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Information About Teaching in Thailand

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So, you are interested in teaching In Thailand.  Thinking of taking a TEFL course in Bangkok, Rayong or Pattaya.  Well, here are some things you should know before you go, or even apply.


 1.     What are Thai children like as students?

a.   They are lazy, stupid, ignorant, egotistical, spoilt brats.  Howís that for a generalization?  But it is an honest generalization for nearly all the private schools and many of the richer government schools.  There are exceptions, but unfortunately they are few and far between.  Students put their greatest amount of energy into getting out of work or cheating.  They have made making noise an art form.


 2.     What is it like, working in a Thai school?

a.    Noisy!  Dirty!  Hot!  The vast majority of schools still do not have air conditioning, this means that you are in a classroom of minimal size with up to 60 students, 58 of which donít want to learn.  The rest are carrying on their own conversations.  The ambient noise can be above the safety levels set by most western nations.  The use of giant speakers at schools assemblies is a constant problem.  My tip is by good earplugs youíll need them.

b.   There are two classes of teacher, Thai and other nationality. The Thai teachers are given respect by the students, because of their position, and out of fear.  Thai teachers have been known to wield the stick in a very aggressive manner, pull hair, pinch, and even kick their charges.  Foreign teachers on the other hand have a social status one step below that of the street dogs you will see freely roaming around full of eczema.  To your face, they will be polite in a one to one situation, but collectively you are at best left with a feeling of belligerent non-cooperation.  Once youíve been part of the school for a few years it may change, a little, to total disregard.

c.    Non-communication is the bugbear of so many foreign teachers in Thailand.  Too many times the teacher will be informed what is happening by the students, not the administration.

d.   Flexibility is the key word for teaching in a Thai school, things change at the drop of a hat.  So, if you are a teacher that likes to plan your lessons in advance for the term, good luck.

e.   If you are lucky enough to find work in a school with air-conditioning, you will find that you will freeze.  Canadian teachers complain about it being like winter.

f.     Resources, or lack of them is a major problem for teachers used to working in the west. You want resources? Go buy your own.  Donít expect computers to work even if the school has them.


 3.     Working with agents.

There are several types of agents operating in Thailand.  Hereís how they work.

a.   The first type is the language school that is contracted by a school to supply teachers on an hourly rate.  The teacher is paid by the hour.  No work, no pay.  That includes holidays and vacations.  Put in a nutshell teachers will be paid for about 220 days a year.  These teachers, for the most part work illegally.  Pay is between 175 baht per hour Ė 300 baht per hour.  The three main players in this field are Siam Computer, ECC, and ELC

b.   The next type is also a language school that gets a yearly contract to supply teachers.  Some of these are supplied with work permits, but most arenít.  The ones that arenít have to go to another country every 30, 60 or 90 days to get a new visa. This can prove problematic as the local consulates are becoming increasingly uncooperative.  Those teachers who break the contract with these language schools find their visa cancelled and their name put on a blacklist.  Salary starts at 25,000 per month, but donít expect to get holiday pay.  The main players here are Elite, Ampro David English House, English First, and Text and Talk

c.    The final type of agent is the one that acts as a recruiter for the schools.  The school then employs the teacher directly.  In most cases the teacher is free to negotiate their own salary and other benefits with the school.  Work permits and teacherís license are arranged by the school.  The best two to deal with here are St. Gabrielís Foundation, and Worldwide Education Services.  Only teachers who have qualified teacher status in their own country will be represented.


 4.     Choosing the right school, or being chosen?

If you are a qualified teacher getting work is not going to be a problem. However choosing an employer that will help you develop as a teacher instead of stifling your teaching ability is rather difficult.  Thai schools are to say the least Autocratic.  They are ALL business first, education second.  It has been know for a school to ask the teachers to start at 07.00 and finish at 17.00 every day, wit only one 15 minute break in the day. Schools routinely lock the gates to stop teachers leaving during the day, even at lunch.  Teachers have had their salary docked for being 5 minutes late.  There are hundreds of horror stories, but there are also hundreds of kindnesses done that donít make the rounds, and you never hear about. Like one school director paying the hospital bill for a teacherís wife to deliver her baby.  Or a school HOD allowing a new teacher to stay at her home rent free whilst he found his own apartment. 

Donít be frightened to ask questions, all questions, and donít get fobbed of with bland answers.  If youíre not sure, donít take it.  


5.     When is the best time to look for work in Thailand?

As the academic year starts in May, the best time is March or even February. The second semester starts in November so you should again look around one month before. There are always teachers leaving just after the new semester starts, and throughout the year, but competition can be hot.


Questions and Answers


1.    Who can teach Thailand?

Actually anyone who has a teaching degree. But letís break it down into different educational sectors.

a.     International schools:  Most International school do require that their teachers are experienced, qualified teachers who hold QT status in their own country.

b.    English Program Schools:  As far as the Ministry of Education is concerned any person who has a minimum of 15 teaching credits to their degree will be licensed.  However, in reality most schools will only employ ďNative English SpeakersĒ, with white faces.  A few of the more enlightened schools do employ qualified teachers from different countries, but the M. of E. can sometimes make it very difficult for those teachers with degrees written in languages other than English to get a teacherís license.

c.     Thai Program Schools:  Anyone with a degree in any field can teach in a Thai program school

d.    Language Schools:  Most language schools will employ anyone, regardless of their qualifications, or lack of them.  Language schools are the only institution that may want you to have a TESL certificate.


2.    Do you need teaching experience?

Only for international schools.


3.    How many teaching periods per week?

If in a school it will be in the region 20-25 x 50 minute periods, in a language school anything from 1 hour to 30 hours a week.


4. How easy is it to move jobs?
If in language school very easy.  If you break a contract in a school you can end up being blacklisted and deported.


5. What are the advantages of teaching in Thailand?

As Thailand is a male dominated country there are some obvious advantages for the male teacher. The beaches and Islands on your time off are superb; the hospitality you will receive outside the main three cities will be genuine; the cost of living can be extremely low if you want to live on a budget and save.


 6. Types of contract available

These run from a worthless piece of paper to a binding two year contract.  If it is your first time going there, go for one year, look around and decide after your first year where you want to teach.


7. How much can you expect to earn?

Letís look at the main areas again, but with the addition of Universities.

a.     International schools:  These pay the best if you are employed from outside the country.  Salaries range from 35,000 baht per month for locally hired teachers up to 150,000 baht if you are an ďimportĒ.  You also get better benefits if you are hired abroad.  Donít ask WHY! I have no idea.

b.    English Program Schools:  As far as the Ministry of Education is concerned the minimum wage in this type of school is 30,000 baht per month with a maximum of 60,000. Most schools pay minimum or close to it.

c.     Thai Program Schools:  Anything from 5,000 to 40,000.  It all depends on how lucky you are.

d.    Language Schools:  Most language schools pay by the hour.  This can vary from 150 baht to 600 baht. It is worth noting that in 1997 before the Asian Crisis language school teaches were earning no less than 350 baht per hour


8. How much do you need to earn to live in Thailand?
How long is a piece of string?  You can live on 15,000 baht per month if you want to, or you may not have enough at 200,000 baht per month.  It all depends on how you want to live.  If you wan to go out on the town every night, you will never have enough money. If you are happy to go out once a week and be careful with your spending, then you will need to earn around 30,000.


9. Can I have a part time job or teach at my spare time to earn extra income?

Yes, as long as donít get caught by the immigration police.


10. Q: How do I get paid? Do I need to pay tax?

Probably you will be paid at the end of each month in cash.  Most schools will deduct your tax and pay it every month.  At the end of the year make sure you get your tax form from the school.  Language schools leave it to you.  In Thailand, if your employer underpays your tax, YOU are liable.


11. Can my partner go with me?

Of course, as long as you have the right visa.


12. Should I find a job before going to Thailand?

Try to have two or three lined up, then choose the best one when you get there.


      13.  How do I get a work visa?

Donít ask!!!  The only way of getting a work permit is to be a legal employee.  First you need a Non- Immigrant B visa.  What you need for that will depend on where you are coming from.  Once you have your visa leave it up to your employer.


©  Robert Newman

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