Saturday, 20 May 2017

Why you shouldn’t teach English in Thailand

(posted on

Teaching in Thailand is not a rewarding experience, neither financially or career wise. There are better alternatives, including the new option of online teaching. Test these before heading to the Land of Smiles, but if you go this is what you need to know.

The first hurdle is visa paperwork. Mere words do not suffice to describe the complexity—the ever changing and growing complexity. To start, you must spend a few days at your school getting all the various bits of paper together, having them photocopied, signed, and verified, next visit several different government departments, and then leave the country(!), travel to a Thai embassy, and then wait for the Thai officials to process your ‘paper’ and return a work visa. All with lots and lots of ‘stamps’—just make sure that the correct colour is used. This usually goes ok, but not always. To add insult to injury Thai schools expect you to pay for this. A week and $1,000.

Having secured your coveted visa you are now in front of your students, here the fun begins. The Thai education system is stuck in the 19th century: rote learning, teachers swaggering with big sticks in their hands, obedience, and absolutely no questions. This is against the official policy of Communicative Learning Teaching (CLT), but few pay this any attention. Also, expect also to be out of pocket for supplies you buy for your students, and to never be told what is happening in your school. You must develop your courses, teach, grade, deal with problems, and to never expect help from your fellow Thai teachers, most of whom don’t know enough English to speak with you. You are 90% on your own. 

For this you will receive the princely sum of around $1,000+ a month. This is not a bad salary, but not a great salary, it is also a salary that has remained unchanged for over a decade. There will be Thai teachers, with seniority, who make more. You can live on this, but don’t expect to save. There is the option of better schools and private teaching, but don’t come to Thailand for the salary.

Coupled with the low salaries are the growing number of 9-10 month contracts—to put it directly you will not be paid during the school holidays—insulting and painful. Many teachers have reported that they only find this out the hard way, being told at the end of the month that there is no salary. 

From here lets look long term, except there is no long term. As an “alien” you can expect to get a 12 month contract, a 12 month visa, but nothing more. You can work in the Kingdom for a lifetime, and then have 7 days to leave after your last visa expires. Not welcoming.

Lastly, most importantly, education. The Thai education system is bad. In 2016 over 50% of students failed the five national standardised test subjects (O-NET). Let me say that again, more than half of students failed all of the test categories. The nation failed. The students failed. The system failed. The best subject was the Thai language, the worst (unsurprisingly) was English—and nothing has changed. This against a backdrop of one quarter of the national budget going towards education. With inadequate classrooms, lack of support, and poor training one wonders where the money goes?

My advice would be to look elsewhere in Asia for a country in which to teach. Look for a future, look for a career, but not in Thailand. 

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