Ajarn Street

25K a month? You must be joking

Surely you can't live on such a pitiful salary.

I have lived and taught here in Thailand since early 1998. The salaries leave us living from month to month even if we adjust to a moderate lifestyle. Like so many other farongs in Thailand I am always amazed at how such an incredibly kind and generous people such as the Thais can be so incredibly selfish when it comes to the sharing of their wealth. So many claim that Thailand is a "poor developing nation"....yeah right !!!! How many Mercedes Benz cars do we see driving around the nation, nice houses, nice clothes, eat out almost every night, laundry ladies, servants....a lot of wealth here. The fact is, the rich are completely unwilling to spread the wealth around. They have a "user" attitude towards employees....both Thai and Falang. We are their ticket to the "cash cow". We are all fools. We support and encourage the temporary "backpacker" teachers at our own demise. As long as we provide an easy source of unqualified and unprofessional so-called "teachers" then we will all pay the price. I believe the best course of action is to only advertise jobs on Ajarn.com that pay a minimum salary (30-35,000 does sound OK) and boycott posting all other jobs. On the resume "teachers available" postings, set up a format that includes qualifications and references. Yes this can be circumvented but at least some honest and qualified people will be able to compete with the deadbeats that are lowering the salaries for all of us and creating a mindset amongst the Thais the we are disposable and replaceable at the drop of a hat. What we need is a unified front and a common objective that benefits both the best employers and the best teachers. Get rid of the rest. OK....enough said. Good luck with your efforts. Have a great day.

You don't know me, but I saw your invitation to comment on farong teacher salaries and couldn't resist suggesting the following acronym for any site That might evolve out of this topic: The State of Salaries (SOS).

But on a more serious note, I don't see a way to change the pay scale as long as there is a ready supply of teachers willing to work at the current rates. The manipulation of supply and demand is accomplished by most professions through licensing schemes. However, it doesn't seem to me as though farong English teachers in Thailand are part of a profession. I guess it is more of a trade. But, never the less, it is a pseudo-profession and it is ruled by the 'certifying authorities.'

The certifiers will sell a certificate to anyone that can pay their fees. Something along the lines of "Those that can certificate, certify. Those that can't, teach". That certifying bunch is laughing all the way to the bank.In all fairness, I do think that the certification process, as it exists today, is of some use. What I'm suggesting is that meaningful change in the area of salaries will necessitate modifying the certification process.

A recent posting on the ajarn.com job board is promoting a 'partnership' of corporate teacher/trainers. That venture may prove to be of some interest. However, it is not addressing the issue of salary rates. It is, rather, trying to maximise income by reducing overhead in a variety of ways.

You may have noticed my many posts on this board ranting about the pathetic salaries offered English teachers in Thailand. By acknowledging this problem you have already taken an important step. Here are a few additional ideas.

Educate recruiters at the various language schools. Are employers aware of the benefits of investing in a trained teacher, or at least employing someone with a commitment to teach?

Do not provide a forum for schools with ridiculous compensation packages. I would be willing to bet that most schools that advertise on the 'Ajarn.com' website gauge what to pay a teacher based on what the competition is offering. It then becomes a vicious cycle!

Lets agree on what's considered an acceptable salary range for TEFL/TESL teachers. Does the teacher have a degree? An teaching certification? or is their only qualification that they are a native speaker?

I don't have the answer to lifting pay scales for various foreign teachers, but I would like to request some sort of code to designate what the schools are actually paying. I have interviewed in several schools recently for international primary teacher. Problem was, not ethically valid to ask before an interview is granted what they pay. So you go, waste, time money, energy getting out to these far flung schools and when they ask "what kind of pay are you looking at", their eyes pop out when you tell them 100000 baht or more. One offered me "maybe 65000". This was a school that is due to start its first year in August. There are many new schools opening this year. The administrators haven't a clue as to the difference of opening a school and getting it accredited and running correctly, and an established school. Teachers and admin people at the schools should be asking salary requirements before they give an interview......it would save them time too. Perhaps a letter next to a school name to denote a pay range, like Siam International School - Range "C".......A - could be 10000 - 20000 baht, B - 20000 - 40000 C- 40000 - 60000 D - 60000 - 80000 E - 80000 - 100000 etc. I don't know what would work. It would save me given administrators a heart attack when I tell them what I would like for pay. It seemed they already had negotiated the wage each time before I was even asked
Anyway, this is why teachers teach elsewhere I guess (we are not all money-mongers, but we don't have a Thai family to fall back on when we retire). I will be going back to teach in Alaska...not that I want to, but not much luck here with being honest at interviews with 'what I think I am worth'

Good idea to be a little more discerning regarding the quality of jobs that ajarn will post.

A minimum, and reasonable, amount should be a pre-requisate. But, please remember to take into account where the job is located.

I would give my left nut for a 25,000 Baht/month job right now, but I am in Khon Kaen and have heard that this is more than reasonable for a greenhorn such as myself. Possibly there could be 3 post pages. One for decent jobs in Bangkok, one for 'the Sticks' and another for all of the shit ones combined. Just a suggestion.
hi phil...i've got no idea how we can work together to change these pathetic salaries...i'm still green in the teaching profession, and it's not for want of trying...ok, for a start, i am still a student, so even with a tefl, could still be in the lower salary range, but i am mature, responsible, presentable, reliable, professional, intelligent and capable...and won't work for inlingua (that's between you and me), an international, "reputable" language school, for an insulting 220 baht per hour...am i desperate??? i mean, if i keep knocking back these ridiculous offers, i will indeed become desperate...but some unshaven, uncouth sex tourist with a degree from the university of koh sarn road will anyway get there before me, in effect robbing me of my paltry 220 baht plus sneaky, just as paltry, end of course bonuses to make it look like you're earning more...i genuinely want to develop my english teaching experience, but if i wanted to do it for free, i'd be in some poor dusty village in the middle of africa, not bangkok...and i still have the bloody problem of not being able to teach adult or corporate classes cos i'm too young, too pretty...but that's a different story...i am even considering dodgy jobs for a bit (yup, telesales) cos it's better paid and i can still justify it to myself by "well, it's a learning experience"...and at least when i do get that 450baht per hour corporate class, i'll be able to say "financial consultancy, offshore banking, tax-efficiency, commission, incentives"...etcetc... the point is, as i'm sure you well know, the situation will never change so long as there are farang in thailand desperate to stay here, doing anything to stay here... as for me, i have to keep my options open, and go where the money is...i don't need much, but i like to be paid what i'm worth... all i can suggest is keeping my fingers crossed...

As a Director of Studies of a major institute in Thailand, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the issues of the low payment that many English instructors complain about on your web site.

The first issues to realize are: Thailand is more or less a poor and developing country yet and doesn't have the huge budgets, salaries and company profits found in western countries.

We have many highly educated Thais merely earning 9,000 to 15,000 Baht per month for working 10 to 12 hours a day and without receiving any overtime payment.

In my past 10 years of doing business in Thailand, I have met and interviewed hundreds of unqualified English instructor applicants that never attended any type of upper education, more than attending high school.

So, I wonder how these English instructors can expect to make double or triple the amounts of salaries of the educated and experienced Thais for just walking into a class unprepared, late, and dominating the class by speaking about what they enjoy most, just to waste the two hours of the class to get paid and without having any outcome or student advancement once the course has been completed?

In most cases, after the training course has been completed, the students cannot communicate any better than when the class began. Why?

I would have to say that 90% of the so called English instructors teaching for most schools in Thailand are not really professionally skilled instructors. In many cases, they can't even spell their own language well and are not able to teach the staff or student the actual way of communication.

The English instructors just follow the provided textbook to teach the students more and more useless English grammar, since it is easy to teach without putting any efforts into getting people to learn the language as we learned it. We didn't learn to speak English by following textbooks based on grammar, did we?

It takes a lot of effort and input to teach a language, which requires an outgoing person to perform the training well and an instructor with the skills of actual teaching which cannot be acquired by taking a useless 120 hour TEFOL course offered by many hungry institutes. I know that is takes at least of 8 years of university to become a teacher in a western country, so how can is be learnt in 120 hours? And as we all know, not everyone walking the streets of Thailand is a born teacher, a doctor or a lawyer, so how can we presume that any person that comes to Thailand is a qualified teacher? It's just an acquired job that most English teachers become by moving to Thailand to earn a living.

Think of this, maybe those low paid English teachers should consider making more money by becoming a doctor in Thailand. They could begin the same way as they became an over night English teacher, just walk into a hospital and I say "I am a highly experienced Doctor" and I can practice on your patients well. Ha ha.

The second point of the low payment issue. Many Thai companies and students have had some type of English training in the past, and they were probably trained by these inexperienced so-called English teachers, therefore not advancing to a higher level of communication.

The companies or staffs have tried so many schools in hopes to receive good communication skills as promised they would at every school and have discovered that most schools and teachers follow the same pattern. Since the English instructors go around from school to school and company to company providing the same type of poor training.

And nowadays those companies cannot justify paying high rates of tuition for receiving the same type of poor training and as a result, it has become harder and harder for our sales staff to convince the companies that we can offer better training than their last institute did. Would you pay for a high priced dinner, knowing you are going to get a McDonalds hamburger? I don't think so.

Another fact, there are hundreds of hungry schools operating around Thailand and new ones being opened each month which has made a great amount of competition.

In the last few years we all had to lower our hourly training rate from 1,500 Baht per hour to less than 1,000 Baht per hour.

If you would take out your calculators to do some simple math, you will see how much profit is left over for the institute after paying 30% income taxes to the Thai government, the high cost of rent, utilities, the needed Thai staff and other expenses to remain in business. And also having to survive through the lean times of the year. So how can we afford to pay the instructor more than they are earning?

I would really like to suggest that the English instructors that feel they are not earning enough salary, pick and go back home instead of wasting their time here, since the rates can not ever go up to please their needs.

Certainly you have support from me.

The employers have certain amounts of networking. They can follow up people; why can't we? I know a lot of disgruntled teachers.

On the other hand, things are rather fluid with a high turnover of Teachers. This is an employers' market with workers the meat in the sandwich - we are very replaceable and basically of no inmportance. Your good idea will fall short of slowing down the unscrupulous because there are any amount of canon-fodder teachers to take up the slack.

There's the weak link (us!!).

Let me start by saying that I am all for raising the profile and standards of English teaching in this country. You would know better than most of us I'm sure that it is long overdue. Whilst I can imagine that 25,000 is peanuts in Bangkok and is only going to attract monkeys I have taught for just over a year in the south of Thailand (Trang) and this is more than adequate in my humble opinion. So while I agree that for a qualified and experienced teacher in Bangkok should be at least on a minimum of 30,000+ 25,000 is acceptable in small provincial towns in the south and upcountry.

I'm sure you have a thought about this, but how do you try and eliminate that backpacker type teacher who is just trying to extend their holiday and is willing to accept these 300baht per hour jobs and low salaries? Seems there will always be a market for this and it only serves to drag the rest of the industry down with it.

I would be more than happy to see EFL teachers, including myself, getting a better salary, and not being exploited by unscrupulous companies that only care about money and not education. Despite that -and I don't want to burst your bubble here- there are certain conditions that need to be considered before attempting any change and that might prevent the teaching community from achieving its goals. Firstly, many travellers will be willing to get jobs promising a 'competitive salary' just for the sake of covering their expenses herein Thailand. Secondly, there will always those who will be more interested in the visa rather than the salary, and won't mind working for less. Thirdly, those schools outside of Bangkok will continue using the excuse that costs are less living in the province than living in a city like Bangkok. I believe that it's difficult to achieve a better standard given the diversity of people and their interests. Yet, we've got nothing to lose, and if all professional teachers -I'm saying professional to separate ourselves from those for whom EFL is just a passing profession- stayed clear of such offers, then a change could happen. I certainly hope so.

A personal note: I live in Phuket, where it's very difficult finding a decent job. The only place that offers a visa and 'competitive salary' poses incredible conditions to its teachers: having to do 2-3 summer camps a year, holidays which can never be taken, extra work if they think that you're not working a lot, just to name a few!! All others, offer less than 200 Baht an hour, or so I've heard.


Having lived and worked in Thailand for almost three years for lousy pay, and having now left to work in a country where the pay is much better, I have come to some conclusions about why Thailand can get away with paying such bad wages to teachers. I think it's because of the dearth of sleazy, flea-bag western men who are willing to put up with the wages because they are not qualified, or they are running away from the law in their own country, or more commonly because the Thais will put up with behaviour at work that would get them fired in countries where the job is more lucrative. I mean, for example, turning up to work drunk and bragging about their exploits with bargirls, ( I never understood how it could be possible that anyone could be proud of having to pay for sex),sexually harassing students half their age, screaming and yelling at staff members, not turning up for work, etc. The other thing, I guess is that there are many teachers here who are addicted to their 200 baht pussy and couldn't go home even if they had a moment of clarity which told them that they probably needed to. The extra benefits of being treated like a king (instead of a loser), and being able to afford a lot of things one can't afford at home must make up for the lousy pay as well. Don't get me wrong - I love Thailand and I know that a lot of teachers are there because they love it too, and they deserve to get more money. However, when complaining about the lousy wages, I think we shouldn't really be pointing the finger at the Thais only - the noble farangs bumbling around in a kind of sex-addicted alcoholic ego-demented daze don't help the case. What do you think???


I really can’t see the point of the complaints. Time after time there are instances of corruption, bad behavior by directors and coordinators, unruly student behavior with no disciplinary procedures . . . . . Each posting takes us nearer to truth about Thai education; students with the lowest I.Q’s in Asia, and compulsory falsification of exam results to try to hide it.

Why has the salary dropped? It’s very simple, as many have pointed out; you’re not teachers, you’re ‘entertainers’ and how much is a ‘babysitter’ worth? That’s why you’re being offered 15,000 to 25,000 a month! Forget your grammar and bring into the classroom a set of bingo cards instead . . . . . the students will be happy and if the students are happy the parents will be happy. If the parents are happy they’ll keep paying the school and somewhere along the line you’ll be given a little bit of it to struggle by on, be seen as a good, conforming ‘teacher’ and will have no more problems.

If however, you do look on yourself as a teacher and especially for the older ones amongst us, why put up with it? Granted, Thailand to me is the nicest place to live in but not to work. How about the oil states, or China, or up and coming Vietnam? There’s plenty of work for the more mature teachers and perhaps teaching in Thailand should be left to the blond/e backpacking Henrietta’s and Rupert’s of the world for their one year ‘cultural’ experiences. Perhaps Thailand indeed gets what it deserves.

A year or two contract in the aforementioned places, then a visit to Laos on your return for a six-month Thai tourist visa and you combine the pleasure of living in Thailand without getting burned out or suffering a heart attack from the stress of teaching unruly class sizes of 50+, 26+ hours a week. I used to teach in Thailand and I see boatloads of foreigners leaving. One day I hope the Thai government will realize that entertainment and falsifying exam results might be part of the reason that Thailand is the bottom of the league table in education. They might then also come to the logical conclusion that singing and clapping hands all day with backpackers needs some serious reconsideration. Until then, au revoir Thailand.

By James, China (19th January 2012)

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