Ajarn Street

Where are all the teachers?

Is there a severe shortage of warm TEFL bodies?

Bangkok kindergarten owner
" I always get an overwhelming response from my job ads, but you do wonder how serious most teachers are about working in Thailand, and I often get the impression it's just a stop-gap job for most in order to fund further travels around Asia. The moment the teacher has made enough money to buy a plane ticket out of here, they're gone! If you're very lucky, you might get a phone call, but to have a dozen kiddies one morning all wondering where their teacher is can be a sad way for it all to end. As a school owner I know the way things are, but it can be very difficult to explain it to parents who just want the best for their children. Bangkok is a terrific place for the 'unqualified teacher' looking to replenish the coffers. Terrific in the sense that it has very low set-up costs (apartments, guest houses and transport are all very cheap). You couldn't do the same thing in Korea or Japan could you?"

Bangkok School specializing in corporate work
"This is one of the most difficult areas of teaching work to be involved in as regards teacher recruitment, because it's purely part-time work. It's that little extra money on top of a teacher's regular salary and as a result many teachers don't approach corporate work with any degree of professionalism. To be honest, we don't care much about degrees or experience or teacher training certificates. It would be nice if a teacher had those things, but at the end of the day we're happy for the teacher just to turn up for class. Teachers will turn up late or they'll give lame excuses for not turning up at all. If a client complains once, you can usually smooth things out, but the second complaint often means you've lost the contract.
I wish that teachers would think a bit more carefully before they take on a corporate job. If you live in downtown Bangkok, it's no good accepting a job out in Rangsit and then bitching about the exhausting journey barely two weeks into the course. Having to change a teacher mid-course is the worst possible scenario but I've lost count the number of times we've had to do it"

Bangkok International School
"We pay in the region of 45K a month plus benefits and get lots of emails every time we place an ad on ajarn.com. However, I'd say that 90% of applicants are totally unsuitable. If we state that a teacher must have a degree and at least two years experience then why do we get applicants who have neither of those?
On the subject of experience, it's rapidly getting to the stage where we will not consider teachers who have gained classroom experience in Thailand. Simply because they have no concept whatsoever of how a good school should be. They've spent so long trawling around the Bangkok 'sweat-shops' that they've developed a blasé attitude to TEFL and it's frankly unhealthy to have that kind of person in your teachers room"

Bangkok Private Language School
"I've noticed an interesting trend over the past couple of years and that's just how few teachers are willing to work weekends. Years ago teachers accepted that working on Saturdays and/or Sundays was part of the deal but these days you're lucky to find a teacher who will work on even just a Saturday. The exception will always be schools like Go Chulalongkorn who pay 700 baht an hour or so on a weekend, but those who are still around the 300 baht mark must really be struggling. Of course the increase in demand for Monday to Friday university/school teachers has meant that weekend work is not perhaps as crucial as it once was. Teachers are beginning to enjoy the idea of a whole weekend off. And really who can blame them?"

Rajabhat Recruiter
"I can never quite work out those teachers who listen to the salary package on offer and start furiously tapping figures into a calculator and working out the dollar or pound sterling equivalent. I'm not advocating that Rajabhat teachers are well-paid, not for a moment, but to tell us that x amount of dollars is one step away from cardboard city is plain daft. It is cheaper to live here and if you're the right kind of teacher, you can easily earn upwards of 40,000 a month by taking on a few private students. The Rajabhat schedule allows plenty of free time to look for extra well-paid work.
As a result of ads on Ajarn.com, we get requests for return air-fares, health insurance for a wife and four kids, etc, etc. There is a wealth of information on the internet but it's as though teachers thinking of coming here just don't read it. So many potential applicants are way out of touch with reality"

University in Southern Thailand
"If we advertise for a qualified teacher (degree in education, experience, etc) we get one worthwhile application. If you couple that with 25,000 baht a month (our hands are tied regarding teacher salaries) we get no-one. It's really as simple as that.

A teacher recruiter with years of experience in Thailand
"In my opinion a lot of the 'sanuk' has gone out of living in Bangkok. It's become just another modern, everyday capital city that can suck money out of you left, right and center if you're not the sort who looks after their finances. I'm never surprised by any teacher running into financial difficulties. You have a system of red-tape (work permits, teachers licenses, etc) that's getting more and more confusing, and fuelled by over-active rumors. There's also the on-off predictability of visas and border clearance. And lets face it - these are globally very uncertain times. You may laugh at this but I think the 2am curfew for entertainment zones also has an effect. Bangkok was the ultimate party city where at least you could kick back after a week's work and drink yourself stupid until six in the morning. Now even that option is not there anymore. Could it be that the attraction of Bangkok itself has gone? Was it ever there to begin with"

College in Samut Prakarn
"What really makes my blood boil is when 50% of the interviewees don't bother to turn up nor phone you with a reason why. We pay decent rates and offer good benefits but it's like English language teaching has such a shoddy image that people consider it the last resort for the desperate. Those that do bother to make the journey out to see us, either have an attitude problem, an alarming set of demands, or both.
The information available on the internet has been an absolute good but there is also a lot of misleading information out there, and teachers come to us with expectations that are quite frankly unreasonable. And what happened to the days when interviewees turned up looking smartly-dressed?"

Private school in Chiang Mai
"We tend to get a lot of applications from teachers who you sense are 'running away' from teaching jobs in Bangkok or have simply grown jaded from life in the big city. The former category generally give us the biggest headache because leopards don't change their spots. The problems will only re-emerge here as well. Teaching positions are not abundant in Chiang Mai nor are the salaries particularly high, but it does offer a decent quality of life. That said, the majority of teachers find that one or two years here is enough"


I have lived here several years and can quite relate to the comments above. 'However' - and there's always one of those isn't there, I don't necessarily think it's just the money people are after. The working hours hours are horrendous and I always look at the words, 'maximum teaching hours' before I give that particular ad a miss! Twenty five hours, plus lesson plans, plus all the other add ons can turn your working week into a 12 hour day, seven days a week. A lot of these schools are factory type sweat shops and can leave you burned out after only a couple of years. I'd be quite happy to work for 30k, decent hours and a day off a week - a day when I'm not immersed up to my neck in next weeks lesson plans, homework marking, exam preperation, club activities . . . .

By Ian, Thailand (9th August 2011)

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