Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Thai Education System is in Shambles

Teachers looking for a free lunch ruin quality of education for kids

The Nation/

Stephen Cleary

Much was said over this past school year about the number of dubious foreign English teachers operating in Thailand.

Hardly a month has gone by without some news about a crackdown on foreigners with Mickey-Mouse qualifications to teach English.

Let us today however, have a look at the local Thai teachers. While stories of foreign teachers/child molesters have made national headlines, the equally disturbing stories of Thai male teachers taking advantage of their students make the back page - obviously due to the fact that such indecencies are absolutely nothing new. If the culprits are unlucky, they may get kicked out of the civil service. And I specifically mention civil-servant teachers, as they are held in high respect within Thai society, and are often allowed to get away with more than their peers.

A lot of foreign teachers spend their time in the teachers' room listening to tales from their Thai counterparts about their wonderful post-graduate degrees. As a Thai-to-English translator, I cannot recall just how many master's degree theses I have translated for these teachers. Whenever I asked for specific details related to the research, they hadn't a clue and it was quite obvious that they hadn't done any of the work themselves. In fact, this is a normality in Thailand. Even though there may be very few Thai teachers walking around with suspect accredited credentials, there are quite a number who did virtually nothing to get their degrees besides attend the exams - should they fail, just try again.


Stephen Cleary is the co-founder of He can be contacted at

The thing that is disturbing about this column is that a foreign writer has to do the job of the Thai press and of the Thai bureaucrats who are responsible for overseeing education policy in this country. But many Thai media figures have shitty credentials also. Both institutions are corrupt, which is why nothing changes. But Thais think by covering up shit with chocolate it will make the shit taste sweet. As long as things are covered up rather than dealt with in an honest way, nothing is going to improve for the better.

1 comment:

Charles Edward Frith said...

I've done the same for post grad thesis of policemen. Hardly anybody in Thailand 'gets it' when regarding education. The certificate is worth more than the ability to problem solve. Which is why there are so many problems.

As someone once said to me, Thai Rak Baht.. not Thai.