Readers' Submissions

Reflections On English Teaching Thailand


Reflections On English Teaching In Thailand


To reach conclusions on this issue, it is necessary to first make a (slightly tongue-in-cheek) analysis of current TEAL employment in Thailand.

There appear to be 4 main profiles of foreigners Teaching English as an Additional Language in Thailand (TEAL). (Of course, many hybrids of these profiles also exist)

a) The traveller (35% of EAL teachers), 20-35 years old

This guy (or girl) is desperate to avoid going home yet. He is the type of teacher that many TESOL/TEFL courses are marketed at and are designed to cater for. The typical traveller-teacher enrols on the quickest, cheapest course he can find in Thailand (which probably turns out to be one of the longest or most expensive, high marketing-expenditure courses, as he made the mistake of limiting himself to an internet search of no more than 10 minutes to find it, preferring to spend his time and the few baht in his pocket on buying a cheap bottle of beer), before grabbing the first job that falls into his lap. He subsequently fails to turn up for work on the first day, due to a hangover or cannabis-induced paranoia. He manages to find another job within hours, which he just about manages to hold down for a few weeks or months before heading off to another country to seek something else equally “new and radical”.

b) The western society dropout (30% of EAL teachers), 25-45 years old

This guy (or girl) is seeking escapism from everything in his life to date. He is a malcontent, blaming others, and especially his home nation, for consistently failing to provide fulfilment of his lifestyle expectations. He initially views Thailand as escapism paradise. He spends an age researching EAL teacher training before flying to Don Muang, and invests his savings in what he sees as the best value TESOL course for the money, a mid-priced course. He then heads out to pound the pavements of Bangkok with his newly enhanced resume, full of hope and expectation of finding the rewarding lifestyle that has so far eluded him, but makes no solid plans beyond the end of his nose.

c) The sex tourist (25% of EAL teachers), 30-60 years old

Often more experienced in life than the first two profiles, this guy (girl?) is willing to dump his entire life and career to be able to live in a place where budget hedonism rules; a place where he rarely sleeps before 3 AM, where he can afford as much food and beer as he can manage, and where he can spend every night with one or more small, docile females of his choice. He relies on (in-bar) word of mouth to find his teacher training provider, going on to (naively) invest heavily in his chosen TESOL course, believing this to be the best route to bringing in the fairly substantial income required to finance the aforementioned dubious lifestyle habits which until now have been a vacation-time only expense.

d) The career teacher, or “farang ajarn” (10% of EAL teachers), 25-45 years old

This guy (or girl) is already loaded to the gills with a B.Ed or an M.Ed, preferably in English or TEAL, alongside many months or years of professional development and teaching experience. He simply got bored of teaching rebellious western students, and now seeks a cheap, easy life in the sun, teaching docile Asians how to speak his language.

This review of generalised EAL teacher profiles makes identifying the underlying problem an easy task; 90% of EAL teachers in Thailand are not professionally qualified career teachers, nor are they teaching by choice, and yet many expect to be respected and paid as if they are. Profile b and profile c teachers are the main culprits, as they have only profile a levels of professionalism and training, and yet may expect instantaneous profile d level rewards. Hence, 55% of EAL teachers in Thailand, consisting of profile b and c teachers, are possibly ill-prepared.

They read that “ajarns” command great respect in Thailand, and yet they fail to realise that they are not an ajarn, but are merely an instructor holding a low level qualification designed for gaining short term traveller-type employment. Very quickly, these people become disillusioned, expecting the type of respect and lifestyle commanded by the profile d “career teacher”, yet they possess neither the university-level teaching qualifications nor the scope of professional development necessary to justify such demands.

Conclusion:

Only those teachers who are continuing their teaching profession in Asia, or those ex-pats who ensure that they have prepared sufficiently by gaining long-term, respect worthy teaching qualifications (minimum BEd or DELTA level) and sufficient professional development are likely to enjoy a comparatively painless experience whilst working long-term within the Thai EL system. Others will need to be highly resourceful, highly adaptive, highly patient, or just plain lucky, if they are to achieve the standard of living that most EAL teachers in Thailand aspire to.

Until such planning and salary expectation mismatches are addressed, the Thai EAL industry will remain a place of uncertainty & dispute.

Stickman's thoughts:

I agree with your conclusions although do not agree that a DELTA is necessary. An excellent qualification to have indeed, but absolutely necessary? No, I wouldn't have thought so. In fact one could even question the "RSA approach" with Thai students…

There are many factors that contribute to the type of teachers who teach in Thailand and the remuneration issue which you touched on is relevant indeed. There is also the issue that Thai students are not necessarily into the "RSA style" teaching that many of us thought would be the key to our success here. One really has to be part entertainer, part teacher to succeed here. A certain personality type is needed. There are HEAPS of other issues and in the interests of not stealing your thunder – I have written too much already – I'll not go into them here.

And please don't make the mistake of thinking that sex tourists can't be good teachers. No-one likes the idea of someone teaching by day, and whoring by night, but these are two completely different things, and I am sure many of the non sex tourists have some equally nasty (or even worse) habits too. We all have skeletons in our closet… Sex tourists are just a very easy target.