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Where is the best place to do a TEFL course - Thailand or your own country?

posted on 31st May 2011

A good question that occasionally pops up on the ajarn discussion forum is "should I take a TEFL course in Thailand or in my home country (USA, England, etc)? I've noticed that the question never really gets a decent answer, so I turned to a dozen or so of Thailand's TEFL course providers and asked them for their input. First off, I didn't want this article to be crammed with ‘marketing speak' but a fair question deserves a fair answer. So here are ten reasons put forward as to why taking the course in Thailand could be a good move.

You'll familiarize yourself with the language difficulties that Thai students have.

I took a TEFL course many years ago at a language center in the middle of nowhere, Birmingham, England. I can still picture the group of ten students that were the ‘guinea pigs' for our observed teaching practice sessions.

There was a smashing fellow from Iran, who could barely string a four-word sentence together. There were a couple of Scandinavians, who were almost native speaker fluent - and a bunch of French and Spanish students who fell somewhere in the middle. As a teacher you had to prepare a ‘one-size-fits-nobody' lesson plan and just hope for the best. Some students found the lesson ridiculously easy, whilst other students (particularly the Iranian guy who just sat in a corner eating his pen) struggled throughout.

At least with a classroom full of young Thai students, all of your participants have more or less the same language ability. And you'll soon become familiar with common student errors. "I go to shopping" anyone?

You'll gain some knowledge of Thai culture

I've been here over 20 years and I'm still learning. I've committed major errors in Thai classrooms and the consequences have haunted me for days afterwards. Many Thailand TEFL courses include a Thai culture component, which is valuable even though you might have read an outdated guidebook and think you know it all. Thai culture can be an extremely complex animal.

Thailand is a relatively safe place to travel and study in and of course it's a nice environment.

Although the front pages of Thai newspapers are often splattered with photos of grisly murders and horrendous traffic accidents, these incidents very rarely involve foreigners. Thailand is still a relatively safe country to walk around in, especially for single females. Like anywhere else in the world, have a few too many sniffs of the barmaid's apron and stagger around unlit areas acting like a prat and trouble probably won't be that far away so yes, you'll need to bring common sense with you.

And of course Thailand is probably a nicer place to study in when compared to doing a month-long course in the rain and cold of an English January. I think we can all agree on that one.

Trainees are in a situation where they can research job opportunities and perhaps even attend interviews.

Although TEFL courses are hard work and don't allow trainees much in the way of free time, you're here in Thailand. You're on the ground. Job opportunities are going to pop up and you could be first in line to grab them with a personal phone call or a knock on the door. Or you might want to finish a TEFL course in London and then immediately start applying for Thailand teaching jobs. While you might not end up teaching here, you're certainly going to end up in a lot of e-mail spam folders.

Opportunity to mix with teachers who are in the same boat.

I always love the camaraderie and the social aspect of studying and participating in group courses. And with a group of TEFL course participants, you all have the same objective - to secure a decent teaching gig. On a TEFL course in Thailand, most participants will share the goal of eventually working in Thailand. Even your peers can be a valuable source of job and Thailand information. Perhaps you may have someone on the course who has already lived in Thailand for a length of time and has only just decided to train as a teacher. Perhaps they know of job opportunities in their own town or city?

You can experience first hand how certain methodology works (or does not work) with Thai students

To quote one of Thailand's TEFL course providers directly - "for the more serious teachers, the challenge of being in an ESL or EFL class in Thailand makes their learning to teach more effective because Thailand has never been colonized by an English speaking nation. Therefore teaching Thai students English as a foreign or second language is in the truest sense of the term what the job demands, especially due to the low level of English exposure. So you can see first hand how the teaching methodology, techniques and principles work or do not work.

Thai students are motivated to learn with trainee teachers

Every time I've watched a video or been there in person to see a trainee teacher conduct an observed class, the Thai students have always had fun. They always look extremely grateful for the opportunity to study with a friendly foreign face. A face they've never seen before.

New teachers are understandably nervous when they stand up in front of a large group for the first time with the eyes of the world on them, but young Thai students are never going to sit there with arms folded and insist on being entertained.

From what I've seen of this whole business, if I could choose my first ever group of students - they would be Thais. They are easily pleased. And for a teacher whose hands are shaking and whose knees are knocking - that's never a bad thing.

Cost of living is relatively cheap in Thailand

When I took my TEFL course, I was fortunate to have my parents' home to use as a crash pad. The only expenses I had was the daily bus fare to and from the training centre and some money for lunch in the school canteen. For many trainees this is probably not an option so they will need to factor in the cost of accommodation, meals and also transportation. Thailand can be great value for money on all those fronts!

Those trainees working in other Asian countries view Thailand as a nice break

Trainees can sometimes be westerners living in other Asian countries such as Japan or Korea, where the cost of living is much higher. Not only does Thailand offer a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo or Seoul but renting accommodation and feeding yourself are generally cheaper too.

The opportunity to combine study with a holiday either before or after the course

I always think this is a great idea. Why not take in a week or two of pure relaxation before you start your training course or better still, finish the program and treat yourself to a few weeks of travel in Thailand before you take up a teaching job. Obviously much depends on your financial situation in these cases.


Thanks very much for the info,
I’m a relatively new graduate from the CELTA course here and want to teach in Thailand. Australian by birth, fluent in English (with a South Australian accent, my home town), I have often thought about teaching in Thailan and but have not known how to do so, what the cost of living is like (cheaper than here which is good). and the suggestion travel there might be good before committing myself. All good advice. so thanks, cheers Kim

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Ajarn.com was started as a small hobby website in 1999 by Ian McNamara. It was a simple way for one Bangkok teacher to share his Thailand experiences and pass on advice. The website developed a loyal and enthusiastic following. In 2004, Ian handed over the reins to Phil Williams and 'Bangkok Phil' has run the ajarn website ever since.

Ajarn.com has grown enormously and is now the most popular TEFL site in Thailand - possibly even South East Asia. Although best-known for its vibrant jobs page, Ajarn has a wealth of articles, blogs, features and help and advice. But one principle has always remained at Ajarn's core - to tell things like they are and to do it with a sense of humor. Thailand can be Heaven or Hell for an English teacher. It's always been Ajarn.com's duty to present both sides of the equation. Thanks for stopping by.