Steve Crawford

Those crazy government officials

Just when you thought it couldn't get any crazier

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.

"I believe the country's economy will grow 45 per cent this year."

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.


I'm not sure that Steve understands that the Thai government really has very few resources to throw at this problem. The rajabhat University system?! I would hardly call that a system. It's a nationalised money collection agency, collecting tuition and turning back out nothing. Sure they have money to throw at the problem, but until the money actually starts being used effectively (and not being stolen by the same officials), then the situation won't change. Using Rajabhat as a venue for this wouldn't fix the unqualified teacher problem, it would make it 10 times worse. I've taught (briefly) and seen the teachers they're churning out and they haven't got a clue.

And in all honesty, sometimes an experienced non degree holding teacher is more effective, but this is, arguably, a good move for the gov't. They are trying to improve the quality of the teachers, and this is one way to do so with realistic results.

Also, Lauren, it's not a very good idea to pigeonhole all "white" teachers in thailand. You can't make a gross generalization about an entire group of people based on those you've met here, because that's a very small sample. Racist comments aren't appreciated.

By Calan, Bangkok (27th June 2011)

Let me open my thoughts on this subject by simply saying that we are,as we all know ,human.I say this because the issue in discussion are at the very heart of any well meaning democracy,and that is a good education for everybody.Of course I do not like this new legal requirement,but,in any country ,if you want to get the job you simply must have the credentials.

Yes,I do consider myself a good teacher,and have taught English in Thailand for the past 13 years,but that was in the good old days,now it is a whole new ball game.I am now studying for a B.A degree in literature with the university of London,on-line of course,and it is making me realize my potential.I realize that I will not get it for at least 4 years ,but at least I am doing something about my plight and not going around everywhere griping.If something is worth doing ,then it is worth doing well and with pride that you did it by yourself.

By Philip Wood, Bangbon (5th January 2011)

Yes, Steve I agree with you.
Firstly experience and ability will lord it over pieces of paper gained through having rich parents who don't mind you bludging around the Uni bar. I for one was teaching before the law came in. If the Thai government wants to pay 120000 baht per month for base rate teachers it is going the right way.

By Teacher Lao, BKK (20th December 2010)

I agree with the Ministry of Education. The lady you are referring to might have missed to point this to you. The reason they are asking foreign teachers to have a teacher's license is to get rid of unqualified foreign teachers. You have to face this. Everybody knows that most NATIVE SPEAKERS are not qualified to teach and no degree at all. Yes, you might be right,when you said that there are good teachers who are native speakers, but you also have to admit that most native speaker teachers are the worst teachers here in Thailand. No matter what you say, they are the worst. They don't have work ethics, no professional ethics and damn stubborn. These white teachers should leave the kingdom. They are not helping. How do I know this? I've worked with them before, maybe hundreds of native speaker teachers. Not one did a good job. Their attitude towards teaching job is unbelievable. Their favourite line," I don't care if these Thai students learn from me, as long as the school is paying me." You might be one of the good native speaker teacher, man, your brothers are the worst. Sorry about this, but it's the truth.

One more point, they don't anything about lesson planning. You ask them about strategies,the answer you get from them, I don't care about that and never heard of that. So, are you guys good teachers?

By Lauren, Bangkok (16th November 2010)

It is unfortunate that we need to have qualifications as I have met many unqualified but experienced teachers who were far better than those qualified inexperienced ones be it natives or non-natives alike.
Though I agree that a teacher should be appropriately qualified to teach, what amazes me the most here is that they (the establishment) do not mind a school hiring a NATIVE SPEAKER OF ENGLISH with a bachelor's degree in SCIENCE FICTION to teach ENGLISH!!!
If they really wanted to make things right, they should then make it a pre-requisite that anyone wishing to teach a subject be a degree holder in the same or related field!!!
Another issue that bugs me quite a lot at the moment is that it is all about NES (NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS) but they (those in charge at schools and companies) do not even bother to check whether these so called NES can speak their own language accurately (I've heard some speaking an English that was unbeknown to many of my NES friends!!!) and furthermore whether they can teach their own language.
I am a non-native and I can tell you that I would not be the best teacher there is to teach my own language as I did not have proper academic training for it!!!!
So how about those SO called NES with a Bachelor's degree in FILMING or Interior decoration???

By Dany Cuello, Bangkok (9th November 2010)

I agree with Jack, it isn't fair on the people who have taken the time and money to study. These people should be shopped to the Ministry of labour.

By Kurtz, Bangkok (20th September 2010)

I am beyond the "I don't care anymore" phase. "Teachers" with no degrees are replacing those with bona-fide degrees AND experience. One of the guys I know is teaching at the university. I really don't understand how can it be. I don't mean to rain on anybody's parade, but WTF**g hell? Get the degree FIRST, and then teach. And it better be an Ed. Will the Thais enforce the law? I sure hope they will.

By Jack McKenzie, Bangkok (19th September 2010)

Thanks for all the comments guys.

Mike, could you email the name of the place that you say has weekend courses towards a Bachelor degree please. I get emails, quite often, from people here who DO want to get qualified. I can pass the info on to them.


By Steve Crawford, Bangkok (5th July 2010)

In response to Jay, this is interesting. my degree in Thailand took 3 years so I'm not sure how they can say a UK degree of 3 years is not valid if a Thai one is.

By Bertie, Bangkok, Thailand (4th July 2010)

I agree, teachers should be qualified. What worries me, is that my UK 3 year degree (which is standard in the UK), won't be recognised by the MOE, as they state a 4 year degree is required for a teachers license! Have any British nationals got their license yet, based on their UK degree?

By Jay, Home (4th July 2010)

When you read posts like these you become more amazed that Thailand has the chair of the UN Human Rights Council. When a foreign worker is in a country legally they are supposed to treated under the law in every aspect, except for the right to vote, as a normal citizen is treated. When a foreign worker is given permission to live here the Thai government has given them permission to make Thailand their business.

By Non-Teacher Guy, Thailand (30th June 2010)

If you want to stay in Thailand then get qualified it's as simple as that, I studied my BA here which wasn't expensive and that university now offers a weekend course. I am currently working in a government school and the teachers there are working with fake degrees or no degrees, get rid of these people then guys like me who put the time, effort and money in to stay here will be more in demand and make more money.

By Mike, Bangkok, Thailand (29th June 2010)

Guy, you misspelled Filipino, and why are you justifying the inequality of them and Westerners which is a totally different topic? Thailand is for Thai people? You sound like a new-age Hitler. Did you even read this article? It's about foreign teachers having requiring more qualifications than a Thai doing the same job. Your last sentence is even the most intolerant. The 'courtesy meeting' which I presume is the "Thai way" is a poor excuse for being ignorant and intolerant of other people's issues especially in a work environment. I hope you are just an attempt to be a troll.

By Tyree D,, Thailand (28th June 2010)

Your Teacher's Council colleague was being very honest. After years of resenting the higher salaries no-and-low-talent Western teachers have earned, she and all other Thai teachers will get their revenge. Get qualified or get out! There are plenty of qualified Philippinos and others who will work for FAR LESS SALARY than their Western white faced counterparts.

Make no mistake about it - Thailand is for Thai people. Westerners, even those working, paying taxes, buying homes through shell companies, employing Thai contractors and workers to build those houses, and married to Thai women will always be 'farang' and should keep their noses out of Thai business and governmental matters. The writer was asked his opinion only as a matter of meeting 'courtesy,' nothing more.

By Guy, home (28th June 2010)

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