Teaching English in Bangkok

teaching-englishTeaching is a popular, and potentially lucrative, way of remaining in Thailand and a large proportion of expats and foreigners in Bangkok, and elsewhere, are employed in this way. You don’t need to be highly trained, as there are usually plenty of jobs to go around and teaching can be a fun and rewarding way to earn a modest living while living in Thailand.

Although Thai students are willing learners, polite and well disciplined, their education system and the simplicity of their own language makes it difficult for them to master English, plus the general standard of proficiency is quite low. Many students resort to taking additional classes, and most jobs are found with language schools, teaching in the afternoon and early evening, as well as at weekends. Fully qualified teachers can also score jobs in universities and private schools and often provide a Thai-speaking, Thai teaching assistant.

Because of the large number of jobs available, most schools aren’t too picky provided that you are presentable and reasonably professional. You don’t need to speak Thai – in fact using any language other than English in the classroom is discouraged – and a simple TEFL course is usually enough to secure an entry-level job. However, the Ministry of Education stipulates you have to have a degree and recognised TEFL qualification in order to apply for a work permit. In reality, many schools will hire Westerners on a part-time basis and you will be left to make regular visa runs under your own steam.

Rates of pay vary according to your level of experience and qualifications, who you are teaching, and the school you are with. There is quite a broad scale, with the better paying jobs going to the more senior and experienced teachers. You can expect a minimum of 250 baht an hour if you are just starting out and might land a job in a Thai school, or language school, with a poor reputation.

These jobs are often quite challenging as there are usually management and expectation problems, lack of direction, and lack of facilities. Around 300 to 400 baht an hour is more realistic if you are with a decent language school, and rates can go up to 500 baht per hour if you are mature and experienced. The most lucrative work involves teaching private students where, if you are lucky, you can talk your way into tutoring a rich family’s kids for 500 baht an hour or more. However, these jobs can be demanding and often involve more of a babysitting role than teaching. It is also important to remember that for every hour you spend in the classroom you should spend half an hour ‘prepping’, and even if course books are provided, lessons need to be well prepped in order to run smoothly.

What do I need to teach English?

Teaching isn’t for everyone and can be quite challenging if you do not have the confidence and patience to stand up in front of dozens of students and keep a class going for two hours. Training is essential and even if some schools aren’t fussy about the skills their recruits have, it pays to take a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course. Several institutes and schools in Bangkok offer a variety of TEFL courses and although they are useful in providing teaching advice and ideas, they may not be recognised outside of Thailand. The CELTA four-week course offered in Thailand by ECC is internationally sanctioned and is the benchmark qualification, although it is tough to pass and costs around US$1,600.

Generally speaking, a university degree is expected, but not always necessary, and even without experience you can expect to find a job teaching English in Bangkok within a couple of weeks. Presentation and attitude are far more important than experience and there is high competition for the better paying jobs. Teachers’ salaries aren’t very high here and the better language schools have seen plenty of ‘backpacking lifestylers’ in their time. If you fall into this category, then you will be competing with a number of experienced, well-mannered and professional language teachers who have been living and teaching in Bangkok for years.

Remember to dress smartly, be flexible, and also be committed to staying for a reasonable length of time. Some teaching schools in Bangkok offer the opportunity to work/teach while they study. The pay for such work is usually far below the teachers’ standard and the offer may seem a bit exploitative of someone for whom funds are tight. However, it can help you to gain experience in the classroom.

In the past, teachers without degrees and lacking teaching credentials have been able to purchase forgeries of these documents. While no doubt some successfully pull this off, you may be the unlucky recipient of a botched, low quality forgery, awarding yourself a degree in ‘socialology’, for example, which will not help your job prospects. Lately, the authorities have been clamping down on this (forging documents in Thailand is a big no no!) and offenders have been threatened with deportation.

Remember that while teaching English often gets branded as a job that anyone with an understanding of the language can do, an inexperienced teacher with no training can be spotted a mile off.

Where to find an English teaching job in Bangkok

Bangkok is a large city with plenty of opportunities for work, ranging from part-time entry-level work to full time posts at private schools for properly qualified career teachers. Here is a run down of the main options.

Teaching jobs in government schools in Bangkok:

Government-run schools are an option for those thinking of teaching English in Bangkok and there are English teaching jobs at both high school and elementary levels. These jobs have the benefit of paying on time and being secure, with most being Monday to Friday positions. However, the major drawback (or plus, depending on your perspective) is the sheer number of students and levels you will be required to teach in most cases. Classes of 50 students are not uncommon and you may be asked to teach all grade levels.

Not getting paid during term breaks and holidays is also a concern and something you should bear in mind when comparing different government school jobs. The pay isn’t great either, although consider that your meagre wage may equal that of the most senior Thai teacher – this can often cause friction. This is the full Thai experience, though, and can be a real cultural experience.

Language school jobs:

There are dozens of language schools in Bangkok, where locals can brush up on their English via private courses. There are some large English chains operating in Bangkok, although teaching jobs in these tend to be among the lowest paid, and as a result, it is easier to land a job. Though, in most cases, the number of teaching hours per week (and students) is less than at a government school, language schools are less of a sure bet in terms of payment and you will often have to work odd hours, including on weekends.

Corporate work:

Many companies include English training as part of their staff training and will often arrange for their employees to be taught either through a language school or by bringing a teacher onsite. These positions can be found both through the company itself and language schools – the latter arrangement means that language schools take a percentage of your earnings. Pay for these teaching jobs can be quite good, although it is difficult to rely solely on such work as it is often hard to come by, and when it does come, it usually ends after the run of a teaching contract.

Universities/international schools:

Those looking to start teaching English in Bangkok would do well to explore the opportunities at universities and international schools. While Bangkok’s top universities – such as Chulalongkorn, Mahidol and Thammasat – likely require you hold a Master’s degree, other universities hire teachers with a BA and teaching certificate, and in some cases the latter is not even required.

Where to look for a job teaching English in Bangkok:

Although those looking for teaching work may use the Bangkok Post, or Nation, newspapers as guides when looking for work teaching English in Bangkok, the majority of Bangkok’s low-paying chain language schools post ads here and often the other jobs on offer aren’t much better. A better idea is to use the www.ajarn.com website, which is the best resource on the Internet when it comes to listing a variety of teaching job prospects in Thailand.

Further reading…