After hearing many teachers complain about TEFL salaries in Thailand and the fact that they seem to only be going in one direction. I decided to e-mail thirty to forty companies who are currently in the process of hiring teachers in order to get their hopefully realistic views. Those surveyed included agents, government schools, universities, private language schools, etc.
Sadly, I got something of a lukewarm response, which often happens when I send out these surveys and try to get to the heart of the matter. People seem to like playing things close to their chest. However, massive respect to those who did reply and send me their answers.
Please note that I have numbered the answers only to divide them up and let you see where the responses from different people begin and end. The numbers in each answer category do not signify that they are from the same person.
If I get more survey responses trickle in over the coming weeks, I will certainly update the information.
Quite a number of foreign teachers are complaining that teacher salaries in Thailand are actually decreasing or at least they have stayed the same for a number of years. Firstly do you think it's true and if so what are the reasons?
1) Yes I do think that's true. I am one of the few agencies that I know of - after talking to teachers who work for others - that actually gives two to four percent raises every year. I think the current situation is simply due to supply and demand and the fact that agencies are running a business and want to keep their bottom line down as much as possible. Due to the terrible economy in many Western nations, there is now a glut of young, energetic (but unqualified) native speakers available.
It's cheaper for agencies to hire a 23-year old college grad with no teaching experience and pay those teachers 25,000 a month than it is to hire someone with experience and have to pay that teacher 40,000. I don't agree with that practice and I don't do it because I don't think it works in the long term. These type of agencies usually only stay at any school for one or two years maximum before their contract fails to get renewed due to the low quality of the teachers they provide. But if the agency has many client schools on their books, I guess they can afford to not care.
2) This situation of decreasing salaries is because The Ministry of Education doesn't allocate enough budget to government schools for foreign teachers. Perhaps things might change if we see a new education minister.
3) I don't find it true at all.
4) I think we hit a peak about two years ago, when you saw a lot more 40,000+ salaries than you do now. Nowadays, thirty seems to be the new forty.
5) I have heard salaries are the same as they were 8 years ago but can't confirm this because I've only been here for one year. The probable reason is that most teachers lack proper teaching experience, or are here for travel and will take any job. Then there are the retired guys just wanting something to do so they are not too bothered about money
6) I have witnessed a decrease with government school salaries. We were told that their budgets had been cut for other things so they had to make up the money.
7) I think salaries have stayed the same for the last 5 years. And I think the main reason is that there are now many smaller companies offering to do the same job for less. We have also seen more teachers coming here - especially from South Africa - willing to work for as little as 30,000 THB per month.
8) The salaries we pay are not decreasing, but they are staying the same, generally at the bog-standard 35,000b per month. We don't make a huge profit per teacher like so many foreign teachers think - and trying to get more money from a school, government or private, is very difficult, even for a renewal contract. Also, it is now more difficult to place teachers at government schools as they are now supposed to take the lowest contract bid from an agency.
9) I'm not sure salaries are decreasing but they are certainly not going up either.
Many teachers are also complaining about schools cutting back on benefits such as health insurance and also making teachers work more hours for the same money. Do you think that there is a lot more ‘cost-cutting' going on?
1) The teachers at our school are having to work more hours because of all the hours lost last year during the flood crisis. It's a case of ‘making up the hours lost'. No one is finding themselves with more teaching hours for the same salary.
2) It sounds like you're referring to language schools. Truthfully, I have never been able to stir up enough interest in a group insurance program to make it possible, and we are in no position to pay the full cost for them.
3) Yes, I think there's a lot more cost-cutting going on these days and I can't see the situation improving any time soon.
4) I think we are seeing the fallout from last year's flooding. Let's face it - someone has to pay for all those sandbags. And I've even heard of schools that experienced no flooding whatsoever jumping on the bandwagon and cutting benefits - then citing flooding as the reason. That only works with new teachers though.
5) Yes I do, but I cannot speak for individual schools. We are an agency who offer teachers 35,000 per month and full BUPA cover.
6) I follow some of the discussions on teacher forums and I know some of the teachers posting on there personally. Even though they don't work for me, I know the truth and many of those teachers complaining only have themselves to blame. We haven't cut back on anything or added more hours to teacher schedules, neither are we expecting teachers to work harder for the same salary.
7) Our contracts are bog-standard and do not usually include health insurance from the school. It is not something they offer readily. I have seen that some schools, not just with us but friends at different schools have been given extra classes with no extra remuneration given. When this happens with ourselves, ie, a teacher being given an extra 2 or 3 classes per week, we try to get an increase in salary. Sometimes we are successful, but not always. My own opinion is that most schools have teachers between 8am and 4pm, so the number of teaching hours is irrelevant. I may be wrong with that view.
Have you noticed any changes or trends in the type of people who are applying for your teaching jobs?
1) Overall, I would say that the quality of applicant is greatly improved over what it used to be years ago.
2) Yes, I've noticed that most of the truly qualified and well experienced native speaking teachers are going overseas or to high-end international or private schools locally, where the pay and benefits are much better. Most of the people applying to me now are unqualified or inexperienced native English speakers looking for their first teaching job in Thailand. I still get the same deluge of Filipino applicants with degrees in education that respond to any job ad I place of course.
Yes, most applicants are not native speakers. Now there are many from Africa, Philippines and non-native speaking European countries. It shows how bad the European economy is when people can't find jobs there.
3) There seems to be a lot more people applying for jobs whenever we advertise.
4) We see all kinds of people applying for our teaching jobs. In the past we were lucky if any good teachers applied for the jobs we offered at all. But now we have lots of choice, which is good for the teaching industry. I think in the past teachers felt that we needed them and they could behave as they pleased. If they got fired from one school, they would just move on to the next. These teachers are now whining about how bad things have got now. But I think the schools are more pleased than ever with the standard of teachers.
5) In the last year or so there has been a definite difference in the teachers applying. We are now getting as lot of newbie teachers, more than ever.
6) I have seen a distinct lack of professionalism and work ethic, in both new teachers and those with several years experience. Starting at the interview stage, I arrange interviews with so many teachers and they just don't turn up. No phone call, no email, or even a text message to cancel the appointment. At schools, too many teachers walk into the classroom with the course book and that's it. We prepare worksheets, lesson plans and other teaching materials to give to teachers, but they are not always used. I think overall the level of teaching is lower than it has been in the last few years.
7) Teachers coming for interviews seem to be a lot more desperate for a job because they have bills to pay or they have seen their savings dwindle down to almost nothing. Years ago, when a good teacher came for an interview, they always seemed to have plenty of options open. That doesn't seem to be the trend now.
How about when teachers come to you for an interview, have you noticed any differences in people's attitudes?
1) I don't personally interview teachers much anymore, but often exchange e-mails with them before they arrive. If anything, I find a great deal more respectfulness, overall, than what they used to show.
2) Among foreigners who have been here a while, there seems to be a lot of anger, resentment and negative attitudes towards the new, stricter teacher licensing rules from the Teachers Council. Among new teachers there seems to be a lot of fear, anxiety and ignorance about these rules.
3) Teachers ask far more questions at interviews than they used to. I've got no problem with that. I think it's got to the stage where many teachers have had bad experiences too many times and they are wary about joining another poor school.
4) I haven't noticed anything unusual apart from the fact that you still get the same number of no-shows without as much as a quick phone call to explain why.
5) The most disturbing thing is just how many teachers have developed the mindset that there is no such thing as a good teaching job in Thailand. That can't be good. Not for anyone.
6) I don't really understand your question. Their attitude is that they want a job or they wouldn't come for an interview would they?
7) Yes, I recall a teacher applying for a job with us and when I called him up he basically yelled at me and told how he wouldn't work for less than 600 baht an hour. Now I have more choice and can pick the teachers whose attitude I like. I prefer a good attitude to teaching experience. But if possible I'll take both.
8) I don't personally conduct the interviews, but the feedback I have received about teachers that do attend is mixed between nice presentable, professional teachers to those we would rather not see again.
I think it's fair to say that the average teacher salary has been in the region of 30-35K for the last ten years. Do you think ten years from now, teachers will still be earning those kinds of salaries?
1) I'm not a prognosticator, though it's clear that salaries go up slowly. I'm not sure though if you are referring to salaries at language schools or kids schools.
2) No. I think that whether they want to or not, schools and agencies will have to face up to the reality and admit that they have to start paying more and offering more benefits if they want to get people who Thai schools, students and parents will accept.
3) Salaries probably will stay the same because one of the underlying ‘problems' - certainly as far as career teachers are concerned - is that Thailand is such an attractive place to spend a couple of years in. The cost of living is relatively low compared to other countries in Asia. It's easy to (cough!) make friends and form relationships with the locals. What young person, fresh out of university, wouldn't love to spend a year or two here. And all they ask is survival wages. I'm sure Thailand is more than happy with that arrangement.
4) Salaries will probably stay the same unless Thailand becomes such a huge economy they can pay more but I doubt it.
5) I think salaries will certainly be the same for government schools.
6) We are an agency and at the moment we are having a hard time getting decent money from the schools. I try to make sure my teachers are getting at least 35,000 THB per month but I doubt it will improve much over the next 10 years.
7) I agree with your average salary rate. I don't see anything changing drastically with this unless there is a real shake-up in the thinking of the government and the Ministry of Education.
8) I have no ide but no one is ever going to get rich teaching English in Thailand.
Are you finding it easier or more difficult to recruit quality teachers compared to say, last year or five years ago?
1) It's easier now than in the past.
2) Well, we get a good number of teachers through our TEFL course, and these work out great. As you know, we sometimes advertise on your website, and generally get more applicants than we know what to do with.
3) About the same, but I think this is only because I pay entry level salaries that are higher than all of my competition in an effort to offset this obstacle. I would rather make a little less profit and have stability with low turnover than make a lot of money with a higher turnover. I have 22 teachers now and my average, yearly turnover is just two teachers, which I think is fantastic compared to most other agencies out there.
4) It's always been difficult to find quality, reliable teachers with classroom teaching experience. Nothing has changed.
5) I actually think it's got much, much harder to find good teachers in Thailand. I think a lot of the better teachers have moved on to other countries. I used to bump into a lot of my ex-teaching staff on the skytrain (still on good terms though I might add) but I haven't seen many of them for a long time. I'm guessing they must have moved on.
6) The situation has improved a lot in the last two years. I took over from a really bad manager who tried to take advantage of teachers just to please the boss. However if you treat people like trash then you're only going to end up with teachers who have nowhere else to go. We are honest and straightforward with our teachers and it is working really well.
7) It is now much harder to employ quality teachers as it was, say two or three years ago.
Do you think the increase in the number of teacher placement agencies has been a good thing or a bad thing for Thailand's TEFL industry?
1) I think they are a good thing as long as they can avoid paying corruption money under the table and they can still pay the teachers a reasonable salary.
2) It's a very bad thing if they are not also reputable schools in their own right. They harm the chances of qualified teachers who lose out to unqualified ones 'sold' to the schools by these agents.
3) I would say it's a bad thing - simply because most of them have no idea what they are doing. For example, one of my local competitors is owned by a 23-year old kid who went for two semesters of college in The States. He then borrowed a considerable sum from his Mom and Dad and started his own unlicensed agency. He actually has to ask his own teachers about tax, immigration, work permit and licensing issues and nearly always pays salaries late. Unfortunately in my experience the vast majority of agencies out there are like his. It's sad for teachers and students, but I have to say that it's good for me!
4) The reasons why schools change to using agencies are simple. The teachers are screwing it up for themselves. They don't respect the school and they don't respect their fellow teachers. Schools end up having a hard time handling the teachers. After hiring teachers directly, they realize that it is not worth the hassle or the money they save. It's better to hand all the responsibility to an agency rather than deal with the headaches that come when they have to deal with teachers directly.
5) Agencies are fine if, and I mean if, they do a decent job and take care of the teacher. Too many agencies are just out to make easy money and they end up screwing things up for everyone else. I've heard some real horror stories from teachers who have come to work with us from past agencies.
What do you think Thailand needs to do to attract more quality teachers to come and work here or do you think things are fine as they are?
1) Things are great as they are, relatively speaking. Let's face it - professional teachers working for good salaries abroad are not going to sell their home and their car and their other belongings just to come to Thailand to teach for a fraction of that amount (Some do, though, but not many). And even if they did, the teaching quality would not be as good as that of a tefl teacher trained here - even if he or she lacks a degree - as being a 'professional' teaching English native speakers is a far, far cry from being a 'professional' at teaching ESL/EFL learners
2) Things are certainly not fine. Thailand needs to start having more inclusive, user-friendly rules and regulations where foreign teachers are concerned (or where everything else is concerned for that matter). For example, any foreigner who tries to call the Teachers Council to ask questions about the licensing regulations ends up hanging up the phone in frustration because no one speaks English well enough to answer them.
The typical response, from The TCT is "Well this is Thailand. They need to learn to speak Thai". They are right, of course, but that is an unrealistic expectation. When even little things like a help line that actually works cannot be pulled off, what does that say about the big picture? It says that the big picture is run very unprofessionally.
The Thais seem almost adamant about NOT adapting to the English speaking world, yet expect highly qualified, experienced, dedicated foreign teachers to come here in droves to teach for 22,000 baht a month. The government has official pay scale levels in place for teachers with certain sets of qualifications. For example, any teacher (foreign or Thai) with a PhD in their respective field, should have an entry level salary of 22,000 baht per month at any government school or university. 22,000! When I point out that no self-respecting native speaker who matches those qualifications would go for that, their invariable response is something like "This is Thailand! If they don't like it - they should leave!"
And that is exactly what good teachers are doing - in droves. This nationalistic, jingoistic Thai attitude is killing Thailand. But good luck getting anybody in a position of power to admit that or act intelligently on it. This ship called the education system of Thailand is sinking fast and the smart rats are jumping ship while they see the chance.
I can only try to change the culture of the client schools I have. Let Thailand help itself, because they certainly don't want any help from any foreigner.
3) Well a lot of the placement agencies are of a very poor standard and the TEFL companies make promises they don't keep, such as promising a person a job after the TEFL course then not providing one. Then when the teacher finds another job they don't give the certificate until the teacher gives them money. We are a placement agency but we design our own total conversation programs, sell them to the schools with teachers and provide full support. We don't just place a teacher in a school and leave them to fend for themselves as most do
4) Better salaries and conditions for starters. Many schools still have a whiteboard and the teacher stands there teaching, which is so boring for the students who all now have phones, I-pods and all manner of electronic gadgets.
Teachers vary so much in quality. A student can go into one class and have a good teacher then go into another and have a bad one.
Corruption is another issue. Many times we go to sell our programs around schools and the director or assistant director is asking us what's in it for them. Until these people stop thinking about themselves and start thinking about the kids it wont change
5) I think we need to look at how we can get people to stay here longer. Keeping the teachers we have is a lot easier than recruiting new ones.
6) Things have never been perfect here for teachers. I think the Thais feel that foreign teachers are paid a lot already and therefore there is no need to improve things
7) I think major changes need to happen. The ministries of Labour and Education plus the Immigration need to work together and stop changing the process to obtain work permits. It is a headache trying to obtain work permits for teachers as one ministry says something different from the other or even individuals say contrasting things. The whole process needs to be made much easier, as at the moment it is very convoluted for schools, agencies and teachers alike. I also know many teachers are not happy about paying for the Thai teaching and ethics course
I also honestly believe they need to disregard the requirement for a degree. Having a degree does not make a better teacher. I have seen many teachers over the last few years and some of the teachers without degrees have been our best teachers. Overall, I think it evens itself out. Teachers should be means tested on their ability or approved by the school they work at. Teachers with degrees could simply get paid more because of their higher educational standard.
In your organization, have Thai staff salaries increased at a faster rate than those of foreign teachers over the last five or ten years?
1) No, we pay at the same rate, generally, whether they're Thai or foreign teachers.
2) At the same percentage rate per year but the entry level salary is lower to begin with. I actually want to pay them the same as my native speakers but my client schools refuse to pay me at the same rate so I can't. Technically speaking I could - but I would lose money on their contracts.
3) I don't deal with Thai salaries, so I really don't know. I can say that they don't get paid anywhere near the salary of a native English speaking teacher.