The English National Curriculum is widely recognised as the gold standard for education in numerous countries distant from its shores and delivered by an increasing number of teachers who have abandoned ship for a better quality of life. Why? It’s not just the money but the dramatic change at home in, “what it means to be a teacher!”
Today, endless government bureaucracy still churns away in a futile effort to continuously compare one school with another, sacrificing everything in its path. Over 3,700 teachers were signed off long term sick last year due to pressure of work, anxiety and mental illness, not being able to keep up with having to justify almost everything they do. English children are some of the “most overassessed in the modern world,” and this assessment process continually changes, the rules being relentlessly tweaked at the whim of passing government ministers, just to make their mark.
Many years ago, money mattered, but now in England we see a society where, sadly, only money matters. Teaching, along with nursing has always been seen as two of the main vocational groups, people who do the job for the love of what they can achieve for other people, however, in a business led society they have become as sheep to the wolves.
For decades now, schools have been squeezed to make savings and at first, there were viable savings to be had, but now the juice has gone andall is dry, but the squeeze continues. Of course, there are many factors in play when we look at ‘well-run schools’ but when times are tight, where are the cuts made?
• Staffing levels
• Special educational needs(SEN) staff
• Building maintenance(external/internal)
• The basics (pens, pads,paints, etc.)
When you start to freeze or reduce any of the above, it’s only a matter of time before the whole house comes tumbling down. To add to this problem, schools are often run by unqualified head teachers, no longer a requirement under law, and managed by a board of governors, who although sometimes comprise of some excellent candidates, often attract the most ‘unqualified’ individuals who know little to nothing about educating children!
It’s not a job that many in the community want, more for status and power, a very different reason for being associated with the school than the teachers who often fall victim to these mini-regimes. So, is it any better overseas? Surely these problems must exist everywhere? Using Thailand as an example, when a teacher starts with an international school in Bangkok, they might be surprised to expect the following:
• Similar or higher pay than in England
• Free or subsidised accommodation
• Around 30% less tax 45 hour week
• Class sizes around 16
• Free medical insurance
• Paid annual flights back to the UK
• A general cost of living less than half that of England
• A yearly bonus equivalent to one month’s salary
• Respected as a high-ranking member of society
• Sunny and warm all year round
• Close to many countries that their friends dream of going to
• Free school places if you have children
• On the downside, no pension provision, but they can start their own So, does that sound too good to be true? There must be a catch, surely? “Will I be worked like a dog with no spare time?” No, that was your nightmare back in England:
• Buried in paperwork, planning, assessments, data gathering and reports for class sizes up to 40
• Working a +55 hour week (often more)
• Dipping into your own pocket to make things special for your children
• Being part of a system where you don’t feel valued or respected, just tired and disillusioned Teachers in Thailand are highly respected and valued members of the community. When you greet a teacher, you use the title “Kru” and hold your palms together as high to your head as you would for monks or older people.
The late King Bhumibol stated that, “Education and those directly responsible for it, namely teachers, are of great importance. The people’s education is the indicator of the advancement or the decline of a country. The work of teachers, therefore, means the life or death of the country. Teachers have to be equipped with three significant qualities, namely good knowledge, good morality and good ability and should perform their duties completely and well.” The standard of international schools in Thailand is exceptionally high with graduates moving on to universities both locally and around the world.
As a teacher in one of these schools you can expect to be ‘valued’ and it comes as a shock to newcomers, their eyes starting to fill when realising what is expected of them and what they’ll get in return. They double check everything that’s being said, the weight almost visibly lifting from their shoulders as their hopes for the future reignite!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade wind in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain
Many young teachers in England are now seeing their training as a means to an end; the end being a great life working abroad. They embark on a degree course followed by a teaching qualification and the only thing that keeps them going is the thought that one day, they’ll be at the airport! Travel expands the mind like nothing else can, seeing the world, meeting people of other nationalities and cultural backgrounds help to make you a better, more rounded adult.
Doing this before you have children makes sense, but as many have found, raising a young family in Thailand can be a marvellous adventure for all concerned. Yes, you might feel homesick, and you’re sure to miss family and friends, but your family will love to visit, and you’ll soon make loads of new friends in what will most likely turn out to be the biggest adventure of your life!