John Quinn

Getting ready for 2015

What will be the effects of the new ASEAN community on foreign teachers?

In November 2010 the then Education Minister, Mr. Chinnaworn Boonyakiat, delivered a lecture to members of the Thai senate in relation to "Thailand's Educational Preparation for ASEAN Community in 2015". He admitted that in the past, Thailand had no clear plan relating to the development of the country's education system. In addition, Thai students had been studying subjects that did not match the demands of the labor market. He also conceded that if Thailand is to be competitive after 2015, when the free market across ASEAN opens, its education policies must adapt to meet the demands and requirements of an open labor market.

English is clearly the key to success and opportunity in the new ASEAN community. It is not only the official language; it is also the ‘world' language which is used across the globe for nearly all international dialogue and trade. English will be used at all levels of Thai society from 2015. Without strong English skills, people within the ASEAN community will be prevented from progressing beyond unskilled and menial jobs. So, how is this affecting foreign TEFL teachers and Thai students?

This desire for strong English-language skills is, obviously, translating into a greater demand for English instruction from foreign teachers. In Chiang Mai, I have noticed a wider range of schools and institutions contacting our school to provide teachers, teacher management and language courses. For example, we have managed the foreign language teachers at one local vocational college for several years. Within the last few months however, another vocational college has signed a contract with us to provide foreign teachers and a third will be meeting our school manager within the next few days to discuss providing teachers at their college as well. We already manage teachers at a number of schools and colleges across Chiang Mai and the North; but despite running a popular teacher-training program, we are still finding it difficult to fill all our teaching positions.

Also, talking to representatives from other schools, it seems rising demand for foreign teachers is affecting them. The foreign-teacher coordinator at the popular employer Dara Academy told me that he received fewer applications than normal for a couple of jobs he recently advertised. This suggests, perhaps, that teachers are gaining employment faster than before or there are fewer teachers in Chiang Mai - unlikely. In fact, Dara offered one of their positions to a recent TEFL course graduate, but she declined as she had already accepted a position at another Chiang Mai school.

Another course graduate (Belgian) was sitting in our school preparing his CV a few days after training finished when our manager received a call from the director of another popular private school. She needed a teacher immediately. He was whisked to the school and offered the position after a short interview. This all happened before lunch!

This weekend (August 25th - 27th) sees The ASEAN Education Challenge 2012 in Chiang Mai. Over 10,000 students, parents and teachers from across Thailand are expected to attend this event which is an opportunity for them to exchange knowledge, creativity and culture with the aim of promoting a more sustainable, inclusive and development-oriented future. M.L. Panada Disakul, The Governor of Chiang Mai and Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, will make opening addresses. Here's the full program

The event is being organized by the Private Schools Association (PSA) of Chiang Mai. Here are the organizers' dressed in the national dress of each ASEAN country. My wife, Ying, is located on the far right of the front row dressed in Singaporean national dress. This event evolved from her previous experience organizing the Singapore Education Challenge in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago.

However, this weekend's event is on a far larger scale and is spread over three days. I've witnessed the work of the PSA in order to bring this event to life. It's been a massive and ambitious undertaking by all members of the association. Surprisingly for an event such as this, it even looks as though it will break even financially as sponsorship has just about covered the costs of staging the event.

I feel that the opening of the ASEAN community in 2015 should be an exciting time for foreign English-language teachers in this part of the world. There are going to be more jobs and more opportunities to teach EFL in SE Asia as the EFL industry expands. This has to be good."

John Quinn is the course trainer at SEE TEFL in Chiang Mai


What's more important native speakers, perhaps from Texas or better from Dublin?
Yes, all of them are native speakers with a clear and easy to understand accent!

By Michele, Thailand (30th June 2015)

Talk to the Thai university students and the vast majority couldn't care less about ASEAN. They don't see it as a good reason for learning English. A lot of schools are promoting ASEAN as a marketing tool because it helps them make money from selling English classes taught by native English speakers. And it's really 'funny' to learn English, lots of games, which is really getting old.

When the seriousness of ASEAN really sets in here, Thais will be in for a rude awakening. I predict plane and bus loads of Lao, Cambodian, Burmese, Vietnamese and Filipinos hitting the market running and the ones who can speak Thai will also be at a big advantage. The Singaporeans and Malays will take any of the jobs that require them to speak English and pay very well (e.g. PTT, Siam Cement). Meanwhile, the Singaporean and Chinese Malay will be busy also trying to set up more businesses in Thailand. So the burning down of ghettos may happen, but those could end up being Thai ghettos. Time will tell.

By Lisa, (7th September 2012)

@Reggie Mucker

Couldn't agree more, bud.

I've been in SE Asia for a looooooooooooong time now, and have taught in Cambo, Lao, 'Nam and ol' Siam.

With the exception of 'Nam, I've often asked myself "Am I preparing a race of slaves for a future empire?"


By Jeff, Thailand (1st September 2012)

I hate to pour oil into the ASEAN pot but reality is this. If Thailand does not stop agents and schools offering foreigner teachers 10 month contracts at ever lowering salaries there will be little enthusiasm by said teachers to come to or stay in Thailand.

The opportunities being offered generally around Asia and especially now China stop Thailand being an attractive place to work. It will not make a scrap of difference what Asean Agreement wants or dictates. The schools and the agents must change their attitudes and go back to looking after and offering reasonable contracts to foreigners.

By Reggie Mucker, Hatyai (31st August 2012)

Interesting speculation on the impact of ASEAN and the potential opportunities for non-NES speakers come 2015. Here's my take on it:

-Non NES speaking teachers will initially come here because of the ease of work permits etc.

-Non NES speakers will not stay long, because under ASEAN rules, the workers must be paid the same as Thai workers for the same jobs. This means many Filipinos taking pay cuts, and Malay/Singaporeans would never work for those wages.

How it will play out beyond that is anyone's guess. I dont think ASEAN will work as originally designed and some significant 'tweaking' will have to be done before too long.

By David, Tak (28th August 2012)


Great minds think alike! :o)

I've been studying Marxism of late and it warns against capitalist double dip recessions and the like leading to feudalism.

Democracy is as dead as a door nail. We've got a Democrat president who's waging a war in Afghanistan and had a Labour prime minister who waged a war in Iraq. Whoever you vote for, government wins.

Back on topicish, (sorry, John), ASEAN 2015 may well be good for NES teachers for the foreseeable future but if immigrants are allowed in to undercut the Thai workforce, then it'll lead to rampant nationalism and the torching of ghettos.

I think we'll see the full effects by 2020. Maybe sooner.

Fingers crossed for Thailand, may she forever keep on smiling.

@John. This what I was hinting at in my original reply to your worthy article! :o)

By Jeff, Thailand (28th August 2012)

Jeff, I agree with you. I'm one of the "phen khonThai leo" farangs who is very xenophobic when it comes to outside interference with all things Thai. I want this country to remain as it is and I fear ASEAN is going to blow that out of the water with a huge influx of cheap labor, non-NES teachers, and cultures that are non-Thai which will dilute what Thailand has maintained tooth-and-nail up until now. I am very anti-ASEAN for numerous other reasons I won't go into but I'm not alone in my thinking as my close friends (all Thai) agree this is going to be a real game changer and what is "Thai" will soon be lost. Let's hope I'm wrong!!!

By Mr.M.Ed., Singburi (27th August 2012)

Hello. Yes.

I think this is common sense really but if you need to ask Mr Quinn questions about TEFL courses, etc then this ain't the place to do it. This is a blog about the impact of ASEAN on foreign teachers in Thailand and the comments and opinions in the comments and opinions section should reflect that.

By philip, (27th August 2012)

I attended Saturday’s opening of the ASEAN Education Challenge 2012 and was very impressed. The hall was packed. There was first a cultural show by students from formal and informal schools which blended traditional Thai dance with hints of other ASEAN cultures. It really was a spectacular opening. This was followed by the charismatic leader of ASEAN, Dr. Surin, delivering a speech focusing on the importance of ASEAN countries working together to help each other. There was then a short speech by the Governor of Chiang Mai and finally the event was officially opened. Also in attendance was royalty in the form of the last princess of the Chiang Mai family line, Dr. Chao Duan Duang na Chiang Mai. Today is the last day of this event.

Like you I am also a Thailand fan and 100% agree that teachers from the Philippines, and other countries within ASEAN where English has been promoted as a national language for many years, will have greater opportunities in Thailand from 2015. Those teachers also won’t need to worry about non-immigrant visas and work permits – I guess. However, many schools due to parent demand want ‘farang’ faces in the classroom, and those schools often aren’t concerned whether those faces are from Manchester, Moscow, Miami, Sydney or Salzburg. I can’t see this attitude changing anytime soon, but 2015 may start to influence opinions. In my opinion, many non-native speakers make excellent EFL teachers as they appreciate more the difficulties of learning English.

Jade Dragon,
Thank you for your comments. I feel your post indicates the wide diversity of experiences and opinions within the foreign-teacher TEFL community.

It sounds like teaching in a provincial town offers great opportunities. Teaching in a provincial town or city also offers much that is difficult to experience in larger teaching centres such as Bangkok or Chiang Mai. You mentioned opportunities and higher salaries, but I think the cultural aspect of being in Thailand can be richer and more rewarding as well. It’s not for everyone, but if I were new to Thailand now, I would probably consider the move.

By John Q., Chiang Mai (26th August 2012)

A good read, John. I enjoyed that.

Off topicish, I can't help but feel that Thai jobs will go to cheaper labor from countries like Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines.

I really hope I'm wrong on this, but it's what happened in the UK when workers from Euro countries like Poland were allowed in.

Fingers crossed for my beloved Thailand and her lovely people.

By Jeff, Thailand (26th August 2012)

The demand is there, however the vast majority of salaries have not been raised in over ten + years.
The work load is exhausting, the respect has drastically dwindled and especially in Chiang Mai living on 20k+ is near impossible for a foreigner.
My suggestion is schools need to seriously step up their examination of outdated pay salaries and finacially compensate experienced teachers. Not only would this retain the "revolving door" of teachers coming in and out, but would attract REAL teachers to a potentially fulfilling and dedicated career.

By Jade Dragon, Chiang Mai (25th August 2012)

I agree, these are exciting times for English teachers here. I live in a small provincial capital, but even here I have noticed the difference in teaching opportunities. Just in the last few months I have taught at the Provincial Industrial Office (50 hour course) and the Institute of Skills Development (30 hour course). Pretty good pay too at 600 Baht an hour. There have also been offers to teach Thai English teachers, although I had to turn those down because it was weekend work.

On top of that I have also been approached to find teachers to teach part time at rural government and temple schools. They can't find enough teachers and even the main downtown government schools are having problems getting staff.

On the downside this has lead to an influx of unsuitable "teachers" (travelers and non-NES)

By Del, Thailand (25th August 2012)

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