Teach English in Thailand and Face a Real Challenge
Anyone planning to teach English in Thailand should take a long hard look at the results of a survey conducted by Education First (EF) into people’s English proficiency levels from 44 countries around the world. The results of the survey suggest Thailand’s population are more into Facebook than text books, and Scandinavian girls realised a long time ago there is big money in English-speaking blue movies…. only joking girls. The survey does however pose an idea of the kind of challenge someone faces if they plan to teach English in Thailand because the country’s adult population’s English skills are rated as very poor, and many of those surveyed are not too long out of school.
The survey by Education First was carried out between 2007 and 2009, and involved 2.3 million adults worldwide taking free online English tests. The tests were spread over a wide section of each nation’s population and the results concluded with an English Proficiency Index (EPI) rating and subsequent league table ranking for each country. The EPI rating score was also broken down to five categories of English proficiency skills.
- Very High Proficiency – 60 points and above
- High Proficiency – 55-55.99
- Moderate Proficiency – 50-54.99
- Low Proficiency – 45-49.99
- Very Low Proficiency – Below 45
Here’s the ranking list and EPI scores of the countries included in the survey;
English Proficiency Index
1 Norway 69.09 2 Netherlands 67.93 3 Denmark 66.58 4 Sweden 66.26
5 Finland 61.25 6 Austria 58.58 7 Belgium 57.23 8 Germany 56.64
9 Malaysia 55.54 10 Poland 54.62 11 Switzerland 54.60 12 Hong Kong 54.44
13 South Korea 54.19 14 Japan 54.17 15 Portugal 53.62 16 Argentina 53.49
17 France 53.16 18 Mexico 51.48 19 Czech Republic 51.31 20 Hungary 50.80
21 Slovakia 50.64 22 Costa Rica 49.15 23 Italy 49.05 24 Spain 49.01
25 Taiwan 48.93 26 Saudi Arabia 48.05 27 Guatemala 47.80 28 El Salvador 47.65
29 China 47.62 30 India 47.35 31 Brazil 47.27 32 Russia 45.79
33 Dominican Republic 44.91 34 Indonesia 44.78 35 Peru 44.71 36 Chile 44.63
37 Ecuador 44.54 38 Venezuela 44.43 39 Vietnam 44.32 40 Panama 43.62
41 Colombia 42.77 42 Thailand 39.41 43 Turkey 37.66 44 Kazakhstan
As you can see Thailand are ranked 42nd just two places above bottom placed Kazakhstan and that surprises me because Thailand always appears to be up to its ear’s with foreign nationals teaching English as a foreign language. I’m sure there’s enough quality among the quantity, but is there enough desire and ambition there too. Are the majority of Thailand’s present youth receiving a similar standard of poor English language education just like the survey results suggest their peers went through.
Do you need a degree to teach English as a foreign language in Thailand?
To teach legally the answer is yes, and you also require a TEFL or equivalent certificate too (please do correct me if I’m wrong). I’m sure the majority of Thailand’s long-term foreign English language teachers are dedicated to their jobs but it’s some of the others I have doubts about. I’m pointing my school cane at a minority of university graduates (teaching) with a degree in their rucksack and a good time on their minds. How many graduates fresh out of university head to Thailand on a three-month to one year break and teach English (legally or illegally?), but in reality know their way around a surfboard better than a blackboard. I will stress I’m suggesting some students, not all, but is a university degree the be-all and end-all qualification for teaching English as a foreign language in Thailand. Surely desire and dedication should rank higher.
There are of course many ‘English teachers’ in Thailand without either or neither, a degree or teaching certificate. These people fly under the ‘visa radar’ and you would have to question their right to even be in the country. Then again, maybe some of those rogue teachers have double doses of desire and dedication coursing through their veins. Perhaps Thailand needs to lower its teaching qualification standards. Or would that lead to an even lower EPI ranking. All the same, if you are thinking of teaching English in Thailand then the survey by Education First suggests you face a real challenge.
I’m expecting a bit of a ‘lecture’ over this post, so here goes, my hand’s outstretched, and I’m waiting for a hard rap on my knuckles from a very springy metallic ruler. Please form an orderly queue, Scandinavians first, university graduates behind and English language teachers bringing up the rear.
No spanking from me Martyn even if you want one.
I did read, but of course it may not be true, that the Education minister does not speak English, but then they change him/her every three months so who knows now.
The ASEAN integration is going to seriously affect Thailand. Singapore, Malaysia, even Burma and Laos have better English capabilities than Thailand and like it or not, it matters. It must be a factor in foreign companies choosing to come here.
Locally all the kids want to try their English out on me, but regardless of age it goes no further than ‘what is your name’. I have degrees and even a Masters but I would never consider teaching. Even after a 4 week TEFL course (!) I don’t see how I could teach a child English. In the UK doesn’t it take years to get your teaching certificate.
You only have to read any Thai related forum to find someone who has moved here and is teaching English here. ‘The kids love me’ they write, well actually they usually write ‘the kid’s luv me’. That says it all.
Dan – If I was in the queue I’d be right behind the Scandinavians. Pressing hard.
That’s some impressive credentials you’ve got, it beats my Blue Peter badge and 1966 Texaco World Cup coins. With your qualifications you could walk backwards into any English teaching job, although you’ll probably make a lot more money doing what you presently do.
An Education minister who can’t speak English, I wonder if the Transport minister has passed his driving test. Probably not.
If the Blue Peter badge came from Valerie Singleton then that is worth more than any degree.
Dan – Who else, I remember her well.
Martyn, one of my dear Canadian friends took the TEFL course in Bangkok about four or five years ago. It was back when the course was hefty (not four weeks).
Most of the students didn’t have a degree but were told they’d get hired anyway. She mentioned that the accents of some of the graduating students were so thick, she couldn’t understand their English. But, they got jobs regardless.
Bums on seats isn’t what Thailand needs. But, oh well… you get what you pay for.
Catherine – I’ve spoken to some foreign English teachers in Thailand and struggled to understand what they were saying. Their English really wasn’t that good at all and I did wonder what the standard of their pupils English was like. I would of thought a grasp of the English language was most important in their roles of teaching kids. A good English test should come before any TEFL enrolment.
Martyn, seems it’s all about money. TEFL schools get paid to churn out certificates. Headhunters get paid to bring in certified teachers. Schools (obviously) look for the cheapest route, and as many responsible for hiring teachers can’t read or speak English, they are at the mercy of ‘whoever’.
Catherine – You’ve hit the blackboard spot on with your paper pellet. I get the impression TEFL schools will take on and pass most people irrespective of their English skills, to a certain limit anyhow. From there on they are duty bound to place them in work. Perhaps your comment should read ‘at the ‘merci’ of whoever’.