Thai Life


Troublesome Teachers

There I was enjoying a drink at a bar when I couldn't help but notice a rough looking British guy passionately explaining to his friend how they both should become English Teachers in order to stay in Thailand, "Its easy!" The Brit exclaimed! "We just hand over some cash and get a certificate and then we can start work!"

As he went on I lost interest, I'd heard it all before and gauged that yet another poor sap may be joining the ranks of the desperate Foreign English Teachers in Thailand (FETIT)

An outsider seeing this would think:
"Boozy bar talk! This guy is dreaming, you can't just buy a cert. and get a job in teaching english like that!" Well unfortunately when a country like Thailand is in desperate need to recruit english teachers for impoverished schools this can and does take place. Alas if its one thing that is a blight on the fair and pleasant land of Siam it is the state of the english teaching standards in Thailand. Not all fault lies at the FETIT boys and girls but also at the government which seems to let the English standard remain low for the state sponsored schools. Those who teach english are typically a sub-culture that tends to be centered in Bangkok (where most of the work is) although there are other areas such as the provinces of Isaan and Chang Mai and Rai. For those of you reading this who aren't aware the hallmarks of teaching english in Thailand are: Poor pay of about 25,000 baht a month (deduct tax and fees out of that figure too!), poor career prospects, precarious legal position due to work permit / business visa complications and so on (an exception to most of the above are teachers of private international approved universities). Many FETIT are without work-permits which effectively means that they are working illegally. Those that are legit often have to pay for their own permits and work visas, something that should be done by their employer.

Now the FETIT may be doing the right thing, they may not be but a stark fact remains that the english language is still spoken very poorly in Thailand. Roam the land for even a short time and without basic thai understanding you will struggle to make yourself understood. Even in the Bangkok the level of english spoken is considered poor and much of it is learnt by casual conversation than in the classrooms. Thailand, compared with other asian countries such as Japan, Singapore, Philippines and Malaysia does not make an impact but remains at a sub-standard level. Even the former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawata spoke only moderate english.

The recent deportation to the USA of Mark Karr has hardly enhanced the good standing of FETIT. Mark Karr is an example of a Troublesome Teacher and his arrest and deportation has led to some changes. One of which is the government looking more closely at the FETIT situation. One question they have asked themselves is this: Is it a good thing having a core of english teachers from foreign countries?

The argument is quite complex, those in favour will stress the advantage of a native english speaker in the classroom, cross cultural exchange and benefits of allowing kids to learn in a more free-form manner. However the english language, despite being the most complex language in the world can be learned easily by many races. Indeed perhaps a locally born Thai National would, with the correct training be a more suitable choice? Also, the often staggering level of lack-lustre supervision and lesson plans can mean the standard level of english attained is abysmal. Far from having anything against English Teachers I, Johnny Bravo salute those who, in the spirit of progress teach the English language, one day a great inventor or the like may make his / her mark on the world with their english speaking skills key to their success. However it is only right and above board that these English Teachers are properly qualified and brought in from approved agencies and companies overseas. By properly qualified it is fair to say that the two week TEFL (Teaching English in a Foreign Language) attendance course is in no way sufficient to properly teach english at an international level. It's pushing the barrier for the TEFL to be suitable in secondary school!

A real english teacher in any civilised country is, at a minimum a university graduate. Unfortunately an estimated 70% of foreign teachers are of the TEFL crowd who also are, for the most part, 'farang-desperately-wanting-to stay-in-Thailand'. Many of us have run into the type, they've spent nearly all their money already, love the country to death (often it may be the death of them!) and don't want to leave or go home. Still, even the most under-qualified of the FETIT can make a good teacher given time. Although looking at the bigger picture Thailand strongly ought to be consider introducing regulating the FETIT by means of vetting and keeping a closer eye on the troublesome teachers! The troublesome teachers are difficult to spot amongst the majority of decent ones. While those FETIT who indulge in nightlife activities such as flagrant bar and whore mongering shouldn't be considered 'bad' teachers per sa, would a parent want such a FETIT teaching his or her child english? Its a question that perhaps Thailand will need to answer lest more troublesome teachers from Mark Karr's ilk rise from the woodwork in the near future!

Farang columnist Johnny BThis section is hosted by our resident columnist Johnny B. who has been living in Thailand for seven years now and currently is based out of Bangkok.

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