Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A unique Thai greeting

Each country has their own way of greeting each other. For the Americans, they do the handshake; for the Japanese they do the bow; but for Thai people, they do the "wai". This gentle gesture of Thai greeting originated in India. It was adopted by the Buddhists and became a gesture in Buddhist countries. Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, it became a part of their culture as a form of greeting. This greeting is performed in 5 different ways. First, it is used to greet people. Second, it is used to give respect to elderly people, monks, nuns, and Buddhist sacred things. Third, it is used to thank people. Fourth, it is used to apologize if you've done something wrong. Lastly, to bid goodbye.

Doing this kind of greeting has different forms. Giving "wai" to a monk is different to elderly people. If you will give "wai" to a monk, you must put your hands in a form of wai, then you bow your head until your thumbs touch the forehead at the eyebrow level.
To wai a parent, teacher or elderly people is also different. You put your hands in a wai position against your chest, then you bow your head until your thumbs touch the nose.
How about the people who are the same age and level? There is no need to bow the head. Just put the hands in a wai position and put them against the chest.
(Thanks to Miss Patcharin Mongkon for providing these photos. She is my student in Mass Media English 1.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mother's Day in Thailand

This coming August 12 will be a national holiday in Thailand. It's one of the most awaited event in this country, because Her Majesty the Queen was born on that date. Thai people has a deep respect to their Queen. So in order to commemorate her birthday, every 12th of August is celebrated as Mother's Day.
Since I came here in Thailand, I observed that during Mother's day every one will pay respect to their mother, grandmother, & aunts by giving them a jasmine garland and doing a krab (bowing) to their feet. Yesterday, my students had a speaking activity in the class. Each of them will going to share something about their mother. It's a wonderful experience to listen to their stories. Some of them sing a song dedicated to their mother, read a poem that was composed by themselves, and even cry (only ladies). While I'm listening to them, I'm starting to miss my mom. I remember my mother when I was still a kid. I can say that ny mom is the best mom in the world. (everybody will say that)My mother prepares a hearty meal, before I go to school. She washes my clothes even she's tired from her job. She tells me stories before I go to bed. She laughs with me, and really cares for me. I'm proud of my mother. She raised three kids eventhough we are stubborn and naughty sometimes. I really miss my mom. She's one of the best gift I recieved from above.

(note: pictures from www.thailandlife.com)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thai sexy uniform

Female thai students wearing sexy-short-tight uniforms are common scenes in Thai universities. Even there are strict rules implemented by the MOE regarding the proper attire of school uniforms, many Thai female students are not following the rules. In my teaching experience, I always encounter this kind of problem. Most of my female students wear uniforms that are too tight and too short. Everytime they enter the classroom , they are always the center of attraction of male students. And the worst thing is, they will sit in the front row of my class and it makes me feel uncomfortable. If you will be in my position, what will you gonna do?

Recently, there was a crackdown on sexy uniforms in some Thai universities. University administrators with the help of Thai teachers listed the names of female students who don't adhere to the rules set by the MOE. Many female students were given sanctions and group counselling. These action resulted a negative impact from many students. Some of them complained that they must not be blame because it is their right to choose what they want to wear. After the aftermath of this event, many female students are still attending their classes wearing sexy-short-tight uniforms. Anyway, this is Thailand. As they always say ,"mai pen rai".

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Living and Working in Thailand

The aim of this article is to give a brief overview about Thailand’s teaching industry. The opinions in this article are based on my long working experience in Thailand as a TEFL teacher. If you have any questions and comments that would be useful, please feel free to email me at alfredo.j@psu.ac.th.

Country Information
Thailand draws more visitor than any other country in South East Asia. This country is well known in Western countries because of its unique tradition and culture. Tourism plays a major role in country’s business. Every year, thousands of foreigners came to visit this country.Thailand is quiet a large country that is similar to the United Kingdom, bordering Cambodia and Laos to the east, Malaysia and the Gulf of Thailand to the south, and the Andaman sea and Myanmar to the west.

Thailand Fast Fact

  • Capital: Bangkok

  • Major Language: Thai

  • Major Religion: Buddhism

  • Population: 65,444,371(July 2005 est)

  • Area: 513,000 km

  • Currency: Baht

  • Time Zone: UTC + 7

  • Internet TLD: .th

  • Calling Code: +66

  • Thailand is the 49th largest country and it is home to a distinct geographic. If you will go to the north, you will see that it is a mountainous area: Doi Inthanon, the highest point with 8,451 feet. The center of the country is dominated by Chao Phraya River which runs to the Gulf of Thailand. The south consists of a narrow land bridge, known as Kra Isthmus that connects to the Malaysian Peninsula.
    Thailand's climate is tropical. high in temperature and humidity, and dominated by monsoon. April and May are the hottest months, but June is the beginning of rainy season and it usually ends in the month of October. From November until the end of February, the climate is cool especially in Northern Thailand.

    The year of 1997 was the time when Thailand's economy collapsed. Baht currency reached its lowest point of 56 from 25 against the US Dollar. Many foreign investors closed its door, resulting for many Thai people to lose their jobs. Banks were bankrupt. Stocks and prices fell dramatically. After PM Thaksin Shinawatra won the 2001 election, there was a rapid growth in the country's economy. He implemented various domestic programs known as Thaksinomics. Foreign investors open it's door again for business, and tourism industry was in its peak.Thailands natural resources like tin,rubber,timber etc, also helps and contributes to the country's economy's GDP.

    Thailand is a Buddhist country. According to the latest census, more than 95% of Thais are Buddhist. Islam is also the second largest religion in the country. You can see lots of Muslims in the south of Thailand, particularly in Yala,Pattani, and Narathiwat. There are also some Christians, but it only represents a few percent of the population.

    Thailand is also a constitutional monarchy. His Majesty the king Bhumibhol Adulyadej is the most respected and the world's longest reigning monarch. He celebrated his 6oth anniversary of ascension on the throne last June. Thais have a deep respect with their king, including the other members of the royal family. Telling a joke or a jest to the Royal family is a grave insult for the Thai people and its country.

    Each country has a unique culture and tradition, same with Thailand. Once you visit this country, there are some precautions and standard behaviours that you must follow. Below are some of the do's and don'ts in this country

    • As I mentioned earlier, Thai's have a deep respect to the Royal family. Never never tell a joke or a jest about them, even pictures or portrait of them must be respected too.

    • If you will enter a temple, make it sure that your dress is appropiate.Avoid wearing unsuitable attire. Also leave your shoes or slippers once you entered the inside chapel.

    • If you are a woman, never touch the Buddhist monk because it's forbidden, or even sit beside him. If you want to give something to the monk, hand it to a man, and he will do it for you. In case their is no male available, the Buddhist monk will spread a saffron robe in front of him, where you will lay the things that you want to give.

    • Thai's don't normally shake hands when they greet people, but instead they wai(pressing the palms together in a prayer gesture). Generally, a younger people wai to the older ones.

    • If you will enter any house or office, please leave your shoes or slippers outside.

    • Touching someone's head or pointing with the feet is unacceptable. Thai regard the head as the most sacred part of the body, while the feet is the dirtiest and lowest part of the body.

    • Public affection is frowned between man and woman.

    • I listed some of the common do's and don’ts that I learned in Thailand. There are lots of things that I still need to learn. However, due to the influence of the Western culture many of this "behaviors" are slowly disappearing.

    Working in Thailand

    If you are looking for a different experience in teaching English in South East Asia, Thailand is one the best destination to choose from. In my experience, I can say that I'm enjoying my stay in this country with my family. Aside from the low cost of living, there are other opportunities waiting for you, if you are really serious to become an English teacher. Every one who comes in Thailand to work as an English teacher has a different reason. Some are working here to save money; others want to gain more experience teaching abroad; some will tell you that the salary here is more bigger compare to their country of origin.

    Getting a job here is easy, especially for the native speakers of English. This is what I call "white monkey syndrome". Most schools in this country do hire a white to educate their students even they are not qualified.(This may be a shocking information for Asian teachers, but it's the truth)Some schools do still hire a teacher based on the good qualification of the applicant no matter where you came from. Others, do require a TEFL certificate even you have or without a bachelor degree.

    Everyone who is planning to work in a certain school must check first the school's credibility to avoid problems. There are some schools do take advantage of foreign teachers, especially Asian teachers. There is a website that I'd like to recommend-www.teflwatch.org. This website gives information about teaching issue in Thailand. Below are things to consider before you work in a school:

    How many teaching hours/credit will I teach?
    Will the school process my visa and work permit?
    Will they provide accommodation and health insurance?
    Will I receive a salary even it's summer or vacation?(Some schools include summer and vacation in the contract, but others don't)

    If you are new to Thailand and new to teaching, be careful. Ask questions to your employer which you don't understand. Most employers are not straightforward here. If you will sign a contract, never sign it, if it's written in Pasa Thai. This is to avoid possible problems in the future. Your contract must be written in English, and please keep a copy of it for your future use.

    About the contract, it should contain details of the following:
    1. Names of both the employer and employee
    2. Starting date of the employee
    3. Job title and description
    4. Address of the workplace(s)
    5. Details of pay - hourly rate/salary and when it is paid (weekly/monthly)
    6. Hours worked each week
    7. Holiday entitlement
    8. Sickness entitlement
    9. Details of any pension schemes
    10. If the employee is to work overseas - the period that they will work overseas and the currency in which remuneration will be paid for this period.
    11. Grievance arrangements
    12. Termination of Contract Notice
    13. Disciplinary procedures
    14. Signatures of both the employer and employee

    Places to work in Thailand
    In this section, I will just give a brief overview of different schools/institutions in this country. I will group them into following: schools with MEP/EP; schools without MEP/EP or Thai Regular Schools; Universities; International Schools.

    A. School with MEP/EP (Mini English Program/English Program)This type of school is well funded. Most of the funds came from the government (if it's a government school)or usually from the parents. The salary here is high. - Native speakers starting salary is 30,000 baht a month and can reach up to 50,000 baht depending on the qualification of the teacher. Non native such as Asian teachers receives 15,000 baht a month up to 30,000 baht(the normal rate) depending on the qualification of the teachers ,too.
    Working hours is normally 15-18 periods a week, but other schools are 18-22 periods a week.
    Benefits are also included: BUPA Health Insurance, Thai Health Insurance etc;free accommodation or housing allowance; visa and work permit are also provided
    There are some MEP/EP schools offers some subjects integrated in English such as: music,science,math,social science,PE etc.
    There are lots of foreign teachers employed and some do provide a Thai assistant teacher.
    B. Schools without MEP/EP or Regular Thai Schools. This type of school is very different compare to other school with MEP/EP. Native speakers receives 20,000 baht up to 30,000 baht a month(still negotiable)depending on the teachers qualification.
    Asian teachers’ receives 12,000 baht up to 20,000 baht a month depending on the qualification. (I know some schools do pay their Asian teacher/s with an amount of less than 12,000 baht a month)
    Most schools do not pay their foreign teacher on summer or semestral break. Getting a benefit is a big issue between the employer and the foreign teacher.
    Having a visa or a work permit is a bit slow and will cause a foreign teacher some stress and frustation. Reasons are the following: it's their first time to employ a foreign teacher; school or employers do not have any idea how to apply and process the visa and work permit of their foreign teacher. Only 1-3 foreign teachers are employed. NO Thai Assistant.

    C. Thailand Universities. There are numerous universities in Thailand. The best universities in this country are the following: (not in order)
    Chulalongkorn University
    Thammasat University
    Chiangmai University
    Kasetsart University
    Khon Kaen University
    Prince of Songhkla University
    King's Mongkut Institute of Tech North Bangkok
    King's Mongkut Institute of Tech Ladkrabang
    Mahanakorn University of Technology
    Suranaree University of Technology

    Salaries in government universities are different, compare to private universities. Government universities pay their foreign teachers the normal rate of 20,000 up to 30,000 per month depending on the qualification. Having an MA degree or a Phd degree is an advantage. It is also possible to make an extra good money . In my own experience, aside from my monthly salary that I recieve, I have an extra job after my school working hours. There is also a huge benefit of working in Thai university. One is the amount of respect you can get from Thai people.

    D. International Schools. Working in an international school varies from job to job and place to place. Some famous and prestige international school requires a foreign teacher applicant to have a BA Degree or MA degree ; a CELTA or its equivalent; and working experience. Below are some famous international school in Thailand:
    American School of Bangkok
    Bangkok International Prep.
    Bangkok Patana School
    British School Bangkok
    Bromsgrove International School Thailand
    Bumblebee International Pre-School
    Concordian Int'l School
    Harrow Int'l School
    Harrow Kindergarten
    (Ekamai Early Years Centre )
    IPC International Kindergarten
    IPC Nursery Branch
    International School, Bangkok
    KIS International School
    New International School
    RC International School & Ruam Rudee Learning Centre
    Ruamrudee International School
    St. Andrew's School
    St. Andrews School, Bangna campus
    St. Andrews International School, Sathorn Campus
    St. George's International School
    St John's International School
    St Stephen's International School
    Traill International School
    Windsor International School
    American Pacific International School
    Prem Tinsulanonda
    AMEC Anuban Muang Chiang Rai school.
    The Regent's School
    St. Andrews International School, Samakee Campus
    Dulwich International College
    St Andrews International School Rayong
    St. Andrews International School Rayong Campus

    Other Schools
    Kendall English School
    I-TIM, the International Hotel and Tourism Industry Management School

    Legal Issues and Visa

    There are two types of foreign teachers in Thailand: A legal teacher and an illegal teacher. A legal teacher has a Non-immigrant visa, a work permit,and a teacher license(some schools). An illegal teacher has no Non-immigrant visa,a work permit,and a teacher license. And an illegal teacher is always doing the border run visa every month at the neighboring country. I had this experience doing the border run visa while I'm working in this country, and it's a bit scary. But this so called border hopping will affect many foreigners who are working in Thailand because of the new visa policy which has been effective since October 1 2006

    In order for you to become a legal teacher you must do the following:

    You must obtain a non-immigrant visa at any Thai consulate outside Thailand.
    Thai Consulate at Penang is the choice of many foreigners who wants to get a Non B. You will be given 3 months to stay in Thailand. If you are planning to apply for a Non B, you need to prepare the following documents:
    a. official letter from the school/director with a valid seal b.school contract
    c. 2 pieces of two by two pictures
    d. school map
    e. school registration
    f. copy of your passport,degree certificate, and transcript of records.

    Once you get your Non B you can now go to the Ministry of Labor to apply for a work permit. The documents that you need to bring are also dissame of what I listed above including the copy of your NON-B ,health certificate, and the FORM WP 2 from the Ministry of Labor. The amount is 750 baht for 3 months;1500 baht for 6 months;3000 baht for 1 year and another 100 baht for the application form. It will take 1 week normally to process it.
    When the work permit is ready you can go to the Immigration Department to extend your visa. The cost for a 1 year extension is 1900. Make sure you have a re-entry visa each time you leave the country. If not, your visa extension will be forfeit.