The test

This may not sound like much of a story worth reading unless you have ever worked as a teacher in Thailand. But whether you have or have not, it still is a reflection of Thailand the Thais would rather not have.

This story tends to differ from our usual style of writing as it is more of a documentary than a dot connecting exercise or getting tomorrow’s news today. This actually follows 3 Thais on their first attempt to get a semi decent job. All of them are in their early to mid twenties, and all of them have worked for a Thai employer, and all of them were fed up with how their Thai employers treated them.  As a result of all of that, they all had their eyes set of working for a western run or western company.

Their story is remarkably similar except for their direction of education. One studied for administration, another accounting, and the third was computer programming and IT. But what happened next was similar across the board. Some companies they were seeking work at included some of the bigger names, and all were looking for entry level positions. The MRT (Bangkok’s subway) , DKSH, and several banks were amongst the places they interviewed.

Seeing that most of the positions a westerner would simply walk into with little or no fanfare, each of the jobs involved a series of interviews and tests. This is not unusual for a high end job like an engineering position or middle management where your knowledge and skill level is critical, but for general office work as a subordinate it is not usually expected. A quick look at a resume and a few phone calls to former employers is usually adequate. Seeing that the entry level jobs starting pay ranged between 9000 and 12000 Baht per month, we are not talking big money either.

But in the case of Thailand, things are very different. Starting off with the formula used to calculate a students GPA is very skewed to produce a higher number. For example a GPA of 3.5 in Thailand may actually only be a 2.9 outside of Thailand in what is seen as the international standard. Calculator.

Without going very deep you begin to see that the official Thai documents that reflect a students scores are for the most part seen as worthless by potential employers. The only way to judge if a person has the ability to do even entry level work is simply test them. Seeing that the GPA scores ranged from 2.8 to 3.9 for the 3 Thais, all were just tested to verify their worth. A person with a 3.7 in most cases would be a highly prized and welcomed candidate, and a 3.9 would simply have a job handed to them on a silver platter. But in the case of the Thais we followed, that GPA could have been written on toilet paper with a crayon and had the same respect.

The sad part of this is the simple reality of the fantasy bubble associated with the Thai education system. Very few universities in Thailand have western accreditation, and students that have their grades from there are given more respect and generally seen as meeting western standards. The 3 Thais we followed did not attend any of those premium universities, and as a result they simply had to prove they did not buy their grades or whatever.

At the time of the writing of this story, 2 of the 3 had found work. One landed a job at an international school as a receptionist with some administration duties.  That is generally viewed as more testing as they gradually move from the reception desk to the administration office. The other accepted an accounting job at an international hotel chain, and the third is still looking for work.

One Response to The test

  1. “A quick look at a resume and a few phone calls to former employers is usually adequate.” This is a rather remarkable claim. Most ‘western’ companies still interview people for positions, especially receptionists, accountants etc. Young westerners who want to / need to work in general positions are interviewed and many are tested. Last but not least, the standard of the tests in Thailand are very poor and teachers don’t like failing students. Would you personally employ a Thai based soley on their grade ? Thought not.