Ajarn Street

Young teachers vs old teachers?

Which age group do Thai employers really prefer?

Younger teachers vs older teachers. Which teacher group do Thai schools really prefer to hire and for what reasons? It's the argument that refuses to go away. In this light-hearted ajarn article, older teachers and their young counterparts square up to each other over 11 rounds. Seconds out! Round one. Ding ding! By the way, I am now in my mid-fifties, so I know which camp I belong to.


If there's a 9 ‘o'clock Sunday conversation class that needs teaching and you're the man in the academic director's chair, then it's the older teacher you'll probably turn to first.

The older teacher might will probably moan and tell you about the fifty better things he's got to do on a Sunday morning, but cometh the hour, he'll amble into the reception five minutes before the lesson is about to start and save the day.

Younger teachers tend to have too many plans. "I can't do next Saturday I'm sorry. My partner and I are going mountain-climbing with Thai friends. The weekend after that we are going on a two-day scuba-diving course"

What would really solve your scheduling nightmares would be if this teacher got eaten by a shark. But why shouldn't they be out and about doing fun activities? You're only young once.

I once worked with a young female teacher who was forever doing things with elephants. "Sorry Phil, I can't teach my class on Saturday because a group of us are going into the forest to take elephant photographs. Then we'll be giving them a bath. Come to think of it, I probably won't be back for my Monday class either because the head of the elephant village wants us to stay on for a meal and a game of cards"

The teacher and her elephant diversions became a pain in the arse. I'm all for animal conservation but why couldn't she just throw a couple of chicken legs to the pack of dogs at the end of her soi like the rest of us do?

Result - Yes, get in there! The older teachers race into a one-nil lead.

Classroom ability

This is a very difficult one to call. In one corner you have the younger teachers, fresh off their TEFL courses and their brains positively exploding with new ideas. But come on! - how long is it going to be before the class gets bored of throwing a ball around or racing each other to the whiteboard?

No, I'm sorry - nothing whatsoever beats experience. The older teacher has a plan B when no student in the class has done their homework. The older teacher has a back-up plan when the DVD player has decided not to work. Simply put, the older teacher has been in these situations time and time again, and age has brought with it the gift of wisdom.

And as the TV monitor emits a terrifying death rattle and the young teacher beats a path to the reception to ask why the hell nothing in this school ever works, the older teacher dips into his bag of tricks and pulls an hour's lesson out of his ass.

Result - two-nil to the golden oldies!

Teacher development / staff meetings

Familiarity breeds contempt. It's an old adage that's probably going to drag the older teachers down in this keenly fought contest.

While younger teachers will want to do everything they can to please their employer, the older teachers have had enough. They have seen far too much of their precious drinking time eaten away over the years by pointless meetings and dull workshops.

The memo says "Teachers meeting on Friday at 4.00pm. All welcome. Drinks and food will be provided"

If that's supposed to do the trick; it doesn't.

Older teachers have had their fill of white-bread sandwiches, plates stacked with cut water-melon and glasses of red Fanta. And the last thing an older teacher wants to do is sit in on a workshop and be told how to improve his teaching by someone barely old enough to shave.

Result - the youngsters hit back and win their first round - just by turning up. But it's still 2-1 to the older teachers.

Financial situation

One of the main questions that younger teachers seem to ask on teacher discussion forums is ‘how much money do I need to bring with me when I arrive in Thailand?' This probably translates as ‘I've saved up enough money for my first evening meal and a bus fare from the airport but I'll be OK provided I find a job within 24 hours'

The older teachers haven't spent a lifetime scrimping and saving for nothing. They're probably sitting on a nice little pension plan back in the old country. Some might even have a tidy little property in the back streets of Rotherham that they're renting out to students sleeping twelve to a room.

The older teacher's kids have gone through college, the ex-wife has been paid off. Life is good. Who cares if teacher salaries in Thailand haven't gone up for twenty years when you've already feathered your nest?

I know what the young teachers are all saying - "oh, but we are in the prime of our lives. We can go back to our own country any time and pull in megabucks working in something like the IT industry"

Well here's the news. Firstly, the computer jobs have all gone to 16-year old whizz-kids and secondly, I'm not sure you've even got a country to go back to.

You should have listened to your Dad when he told you it's never too early to start a pension plan. Dads always know best!

Result - OK, there are people of all age groups who are hopeless at handling money, but I make the rules and I'm still giving this round to the older teachers. 3-1.

Dress sense / general attractiveness

I can sense that the younger teachers have filed this round under 'foregone conclusion' but whoa!, hold on a second. Let's not be too hasty.

Younger teachers are undoubtedly more stylish, more fashionable, more ‘with it' (to use one of my mom's favorite expressions) but that doesn't mean older teachers have all let themselves go and no longer care about shirt / tie combinations and matching socks. I've seen many an older teacher who can still cut the mustard in the classroom fashion stakes. At least they know how to tie a Windsor knot!

However, the older you get, the harder you have to try - and the more thought you have to put into what clothes look better on the more mature teacher. The mirror never lies. You won't carry off those slim leg trousers like a younger teacher will. And you can pat that wobbly belly and tell me it's all paid for as many times as you like, that torso-hugging white shirt looks far better when it's stretched across a six-pack.

But let's cut to the chase because the reality is that in Thailand, image is everything. Ask a hundred school directors if they would like their new teacher to look young or ‘old' and find out for yourself. 

Result - Begrudgingly, I'm going to give this round to the younger teachers. There are plenty of badly-dressed teachers in both groups - but the young teacher group just seems to have fewer of them. It's still 3-2 to the golden oldies.

Dating students

All teachers - young and older - know that dating students is a no-no. But it's much harder to say no-no for the younger teachers, who can find themselves in a country where almost everyone seems to fancy them for their movie star looks.

The older teacher knows exactly where the lines are drawn. They may have dabbled and spread the love around in their younger teaching days (not with students I might add) but now they have a loyal Thai wife or partner waiting for them at home and their wild days are well and truly behind them.

And even if they happen to be in a relationship where the passion has gone missing, the older teacher knows exactly where his needs can be catered for if he fancies some Friday night 'how's your father'. Just don't expect him to tell you where.

The younger teacher can have a difficult time dealing with all this new-found adulation. After years on his native soil, trawling the pubs and clubs of some grey northern city and more often than not, heading home alone, he's suddenly spoiled for choice.

Employers know the risks involved when they hire a good-looking young teacher and the students are of what you might call 'an impressionable age'. You can put as many warnings in the teacher contract as you like; common sense and responsibility don't always go hand in hand.

Result - It's another round to the golden oldies. 4-2 in favor of age and wisdom.

General moaning and groaning

"The new textbooks haven't arrived yet"
"The photocopier is on the blink. The repairman should be here tomorrow"
"Sorry but salaries will be paid late this month"

At any school, the list of administrative cock-ups and excuses just goes on and on. Who handles these annoying issues better - the younger teacher or the older teacher?

Who will just shrug their shoulders, say ‘mai pen rai" and when none of the Thai staff are looking, take out their frustration on the teachers room lockers?

Result - I've seen too many teachers of all ages throw hissy fits when things don't quite go as planned. It's too close to call so it's honors even. Older teachers still 4-2 up.


Which teacher is going to give a school years of loyal service and become almost part of the furniture? Surely this round has to go to the older teachers.

It's harder for older teachers to chop and change and move schools simply because their options will most certainly decrease as the years advance.

I think human nature dictates that the older you get, the more set in your ways you become and change is not something you embrace as much as when you were younger and more carefree. If the older teacher has put down roots and now has a wife and kids depending on him, then the last thing he wants is to be out of work.

Younger teachers generally have fewer ties. If they get a job offer at a school that's closer to a decent beach, then they can sling their backpack and worldly possessions into the back of a taxi and they're gone in a cloud of exhaust fumes. If the new school is paying a better salary - bingo!

Result - It's 5-2 to the golden oldies. Surely there's no way back for the young guns now.

Ability to change

It's always one of the less desirable aspects of an academic director's job - that moment when you have to drag some polite old boy into the office for a private chat. Anyone who has been an AD will know where I'm coming from.

"John, I observed your lesson today. The students just didn't get a chance to speak. All I heard was your voice for a full on 90 minutes. I don't know about the students but even I was nodding off"

Don't get me wrong. You end up having chats like this with plenty of young teachers as well. Most teachers need a little guidance from time to time but the important question is ‘who is willing to change?'

Result - Oh, this is such a tough one to call. Some teachers will strive to change; others will thank you for your feedback, mumble "who the f*** does he think he is" the moment they get outside and immediately go back into lecture mode. I'm giving this round to the younger teachers - but only just. Older teachers 5 young teachers 3.

Ability to get along with the Thai staff.

Here we go again - familiarity breeds contempt.

The older teacher has had the Thai staff forget to pass on important messages just once too often. The older teacher has had staff forget to tell him about last-minute student cancellations more times than he cares to remember. The older teacher has spent years in Thailand putting up with these Thai traits. He probably has a wife at home who has displayed every single one of them at some time or another. He doesn't need the same aggro at school as well.

This is not to say the older teacher is constantly at odds with the Thai staff. He'll always smile and be friendly and keep his requests simple - but there's rarely time for idle chit-chat with the girls in the office.

That's best left to the younger teacher, who can pull up a chair in the reception and chinwag with the female staff about boyfriend troubles and K-pop until the cows come home. Or at least until the bell goes for the next lesson.

Result - It's a barnstorming finish from the younger teachers as they pull it back to 5-4 with one final round to go.

Connecting with the students

Picture the scene. You walk into the classroom to face a group of 40 rowdy teenage students all shouting to be heard and all eager to tell you about their weekend (well, maybe a couple of them)

What are you going to talk about? The latest version of Grand Theft Auto? Uploading multiple photographs to Facebook? Or are you going to tell them about your collection of Pink Floyd albums and the tablets you have to take four times a day for heartburn?

In general, young students like and identify better with young teachers. And it pains me to say that. They respect older teachers, sure they do, but let's face facts - if you're an older teacher, they're not going to get out a magazine picture of a Korean boy band and ask you to point at which one you think has the best hair.

Result - The final round goes to the young upstarts and ladies and gentlemen - we have a tie!

Young teachers 5 older teachers 5. 

You might be interested in....

Tossed on the TEFL scrapheap - Is teaching in Thailand a young man's game?


How old is old? I'm 72, is it even possible. I'm currently teach full kindergarten through 4fh.

By John, USA (30th April 2024)

This article was appalling, the way that it described younger teachers. I've never been more disgusted reading an article. I'd love the author to expand on what they mean when they say they are "not sure that [younger teachers] will even have a country to go back to"?


By Lexi Callaghan, Bangkok (12th March 2018)

In a way the article is saying that experience doesn't count for much in the Thai TEFL game.

By John, Bangkok (3rd January 2018)

This is a good article, and although I agree with some points and disagree with others- we cannot entirely sum things up due to age.
As passion and love for a thing/ job has no barriers. I have met some young teachers who were absolutely excellent and I have met old teachers who didn't know what they were doing in spite of having worked for years as ESL Teachers (I think this was due to being there purely for the money and visa).
Some young teachers such as myself, have lived and worked in Thailand for a quite few years (4 years and I'm 25) and wont be quitting any time soon. It's based entirely on the person their lifestyle, goals, responsibilities and general work ethics.
That's my two cents worth. haha

By Karla, North-East Th (14th December 2017)

Well for me Young teachers were the cool ones, they can easily mingle to their students, they can easily understand their students, but the older teachers were well experience that the young ones. and I do believe that the older teacher gives a better quality of education.

By Exe Nangan, Philippines (11th May 2017)

It seems there may be a sense of umbrage, from a poster it two, regarding this article. That is a shame, as I always try to view the TEFL industry as "open for debate", without the jargon of political correctness or over the top critique.

I see great points in this. However, shall we consider one more round, with the category being "Butthurt"?

I give one point to the older fellows, as they have not been dominated by, and have had their minds warped, with the mantra "social justice" and political correctness...thank you, Western world.

An older teacher is more likely to give it to you straight, without the fear of hurting someone's tender feelings, which usually needs a special ointment to sooth the burn.

Younger folks (20's), are so wrapped up in making sure nobody will ever be offended, ensuring an enduring cycle of tap dancing around matters that must be confronted.

Granted, certain protocols must be followed. But, when it comes to "rolling up the sleeves" and getting dirty in the trenches of TEFL, I will take the older, seasoned veteran any day.

By Joshua, The Mile High City (13th October 2015)

Having worked as a DOS and a lead teacher I would say older teachers are more reliable on the whole.
In a school situation they don't feel the need to become students friends-games, games.... (Work here long enough you will see that). Teachers are employed to teach and guide students not befriend them.

By John, Bangkok (17th February 2015)

Younger teachers are more likely to quit with no notice so they can go party in Samui, get high with the students, be culturally ignorant, and live in constant drama... just saying.

By Johan Brig, BKK (11th February 2015)

Old teachers receive higher wages than the younger ones.
The younger (good looking) teachers are more adored by Thai teenagers.
Which one do you prefer?

By TOP, BKK (11th February 2015)

The bottom line is most younger teachers do not last very long in Thailand maybe 2 to 3 years at the most before they move on for various reasons. Most older teachers are here for the long run but it seems a lot of schools care more about a pretty face, the good image, then about consistency and longevity of a teacher.

By Thomas, Thailsnd (11th February 2015)

"Young students like young teachers. It pains me to say it. They respect older teachers, sure they do, but let's face facts - they're not going to get out a magazine picture of a Korean boy band and ask you to point at which one you think has the best hair."

This is absolutely true. ★

By Kim, Thailand (2nd February 2014)

Really It is an awesome post. This post contains huge information about younger teachers vs older teachers. I think it is a sensitive area because it’s discrimination when all is said and done and I know who I would rather employ to teach my kids and knowledge, reliability and experience wins every time! Thanks mate for sharing this post.

By Mellina Moore, 2455 Mt. Carmel Road, Hampton, GA 30228 (3rd July 2012)

I think it is a sensitive area because it's discrimination when all is said and done and I know who I would rather employ to teach my kids and knowledge, reliability and experience wins every time! Let's all get the hair dye and the botox if we think its necessary and lie about our age but why should we have to? Its topsy turvy out there and I get angry when agencies don't reply when they see your date of birth. I'm a good teacher with lots to offer and I'm 48 not 88! Rant over folks back to light hearted banter ahem. ;)

By Sandra, UK (3rd April 2012)

I think there's a bit of hypersensitivity in this handful of responses.

Look, it doesn't matter if experience and tolerance comes with age (sometimes), the fact of the matter is that employers the world over want a younger workforce be that teaching, engineering, road sweeping, or prostitution, ad infinitum... It's nothing to do with being disrespectful, it's just factual –that's it!

Heck, i was fired on day one of a Bkk teaching job some 16 years ago. The head of human resources called the academic director and told him she wasn't expecting them to send someone so old and could he please replace me with someone 'much' younger :( I was 34

Andy H ~ 50ish.org

By Andy H, South East Asia (3rd April 2012)

Oops sorry I was generalising myself then, my otherwise dull life!

By Sandra, United Kingdom (3rd April 2012)

The article is light hearted and nice to read, I did find myself arguing with it a little as it does generalise rather a lot. Being in the 'older' teacher bracket I am terrible at finances, I embrace change as I don't want my age to hold me back and am always chatting to the kids I teach about the latest new music etc etc. because I have kids myself and they keep you young. Nothing to get upset about though as with anything that is meant to inject a bit of humour into otherwise dull lives.

By Sandra, UK (3rd April 2012)

"I strongly recommend this article be deleted before too many people see it. It really detracts from the quality of the website. You may regret future loss of advertising revenue and support from educational institutions"

Oh Bill, where's your sense of humor? It's nothing more than a bit of light-hearted fun, and I said that exact thing right at the beginning of the article in case you missed it.

Detracts from the quality of the website? You obviously haven't seen the teachers fashion guide, the teachers diary and the numerous other articles written in exactly the same tone as this one.

Ajarn.com is the laddish magazine of the Thailand TEFL world. And that's one reason it has become quite popular. Why write about the boring stuff when you can hopefully make people laugh out loud from time to time.

By philip, (13th March 2012)

I strongly recommend this article be deleted before too many people see it. It really detracts from the quality of the website. You may regret future loss of advertising revenue and support from educational institutions.

By Bill, In transit (12th March 2012)

Re The Kids comments. What a load of crap, you can tell the person writing about old teachers is certainly a kid. Deriding old teachers like that without any substance, and no comments about young teachers is not only shallow but bias in the extreme. I suggest you get your facts together next time and stop generalising!

By peter, Bangkok (11th March 2012)

It is not about the age.. Let's start with their education and background. Old "teachers" in most cases are 50+ guys who moved to Thailand and have to keep themselves busy (no problems with visa, a small steady income, ect..). In most cases the last time they had something to do with education and educating someone is a one month training of "how to become a teacher in 4 weeks". Any other school experience is.. 30-40 years away when they were students in the old country. Many don't even have a proper Higher University diploma (I mean, yes they do have a BA or MA title, but nothing related to education.. zero class management skills. I am sorry but a month of training is not enough).
Therefore, we have teachers (old) who, because of their age are very very very stubborn - they just wouldn't change their habits.. they have ego of the size of the planet and no understanding what a 15-17-18 year old student is interested in.
Of course I am not talking about the real teachers (old) who have years of experience in teaching.
Young teachers might be less reliable in terms of punctuality or sick leaves.. but they will adapt and listen when told off.
Have a nice day everyone! :)

By The kid, Bangkok (8th March 2012)

Love the article. Nice to see something that is somewhat positive and fun to read.


By Ron, BKK (8th March 2012)

Am i correct in you saying in your comments that you are looking for bias? And what does "Succinctly for there to be some such misinformation influenced future outcomes" mean?
Insideleft you sound like a complicated guy!

By peter, Bangkok (7th March 2012)

It doesn't matter young or old, experienced or inexperienced, the salary is the same. While the author imagines a rather silly rivalry between two age groups, Thai employers see all farang as guest workers with white skin filling a slot. End of story.

By Guy, Bkk (7th March 2012)

Being an oldie myself, i can see where this guy is coming from. I really like the article, and am in total agreement with what he says!
However having never taught in Thailand as a young man, i can imagine the distractions that this country and teaching have to offer.
So finally i just would like to say on behalf of the older teachers. Why didn't I teach here years ago!

By Peter, Bangkok (4th March 2012)

This article is clearly written by an old young teacher.

How else could the conclusion be so balanced.

I am deplored and despicted that there is no obvious bias in the conclusion and succinctly desire for there to be some such misinformation influenced future outcomes.

Insincerely yours,


By insideleft, Milky Way (4th March 2012)

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