Thailand needs 10,000 English teachers. News of a teacher shortage is no surprise, but news that the Thailand Ministry of Education has recently urged embassies to find English teachers has raised eyebrows. The US Embassy confirmed it participated in the meeting, and it has also been reported that over 20 other embassies participated in the discussions.
According to Thailand’s Education Minister, “The aim of the discussion was to seek cooperation from embassies.” He went on to say, that foreign teachers must have some professional training to qualify for the job, adding that a language teaching certificate is preferred.
It’s refreshing to see the MoE taking proactive measures, but finding workable solutions on a large scale may be far off. Here are two possible solutions that could be implemented by schools now.
1. Hire fluent non-native speakers
While most experts agree fluency is what’s important, most Thai students, parents of students, and teachers assume an English teacher’s most important qualification is their nationality. Hiring only native speakers is understandable if that’s what the market wants. The problem is that the demand is based on a false assumption.
Well-informed school administrators hire non-native speakers who can prove their fluency, some hire non-natives but only after they can’t find a native speaker. Others flat out refuse. As a result, countless qualified applicants are turned off or completely discouraged from finding work in Thailand after reading most of its job ads for native English speakers who only come from six countries as per the MoE’s definition.
Perhaps the embassies could bring in experts to help share information about the value qualified, fluent non-native teachers bring to the classroom. This information can then be shared within local communities to better understand what makes a good English teacher. Over time, the market may increase its acceptance of non-native English teachers.
2. Hire from abroad
Thai employers prefer hiring teachers within Thailand, yet most prospective teachers hope to secure employment before taking the massive commitment of moving to Thailand. Those who aren’t prepared to come over without a job end up looking for work in countries like South Korea, Japan and China, where they can do Skype interviews and sign contracts before leaving home.
While there are inherent risks associated with hiring from abroad, there are also benefits, like attracting more teachers.
In order to mitigate the risks, schools could at least consider overseas recruitment for applicants who have teaching experience, can provide years’ worth of teaching portfolios, as well as those who’ve already taught English abroad. Without at least trying, Thailand remains at risk of losing quality candidates who need job security before moving here.
These solutions may seem difficult, but actions worth doing usually are. Approaching embassies may help further down the road, but students need solutions now.
If current recruitment trends continue, Thailand can hardly expect to increase its English teacher workforce by 140% as planned.
One definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. Well, perhaps it’s time to try something new.