initiative follow up checklists were trudged through...the tedious but necessary motions of government. Then I was asked what I thought, as a foreign teacher in Thailand, of the current teacher licensing rules and regulations. I very politely answered that:
I understand and agree with the idea that non-Thai nationals, who wish to teach in the Thai public school systems should know how to teach and have a basic grounding in the necessary knowledge to successfully manage a classroom, write lesson plans and grading rubrics, etc. However, I feel that the government has not taken several realities into consideration. First, many very good, experienced foreign teachers, that never finished their Bachelor degrees, have neither the time, money, nor inclination to move back to their home countries to finish their Bachelor degrees. In my opinion, more than 50 percent of non-Thai nationals currently teaching in Thai public schools, fall into this category. Are we going to throw the baby out with the bath water?
Why would have to do this, she asked.
Because there is currently NO Thai university (that I know of) offering distance or online Bachelor degrees in ANY discipline in English. There are however plenty of Masters level online or distance learning courses as well as several weekday evening and/or weekend courses, to help them finish off their Bachelor degrees.
Second, even if a foreign teacher is willing to spend the money and time to finish their Bachelor degree, so that they can then take the 1 year teacher licensing course, all those courses are being given by universities in Bangkok, Chiengmai, Hat Yai or Khon Kaen.
What about the guy living and teaching at a mountain school in Nan, or in some temple school in a small village in Roi Et, or at a school with 300 students in a tiny hamlet on the southern peninsula? Are they supposed to quit their jobs, leave their families (which most long timers here have) and move to Bangkok, so they can finish their Bachelor degree?
Why doesn't the government use its resources, like The Rachaphat University System, to set up a distance/online course to KEEP these GOOD teachers who will have to leave Thailand soon, if things don't change? You know...actually HELP us, instead of making us feel like the unwanted guest at a party?
I know plenty of Thai teachers, over 45 years old, who never finished their Bachelor degrees, but have been doing a damn fine teaching job, at some small provincial school, for close to 20 years! They are allowed to get teacher licenses based on professional experience, even though they don't qualify academically. But not foreign teachers. Hmmm...I wonder why that might be?
Her answer was "Well, we have quite clearly stated the policy. It is their responsibility to get themselves qualified, not ours. If they don't like it, they can go to another country."
I told her that that is what many of them are already doing. I also told her that I was informed, at the information desk at The TCT that the "Temporary Waivers" would only be given out a maximum of TWO times. Each one lasts two years. So that gives any of the foreign teachers who are currently not qualified FOUR years to get qualified. Hear that everyone? Get yourself qualified, damn your eyes! Never mind the fact that there are no systems in place to help you get qualified. Don't make trouble! Love it or leave it! And, for the sake of all the linguini in China, PLEASE don't get me started on the teacher's license 4 part tests...I might just have heart attack!
So, once again, a high level government official has given an answer that doesn't care one whit about reality on the ground, in the real Thai world. And who cares that, within a few years, Thai children will have no native speakers to teach in the public schools?
Finally, I leave you with a ray of sunshine through the clouds. I was amazed by how HONEST and real the following question posed by the current Minister of Education was...
"Even teachers fail, so how can we raise the quality of students?" Education Minister Chinnaworn Boonyakiat was quoted as saying by the Bangkok Post newspaper.
At least he's being honest. I wish there were more like him.