Many teachers trapped in miserable jobs

Many teachers trapped in miserable jobs

Each year hundreds of private school teachers try to switch jobs because of heavy workloads and little job security or continue to endure difficult working conditions, sometimes being taken advantage of.

Sind, a private school teacher in her 40s, said that she took all the official recruiting examinations but her social science degree was a less-demand field by the Office of Basic Education Commission (Obec) and she was still waiting for a job in a public school.

Sind recently left a private kindergarten where she taught for over a decade and made less than Bt15,000 (S$610) a month without welfare.

"I never received the living cost subsidy, which the government gave to ensure private schoolteachers' overall income would be nearly Bt15,000, because the money was all wired to the bank account of the school [kindergarten] owner," she said.

She said that the owner withdrew the money and paid staff in cash and at a lower rate.

No one dared protest, she said, after a teacher was fired for filing a complaint with the educational service area office.

Moreover, Sind said that the owner's ties to local and national politicians meant that teachers were obliged to help woo voters at election time.

"We had to woo voters during weekends. We were made to do so or else we would be accused of not co-operating, or be targeted or made to leave the job," she said, adding that the school never sent teachers to training programmes.

Sind currently works at a private school with good management. She said she was proud of this school, as it only required her to teach, and she also got a bigger cheque.

In a separate case, teachers in Songkhla reportedly filed complaints at the provincial private education office after some private schools withheld part of the Bt10,000 per head retrospect living cost subsidy to teachers.

The schools argued that they had the right to withhold the money.

The government also announced a new salary of Bt14,100 for teachers who completed the Graduate Diploma Programme in Teaching Profession. The old rate was Bt12,480.

Teachers who complete the four-year bachelor degree programme or the equivalent advanced certificate in Buddhist theology are meant to be paid Bt13,300, compared to the old rate of Bt11,680.

More than 100,000 private schoolteachers in the country cover 2.4 million students.

Wan, a teacher in her 50s, recalled how early last year her school said it was closing and promised to pay teachers compensation equivalent to 10 to 13 months salary, in accordance with labour laws, and fears her teaching career will be over when it shuts.

"At my age, what school would recruit me?" she said. "I will have to change to another freelance job, although being a teacher is my passion."

A holder of an education degree majoring in Thai, Wan taught Thai to students for three decades. "I had hoped that this private school would be the place I would work until my retirement," she said.

Wan's story and the negative experiences of many other private school teachers is in sharp contrast to what Private Education Commission head Bundit Sriphutthangkul has said.

He said the government backed private schools and increased teacher salaries so they stayed at one location as long as possible, while continuously developing teacher quality.

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