Travel & Teach - Thailand
Thailand is a country of geographical diversity and one of the most popular destinations for our Gap Year students. It is a fantastic place and an excellent first stop for the more adventurous novice teacher. There are four principle regions: the mountainous North, the Central Plains, the semi-arid plateau of the Northeast, and the peninsula in the south, with its many beautiful tropical beaches and offshore islands. The weather is hot throughout the year with average temperatures about 29 C, although the capital Bangkok will get up to 35 C in April. There are three seasons: the cool season (November to February), the hot season (April to May), and the rainy season (June to October). However, beware of the pollution and the other associated problems of densely populated cities, which can make travelling uncomfortable. For this reason, many teachers don’t stick around in Bangkok, but travel further afield to experience ‘the real Thailand’.
Teaching work has traditionally been plentiful. However, there is anecodotal evidence in the economic downturn post 2008-09 that there is more competition for jobs - at least in Bangkok, where one of our graduates really struggled to find work against increased competition, despite being qualified and experienced. There is also some evidence of age bias with another student reporting adverts asking for applicants under 45 years of age.
Otherwise students are relaxed and friendly and elsewhere the English language is in great demand. However, very few schools advertise outside of the country, primarily for reasons of cost. However, you’ll find that the central TEFL recruitment website www.ajarn.com is an excellent source of jobs and this would be a good place for a new or even experienced person to start the job search.
Often teaching position(s) will be arranged from within Thailand. If you have ever visited the main cities you will probably have met many English speakers passing through. Indeed you will find that many of your colleagues may be travellers who are simply looking to finance their voyage through the country, rather than career teachers.
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in Thailand: http://www.britishcouncil.or.th/en/index.asp
Thai Embassy UK: http://thailand.embassyhomepage.com/
Thai Embassy USA: http://www.thaiembdc.org/
Thai Tourist Office information: http://www.thaismile.co.uk/
Global English students are working all over the world with their accredited TESOL certificates. Find out
how TESOL training from Global English has made a difference to their lives:
I've just finished my first semester teaching 12 year olds (Mattayom 1) and 15-17 year olds (Mattayom 4,5,6) at a government school here in Bangkok (on contract with ECC, who have a government contract to supply native teachers to schools) and it's been quite an eye-opener thus far. No resources to speak of but the kids are fun to teach.
The interesting thing so far here is experiencing the divide between theory and practice. The state school system is entirely teacher-centred and the approach grammar-based. And the classes are huge, at least with M1 students; all mine (and I have 14 M1 classes) average around 45 kids per class. I'm gradually getting the hang of things - which classes work better in the mornings, when to introduce games, etc - so as to manage things as best I can, but some things are quite difficult to get going. For example, group work activities - the classrooms are so packed with desks that its impossible to reconfigure the seating arrangements. Another thing: Thai kids are very passive and will rarely venture an opinion or take the initiative in something. However, this is quite a learning curve and one that's proving to be great fun.
I got my job via the www.ajarn.com website. I basically just came over here on a tourist visa, sent off a few CVs and got offered a couple of positions fairly quickly. I took the ECC job as the school is fairly quick to get to from where I live (a big consideration in this traffic-congested city) and the fact that they are a large-ish concern with a lot of teachers on their books (and the likelihood of running a smoother operation than most). No problems so far other than having to deal with the Thai way of doing things (appointments cancelled at short notice, little information offered, things just sprung on you, etc.).
The pay is nothing special - 32 500 baht - enough to live quite comfortably by local standards, but not great if one wants to do a lot of travelling in SE Asia, specially to the more expensive countries like Japan or Taiwan. Places like Laos and Cambodia are more accessible on a Thai salary. However, from my perspective, this is a good place to launch one's teaching career: Thai kids are quite fun to teach (if not a particularly serious lot), and the system, though rather old-fashioned, is not overly demanding. This, combined with the experience of having to cope with large classes, does wonders for one's confidence! As I mentioned, ECC have a government contract to supply EFL teachers to state schools, and there do appear to be quite a few jobs available.
I've been teaching in Bangkok for about two years now, and even trying to sum up those two years is impossible. Before I came here, and before I got my TEFL, I worked as a homeroom teacher in Sweden. And I can't even start to compare these two ABSOLUTELY different experiences. If you want to add something to your members’ area, it has to be this: Thailand is not easy, but exciting!!!
My husband and I were interviewed in London for our jobs which we found in the TES for teaching in Thailand. We work in a Thai owned, British Curriculum International School which has an English Head Teacher. It's an all age boarding school (2 - 18) with about 600 students. Our school has over 30 different nationalities so teaching students where the majority have English as a second language has been an eye opening experience we would never have had if we had stayed in the UK. It has taught me to always think before I speak so I choose the simplest language possible without using slang. Thai students in particular often do not tell you when they don't understand! We signed a two year contract initially and had only planned to stay for that length of time but we are now in our third year and expecting our first child which will be born out here, so the experience has certainly been a positive one so far! The school pays nearly the same as a school in the UK and we receive our money in Thai Baht. We have a great flat on site with food included. Holiday lengths are similar to those in England so opportunities for travel have been fantastic. We have visited 9 different countries easily and cheaply so far!
Living in Thailand is an interesting experience. It's important to take a deep breath and remain calm when there's no water or electricity for an unknown reason or someone cuts you up on the highway. The Thais are placid people and do not lose their tempers, if you do then do not expect any response from them! Second hand cars are extortionate but if you live 15 kms in the countryside like us then they're worth every penny. International driving licenses are not recognised but it's easy to get a Thai one. For a small amount of cash anything is possible! Moving here was a big step but definitely worth it!
Finding work in a rural school in Thailand is very easy. Just go to the school in person and ask them if you can volunteer to teach. 99.9% will say yes straight away. It really is that easy. Although this is volunteer work, it can the first step on the ladder. You can go to events with the school and meet other teachers from different areas. I went to a meeting with the school I was doing volunteer work and was offered work from three different schools in the first hour, again volunteer work but if you want a month or so at different places the schools are begging for your teaching.
I did volunteer teaching at two schools in my area, went on several school trips and teachers conferences meeting lots of people from teachers to headmasters, directors and professors. After talking with them, I found that most will offer you work or put you in touch with someone who can find you work. They want the best for their schools and if you are only staying for a month at a time before moving on, volunteer work is probably all you will get. But if you plan to stay the story is very different.
I am planning to live in Thailand permanently. I passed my TESOL Global English course on Thursday 11th in the afternoon, and on Friday 12th in the morning I rang headmaster from the meetings I had been to. I arranged an interview at 9.30am the same day and started work at 10.30am. I now teach 20 hours a week at the top primary school in Surin with a very good salary.
I have a translator to explain things to the children, 6 year olds, with the emphasis on English pronunciation and vocabulary. Once the parents get you know you they will want private tutoring for their children. They pay very good money for their children to be taught by native English speaking teachers.
I am 51 years old and came to Thailand to "retire". Because of the demand for English teaching here I took my TESOL on line. The certificate is a must if you want a permanent position. Now I have a brand new career teaching in this amazing country.
Travel and Teach
Regulations are tightening up in Thailand and technically you will now need a degree to work there legally. However, the situation on the ground is often a little different. One owner of a private language school in Phuket made the following comments on the TEFL recruitment situation at the end of 2008:
The regulations of the Ministry of Education state that foreign teachers should have a degree and a TEFL/TESOL certificate. In reality this rule is only applied in Bangkok and Phuket, where there are a large number of applicants for jobs. Other provinces are more lax, as they have fewer applicants wishing to work in the less attractive (non-tourist) locations.
There are many good jobs to be had in places neighbouring Phuket, such as Phang Nga, and nearby provinces in the south such as Surat Thani and Krabi. There are very attractive destinations and quite popular among newly-trained teachers. They offer employment with reasonable salary, cheap accommodation and subsistence, proximity to beaches and easy travel to tourist resorts at the weekend.
limited number of positions appear in the UK press (such as the Times Educational Supplement on Fridays and the Guardian EFL pages on Tuesdays). However, Thailand is not a well-represented country on these pages. You will do better to have a look at some of the TEFL jobs websites such as www.tefl.com, the excellent Thailand jobs and information website: http://www.ajarn.com or contact the British Council in Thailand which holds lists of schools in the country. There are also a handful of agencies that may be able to secure you a position in advance (see the listing later). Work appears to be fairly plentiful all year round, both in term time and in summer, as students often take extra classes in the holidays. The only quiet time appears to be in the months just after Christmas.
Accommodation is not usually offered with many positions, but it is generally very cheap. Indeed the cost of living in Thailand is very low and it is generally easy to exist quite comfortably on part time hours. If you do manage to organise a full teaching timetable, you are likely to feel quite rich by local standards. However the hourly rate does not look so appealing in black and white. Prospects are good for the self-employed freelancer but only when you have been in one place for a while and have established yourself. But beware, there is a seedy side to Bangkok and the other main cities, so you may wish to be sure of where to advertise in order to attract the right sort of customer.
Although it is not a prerequisite, a Global English Level 2 TESOL will enhance your job prospects, in addition to a degree. These qualifications are obviously more important for the well-established schools. We would recommend at the very least you take a Global English Level 1 TESOL or a Weekend TEFL before you go.
In order to obtain a teaching post with one institute, rather than teaching appointments with several, you may wish to try to convince a prospective employer that you are likely to be around for some time and that you therefore a career teacher rather than a traveller. Despite the perceived laid back attitude of Thailand, it is also important to dress smartly and quite conservatively.
Expect the very basic level of pay to be around £3 p/hour (around 200 Baht). If you are prepared to travel to various locations to make up a full timetable you can obviously expect more. Monthly salaries appear to offer starting salaries in the region of 25,000 Baht p/month. If you do pay tax it will be at a very low percentage. However do not expect paid holidays, sickness pay or the benefits you may expect from the European fixed contracts.
Students are generally considered to be very friendly, welcoming and eager to learn. We have been told that the atmosphere in classes more than compensates for the lack of teaching resources at the schools themselves. Eager students should also help to make your first teaching experience less daunting and much more enjoyable. A busy nightlife can certainly be found in the big cities, but if you stay in the cities you risk missing out on the real delights the country has to offer, and venturing smaller provincial towns also yields its own rewards.
On applying for TESOL positions, it is generally advisable to send a passport-sized photograph along with a CV, covering letter and possibly copies of degree/TESOL certificates. You can also find information on how to succeed at your TESOL interview in the ‘Interview techniques’ page on the right side of this web page.