What does the word qualified teacher mean in Thailand? For some it means the type of school you work in; for others it seems to mean the qualifications you have in your possession; and for others it just means having a job as a teacher. In Thailand there seems to be a lot of people looking down their nose at those who fall in a category that they view falls below them; thus those who work in International schools will look down their nose at those who work in Government schools, and those with degrees in education will look down there noses at the mere TEFL’er. I don’t think this feeling of elitism is unique to Thailand, but it can be a bit demeaning when one set of teachers constantly belittles another set of teachers.
It is my view that a good teacher is a good teacher no matter what qualifications they have or where they work. Some people might see this as me trying to defend my own lowly qualifications, but that is simply not the case. Not only do I have a degree, but I also have a Post Graduate Certificate in Education; I am a fully qualified teacher. I also don’t consider myself a particularly good teacher. There are plenty of people with less qualifications than mine who I believe are better teachers. You just can’t replace certificates with enthusiasm. It also seems to be the case that there are some teachers working in the international schools who are even less skilled at teaching than I am.
The idea that a good teacher will always find their way into an international school and into a higher paying job is simply wrong. Some people just prefer government schools. As well as being as qualified teacher, I am also a qualified nurse. I trained in England and choose to work in the public health sector because this is what I valued; I could have earned more money working in a private hospital that is not what I wanted. I am not saying that all the teachers working in government schools in Thailand are doing it for altruistic motives; that is not my point. People might choose to work for less pay in a government school for the simple reason that there is an impression that working in an international school involves far more work-commitments for the extra cash. Some of us value family time above our job and this is why we moved to Thailand in the first place.
I also think that the view that those working in International schools are somehow more respectable is another myth. Few people have ended up in Thailand as a means to advance their teaching career; even working in the international school will involve far less money than working in the richer western countries. Even if your decision was a purely professional one there are few will believe you. It is generally true that western male teachers have a bad reputation if they work in Thailand no matter what school they teach in; even though, this is incredibly unfair.
As I said, it is my view that you can find good and bad teachers in all types of school. You can also find them with different types of qualifications. It seems doubtful that things will change anytime soon. People seem to need to bolster their own ego’s by degrading those who they see as being lower on the food-chain - one of the less attractive human habits.