Twelve Tips About Teaching English In Thailand

For anyone wanting to teach English in Thailand, here are seven useful tips about Teaching English in Thailand. There have been some significant changes in how the Education Department is certifying English teachers. A client asked my advice on the changes, I forwarded her email to the headmistress of an international school in Bangkok and asked her advice on how to get started teaching English in Thailand. With the permission of both of them, here’s her reply:

Dear Beth,

I heard you were looking to teach in Thailand, however, the restrictions have tightened in the Thailand TEFL industry. Teaching English in Thailand just isn’t what it used to be a decade ago. While the demand for teachers has increased, the Teachers’ Council of Thailand has tightened up stipulations to license foreign teachers, and there are many rumors of further restrictions on who exactly can officially work as a foreign teacher here.

I have noticed that there’s a great deal of uncertainty in Thailand in the post-coup environment as careless law-enforcement has become top priority for the Junta government. Visa restrictions are being tightened up, ED Visas are coming under scrutiny and teachers without licenses or waivers don’t believe they will have a job for much longer. However, getting qualified with a proper teaching diploma looks like the obvious way to ensure a long-term English teacher position in Thailand.

Recently there have been new stipulations put into place. Due to some issues with the previous government, some important changes were to be expected. The Ministry of Education may still go ahead later in 2014. In this Bangkok Post article (Sept 2013), the then education minister Chaturon Chaisaeng made it clear that they expect those with intention to teach full time in Thailand need to get properly qualified. He also conceded that some leniency would be needed due to the need to retain ESL teachers.

I read in a more recent article (the Nation – January 2014), that it was announced that approval had been made to propagate stricter minimum requirements for teachers in Thailand. This suggests that everyone would now need a teaching diploma or education degree as a minimum. Full details were revealed on the MoE’s website as minutes of the meeting. From the rumors I’ve heard, they will expect an education degree or masters which is far-fetched and simply unrealistic.

In short, they are intending to move towards licensing only those with a minimum one-year post graduate teaching diploma (in the absence of a degree in education). Obviously you’d need to have a general degree to achieve the diploma but, it is unlikely that such a move can be practically implemented immediately. I believe that without a grace period of at least a year, many schools would lose their ESL teachers. And we both know this would cause a crisis in the industry.

Presently, teachers are given a two-year grace, typically to ‘gain experience’ but mostly to accommodate the many foreigners working as TEFL tutors. Another two years is granted on case-by-case basis if you’ve got a good track record. Most likely they will reduce this to only a single two-year temporary license waiver. This would give ample time for teachers, like you, to get the diploma.

You may be wondering by now; “Why they are doing this?” From what I have heard, one reason is ‘office politics’. All Thai teachers are expected to be properly qualified and should have a completed degree and sat diploma exams with internships. Ex-minister Chaturon recently said that there’s an oversupply of Thai teachers, with more than 60,000 graduating each year, allowing only 20,000 openings. The main reason for this being their jobs are being potentially taken by foreigners.

The most a teacher can expect to earn in a standard school is usually 15,000 baht or about $469. However, if a young, inexperienced, foreigner with a degree irrelevant to teaching and with no training shows up, they are expecting to get no less than 30,000 baht ($938.00). This makes it difficult since the schools do need foreign teachers. And to me, it’s a logical solution to demand that everyone gets a certificate in teaching. This will get rid of some of the displeasure felt among local teachers. If you’re serious about making a career out of teaching in Thailand you should consider spending a year studying part-time towards this post-grad qualification.

From the TCT site, the qualifications are summarized as follows: to get a permanent teacher’s license you must

However, since this is all new, to accommodate a huge demand for TEFL teachers and trainee teachers, a temporary license is issued if you fulfill the first two requirements. Luckily, this lasts for two years. As I previously mentioned, it typically can be extended for two more years, if you have a consistent record at a particular school.

Being Thailand, there is usually inconsistent information given out, arbitrary implementation of the restrictions, and anecdotal evidence of people being granted leniency. This makes it difficult for anyone to give an absolute guideline. But the message is clear; the Ministry would like all teachers to meet a minimum professional standard according to tertiary level institutions.

To be fully licensed as a teacher in Thailand you clearly need either a degree in education or post-grad teaching diploma. This is the challenge faced by any TEFL teacher who has been in Thailand for four years already. Many are now looking for options to satisfy this. There is, however, an alternative offered: the Professional Knowledge test.

This is a set of five tests which are periodically offered by the TCT, with suggested study material. It is a substitute for a diploma and can, theoretically, be completed in a matter of months. But in truth those who have taken it mostly find it frustrating, incoherent at times, and difficult to pass on the first attempt. Some pass a couple of the tests to satisfy authorities towards an extension. It is not really that useful outside of Thailand however. For the effort involved, it is probably wiser to study for a diploma from one of the institutions abroad offering a distance learning program. If you do pass the PK test you have the right to feel proud – it’s quite a bother. However, it is cheaper than studying for a diploma.

If you’re curious about TEFL, I could explain the standard 120-hour certificate commonly offered in Thailand. It carries no weight. However, recruiters do like to see that you’ve taken the trouble to learn TEFL teaching methods and will usually favor those with a recognized TEFL certificate. This is important especially if you are an inexperienced teacher. At the very least you should enter the profession with this training. The shorter online courses are not recommended since they lack the teaching practicum component.

I know you will do the right thing and do what is best for you, but I wanted to make sure this information was properly given to you. Please feel free to write back if you have any questions about this. Good luck with your endeavors and I look forward to helping you along the way!

Your Friend,

Edwina

Beth replied to this, asking about professional TEFL training in Thailand. Edwina’s response can be found here.

And here’s what a Thai teacher’s day looks like:

Here’s more reading if you want to teach English in Thailand

Now you know how to pick a course?

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