Is it doom or gloom?
Is Thailand's TEFL market going to hell in a handbasket?
I've been teaching for over two years now in Hatyai and I am Filipino. It's true that most schools hire Filipinos because they can really save a lot compared if they will hire teachers from the West. Most of the teachers that I know graduated from top universities in the Philippines and I think we deserve better salaries compared to what we are getting now. Worse, we are not only paid lower than we deserve but we are treated unfairly just because we are not native speakers.
I think schools still prefer native English speakers over us but there are fewer qualified applicants due to the new rules. Some schools also claim that they are cost-cutting and hiring non-native speakers is a better alternative. The situation is getting worse each year and I don't think I'll be able to stay for another year. I don't really care about how much money I earn here but the way school administrators treat us is far below what I can take.
I somewhat unwisely, although voluntarily left my job of 3.5 years in February (09). Unlike years past, I haven't received any direct inquires recently stemming from Ajarn.com (if you discount China and Indo-China). Of the potential employers I have solicited (too numerous to mention) I've received three requests for interviews and from that offered two positions. Now being a degree holder with experience and no facial tattoos I'm surprised the ratio isn't much higher. The number of positions advertised is not down. I believe either the MOE is taking itself too seriously or schools have resolved themselves to the 'revolving door of backpackers' and non-native speaking crowd due to waning admissions (i.e. profits).
Dazed and Confused
I actually found the teaching world to open up to me substantially this time around. I had been teaching in Pattaya for only 3 months and I have the standard BA and TEFL. I was offered around 7 interviews and about 4 different jobs all paying in the 35000 range, after only a few months teaching. I found the response on ajarn to be good and the money was an improvement over Pattaya. I think a lot of the reason is that I'm a young (25) year old male who keeps getting told I'm handsome (I'll never believe it) Many schools are looking for a clean presentable falang to hold up to the parents more than a hard nosed experienced educator like they would want in the west. I have to say that flossy and moonbeam backpacking across the country are far less likely to be hired than a young person in business attire with a clean accent (i'm Canadian). So for me anyway it hasn't been doom and gloom but I feel bad for those who don't fit the stereotypical falang appearance (despite the fact that I'm half East Indian).
Yup, I'd say it's a bit of a dead duck until some hard evidence crops up on the forum to say otherwise. You may have seen one of my threads [on the ajarn forum] where I said that people are holding on to jobs for longer because they've got little to return home to and that there's an influx of freshly TEFLed backpackers who are escaping the recession back home. I've had three TEFL trainers in T'land tell me now that student figures are up. I think that a lot of these people are going straight to source [the nearest schools] and taking the first job that they're offered. Have I seen any evidence of this? Not in Isaan, but most of the jobs up here never make it to the job sites and newsletters.
Another forum poster did say that his hours had been cut somewhat, but this topic hasn't appeared elsewhere and he did say that it only affected 100% govt. schools that followed the MoE curriculum.
Thanks to my agent screwing things up with my old school downtown school, I have unexpectedly been back on the job market for the last month. I am considered by the Thais to be a good, experienced teacher, (I've been teaching here on and off for the last 2 years) but I have had zero responses through ajarn.com and only a couple of other offers through established connections. The alleged flood of well-qualified Filipinos (as someone claimed) into an already tight market seems to have increased the number of boxes necessary to be ticked before schools will call (me anyway) - unless you look young and are willing to work really cheap. Like every year actually, only far more so. Hopefully, a lot of the rookies and tourists will leave soon. I know things are usually crazy busy this month, but I'm sure everyone would appreciate it if a recruiter could provide some perspective on current trends. But perhaps they're all out hustling making pots of money as usual.
Truth hurts. Barb's comment below has been well suffered through by many teachers in Thailand past and present. Due to a plethora of factors ranging between negligence of medical reimbursement, to various open discrimination practices, this will be the last year which I will reside and be gainfully employed in Bangkok. Let us not forget to include the cornucopia of "recruiters", and "agencies" who regularly distort facts to fit their business needs at the teaching prospects expense. Thailand is the last place I would recommend anyone who is professional, wise, and willing to teach - to seek employment! There are exceptions, but I wish not to insult myself further by admitting I did not plan well enough to continue living and working here beyond three years.
A hospital bill less than 5,000 baht was not honored by an employer (widely respected and prestigious), forced an easy decision to resign on matters of principle soon after providing a full year of successful employment. The same employer reduced a native English speaker's salary, due to the fact they possessed Asian features because his mother and father were both from Vietnam. This person was born and raised in the United States, and is highly qualified and experienced to teach. And, most recently in another case, with a highly respected private school near Victory Monument, the recruiter after signing an all inclusive contract, backed out on smaller classroom size, additional weekend work, and boarding constraints. You may read the attached e-mail for reference, but please do not include it in this letter to be posted on Ajarn.com.
"There is always something better and or worse, but getting to the truth..." and, anyone who's lived and worked in Thailand can finish that sentence however they think is appropriate.
I agree with many of Barb's comments written below. Due to a plethora of factors ranging between employer negligence of medical reimbursement, to various open discrimination practices, this will be the last year which I will reside and be gainfully employed in Bangkok. Besides the schools themselves, let us not forget to include the cornucopia of "recruiters", and "recruiting agencies" who regularly distort facts to fit their business needs at the teaching prospects expense. Thailand is the last place I would recommend anyone who is professional, wise, and willing to teach young adults - to seek employment!
I experienced a few incidents with employers which affected my opinion negatively about most government school's administrations general ethics towards its employees. In December 2008 I had an overnight hospital bill, which was less than 5,000 baht, and it was never reimbursed by a widely respected and prestigious employer. I decided to finish the semester and resign on matters of principle. The same employer reduced a native English speaker's salary, due to the fact he possessed Asian features since his parents were both from Vietnam. This person was born and raised in the United States, and is highly qualified and experienced to teach. The school said "you are one of us", as the reason why he should earn less pay than the native speakers of English, who had Caucasian features.
Finally, I recently had a contract being negotiated with a highly respected private school near Victory Monument. After signing the contract, the recruiting agency backed out of the agreement because they could not guarantee smaller class size, week days only, visa, and boarding on campus until second semester. All of which was revealed on Sunday 10 May 2009. The contract was signed by all parties on 16 March 2009.
"There is always something better and or worse, but getting to the truth is..." and, anyone who's lived and worked in Thailand can finish that statement however they think is appropriate.
Phil, there has been a dramatic tightening of the market for English teachers in the past four months. Having looked at the job postings frequently over the past year from Jan 2008 - Jan 2009, I have seen a noticeable drop in the number of openings plus a change in requirements unrelated to qualifications. Unfortunately, I was not able to apply for a job at the time due to recovery from a knee surgery and fracture.
I believe the situation is that there may be a shortage of teachers who fit the demographic of what the schools in Bangkok want.... even though I have been told that I have more credentials and qualifications then 90% of the people teaching in Thailand - I have a real bachelor's and master's degree from top colleges, an adult ed teaching credential backed by teaching experience, experience teaching ESL in a foreign country (Mexico), two years experience as an ESL teacher (and Business English teacher) teaching non-native college level students in US, a 120-hr TEFL certificate, secondary teaching experience in the US, and twenty years business management experience-- apparently this experience means nothing when applying for jobs here.
On interviews I am asked if I have an education degree. I feel like asking them, can you read? If that is what you wanted, then why did you call me in for an interview?
In addition I have great technical skills having worked in the software industry (and also have several industry computer certifications). BUT this is apparently the deal breaker--I AM A 55 YEAR OLD WHITE WOMAN. Several positions on ajarn and elsewhere have specifically asked for a male, under 50 to teach business classes (as if there were no Thai women CEOs). Several Thai universities have posted positions for lecturers up to age 45. Yes, age discrimination apparently is rampant here in Bangkok.
I took a TEFL course just to get a one-year non-immigrant B visa, I listed with the Ajarn resume service and was offered (insulted with) 3 jobs at 28-30,000 baht with no benefits, which I politely turned down. Younger people in my class with no degrees and absolutely no teaching experience received job offers of 34 - 40,000 baht. After applying for over thirty jobs ranging from mathayom to university level, I have had four extensive interviews in Bangkok besides the initial low-ball job offers extended (without anything more than a 5-minute phone interview).
I was offered two jobs; one fell through because the person I was to replace did not leave [because his new job offer fell through and they took him back] and at the second the school did not get the expected funding-- both offers were retracted. One job supposedly is still pending. They seem to be waiting for the red and yellow shirts to reconcile I think. I am tired of hearing Thailand needs qualified teachers. They may need them but the reality is they appear to only want to hire qualified entertainers under age 40 to babysit their students from my job hunting experience. I am eagerly looking towards Vietnam and Korea where the pay is higher and the students appear to be more interested in actually learning. The recruiters I have spoken with have said as long as you are under 60 it's not a problem. The money and time I invested in Thai language classes won't be wasted I guess. If I decide to come back for a vacation, once I have moved on, I'll be able to speak the language.
I must admit my situation is a lot different to most teachers. I quit my job last year as Head of Teaching Department at a Bangkok language school because the people running it had never even seen an English lesson, let alone taught one. It was a case of too much money and no sense whatsoever. The owner's Thai wife ran the business into the ground and now it is being sold.
I live just outside Bangkok and have a fully equipped classroom in my house and I also teach online. I was doing ok before this credit crunch, but now I am getting busier because students don't want to travel to Bangkok and pay 1,000 Baht plus per period for English classes, which does not include petrol and motorway expenses. So I charge them less and keep all the money myself (apart from taxes). It's a win-win situation.
My feeling about the "Gloomy Outlook" for foreign teachers in Thailand is: It depends who you talk to and what their modus operandi is regarding employment. Some foreign teachers have a lousy work ethic and are usually the ones shouting the loudest about the gloomy outlook for jobs since they can't seem to hold down a decent position at the school or agency where they work. You reap what you sow, you know (I'm a poet and don't know it )
As with any foreigner who has been in the TEFL field for a while, I have a small network of friends and acquaintances who are teachers and share their feedback on such matters. The feedback so far has been relatively positive here in Southern Thailand. I don't think there is a shortage of jobs so much as there are fewer schools actively advertising their need for native English speakers. One of the reasons for this, of course, is too many replies from "non-native speakers," specifically Filipinos.
For a while I was struggling to find work simply because the school where I had been working for the past four years decided not to renew their contract with the agency I had been working for because the agency changed ownership and the new Thai owners have run the agency into the ground. But, I was eventually hired by the school where I'd worked for the last four years, simply because they didn't want to lose me. Now, I'm bringing in a salary that I never thought possible while working for the agency. I think the picture is far rosier, Phil, than what you are painting at least down here in the South. In the short time I was looking for another job, I found there really was no shortage of jobs but rather a shortage of institutions advertising for foreign teachers.
I think there will always be plenty of job opportunities in Thailand for foreign teachers, but not so for teaching agencies. Many schools here in the south are fed up with having to pay exorbitant amounts of money to teaching agencies who merely provide a warm body and who don't follow true TEFL principles. I also feel that if you are a foreign teacher, enjoy teaching in Thailand, have a good work ethic and remain dedicated to your work, you will definitely reap what you sow.
There are not too many new teaching positions here in the Chiangrai/Chiangmai area. Some of the native English speaking teachers have left because of the frustration of getting a teaching license, others because the school has told them they don't have the budget to keep them. I know several teachers that have gone to other countries to work where they are paid better and have fewer hassles with visas, work permits and teachers license.
Having lived and worked in the Kingdom for six years I do have a number of Thai teacher friends. Several of them have confided to me that their schools do have the money in their budgets for native English speakers but the school administration decided to hire Filipino teachers for less money. When asked if the surplus money would be used for something else or go into someone's pocket they just smiled, shrugged their shoulders and looked away.
I also know several dozen Filipino teachers here. They are all dedicated, hard working people. Yet there are some whose English skills are poor. Obviously this does not benefit the students they teach. This brings to mind the question of why they were hired in the first place. I think all who read this know the answer to that.
Does the global economic downturn effect teachers here? To a certain extent it does. Is corrupt school administrators pocketing more a factor? Without a doubt. Perhaps you agree with this, perhaps not.
It does seem that the so-called global economic crisis and the local political crises have hit the teaching profession in Thailand. I worked for over a year for a very well-known language school in central Bangkok. Feeling it was time for a change and tired of being indoors in air con from 9 am to 9 pm, I took a six month contract in Vientiane, Laos. When I left Bangkok, I received strong encouragement from the management to return whenever I was ready.
Contract over, I wrote to the school in February and was told enrollment was way down and it was not the best time to return. A month later, I decided to return to Bangkok and arranged an interview with management. They told me that the enrollment had dropped significantly and they could offer me only a few classes a week -- not enough to survive in the big city. Further, the branch -- which had been the best earner for the company -- had lost money the previous month for the first time since opening. Things had gotten so bad, I was told, that the company was considering closing 3 of the lowest earning branches. From several other teachers, I learned that the Corporate Training Department in particular and Business English classes in general were really feeling the pinch as companies were not renewing or starting new contracts for employee training. Sadly, while teacher friends were happy to see me on a personal level, it seems that if I were to return, I would be "stealing" classes from them as there were not enough students enrolled.
I also interviewed for corporate and Business English teaching with another reputable company but was told that despite the fact that I was a top candidate, they would not be able to offer a visa or work permit until I had completed three months of teaching. I was being asked to teach illegally for three months for only a few hours a week of work and no long-term guarantee. Further, I have read several places that any work outside the physical location where the teacher is registered is illegal. Corporate classes often require the teacher to go to the business -- and this is apparently illegal.
Interestingly, in the past few months, I have visited several villages where local people have requested that I stay and teach their communities. At 100 Baht per student per hour, they could organize classes of kids, teens, and adults sufficient to provide a comfortable living. One village was very rural, located near Nong Khai; the other was a housing development comprised mostly of employees of factories in Rayong province.
It seems the interest in English courses is there among Thais and though there is less money available, they still are willing to invest in their future. The Rayong community felt that a typical family could afford to put up 2000 baht per month for classes.
The legal issues of visas, work permits, teaching certifications, etc. inhibit teachers from taking on freelance work. Until I can work out a legal sponsor for the paperwork, I have reluctantly had to decline all this potentially lucrative and interesting work.
I believe it is getting tougher for teachers who do not have any qualifications. With the large influx of Filipino teachers coming to Thailand now, unless you can stand out above them, you will be overlooked. In saying that, if you are qualified you have a wealth of choices. For example, the university I teach at has just hired a Filipino at 30,000 a month because there were no suitable native speaker applicants. It's not that jobs are drying up, but schools are pickier when choosing staff. It really was only a matter of time.
What I'd be interested to know is if the number of applicants for each job has actually increased? I found a new job this year and I went for two interviews. Both jobs had been posted on Ajarn and they had both been repeat posts. When I went for the interviews I got the feeling that both schools had been finding it difficult to find suitably qualified native speakers. They had stacks of applications from Filipino teachers but very few from native speakers. And a lot of the applicants from native speakers emailed their CV but never showed for an interview. Both schools are running EPs and wanted all native speakers but both schools currently have a 50-50 split between native speakers and Filipino teachers.
Perhaps with all that has happened here plus the introduction of the Thai culture course and teachers licence is hitting recruitment. It seems to me that teachers who are already established here aren't changing schools as often as they used to and new teachers coming in are a bit thin on the ground.
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I have taught in Thailand for 3 years now.So far,as per my own observation,I don't think there's a decline in the need for foreign teachers in the kingdom. Schools,colleges and universities are implementing MOE's new requirements for foreign teachers making it quite impossible for non degree holders to land a position irregardless if you are a native or a non native speaker.
What really matters now is an applicant's qualification as well as capabilities to teach Thai students.
As for non native speakers like me, it is always a challenge to improve and learn more of the English language. It is a skill that has to be honed for even the brightest native speaker commits errors and mistakes in using their own language.
By Pearl of the Orient, Thailand (1st April 2010)
Attention teachers who are called 'handsome' in an interview!!! This is Thai small talk and not a guarantee for a job offer. In Pattaya, any Western man is called 'handsome' if he appears to be carrying a wallet. Get over yourselves and how far 'handsome' will win the day in an interview.
Salaries have declined in Thailand over the past several years to the point where some salaries are reaching parity with Thai teacher salaries. Hours are longer, extra duties have increased, and some schools are loathe to pay vacation time salary for ajarn falang. In addition, employment agencies have put a stranglehold on many schools, and these cheap and unscrupulous agencies withhold 30% a month of a teacher's salary while providing NOTHING in return. Many schools' front doors are now closed to walk-in applicants because of these agency leeches. Good luck if you want to experience Thai culture as ajarn falang. Hopefully, you have a nice trust fund to provide additional living expense money because the salaries in Thailand, especially Bangkok, will now marginalize the enjoyment you'd hope to gain from working in this interesting country.
By Guy Mandude, usa (21st March 2010)
I have never, in my 12 years as an educator in Bangkok, seen the job market so low-end, depressed and stagnant. It is absolutely frightening.
My brief background: B.Ed. + M.Ed. + U.S. state teaching certification + Cert.TESOL + 25 years experience in education.
At the end of last school year, I left a lead position (Head Teacher/Head of Department) at an international secondary school in Bangkok (one of the 'real ones') after having taught there for 8 years. I simply felt the need for a change and did not even look at the economic climate before making my decision... and this was a HUGE mistake. I've been unemployed ever since and my savings are starting to run low.
True, I've received offers for very poor paying jobs, but nothing even remotely close to what I was doing/making before. Although well-qualified and experienced, I'm not that old (under 50) and so I cannot see this being a factor. Naturally, being someone with 'leadership' experience, I'm well-dressed and well-skilled with interviewing, etc. I don't smoke; I don't drink (outside of moderate social stuff); I'm clean-cut and I'm not even strictly targeting international schools, but yet I'm getting no serious interest when it comes to anything over mere slave wages. ZIP.
I'm really starting to wonder if it is my level of experience and education that is actually holding me back. Could this even be possible in a country that claims to be trying to better their educational system? I really don't know, but I am seriously concerned and more than a little depressed.
By Frank Lee Speaking, Bangkok (6th March 2010)
I would like to endorse some of Barb's comments from her article. I have just finished a four year stint teaching English at a middle tier International School in Bangkok, where I was Director of Studies for the past two years.
I've got over twenty years experience teaching English and Modern Languages in the UK and five years teaching EFL in Asia, all in government schools. I'm a qualified teacher with a PGCE, but no TEFL qualification, because, working in government schools, the requirement was for a PGCE not a TEFL.
I felt now was the right time to change jobs and I've been looking in Thailand and beyond.
I've applied for numerous jobs, all of which I was suitably qualified and experienced for. Result - ZILCH.
Now here's the rub- I'M 57 YEARS OLD!
When I came to Asia five years ago, I was offered every job I applied for, even though I had no real EFL experience.
Now, five years older, nothing.
All of which leads me to two conclusions-that the job market is certainly far more competitive than it was five years ago and that teachers are more likely to be judged by their lack of grey hair rather than their ability to do the job.
By Charlie, Bangkok (19th February 2010)
I don't think the teaching market is down at all in Thailand. I stopped teaching permanently last year (working for a US company now) and am 50 years old yet still get job offers every week from people who heard of me from ex-students. Even had a call from my old school last month, who cannot find any qualified teachers for their openings. I think jobs are definitely down for those who are unqualified (and that's most of the 'teachers' here from my experience) but for those of us with university degrees, TEFL certification and several years experience teaching in Thailand, I haven't heard of anyone having a problem getting a job.
It's been in the news for the last couple of years that unqualified teachers would not find it so easy to get a job, so I'm surprised that people on Ajarn are surprised. Maybe go back to your own country and get properly qualified just like teachers in the rest of the world?
By Renee, Bangkok (29th January 2010)
I have been told that the job market for qualified TEFL teachers has been declining in the past few months, but I haven't had a problem yet. I moved to Thailand in October 2009 and I got a job through a placement agency. Turns out they contracted me to be paid 26000/mo but my school only gives me 18000/mo, so I began searching for new work after only a couple of weeks in Thailand. I sent out only one application, for a teaching position at Rajabhat University, and got one interview and got the job which pays 35000/mo. There was one other applicant for the job; a middle aged (40) British man with over five years of teaching experience in Thailand. I was surprised they hired me over him. Like others have said before me, I think I was hired based on my "look" rather than my credentials. I have a BA in English, I have a "clean" American accent, I just turned 24 years old, and many Thai people call me handsome, although I am not sure why. Other factors that helped include my willingness to stay in Thailand (I would like to be here for a few years, maybe even longer), and the fact that I was already living in the area. Jobs are out there, but you really have to play into the Thai discrimination game. It may be an unfair system, but I can't complain.
By Calan K, Chachoengsao (20th January 2010)
The TEFL job market has been dead in Thailand since 2008. Of course,you'll reach this conclusion when you compare job opportunities for English teachers with other countries. If you are thinking about coming to Thailand to teach English, think twice. It's very hard to find teaching jobs,here and salaries are really low in comparison with some other countries like Korea,Taiwan,Japan,...Good luck
By Martin, Bangkok,Thailand (14th January 2010)
I am teaching at a government school of 2600 students in a rural area in Isaan. On the first day of this school year the Director told me of budgetary problems which he foresaw as a result of a change of policy (presumably the MOE). This policy dictates that the school is not to ask parents for money for any reason - books, extra-curricular activities, or for paying contract teachers etc...(my salary has come from this source). This resulted in me receiving only half of my salary for the month of November, and the annual school English Camp excursion (March) is unlikely to proceed.
This policy, I believe, will result in a large fall in the number of native speaking teachers employed in the Kingdom by government schools. Given that demand for tuition by native speakers is still there, I think many of us will be freelancing in the near future. If the government schools cannot provide the facility, the void will be filled with private lessons.
By John , Changwat Nong Bua Lamphu (12th January 2010)