Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Teaching in Thailand

Having worked as a teacher in Asia since 2007 I've gleaned enough knowledge of the industry to offer an insight into this mysterious vocation. Tourists often ask how they can get into teaching and make a life for themselves here in the tropics. It's really very simple, however, like anything in life, the more you have to offer the more successful you'll be. There's a vast range of qualifications, jobs and salaries in Thailand's education industry.

Qualifications

People teach in Thailand with qualifications ranging from zip to PhD. There are options for all but the higher you find yourself up the academic ladder the more plentiful and lucrative the opportunities you'll have available.

Legal

To teach legally you require a 90 day non-immigrant-b visa which you obtain at a Thai consulate outside Thailand with paperwork from your school. Next you apply for a Teaching Licence (TL) from the Teacher's Council of Thailand (TCT). Armed with your TL and non-imm-b visa you now apply for a work permit (WP) at the Labour Office. With your TL and WP you can extend the non-imm-b visa until the end of your contract (generally another 9 months) at the local Immigration Office. This is the legal way.

You can teach illegally but you'll have to exit the country every three months which rapidly becomes a time consuming and expensive annoyance. However, many people still do this despite the drawbacks.

Teaching Licence

To get the TL from the TCT you need to sit the three day Thai Language and Culture course (TLCC). Then you have some choices:

TLCC + BEd = TL
TLCC + BSc/BA + PGCE = TL
TLCC + BSc/BA + TCT exams = TL

If you fail to meet these criteria all is not lost as you can apply for two temporary teaching licences (TL waivers that last two years). This means you could teach for up to four years provided you can prove you're making progress towards TL qualification.

Degrees (BSc, BA, BSc(Hons), BA(Hons), BEd, PGCE, MSc, MA, MEd, PhD)

To work legally in Thailand requires a degree (or progress towards one). The bare minimum is a BSc/BA. Anything over this is nice-to-have and can help you shine at job interviews.

However, if you're low on academic qualifications there are still options. You can graduate from any of the following renowned institutions: Shrimpton University*, The University of Bums on Seats or Khao San Road College*. Obtaining a fake degree is a risky option but you wouldn't be the first to give it a bash. However, be warned, this option is gradually becoming more difficult as the Thai authorities are clamping down on dubious credentials and these measures are beginning to bite with the refusal TLs or TL waivers.

*Fictional educational establishments.

So, gone are the days of simply turning up where your only qualification was that you're from the Anglosphere. This could be both good and bad news. It should lead to more qualified/professional teachers but it could also lead to a shortage. Time will tell.


TEFL

Most people start off teaching English. Since you're reading this website it's probably your mother tongue right? As a native English speaker you're incredibly lucky in that your language has become the planet's de facto lingua franca. You have opportunities to work all over the globe!

Your first and most important step is to obtain an accredited TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certificate from a reputable provider. As soon as you have the TEFL certificate in your hand you're good to go! Any employer worth their salt will insist upon one.

These full-time courses take four weeks and cost around £1000. A TEFL shows you understand the technicalities of the English language and can manage yourself in a classroom environment. I visited Susan Hover who manages UniTEFL here in Chiang Mai. She offers a range of comprehensive TEFL packages at great value. I met some of the course instructors along with some very satisfied students. You get a sound mix of theory carefully balanced with practical classroom experience. A great place to embark on your Teaching career.


Private Tutor

I currently operate a maths tutoring service in Chaing Mai. This is possibly the easiest way to get into the industry. The advantages are no boss, no schedule, no fixed location and no pesky qualifications necessary. The disadvantages are irregular income, no visa and difficulty getting established. Income tends to be lower and more erratic than a regular teaching gig. Ideal for retirees.

Private Language Schools

The classic shopping mall teacher. Many aspiring teachers often start out in these establishments teaching English part-time at evenings and weekends. Advantages: easy to come by, only a TEFL required (no degree). Disadvantages: often difficult to get legal, erratic hours. Suits transient backpackers.

Government Schools

My first job in Thailand in 2009 was at a government school on a massive 28,500THB/month. That's £570/month. I taught maths there for a year. Advantages: wide choice of location, good career starting point, office hours, likely to accept bogus credentials. Disadvantages: Low salary, low student motivation.

International Schools

I've worked in international schools since 2010. Standards (and salaries) are superior to government schools. International schools generally prefer teachers who've taught specific subjects in their home countries. In the case of the UK this would mean holding QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). I've never taught in the UK and lack QTS, however, it's not much of an impediment if you're willing to work in so-called second-tier international schools. You could still break into the top international schools with a bit of nepotism or luck. Advantages: decent salary, fully qualified colleagues, international curriculum, legitimate paperwork, great teaching facilities. Disadvantages: lofty qualifications (BEd, subject specific BSc/BA + PGCE) and experience required.



Approximate monthly salaries in THB:

Tutoring = varies
Language schools = varies
Government schools = 30K - 40K
Second tier Intl schools = 50K - 100K
Top Tier Intl schools = 100K+

Conclusion

Regardless of what qualifications you have right now, the most important step is to obtain a TEFL certificate. Everything else can be tackled later. I've lived all over Thailand and there's no better place than Chiang Mai to jump into Thai culture so why not do your TEFL course right here? Wherever you end up I'm sure you'll love your experience of living and working in Thailand. I certainly have! Good Luck or Chokdee as we say here!

2 comments:

  1. English teachers is very important to the students in order for them to have a fluent mind in using English language that would help them to have an effective communication to the foreigners.

    TOEFL reading questions

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  2. Hello AWOL Geordie,
    I am a UniTEFL, Chiang Mai graduate and can highly recommend UniTEFL, although I understand Susan Hover has returned to America now. I now teach Maths in an EP in Chiang Rai. A couple of months ago I applied for the 2 year teaching licence (waiver) in Bangkok. A letter came back indicating that when I next apply in 2 years time I will require a confirmation of my degree be sent direct from my old university to the TCT. So as you alluded to the University of Khao San Road is definitely being shut down.
    Cheers and good luck

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