I got the following letter from Marvin in Bangkok. It's obviously written with a certain degree of frustration at the current TEFL job situation in Thailand.
I have to say the majority of the jobs coming through right now are shite. Are these people serious? 20,000 baht a month for a native English speaker!!! What is going on with this country? All the good jobs seem to be going to those with education degrees and younger people with very little experience from what I have seen. I know some teachers with eight years experience struggling to get jobs. It seems to me that they should add what is really required in this country to their job descriptions - to be young, good looking and no experience required. As long as you look good, you'll go far. I honestly think Thailand is taking the wrong route and they are going to be losing a lot of good teachers in the future.
Well. I'm never one to shy away from chipping in my two cents and commenting on an interesting viewpoint. I'm assuming first off that when Marvin says ‘the majority of the TEFL jobs coming through right now are shite" he's not just referring to the many jobs on ajarn.com, but on Thailand TEFL job sites in general.
I started by having a quick look at the 302 job ads currently displayed on ajarn.com.
The part-time stuff
31 of those jobs (roughly 10%) were for part-time, hourly paid work ranging from 200 baht to 700 baht an hour. Let's get those out of the way first if we're going to do a proper analysis of the current job market / jobs on offer and find out truly if most of the jobs are indeed........ shite.
Disturbingly, only 10 of those 31 part-time jobs pay 500 baht an hour or more. I tend to use 500 baht an hour as the yardstick because it's the absolute minimum amount of money I would be willing to get out of bed for - certainly if it's for something where say I'm going to be doing three or four hours in one day at a private language school. If it's a case of evening corporate work, then even 500 baht an hour is nowhere near enough. Believe it or not, teachers were earning 500 baht an hour for teaching company staff way back in the mid-90s. I know - I was one of them.
As for those schools still paying 200 baht an hour. Shame on you. What world are you living in? I know this is Thailand and all that but 200 baht an hour is the equivalent of four quid. That's nigh on 50% lower than the minimum hourly wage in the UK - a wage I would get for serving customers in an all-night petrol station or shoveling shit in the car-park behind Poundstretcher. But we're talking about professional teachers here right?
The waters tend to get muddied a little if it's actually a full-time job quoted at an hourly rate rather than a monthly salary. But 300 baht an hour is still on the low side I feel. Even if you were doing 20 contact hours a week (80 contact hours a month) you would only end up with 24,000 baht a month. Not a great salary at all. Certainly not one you can build any kind of future around.
The full-time stuff
Of the remaining 270 ‘full-time' job ads on ajarn.com, where presumably every teacher gets paid a monthly salary, only 40 jobs (15% of the ads) paid above 40,000 baht a month. Again, for me at least, 40,000 baht is a significant figure because I consider it the minimum salary that you need to have to have something approaching a decent lifestyle - especially if you live in Bangkok. Anything under 40,000 baht a month - when you weigh up accommodation costs, laundry bills, utility bills, food costs, the odd weekend away (why shouldn't you be entitled to those?) and the odd flight back home to see the family - is purely survival money.
I know there are plenty of teachers who will disagree with me. And many of those teachers working in the more rural areas of Thailand will say "40,000 baht a month! You can live like a king up here on that kind of dough"
It's certainly a very contentious issue.
But so many folks need a good reality check. Earning 30,000 baht a month, spending that 30,000 baht a month and ‘living like a king' is one thing, but does that money allow you to put something away for the future and your long term security? Or are you doing this teaching thing for a few years and then going back home and hoping that potential employers see a 25-year-old with a four year gap in his resume in a positive light? These are serious questions that any young teachers in Thailand have to ask themselves. And very few do.
I've gone off on a tangent but if we're seriously going to answer the burning question - are most of the jobs coming through shite? - then money and salary are always going to have the last word. No matter how much you love your students and no matter how well your school takes care of you - you can't survive on fresh air.
I'm still a big believer in the old adage - the best jobs are never advertised. This is why cold-calling schools and simply knocking on doors can be a great approach if you are willing to spend the time doing it and be prepared for a few knockbacks.
Personally, I know of several teachers who one day found themselves walking past some impressive school gates, got the security guard to escort them to the admin office - and with a combination of smiles, wais and a nicely typed resume, ‘sweet-talked' themselves into a 50K teaching job. It can be done. Believe me.
Jobs at international schools
You'll never see the truly ‘great' teaching jobs on ajarn.com - or any Thailand TEFL job website for that matter. These are the jobs at the top international schools with their six-figure salaries and eye-watering benefit packages. Those positions, from what I'm led to believe, are only filled via recruitment fairs abroad. And they only go to the most qualified applicants anyway.
In several conversations I have had with various international school recruitment staff, selecting staff from the ‘Thailand teacher pool' is actually considered to be too risky. Many of these top international schools simply don't trust the motives of single gentlemen who have decided to make Thailand their home. Sexist? Harsh? You be the judge.
What's crazy about this recruitment policy - as the recruiters have freely admitted to me - is that hiring directly from overseas invariably leads to a high teacher turnover. Many recruits are sucked in by the lure of teaching English in an exotic land, only to arrive and find the weather is too hot, the air is too polluted and the food is too spicy. This is not the Thailand they imagined as they flicked through the pages of a glossy brochure at a recruitment fair in New York or London.
So, does a salary of 30K a month put that job firmly into the ‘shite job' category? There's no straightforward yes or no answer to that question. There are too many variables. Everyone has different objectives and different lifestyles. We've all worked in teachers' rooms where even though everyone earns the same salary, there are guys who seem to be forever partying and enjoying weekends away, while other guys are living on tinned tuna and cup noodles and constantly tapping up colleagues for ‘500 baht until Friday' as each month draws to a close. And let's not forget the semi-retired guys who aren't teaching for the money but see a few hours in a classroom each week as purely 'something to keep them busy'. Yes, those guys are around.
In my opinion, one of the worst things to hit the Thailand teaching profession over the past few years has been the introduction of the ten or eleven-month contract. This borders on pure evil. There was a time when contracts of less than a year were virtually unheard of and most, if not all teachers, enjoyed a couple of months paid holiday as part of their contract. But nowadays, a 35K a month job will sometimes only keep you going for 10 months. So that becomes a 350k a year job divided by twelve months in a year. Oh, my monthly salary just went down to 29,166 baht. Khob Khun Khap.
Many schools get around the ten or eleven-month contract by promising the teacher summer courses and extra classes that will tide them over the fallow period. "Maybe you will earn the equivalent of your monthly salary, perhaps you will earn even more" is the familiar line. I don't know about you though, but I've never felt comfortable building a life around promises and maybes - especially in a country like Thailand. Imagine being the kind of person who lives a month to month existence and then being told that summer courses are cancelled or reduced due to a lack of enrolment. Two holiday months with very little cash coming in. It doesn't bear thinking about.
So back to Marvin and his original question again - "the majority of teaching jobs coming through are shite"
Yes or no? Over to you.