Cheating in School: Is it the Norm in Thailand?

Posted by claudio on February 2, 2015 in Teaching in Thailand |

In short … YES!

Cheating in school seems not only omni-present, but also quite accepted. Perhaps even expected.

This morning I read an article in The Nation about allegations that an O-NET observer was ordered by executives to hint answers to students.

'The Nation' reporting on Cheating in School in Thailand

The Nation reports on cheating during O-NET tests

My instant and sarcastic response was “Cheating in School in Thailand? Really???”

If you have taught at any grade level in Thailand, you know that cheating is as much part of the school system as the national anthem during assembly each morning. Sadly so.

Why Is Cheating in School a Problem?

There is a victim when students cheat in school but it isn’t the school or the test administrator. The real victim is the cheating student, because it will ultimately put them at a disadvantage.

Cheating is Unfair to the Cheater

Why do we attend school in the first place? Is it to learn things we need to live a fulfilling life…or is it to learn how to cheat? The answer is obvious, yet by accepting cheating systematically, schools are sending the signal that cheating is okay. Students will thus put more effort into learning how to cheat than learning the things that are later useful in their lives.

Cheating is Unfair to Other Students

Some students are more interested in a subject or they put in more effort studying a subject. Those are the students that usually excel without the need to cheat. When cheating is accepted, it diminishes the accomplishments of those students. They won’t get an opportunity to shine and ultimately may give up their efforts because they view them as exercises in futility.

Cheating Leads to Uncertainty

When students accomplish something on their own, they feel proud. They have certainty that they have learned a subject well. Students who cheat will know that they haven’t even come close to mastering a subject. They can’t be proud and end up feeling uncertain about their skills and knowledge.

Can You Do Anything About Cheating in School?

In your home country, the answer might be relatively simple. But not in Thailand, because cheating is so prevalent. It’s accepted. It’s expected.

It is said that you cannot change a system from the outside. Unfortunately, as a foreign teacher you are on the outside at most schools. Sorry! So should you just lean back, get over your culture shock when it comes to cheating, and ignore it? Although it is tempting, resist the urge to give in too quickly.

Realize that Thailand, and its school system, is changing. Perhaps slower than you would like but there has been subtle progress in just the last few years. I’m optimistic that this change will be accelerated. I’m also convinced that we can foster this change, even as outsiders.

Last year the following image went viral on Facebook and other social networks. It makes me hopeful, because apparently these anti-cheating hats were not mandated by their teacher. Students at Kasetsart University came up with the idea during a discussion about ethics. Although the school felt embarrassed by the photo going viral and has stopped using this method, it proves that some students realize that cheating in school is a problem.

Hats worn by Thai students to prevent cheating in school

Hats worn by Thai students to prevent cheating in school.

What CAN You Do About Cheating in School?

I have found a number of change-agents in every school I have been to. Some of them are young teachers who haven’t been indoctrinated into the system too much. Even though they are still outsiders themselves, they will at one point become part of the system (and hopefully be able to hold on to their ideals). Some of them are seasoned teachers who know that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Talk with those key players. Use the ever increasing global competition in your discussion and how Thais will compare if they mostly learned cheating in school, rather than skills and knowledge. With the ASEAN Economic Community approaching fast, an increasing number of people in Thailand realize that actually acquiring skills and knowledge (as opposed to good grades) is becoming more important than ever.

Also appeal to your students, not a few days before the midterm or final exams, but at the very beginning of and throughout the semester. Make them aware that cheating is only hurting them.

Depending on the level of your students, you might even create an entire lesson plan around the subject of cheating in school. You could use the above photo of the students at Kasetsart University for a writing class or a discussion about the subject of cheating in school. You may not get through to all of your students, but if you just get through to one or two, you have helped move the needle in the right direction.

What Do YOU Think About Cheating in School?

Is cheating issue in your school? Have you found effective ways to discourage cheating in school? Please leave a comment below, as we all can learn and benefit from each other to make our teaching more effective.




700 Classroom Activities – Book Review

Posted by claudio on January 29, 2015 in Book Reviews |

700 Classroom ActivitiesThe title “700 Classroom Activities” says it all. It is chock full with activities that will make your lessons fun, engaging, and exciting for your students.

The book is divided into four parts:

Part 1: Conversations

Part 2: Functions

Part 3: Grammar

Part 4: Vocabulary

The activities in each section of 700 Classroom Activities are arranged alphabetically, so using the book is very easy. Just turn to the appropriate page for the topic you are planning and you will find hundreds of activities to support your lesson.

The activities in the book fall into one of four main categories:

  • The teacher prompts the students (questions or key words).
  • Cues are written on the board.
  • Role plays with individuals or groups.
  • Project work to be prepared outside of the classroom.

Why I recommend 700 Classroom Activities?

Even seasoned TEFL teachers will find many new activities in 700 Classroom Activities. Whether you need a last minute filler or look for an entertaining activity to complement your topic, you most likely will find it in this book. And best of all, none of the activities need to be photocopied or require any material.

Where is it available?

You can get the book at most book stores, like SE-ED in Thailand. They may not have it in stock, but will be happy to order it for you. You can also order it on Amazon.com.



TEFL Courses in Thailand That I Like

Posted by claudio on January 26, 2015 in Teaching in Thailand |

When you look for a TEFL course, you owe it to yourself to chose wisely. After all, it will be the foundation of teaching English in Thailand. Taking a course that trains you well will give you confidence as a teacher and position you well in the job market.

Two TEFL Courses I Really Like

Since I have spent a number of years recruiting teachers for schools in Thailand, I thought I’d share with you what I consider two of the best TEFL courses in Thailand.

TEFL Course: Text and Talk Academy

As one of the oldest TEFL Certification Courses in Thailand, Text & Talk Academy has a solid training program. It prepares its students extremely well to teach English in Thailand. With training centers in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, and Pattaya you also get to choose a location to suit your needs.

The duration of Text & Talk Academy’s TEFL course is 120 hours over six weeks. You will get at least six opportunities to practice what you have learned in front of real students at a school. You will be evaluated by an experienced English teacher who will give you honest feedback and recommendations about how you can improve. There is no better way to get prepared than to practice in the real world with real students.

Class sizes are typically below 10 students, to ensure lots of individual attention for each participant. The study material includes seven course books that teach lesson planning and room preparation, effective classroom techniques, and lots of activities to make your lessons fun. You will also get deep insight into Thai culture and language and learn ways to teach grammar in a way your students won’t find boring and dull.

Getting a job after the training doesn’t seem to be an issue for any of their graduates. I took the 6 week TEFL course with Text & Talk Academy in 2008 and was delighted with the instructor and course content. During later job interviews, I realized that hiring managers also highly valued this particular organization.

The cost for this 6 week TEFL course is currently US$ 1,495.00 (about 48,000 baht). This course doesn’t promise guaranteed job placement. They do, however, have many contacts with schools and recruitment agencies, typically offering starting salaries of about 30,000 to 35,000 baht.


TEFL Course: TEFL Heaven Logo

Although I have not attended the course at TEFL Heaven, I have recruited and worked with a number of teachers that graduated from this certification training.

The duration of this TEFL course is also 120 hours, but spread over only 3 weeks. This is a bit more stressful, considering you’ll also need to do assignments and homework. Since the courses are usually held on an exotic island, you naturally get more immersed and spend more time with your classmates. So I don’t find the shorter duration for 120 training hours much of a disadvantage.

This course is marketed as an internship and includes the three week course as well as a guaranteed placement for at least one semester. It attracts many people who want to spend just a limited time teaching in Thailand, often in between graduating from university and starting a career in one’s home country.

Class sizes are about 20 people per class. This course teaches sound lesson planning and classroom techniques, with a strong emphasis on teaching in a playful manner, as well as a basic understanding of Thai culture and language.  All of the TEFL Heaven graduates I have worked with had a true knack for creating rapport with their students. They know how to get attention with ease while teaching effective, playful lessons.

The cost for this 3-week TEFL course is currently US$ 1,575 (about 51,000 baht) and includes accommodation. Salaries for the guaranteed job placement are listed as at least 25,000 baht, which is at the low end for foreign English teachers in Thailand.

Which of these two TEFL courses is better?

It depends on what you want to get out of the course. The two providers target totally different segments of the market and therefore attract people with different goals. Text & Talk Academy graduates often plan to live in Thailand and seek a new career path. Participants of TEFL Heaven‘s course are younger people, looking to explore a new culture for a short period of time.

Visit both websites and get in touch with each organization to find out which one suits you better. Also, read my article Which TEFL Course is Right for You? for further information about TEFL courses in general.



The Spirit and Beauty of Thailand

Posted by claudio on January 15, 2015 in Living in Thailand |

If you are already in Thailand, you undoubtedly have experienced the beauty of Thailand. The friendly people, the tasty food, the warm climate, and the sights and sounds in all parts of the country are quite unique.

If you are planning (or considering) to come to Thailand to teach English, then this video will give you a glimpse of what to expect:

Feel free to leave a comment below and share with others what you like best about living in Thailand – or what you are looking forward to the most if you planning to visit in the future.



The 12 Core Values of Thailand

Posted by claudio on October 2, 2014 in Teaching in Thailand |

The 12 Core Values of Thailand will be recited daily during the flag raising ceremony.Starting this semester, students from Prathom 1 all the way up to Matthayom 6 are reciting the 12 Core Values of Thailand — either at the daily flag raising ceremony in the morning or during class.

As a teacher in Thailand, you should be familiar with these 12 Core Values.

Depending on the level of your students, you may even want to use these core values in your lessons. Students are very familiar with the Thai version and will therefore learn new vocabulary easily. Add a discussion about what each of these values mean to your students to get them actively engaged in your English class.

The 12 Core Values of Thailand in English

  1. Upholding of the three main pillars: the Nation, the Religion, and the Monarchy
  2. Honesty, sacrifice, and patience with positive attitude for the interest of the public
  3. Being grateful to the parents, guardians and teachers
  4. Seeking knowledge and education directly and indirectly
  5. Preservation of Thai traditions and cultures
  6. Maintaining moral, integrity, well-wishes upon others as well as being generous and sharing
  7. Understanding and learning of true democratic ideals with His Majesty the King as Head of State
  8. Maintaining of discipline; respecting laws and the elderly
  9. Being conscious and mindful of action in line with His Majesty’s the King’s royal statements
  10. Applying His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy, saving money for time of need. Being moderate with surplus for sharing or expansion of business while having good immunity
  11. Keeping physical and mental strength, unyielding to the evil power or desires, having sense of shame over guilt and sins in accordance with the religious principles;
  12. Putting the public and national interest before one’s own


Thai Vegetarian Festival

Posted by claudio on September 23, 2014 in Living in Thailand |

Vegetarians and Vegans rejoice! Thailand’s Vegetarian Festival is starting today. It is held every year in the 10th month of the Thai Lunar Calendar, starting on the 15th day of the waning of the moon. In 2014 the festival is from September 23 until October 3.

Foodstall with Jay Flags

Although Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country, eating a vegetarian diet is an exception rather than the norm on most days of the year. There are some Thai people who eat vegetarian once a month on Buddha days (full moon) and some eat vegetarian once a week, often on the day of the week they were born. However, during the Vegetarian Festival, you will find a large number of Thais practicing เจ (pronounced jay). The word jay is taken from Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, and means observing the eight precepts. One of these precepts is to refrain from destroying living creatures.

Beyond Avoiding Meat

Despite its name, the Vegetarian Festival is about more than just the avoidance of eating animal meat. It is about keeping up high moral standards, keeping one’s body and eating utensils clean, being mindful of thoughts and actions, and abstaining from sex and alcohol. To me this sounds like a good recipe for life in general, except the sex and alcohol part.

Jay food is comparable to the Western concept of a vegan diet, also excluding milk and eggs in addition to meat, poultry, and fish. It goes even a step further and also excludes some pungent vegetables and spices like onions, garlic and scallion. It is believed those ingredients ignite passion, lead people to anger or lust, and cause people to have too much energy and perspiration.

Dishes I enjoyed at previous Vegetarian Festivals. To see more, check out the gallery.

The Thai Vegetarian Festival is held all over the country, especially in large cities with a high Chinese population. It is celebrated for spiritual and physical cleansing, merit-making, and to create a sense of inner peace. People bring their shrines to Chinese temples to renew their spiritual energy, hang lanterns at the Chinese temples, and light candles outside. Loud drums inside and outside of temples scare away evil spirits. Vendors sell toys, fireworks, and, of course, delicious vegan food.

Restaurants and food stalls offering Jay food during the festival identify themselves with yellow flags and signs with the Chinese symbol for vegetarianism. Most other restaurants will be happy to replace meat with soy protein and bean curd, and they eliminate fish sauce and oyster sauce to accommodate their guests if requested.

The Most Popular Thai Vegetarian Festival

The most colorful and unique festival is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. It is believed that the festival and its accompanying sacred rituals bestow good fortune upon those who religiously observe this rite. Sacred rituals are performed at various Chinese shrines and temples by entranced devotees known as Mah Song. A Mah Song is a man (or rarely, a woman) possessed by a god during the vegetarian festival. Mah Songs parade through the streets of Phuket, walking across hot coals or exploding fireworks, ascending ladders with bladed rungs, and bathing in hot oil. They pierce their mouths, cheeks, ears, and arms with fish hooks, knives, razor blades, bamboo poles, or even guns and giant wrenches. The deity residing within the Mah Song protects their body from pain and injury. This is confirmed to onlookers by the fact that that very little blood or scarring occurs.

You don’t have to be Buddhist or become a vegetarian to enjoy the festival. There is no pressure to participate. However, sampling an occasional meatless meal, becoming more mindful, and watching the activities during the festival can be a memorable experience. In that sense: Enjoy and have a good time during the Thai Vegetarian Festival!

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