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Schools and universities across Thailand are desperate for foreigners to teach English at their schools. Whether it is for sound educational reasons or window dressing for a marketing ploy, foreigners are in great demand to teach English in the Land of Smiles. Recent news stories have reminded everyone in the education sector of the need for a comprehensive system of vetting to ensure that schools employ the best possible teachers at their schools.

 

Advice given to foreigners who ask about the minimum requirements needed to work in Thailand are always told that a bachelor’s degree and a teaching certificate in TESOL or related field will suffice. With these qualifications a visa and work permit are obtainable.

 

However, as most in the business will testify, this is not always the case. There are many teachers working in Thailand who do not hold these qualifications and are working / teaching in Thailand. This can be down to schools hiring unqualified persons or individuals providing fake documentation.

 

There are always two sides to every argument and I find it difficult to decide which side to come down on. On the one hand you have teachers who are qualified and consider themselves professionals. They do not like the idea of unqualified individuals being paid the same or more than themselves.

 

On the other hand, the state of English language education, especially at Prathom level, is so dire in some locations that an unqualified native speaker who has married into the community and helps out at their local school teaching English is doing a lot to help that school, its students and the local community.

 

Small sized schools are always on the look out for native speakers to teach at their schools. The going rate in the north east of Thailand is 10,000 baht a month plus accommodation. Unfortunately, the schools do not seem to be too worried about who the foreigner is. They have even been known to ask people in the High Street if they would like to teach.

 

I am asked constantly if I know of people who would want to work at small schools. I am also asked to supply good foreign husbands; however, both seem in short supply. Working for a government school will not get you rich, so it is no surprise that nearly all the foreigners working at my university have a second income. I personally find that the salary paid barely covers my wife’s cigarette and whiskey habit.

 

There are private and independent schools that pay a hefty salary, but these schools invariably screen the applicants before they receive their work permits and visas. That is not to say that a bad apple could not slip through the net. The government has recently updated the requirements to teach at these positions.

 

The application for a visa is probably the most important part of the process, as this involves a background check into the individual to ensure that they do not have a criminal record.

 

The checking of degrees and teaching certificates are easy to do and should be done before an interview takes place. The interview should be a professional affair conducted by those that know what they are doing, asking questions that test the candidate accordingly. Training needs to be undertaken if these skills are to be mastered.

 

References can also be checked; however, I am not sure how many establishments go through the process of checking all the qualifications and paperwork that is presented to them. It is a time consuming business that could remove a potential teacher that is sorely needed by a school.

 

I would like to suggest that maybe the government could look into providing the background checks needed so that those individuals who are not qualified and who want to help out at their local communities can do so without fear of repercussions.

 

If this were to happen, it would save money for the smaller schools and I believe that many more students would benefit from using English, especially for conversational purposes and hopefully this would lead to more students understanding the importance of English as a learning tool.

A foreign teacher in Thailand

 

What can we do to ensure that we are hiring the right teacher for the right job?
(Unedited article published in the Bangkok Post 06th November 2007)

 
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