Teach English in Thailand? Commonly known as the land of smiles, Thailand remains a huge draw for both new and experienced TEFL teachers alike.
But what is it really like teaching there? Can the reality live up to the expectation?
What you need to teach English in Thailand
Firstly, the days of the unqualified back-packer with no degree or TEFL picking up plentiful teaching have long gone. The government currently stipulates that a degree is necessary to teach legally in Thailand, although a Thai language school owner told us recently;
"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."
This more liberal approach is supported by TEFL Teacher Prijie Moodley, who says:
‘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.).
So you begin to get a picture that what is formally requested by the authorities and what is acceptable at a local level are quite different.
What’s the position for older English teachers in Thailand?
Most people who have spent time looking on the various Thai teaching forums will know there is an age bias towards younger teachers, as you’ll see with the number of people who have commented on the Ajarn website. Indeed, some of our Global English TESOL graduates have found this out for themselves.
But if you are over 45, although you may have a smaller pool of private language schools that would see you as employable, don’t count all as lost. It depends somewhat on your mindset and approach. If you prepare your CV effectively, you can get through to the interview stage, where you can make your impression.
Vaughn Buxton is 51 and took the approach of doing volunteer teaching first. He comments:
"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."
It is more competitive than before in the big cities and so to make yourself stand out from the crowd, perhaps consider a 120-hour TESOL Premier course plus a specialisation, such as Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL), Business or Teaching English Online.
Thai culture and norms
In a country where some say corruption is rampant (there are stories of pupils trying to buy English exam results) and yet where people are not always results-oriented, it can be difficult to motivate classes of young people. The situation can be different if teaching in private schools or to corporate students, but it is certainly a place where you may have to leave any preconceived ideas about the impact you can make through teaching English at the airport. Otherwise, you may simply run the risk of getting frustrated by inefficiency and a seeming lack of interest.
On the other hand, perhaps it is the apparent lack of interest in materialism and bettering oneself for a competitive advantage among ordinary Thais that is at once refreshing and instantly appealing to many from the West. While it is hard to generalise, one article suggests that to Thais, family, friends, community and good food are most important.
So, is Thailand still the land of smiles? Well, probably, but if you are considering teaching English here, it is worth brushing up on the customs, history and norms that make Thailand what it is before you go.
What next to teach English in Thailand?
If you are still fascinated by the prospect of living and teaching in this amazing and diverse country, have a look at our Thailand country page – and if you are ready to take the plunge, enrol on a short TEFL weekend in the UK or an online TESOL course.
Thirsty for more? Check out www.Ajarn.com, a great resource for everything Thai, including teaching jobs, forums and fresh ideas for your classes.
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