Interview at The Ministry of Education

Interview at the Thai Ministry of Education

Note that this interview took place several years ago and some of the information has changed, especially regarding the TCT and its role and requirements for teachers. We keep this interview here for historical reasons.

For more information see also:

Interviewees

  • Mr. Dhwatchai Chaikan, Head of Private Education Institutes Chiangmai Area 1
  • Mr. Sermsit Pimpandee, Vice Director of Education Chiangmai Area 1

Interviewers

  • John Quinn, Senior Trainer SEE TEFL
  • Ms. Wilaiwan Wannachotpawate, Translator

Date, Time and Location

  • Thursday 1st March, 2007 at 10.00 a.m.
  • Education Office Area 1 City Hall, Chiang Mai

Why do Thai schools employ native-speaker English teachers?

Foreign languages are subjects that can be taught by Thai teachers. However, in order to allow Thai students to be exposed to native-spoken English, schools recruit native-speaking teachers. Thailand has opened itself to foreign visitors, many of whom speak English; so if Thai students can improve their language skills and understand better the foreign cultures of these visitors, it will be very helpful to Thailand’s development.

What are the MoE’s expectations regarding native-speaker teachers?

The MoE expects foreign teachers to (1) improve the communicative language skills of Thai students (2) teach specializations such as translation and foreign examinations, etc.

I’ve been a teacher in Thailand since 1999 and witnessed what seems to be an explosion in demand for native-speaker teachers beginning just a few years ago. Why?

In fact, neither the Thai Government nor the MoE force educational institutes to have native-speaker teachers. Nevertheless, parental demand encourages each institute to find their own foreign teachers.

Why does it appear there are special rules for government education institutes regarding the employment of native-speaker teachers?

If the Government or the MoE forced educational institutes to employ native-speaker teachers, there would need to be universal employment requirements that would include Thai Government education institutes. This is not possible as it conflicts with current Thai law regarding employment as a government officer.

Conditions regarding employment as a government officer:

  1. Must have at least a first degree
  2. Maximum starting salary 7,xxx Baht. (Seven Thousand something Baht).
  3. A Thai Government Officer must have Thai nationality.
  4. A Thai Government Education Institute Teacher is a Thai Government Officer.

Therefore, the normal practice in government schools, colleges, and universities when they hire foreign teachers is to create a special employment agreement (อัตราจ้างพิเศษ) between the teacher and the individual institute. This agreement may, or may not, specify the minimum qualification as degree and/or TEFL.

From the native-speaker teacher’s perspective it appears that it’s now much harder to work legally as a teacher in Thailand. Certainly within staff rooms and internet discussion boards across Thailand some native-speaker teachers are starting to feel insecure about their future here.

The situation regarding foreign teachers in Thailand has been examined by the Thai Government more closely recently because of a few criminal cases, including Jon Mark Carr, involving foreigners who disguised themselves as English teachers. The Thai Government and the MoE had to take urgent action to protect Thai schools, colleges, universities and their students. In actual fact, there are many bad cases involving Thai teachers as well. However, bad Thai teachers are covered under existing Thai laws and regulations; there are specific and strong punishments for these teachers. Regulations and punishments for foreign teachers have still not been clarified.

There are several foreign languages, including English, whose instruction is supported by the MoE. Thus, there is not a policy to remove foreign teachers from the country. On the contrary, the MoE has been trying to improve the whole process to manage foreign teachers in Thailand more effectively. The Thai government still supports Thai students to have experience regarding foreign countries, cultures, and languages.

What are the minimum qualifications to work as a native-speaker English teacher in Thailand?

Foreign teacher’s qualifications are decided at the discretion of each individual education institute. At this present time there are no rigid rules regarding the hiring of foreign teachers.

Is it compulsory to have a teacher licence?

No. Currently, they are only an individual school’s requirement. Teacher licences are issued and withdrawn by the Teacher Council Board of Thailand (คุรุสภา). Please read the latest announcement from the Teacher Council Board (TCB). At present this is only a notification and has not yet been accepted as the final version. The TCB is still working on the final standard of qualification for foreign teachers in Thailand.

Currently the TCB is actively trying to implement teacher licenses for all Thai teachers. In future it’s the intention of the TCB that all foreign teachers in normal private and government schools [15/1] will be required to have them as well, but for now it’s the individual school’s requirement. Foreign teachers in language schools [15/2] and free/merit [15/3] schools will be exempt.

In future the teacher licence will need to be applied for by the teachers themselves.

What teacher information is required by education offices?

  • A copy of their degree, evidence of a non-immigrant ‘B’ visa and the police check clearance from the Thai FBI.
  • The police check procedure for foreign teachers in Thailand is that the local education office will send the teacher’s passport information to the Thai FBI (ตำรวจสันติบาล) in Bangkok to inspect the teacher’s background when the school registers its teacher with its local education office.
  • The degree certificate is only checked if the education office has information that leads it to believe the document is not valid. Schools are responsible for checking the authenticity of degree certificates.

If any information is found to be invalid, the teacher’s personal information will be added to a blacklist and he or she will not be able to teach in Thailand again. In future this information will also be forwarded to the TCB.

Are schools obligated to provide this information?

Currently, no!

Is there a MoE crackdown on fake qualifications?

Concerning fake degrees, the school’s directors/owners are responsible for checking the authenticity. The degree document will be sent to the local education office. If it is found to be a fake at a future time, that foreigner may be prosecuted under civil and/or criminal law by the Thai government.

How can schools check the authenticity of degrees?

We know it’s very difficult because some fakes are very real looking. We also know it’s very difficult to expect schools to try to contact the originating university because of information protection laws in many western countries. What do you suggest?

I agree that it’s difficult and time consuming. I don’t have a solution. How does the MoE view education in Thailand?

In summary, the Thai MoE’s concept of education in Thailand is to:

  1. Bring Thai wisdom to students
  2. Bring foreign wisdom to students
  3. Bring local wisdom to students

Thank you for allowing me to interview you. I shall prepare a transcript and send it to you so that you can confirm it’s an accurate representation of today’s interview.