Thailand Tightens Up Too (Part 1 of 2)

Over the coming week we will take a look around ASEAN to see how Indonesian teaching regulations compare with those of some of its neighbours. First off we will focus on Thailand, which like Indonesia has been tightening up regulations on expat teachers for some time. Despite the recent political chaos in Bangkok, it has announced plans to tighten up these regulations yet again in 2014. Here is an overview of some of the new suggested changes:

     * Teachers need to have a degree and TEFL certificate.

     * Expat teachers need at least “24 units” of education subjects in their degree, disqualifying most non-Education degrees.

     * The degree must be from an institution recognized by the Thailand Institute of Teachers.

     * The degree must be validated by the Thailand Institute of Teachers.

     * Teachers may get 2 “waivers” of the need for an education degree. (A maximum of 2 years).

     * Teachers must study a 20-hour course in Thai society and culture, at a cost of 5000 baht.

     * Teachers require a police clearance from their home country.

Thailand like Indonesia is a corruption-rife country, so some people have got around these regulations, especially if they know the right people. But the overall direction is clear- the Thais are trying to squeeze out most of the expat teachers in Thailand. These new regulations follow earlier reforms in 2009. At that point Thailand first got serious about raising the TEFL bar in the country. According to TEFL legend they realized at this point that almost half the teachers in the country were using fake CELTA certificates and degrees purchased for a few dollars on Bangkok’s backpacker drag, Khao Sahn Road.

The era before 2009 was the glory day of the TEFL “conversation teacher” who would come into work nursing a hangover after a night out in the girlie bars of Bangkok or Pattaya. According to most reports, the enforcement of the new regulations caused a mass exodus of these “instant TEFL teachers”, often to nearby Indochina. While some people with connections will doubtless be able to get around this next set of “reforms”, there will probably a lot more expats heading back home or moving on.

So how does all this compare to Indonesia? Well, around 2011-2011 Indonesia’s DIKNAS started tightening up on teachers too. Clearly much of ASEAN is moving in the direction of better qualified TEFL teachers. The tighter regulations also led to a mass exodus of TEFL teachers from Indonesia, with some lingering on in dodgy schools that employed people illegally on tourist visas. At Indonesia’s TBI (a school chain with 18 branches) a crisis ensued as so few of their expat teachers had degrees in English or Education. An Aussie con-man called Luke Preece, who had risen through the company by back-stabbing others and using a fake Geology degree, convinced the powers that be to start hiring teachers illegally. In essence, he re-made the whole company in his own crooked image. Until the present day the majority of TBI’s expat teachers are employed on VKU (business consultant) visas, which Immigration has explicitly stated are not for teachers.

The regulation changes have had far-reaching consequences for the industry, with some school chains like TBI and Rumah Bahasa operating illegal business models (surely based on greasing the palms of corrupt officialdom) and telling teachers that working there is AYOR (at your own risk.) Deportations have happened for expat teachers from several schools.






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