Teach English in Thailand: 12 Tips

Teach English in Thailand: 12 Tips to help you make the decision. Read this checklist and make your choice of TEFL school

I’ve taught English as a second language in Japan, Fiji, and Thailand and have a Doctorate in Education from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Would you like to know how to choose a course that will certify you to teach English in Thai public schools and also make recruiters want to hire you?Teach English to Thais

You’ll be investing $1,500 and a month of intensive study in a course – so the certificate must serve your career. And there are loads of TEFL courses to choose from… some of them excellent and some…not so much. Why?

First, anyone can run a course using TEFL and TESOL. Nobody monitors or controls such courses and there’s no official qualification to become a teacher of English as a second language. But school headmasters, department heads, and private recruiters aren’t fools. They know which certificates are worthwhile and which schools produce the teachers that students enjoy and learn from. The quality of your certificate makes a big difference to your job prospects so do your homework before you choose. Now, here are 12 questions to ask before choosing a TEFL course:

  1. What accreditation do they have? Every TEFL course comes up with some sort of ‘accredited by..’, many (like this one) are short on substance or credibility. Others associate themselves with a college but in the TEFL world that’s usually meaningless (tertiary institutes run 3-year degree programs, not 1-month courses). Follow the trail: does the accreditation agency give details of their professionals and how they monitor and accredit them? Are they widely known internationally, or only locally?
  2. Are the trainers qualified and experienced? The  trainer or director of studies should have a DELTA/DTEFLA or Masters in TESOL, linguistics, or education. The other thing to look for is how much experience your potential course instructor has had. It’s a competitive field because it’s well paid so, if a trainer who’s been giving a TEFL course for more than 2 years is probably well regarded both by their graduates and their employer.
  3. Does the curriculum have an academic basis? Who  wrote the curriculum? Are details on the website? Were there properly qualified academics behind the curriculum? Do they keep their website up to date?
  4. Is it on-line or on-site? Online courses  are even less useful than online driving instruction. To become a teacher with presentation skills capable of functioning well in a strange cultural environment you need real, face-to-face instruction, working with your peer group and you need real classroom experience. Besides, recruiters generally don’t recognise online courses; they want to see a full 120 hour classroom course.
  5. How long does it run & how much does it cost?  Anything less than 100 hours training with 6 in-classroom teaching practicums is insufficient. If it’s any cheaper than $1,000 it’s taking shortcuts and stuffing you into big classes.
  6. Do I get classroom experience with real Thai children? This is the critical element and some TEFL courses don’t give you experience working with Thai children because maintaining relationships with schools and scheduling trainee teacher visits is tricky and time consuming. One of the schools I reviewed employs a woman full-time just to organize classroom visits. Some courses bring a handful of pupils into your classroom or, worse still, do “peer teaching” (trainee teachers pretend to teach each other). If you are a rookie teacher going for a trial teaching interview – at which you’ll be expected to teach a real class – experience facing a classroom full of rambunctious Thai kids – speaking a language you don’t yet understand – makes all the difference.
  7. Do I need to pass a test? Many TEFL  courses I visited pass everyone who pays; they’ll certify you to teach even though you didn’t attend all the modules or prove you’ve learned anything. If there is no test to pass, avoid that course. Recruiters are well aware of those outfits. Incidentally, you’re here to learn to be a teacher – not a tourist. Frills like day trips to elephant sanctuaries sound nice but, realistically, there’s no spare time in the month. There’s too much to learn.
  8. Are the facilities professional? You’ll spend 7 hours most days sitting in the training room, so it makes a big difference if the facilities are comfortable. Surprisingly many courses use modified storefronts complete with traffic noise and fumes. You need a quiet, spacious classroom for your activities (you’ll be doing a lot of stuff in front of your peers in the classroom, making teaching props, etc.) with breakout rooms, ample computers with fast, reliable connections, prep tables, comfy chairs, proper desks, and good lighting.
  9. What are my job prospects? Many TEFLs offer to find your first job – which is useful. BUT beware of the ‘guaranteed job’ deals since they’re usually positions that no one else wants. A friend who took one of of those guaranteed jobs spent an entire year in a remote Thai village where no-one spoke a word of English.  On the other hand, some TEFLs are attached to recruitment agencies or have their own job databases which you are entitled to use in the future, and that’s a plus. Check this aspect carefully.
  10. Testimonials: On-site testimonials are always glowing, so poke around the Internet for review sites and forum opinions that are more independent and realistic.
  11. Is a certificate compulsory? The Thai  Ministry of Education wants to see a general degree but does NOT require a TEFL certificate in order to issue a temporary teaching licence. After 5 years of teaching they’ll upgrade you but – at that point – you will need a teaching diploma or they’ll ask you to sit their professional knowledge tests. The Ministry does not endorse TEFL courses or schools. Some years ago they approved a handful of early adopters, who continue to advertise ‘MoE approved’. In reality the ‘MoE’ label is obsolete.
  12. Can I get A Visa?  Several schools offer 1-year ‘teaching visas’ which is deceptive, since there’s no such thing as a TEFL visa. The Bureau of Immigration doesn’t give out 1 year visas for 1 month courses. In reality those visas are attached to a Thai language course – which adds about $800 to the price and requires you show up twice a week for class. If they don’t provide that information, then they probably have some dodgy scheme to give you a job that you don’t want to take because, sooner or later, the Immigration Inspector will visit and it’s goodbye to the Land of Smiles.

Teach English in Thailand: 12 Tips to help you make the decision. Now, make your choice of TEFL schools.

Which TEFL course in Thailand check all 12 boxes?

The list changes frequently as some schools change instructors, or give up providing classroom experience because it’s too expensive to maintain. So contact me directly and I’ll send you the latest update on any course that makes the grade. 

Read more about Teach English in Thailand: 12 Tips

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  1. Thanks Godfree, very timely for me, and it’s always good to see your objective views and details on various topics. I’ve heard it’s better to arrive in Thailand with TEFL certification in hand – yet if I get TEFL training in the US before arriving in Thailand, I won’t have had any time in front of Thai students. Any thoughts about where and when to get TEFL training?

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