Thailand is a wonderful country in which to teach ESL.
Whilst some schools not be the most organized, and you may not be told of events until the very last minute, friendly students, beautiful landscapes, interesting history and fascinating cities and peaceful villages go a long way to compensate for other perceived inefficiencies. It is true that the Thai education system is perhaps very different to what you are used to back at home, but with determination, spirit, heaps of enthusiasm, a desire to succeed and a motivation to embrace differences, you could find that Thailand is just the place that you were looking for.
It has only been in fairly recent years that English has featured prominently on the mainstream education curriculum. Developments have occurred largely as a result of the ASEAN partnership, when Thailand realized that the levels of English in the country were often noticeably lower than in neighbouring countries. It is also the common language for communication between residents of member countries.
There are a variety of places in which you can teach in Thailand. There are often openings in both government schools and private schools, and some schools offer various English programs, such as the Mini English Program and Intensive English Program, whereby several core subjects are taught in English. This therefore opens up opportunities for English teachers with other areas of expertise and interest; you could find yourself teaching mathematics, health, sport, science, computers and other subjects, all using English. Positions are available in many universities for native English teachers. There are many language centres operating all over the country, which offer private tuition, additional lessons and provide tailored courses for businesses and companies. If you are mainly interested in teaching adult learners, these are a great place to begin your search. Some language companies mainly focus on arranging and hosting English camps, so if different faces and different fun activities are more your thing, check out some of these providers. There is a wealth of variety in the world of teaching in Thailand. I have taught in three different government schools, which gave me valuable experience of teaching all ages and ability levels. I have also taught in language centres, doing evening and weekend work. This gave me the fantastic opportunity to teach higher levels, including business English courses, job specific language training, exam preparation and job interview preparation. Teaching smaller groups and individual students provides such a different experience to teaching large classes.
The basic requirement for teaching English as a foreign language in Thailand is a Bachelors Degree, in any subject. A TEFL qualification is not necessary, but is very useful when job-hunting, as many recruiters will favour applicants with qualifications. Experience is also beneficial, though not essential. Interestingly, it is not a requirement to be a native English speaker, although many schools and teaching centres will automatically choose a native speaker over a non-native speaker. To btain a legal work permit, you will need to show the original copy of your degree certificate. Of course, there are many instances of people working “under the table” in Thailand, and obtaining long tourist visas, which will be renewed with short border runs. This is not recommended, as not only are you cheating the education system, but you will likely be paid less than somebody with a work permit and you run the risk of being deported from the country at short notice if discovered.
There are several handy tips to help with the process of finding a teaching in job in Thailand.
How to Find a Teaching Job in Thailand
Check all Sources
There are several websites dedicated to finding ESL jobs all over the world, as well as www.ajarn.com, which specifically lists teaching jobs in Thailand. Look for job agencies that deal with ESL teachers and contact to ask if there are any vacancies. If they do not have any current vacancies they may be able to keep your details on file. Some agencies act as recruiters only, whereas others are the teachers’ employers, providing staff to their clients, usually schools. Many schools source their staff through agencies in this way as it saves them the hassle of processing work permits, going through the interview process, and covering when a teacher is sick. If you are already in Thailand, it may help to pop in to schools, language centre and agencies in the area. Remember to take a copy of your CV to leave behind. It also helps to ask around – you would be surprised how many jobs are advertised by word of mouth within expat communities. Find out the usual expat hang out spots and go and talk with people. Many expats working in Thailand are teachers, so you can pick up some great leads.
Dress Smartly for Interviews
Some recruiters will interview by Skype, or similar, if you are not in the country, whereas others will expect you to attend an interview in person if you are close already in Thailand. As with many countries in Asia, appearances matter. Do not think that because the way of life is generally more laid back in Thailand that you can be sloppy for interviews. Dress as you would for an interview back home. The same rules apply when interviewing by video link. I have one smart skirt suit in my Thai wardrobe that I reserve exclusively for interviews. A handy tip for females is that in Thai culture, it is often seen as being more polite to wear a skirt or a dress over trousers. For males, although a tie may not be necessary for in the classroom, it is advised to wear one for your interview. Even though your qualifications may shine and your experiences might dazzle, if you do not look the part it is unlikely you will get the job.
A sometimes annoying aspect of life in Thailand is the concept of “Thai time.” This usually means that if you make an appointment with someone, they will be late. It also means if your bus is scheduled to leave at a certain time, it will often be a substantial period after this time that you actually depart. My partner is Thai; if he tells me he will be home for dinner at 6.30pm, I expect him by 8pm. Although you will experience this all around you in Thailand, do not think that the same rules apply to you as a foreigner. Be on time. If you are not, you run the risk of being seen as lazy.
Prepare a Sample Lesson
Some recruiters will ask at interview that you give a demo lesson. This may involve simply explaining how you would teach a topic and take the interviews through the lesson step by step, it may involve conducting a mini lesson in the interview, or it can involve being sent into a real classroom with students gazing at you expectedly. It is always best to be prepared for any scenario. For one job, I was asked to give a sample lesson to the panel of three interviewers. Luckily, I had been warned in advance they would ask this so I was extra prepared to give a demo lesson on my chosen topic of directions. I have a friend who was less fortunate, however, and at a different school was tossed straight into a room filled with young maths students.
This one is common sense really, but show your best side to the interviewers. Make your skills and experience shine.
Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles.” Whilst intereviewers are looking at your teaching abilities and your appearance, they ar also wondering how you will fit into the school and how well you will be able to make your students enjoy lessons. A big smile goes a very long way.
These tips are mainly common sense, and with the right attitude and bags of enthusiasm it is very easy to get a job teaching in Thailand. Sadly, Thailand is known for being quite discriminative against older teachers. Although it is possible to find good jobs, where recruiters value experience that years in the classroom provides, if you are older you may find it more of a struggle to find work than someone who is younger. Don’t let this deter you; I know plenty of fantastic older teachers in Thailand who are highly valued by their schools. But do understand that you may be up against this when you start your job hunt.
Embrace your time teaching in Thailand and discover the charms of this lovely country.
Do you have any more tips for finding teaching work in Thailand?
Are there any more handy hints that you would add to this list?