IN MY OPINION
Confusion abounds over the qualifications that are needed to work as an English teacher in the Land of Smiles.
Teachers listen to ‘Education’ columnist Timothy Cornwall, PhD, DTM, provide information that will help them become certified or help them maintain their teacher certifications at the Tesol Thailand Conference, Jan 29. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN
A recent letter published in the Bangkok Post and a recent discussion among colleagues raised the dilemma facing education institutions regarding hiring foreigners as English teachers in Thailand, namely, qualifications.
A plea for help
Several weeks ago, a reader asked for help from the English-language teachers featured in "Education" concerning the Ministry of Education's culture course and licensing examination. His example of a poorly worded question with no logical answer was testament to how a good idea can be made redundant due to bad implementation.
At the same time, news reports and internet forums were rife with rumours concerning a hapless teacher who had been found working some time ago with fake papers. Anybody thinking of using a bogus degree needs to think again as this recent case and others have highlighted that a suspended prison term and deportation face those who wish to buck the system.
You can understand why the Ministry of Education would want to tighten up on some of the cowboys who ply their trade by introducing tests on culture and methodology. That said, many foreigners who are unqualified do a great job on a voluntary basis, helping out in their local schools around the country.
Certification and culture courses
As with most things in Thailand, it is very difficult to get reliable information on anything important, so rumours have been flying around for some time concerning the hoops that foreigners are going to have to jump through in order to stay and teach if they have anything less than a Bachelor of Education degree.
I have read that the Teaching Professional Knowledge for Foreign Teachers test has nine areas grouped into four sections that are tested for 1,000 baht per occasion. At face value, there is nothing new in the test to worry about if you are a teacher who has taken a decent Tesol (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification exam or something similar. The worrying part is the amount of money that is required to undertake the one-year Professional Certification Course, which stands at about 60,000 baht.
Blogs and forums explain that taking the tests twice would cost 8,000 baht, which is considerably cheaper than spending the 60,000 baht for the one-year course. In addition, you would also save a lot of time.
Having enjoyed 18 years of marriage to my lovely Thai wife, I am not sure what benefit the 20-hour culture course would be to me. Surely experience should count for something. However, don't be surprised if you see me sitting next to you at one of the forthcoming courses.
Qualified teacher status
Most countries have examinations that need to be passed in order for teachers to teach in the state system of their home country. An example is the UK, where there is a certificate of education and a post-graduate version.
Maybe these qualifications could be used as whole or part exemption for the Professional Certification Course? If anyone has any more information to share on this subject, I would be grateful.
Only time will tell whether this will result in a mass exodus of teachers from Thailand or whether certain street vendors on Khao San Road will soon branch out into a new line of certifications dealing with the subjects of culture and qualified-teacher status.
Steve Graham is an English-language teacher at the Language Centre, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. You may discuss matters related to this article, by sending your comments to 'In My Opinion' at email@example.com.