Are you keen on finding teaching work in Thailand? Great! However, I have to tell you that it might be very different from what you had anticipated. Especially when it comes to exams and grading. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience.
We have exams here twice a year. There is the mid-term and end of term exam. Both last one week but students don’t need to come to school every day. The exams are clustered though, so when they do come to school they have multiple exams in one day.
The younger ones have shorter days and the older pupils can have longer ones. There is always a break in between, at least 15 minutes, and the lunch break is about 90 minutes.
Some classrooms are better equipped for this arduous task as they have air-con. Others have only fans and that’s not always enough, in my opinion. It can get hot and stuffy, especially in the afternoon when the Sun pays a visit. And we all know what that does to your concentration…
Multiple choice exams
This is the preferred examination method. I made the questions and believe me, it does take creativity to come up with 3 false, yet somehow plausible choices. The students get to choose from a-d. Exams range from around 25-40 questions.
Because now it is the end of the term exam, the questions can be a little bit more challenging and hence, measure student’s ability to problem-solving and/or creative thinking. For the older students who attend Mathayom 6, I got to plan one open question (which my Thai co-teacher changed a little bit, though).
The good thing about multiple choice exams is that we don’t need to correct them, a machine does all the work. If you have open questions, then you need to make the corrections and grading yourself.
Open question answers
They don’t talk much about politics in Thailand but I was still a bit disappointed with the open question answers. We had at least 4-5 lessons around political ideologies. 5 months ago I would’ve blamed myself, failing miserably as a teacher. Now I know that this is the Thai style.
Many students don’t take their work too seriously or they can be a bit lazy. Plus the older students already know which university they have gotten into, so the grade they are getting is not that important to them.
Anyway, about the exam. Many had not answered the question at all, a few mixed up Left and Right-wing ideologies and some just blabbered off topic. A few of the students had studied overseas as exchange students and that was very recognisable from their answers and class behaviour. Their English was obviously much better, they had more self-confidence but most of all, they seemed to be better equipped for creative thinking and speaking up.
Some of you might know that Thailand is quite well-known for students that cheat. It is true, it does happen, but of course, not all of them do it. Us teachers proctor, and make sure no cheating happens during the examination.
Sometimes this is enough to deter the students from doing it, other times not. I caught one first-handed during a smaller test a while ago.
The second time was when 4 girls were sitting next to each other and came up with nearly identical answers. It took me a long time to decide what to do with them. I announced it in the class what had happened, without giving any names. I was hoping the students themselves would’ve admitted it but had zero luck with this tactic. I wanted to do a re-test to weed out this nasty habit and give them a lesson, but in the end, decided not to go for it. We were already short of time and making them sit the test again, there would’ve been one lesson less. I didn’t want to give any names this time either so the students wouldn’t lose their faces. I gave a big lecture on cheating to the whole class, so I thought it would’ve been quite embarrassing for the “cheaters”.
Cheating or “helping” others
Some of my colleagues have been working in different schools all around Thailand, and they said to me that if students used the same energy to studying that they use for coming up with new ways to cheat, they would do well in tests.
Moreover, sometimes apparently some Thai teachers also turn a blind eye during an examination. Perhaps this is to help the less advanced students, who might need to hand in extra assignments anyway, in order to pass. I also heard stories in which farang teachers weren’t allowed to proctor anymore because they were too strict in their job and thus possibly inhibiting students from cheating or “helping others”.
The mentality can also be different. Some students think that they are actually just helping their classmates if they are giving away their answers to the slower students, whether it be an assignment or a test.
I’ve come to work in Thailand, not to change the system
For us, these things are very hard to understand but they have been part of Thai culture for a long time. I still don’t approve of the way some things are done but I didn’t come here to change the system. You better accept it if you want to work as a teacher in Thailand.
People were very interested here when they learned that I’m from Finland, the country with the best education system in the world. Yet, no-one has actually asked me if there would be anything to learn from the Finnish curriculum. Thais have their own ways which they are proud of, and this is how they want things done.
Grading and (non-) failing
Some of the students struggle with exams and assignments. Some of them don’t speak nor understand too much English which makes the whole thing impossible in the first place. But it’s not their fault that they need to attend a class that is too demanding for them. It’s the system.
If the students don’t pass they can do a re-test or be given extra assignments until they pass. You see, there is no such thing as failing, in Thai education system. Everyone will pass.
Less time-consuming approach on teacher’s behalf would be to have this already on his/her mind when giving grades, and rounding up numbers nicely. Western teachers can actually be told off if they are about to fail a student or give low scores. It is perhaps better to be liberal with numbers and give extra points to students if you think they might be failing!
One of my colleagues said that he had gotten nasty remarks from few parents, complaining the low score their child had had. Furthermore, he had also experienced the: “Don’t you know who I am?” and “Who are you to tell me…” from some parents. That’s just horrible.
One reason for this might be that our school has got a very good reputation and the parents are paying a lot of money for the education of their offspring.
This implies that the parents also have enough money and, in Thailand, this means you belong to the privileged class or the elite. Many of them are used to being treated as such and this can reflect their behaviour. But I’m getting sidetracked now. The social stratification and status would be another topic in itself.
You still want to work in Thailand as a teacher? Hang on. I’ve got a few posts coming up. If my post seemed a bit gloomy, don’t take everything that I said too seriously. Teaching in Thailand has been super fun as well, and the students (mostly anyway) are lovely. Below is some useful info, so please click on the links and tell me what you think!
If you are a non-native English speaker, perhaps this post might be useful to you.
Or I could actually recommend teaching Social Studies. Click here!
If you haven’t done your TEFL course yet, please have a look at this post.