Age - the TEFL killer disease sweeping Thailand
I'm confused as to the type of teacher that schools want.
Age, the TEFL killer disease, sweeping Thailand … Do I mean literally? Yes, if you’re over 60 it’s a graveyard out there. Here’s my story.
At the age of 52 I came to Thailand and a year later took my TEFL certificate. After developing my experience as a volunteer in a local school, which was part of the 250 hour course, I moved to Ratchaburi for a year.
At the end of 2011, I obtained a position in a state school in Northern China and spent the following six years in the same school. Unfortunately, in early 2018 the recruiting company lost its contract with the government and redundancy followed.
China has a 'grandfather rights' system, which means that if you’re already working the contract may carry on depending on health and your employer, but no new applications after the age of 60. At that time I was nearly 63 and with my dependent Thai wife we returned to Thailand.
Time marches on and I’m now nearly 64 and meanwhile, in the past year I’ve sent out dozens of applications and received one offer from a reputable university in Thailand. Unfortunately, the salary was so low that after paying high accommodation costs out of the salary in what was both a university town and a holiday resort, what remained I wouldn’t have been able to live on.
Aside from that it’s not just refusals I’ve had, it’s the deafening silence that follows the application, which is surprising as it’s obvious from the amount of adverts there’s a shortage of NES teachers in Thailand.
A fair haired blue-eyed British NES (marriage visa), with three genuine UK degrees (BA, B.Sc. and MA) and additionally, eight years of experience, employment references from Thailand and China; I’m also a non-drinker with never a day off through illness. Consequently, I’m aware the killer is age as I always attach two recent photos with my resume proving I’m not a geriatric with a zimmer frame!
What are schools looking for then?
So, let’s play the blame game, but dispel the myth that schools can’t find a teacher.
Perhaps it’s not a teacher they’re looking for, but clowns masquerading as entertainers? Any school choosing a 22-year old party animal will produce disappointed.
These mythical TEFL creatures, forever young with a permanent rictus smile exist only in the imagination and are about as common as a Thai teacher bathed in sweat at the end of an eight hour day! Similarly, a genuinely mature teacher who gets up at 5am and is still doing next day’s lesson plans 14 hours later is going to burn out quickly. Quality over quantity and knowledge over entertainment?
We’re out there and we don’t need the sun, sea and sand inducements, or the 'cultural activities' to entice us.
If however you’re looking for young, energetic, fun loving entertainers, whose idea of a promised exotic adventure entails spending eight hours a day in a school setting they not long ago left themselves, perhaps you’re looking for the wrong sort of people?
From the foreign alcoholic recruiter who once interviewed me in a bar, to the Thai homeroom teacher who told me that at 53 years old I couldn’t donate my blood because it was "too old"; the end product of education reflects the ingredients.
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Ageism has been an issue in Thailand for a while and it's not going away, sadly.
It's even worse for Thais. Just go on any Thai jobsite and try and find jobs for anyone over 35. It's similar for us foreigners too, but the 'age limits' vary and aren't nearly as downright nasty as they are for Thai nationals.
I'm 50 now, have an education degree and twenty years' teaching experience. However, I can't get a 'top job' anymore, despite excellent references and experience. Recently, I applied for a job paying 70,000 up. It stated that you must have an education degree/QTS etc.
I applied and they didn't even reply to my email. However, they did reply and offer a job (at 85,000 a month) to a young handsome chap I know with no
B.Ed or QTS. Fair play to him for applying without credentials deemed 'essential' in their advertisement.
There was no 'age limit' mentioned in the ad, but obviously there was. There was no other reason to reject my application out of hand (they just asked for Certs, CV and a photo to be sent). And yes, I know how to write a good CV.
I'm happy for the chap. Good luck to him. But it has made me realise that I need to look at going back home to teach there.
In Thailand, it's all down to private schools wanting pretty young faces representing their schools on the website, on the billboards and just for the parents to swoon over.
Young, fresh-faced teachers help to sell the schools here. And money is important to those running some of these rackets, I mean schools.
I'm still getting some good offers, but not at the level I'm used to. And it's only going to get worse as I get older. I've now realised that you can't help feeling angry and frustrated at times due to the rampant ageism here, but that you need to just let it go.
They aren't going to change. Cash is king.
By Old bloke, Bangkok (27th February 2020)
This post seems very biased towards young people and I don't like it.
Perhaps schools are looking for young people who relate more to the kids, rather than corny people disguised as teacher leeching off third world countries.
No school will employ drunkards. Partying in your free time doesn't make you a bad person, being condescending and judgy does.
By Max, Bangkok (31st August 2019)
I was in China until near 63 as most countries have a sort of ‘grandfather rights’ system where you can carry on as long as the employer wants you and subject to medical checks. Yet once you leave you go back to normal applications.
All I can say is try my test. Send out a few enquiries, mention you’re over 60 (they do require age and nationality in Asia), sit back and listen to the silence.
I wouldn’t listen too much to what anyone says James, the bottom line is that if you’re over 60 in Asia looking for work you’ve as much chance as finding a needle in a haystack. Unless you’ve got a large amount of savings or some other income such as a pension, it’s over.
By John V, Thailand (25th April 2019)
John , I am back in the UK at the moment after spending a few months in Cambodia over the new year. There I met an American 73 years of age teaching at a University in Siem Reap. Although I have no idea how much he earned, he said he was having a great time .
By James roberts, UK (24th April 2019)
Thanks for the support Greg. My skill is vocational and in demand, I’ve already checked on dedicated British forums, maybe more so if we have a hard Brexit. From a CNC engineer, or a specialized gas welder and onto a chef; previous skills are never lost. I just need to do a couple of exams to update and a little practice. I don’t own property in the UK, but as regards renting, I’m already in touch with someone via a UK website that offers accommodation in the area I prefer.
My sympathies lie with those who have spent years or decades living from month to month salaries and in advancing years find themselves having to return to their home countries near destitute, without accommodation and no skills, or perhaps in declining health.
By John V, Thailand (24th April 2019)
Hi John, if & when you return back 2 England what type of job do you hope 2 do....& do you realise that in todays competitive job market that people are continually required 2 update their skills....do you own property back in England ? as renting would be harsh @ your age...anyway, all the best...Cheers Greg
By Greg, New Zealand (23rd April 2019)
There is some good advice here, but take 95% of it with a pinch of salt. This is where everyone has advice, many don’t even know there’s age discrimination in Thailand and are or know many people who are making lots of money doing something else … It’s why they’re on a teaching employment website themselves?!
I’m not the first to write about this and it amazes me that many don’t even know there’s age discrimination in Thailand. It’s a subject that has been commented on many times on ajarn.
I think if those giving ‘advice’ aren’t even aware of the basics, their solutions aren’t going to be up to much either. :)
By John V, Thailand (19th April 2019)
There seems to be two sides to this, so I’ll provide the proof. It’s quite simple. Whatever resume you’ve got now and whatever your qualifications, send in a few applications for teaching employment anywhere in Asia, Thailand included, but make sure you change your age to 50 or under. Then do the same with the same resume, but state you’re over 60. While you’re doing that, look at the age restrictions on the majority of the adverts. Find an advert that states no age restrictions. Then understand why your resume doesn’t matter, but your age does.
Advice, whether well intentioned or not, often comes from those with no experience and is based on assumptions, just as I assumed my experience and qualifications would override age. Earn 800 Baht an hour teaching online, or I know someone who was employed over 60 … Try my suggestion above and find out for yourself. Look around you at your fellow Farangs over 50. Never mind anonymous online claims, how many of them are making loads of money doing something else? How many Farangs do you ‘personally’ know earning 100K for p/t teaching online? Let’s stick to facts.
I’m one of the thousands of small cogs in a big wheel and just like them I’ll be taking my savings out of the Thai recession hit economy and taking them back to the UK where I can earn four times what I earn here, as long as my health lasts and whatever age I am. That does not make me a victim, it makes me a lot cleverer than the thousands who go back penniless every year after being bled dry by advice and money making alternatives.
If there’s one regret I have it’s spending over a year applying for employment that I knew deep down I wasn’t going to get and I’ve just needlessly wasted a year.
By John V, Thailand (19th April 2019)
I would recommend to not fall into the trap John did and assume the only possible international career is in teaching English.
If you are an NES it is pretty easy to get a JOB teaching English.
But it is difficult to create an international CAREER.
In general, a job allows you to pay your monthly bills, a career more likely provides an opportunity for some level of financial security. This is true whether in Thailand or back home in Farangland.
It is 2019, and we have the internet these days. Many jobs require an internet connection, but not to be in any specific location. If you are thinking about having an international career, think about pursuing a career in which you can work anywhere in the world. There are millions of people around the world working from home, and in reality it does not matter if home is in Chicago or Tak.
There are also other types of professional jobs one can pursue internationally as well. I can remember during the time I worked for an international organization in Thailand we hired a 70 year old Swede. Yes, these types of jobs usually require some specialized skills and it is probably better to acquire the qualifications and experience for these jobs long before one reaches John’s age.
John took the easy route as an NES and got a job based on the luck of having been born in a country where the native language is the world’s lingua franca and never bothered to develop the skills or experience needed for a career. Now he feels he is a “victim.”
I would agree that pointing out his lack of foresight is not very helpful, but it is not clear John actually was looking for help as he rejected out of hand every suggestion given to him. I think he was just seeking validation and trying to prove he is a victim (of some unnamed “them” across the entire planet).
I hope returning home works out well for him.
And there might be a lesson for others in his story.
Just a view from someone who has been there and done that.
By Jack, City of Angels (Angles) (18th April 2019)
Thanks GrumblesMcGee. I think what I’m trying to do is sound two warnings based on experience. If you’re in Thailand long term, during that time you might want to get married, buy a house, start a family … The normal things you’d do in the west and that’s a big mistake. If someone is the average teacher on 30/35K Baht a month even for decades, the lifestyle they have will only last as long as their employment, because on that amount of money they’ll save near zero.
Second, immigration. The gap between the age of 60 and a pension are the dead years that will eat into anything you have managed to save. How many reading this could afford to have 400K deposited in a bank for a marriage visa that they can’t touch, or 800K for a retirement one? In addition to that and without working and before they reach western pension age have an income of around 40K a month for years to support themselves?
There is a degree of self-error on hindsight, but my message is for those in their 50s - do the math which I didn’t. Unless you’re one of the few fortunates who remain employed after 60 and aren’t in the job market you better have a couple of million Baht tucked away in a Thai bank, or you’ll be living on borrowed time. Immigration aren’t social workers and don’t care how long you’ve been here, your references, or what ties you have.
As I’ve previously said, I’m lucky in that I have the skills, means and health to go and work elsewhere. Lacking those might mean a return to country of origin penniless and without even a roof over your head. The promises of recruitment agencies telling everyone how wonderful they are won’t sound half as appealing in that situation. Personally, I shrug my shoulders. In a land of smiles based on looks and age, I’ll return to a land that welcomes my skills, save and only come back to our house and my wife when health forces me to retire from working.
By John V, Thailand (18th April 2019)
I feel for you. There really are some issues in the international market with ageism, and it can be devastating to people from western countries as they navigate the gap before retirement--especially for those who get a late start and/or don't want to return to their home country to teach.
As someone getting a slightly late start on the international career, I've looked ahead and can see the potential problems 10, 15, 20 years down the road. At that point I'd be so far removed from my previous field that I'll be unemployable there in my home country. I'd be crazy expensive (due to experience, certifications, and advanced degrees), turning off the increasingly narrow pool of schools interested in someone of X age. And I'd be too young to retire. If my partner and I decide to start a family, it could be a recipe for disaster unless I commit for the long-term and settle in at a top-tier school.
The hostile/dismissive comments here (and on other forums) have given me pause about going international, as have the repeated instances of "deafening silence" when applying to positions. I get that I'm shifting fields a bit, but I've always approached job searches in a narrow way--applying only to positions I'm qualified for, and expecting to at least get a first interview. Not so in the cold international market. Even the "helpful" agencies were often looking to place me in poverty-level jobs. I told them that I'm not in it for the money, and I'm willing to take a haircut compared to what I've earned in domestic university lecturing, but there are limits. I'm lucky to have landed at a really great Thai school for next year--a school that really fits my background.
I wish you the best. And to all the trollish commenters (you know who you are) blaming John for everything from greed, lack of foresight, etc., there's no need for that kind of bitterness.
By GrumblesMcGee, Thailand (18th April 2019)
I think Uzbekistan was one of the more out of the way country’s I applied to, through a third-party recruiter of course and as usual got no reply. The online, ‘I make 100K+ a month working part time’ is also worn out. They don’t, the only one’s making that are the business people behind it.
I turned 64 this week and I’m resigning myself to the fact that in a country where the official retirement age is still 50, at the age of 64 I’m years past the sell by date. The best I could hope for now is an offer from a bottom tier ‘school’ chain working illegally. The alternative is to head back west and earn a decent salary for two or three years that will top up my pension at 66 and then come back.
I’ve been at this for 16 months now John (Bangkok) and the only success I’ve had is on a British forum where I’m told my age doesn’t matter and as long as my health continues to come back as my skills are very much still in demand. I shouldn’t be doing this at my age; find a new address, change my licence, open a bank account, update my skills … but in another sense it’s a challenge. I’ve stopped applying to teach in Thailand John and I’ll leave the schools to carry on complaining they can’t find teachers. :)
By John V, Thailand (14th April 2019)
Uzbekistan comes to mind! I really do think that going back to the UK after ten years out would not work out. No matter what skills someone might have had before, they would be completely out of the loop. It would be very tough for anyone, especially someone over 40, to get back into the swing of things. It would be more of a long term, and going back to settle kind of thing. Perhaps online teaching would be the way to go as that could go on for as long as you wanted.
By John, Bangkok (13th April 2019)
I don’t think it can be done John (Bangkok). I’ve been back from China for 15 months and believe me, I’ve written job applications to just about every country in the southern hemisphere, so it’s not a question of flexibility. That’s not to say it could never be done, but it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack and would be more based on luck than anything else. No one ever says where this work is because no one knows, it’s an assumption that someone, somewhere, must be hiring over 60s.
Currently, and obviously without age restrictions, the ‘other’ skills I have which aren’t based around teaching will earn me between £30 – 40K annually back in the UK. That’s an average of 1½m Baht a year. In that respect I consider myself more fortunate than those with no skills and who will eventually arrive back in the UK with no fixed address like myself, but unlike myself with no money either.
My wife and I have a house here, our marriage is solid and I look on the return to the UK as just another commute and a way of saving money for my retirement.
* Thanks Jack. A new chapter in the life of an expat. :)
By John V, Thailand (12th April 2019)
I hope it works out for you,
By Jack, City of Angels (Angles) (11th April 2019)
OK, I said that teaching in Thailand wasn't great. Going back to the UK after ten years out would be even worse though. I would recommend being more flexible and going where you can definitely get the work. I think the middle East is out of the question for new-recruits over 60. You'll need to search quite a bit to get a reasonable position. It can be done though.
By John, Bangkok (11th April 2019)
I think this previous and wasted year finally brought it home to me. I too played the self-reflection game. Perhaps it’s my resume, or cover letter, or maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough? I didn’t even consider the many times I’d finished a day’s work utterly worn out by the promised 22 hours that had turned into 30 with ‘extra activities.’ Trying to survive on a salary that has been static for decades, cutting back on air-con because electricity is expensive and only being able to afford second rate accommodation … Arriving every morning in black trousers, shiny shoes, tie and a clean shirt, with never a day off and believing the hype that I was making a difference.
I’ve just turned 64 in perfect health and I’ve got some advice for the ‘go getters.’ It’s not bitterness; reality finally gave me a well-deserved slap! I finally understand that you could be here for twenty years and never even get near the required visa cost for retirement (luckily I had private funds). All your years of work, the social and economic contributions you made, the current fawning over by recruiters will eventually amount to nothing as you reach a cut off age. Immigration couldn’t care less how long you’ve been here, or about your qualifications and references.
Thailand has changed; it’s now all about money and in this recent marriage visa application I saw the writing on the wall. I’m supposed to be ecstatic if with three genuine degrees and experience a bottom tier chain school offers me employment at 30K, plus 3K to find a wooden shack to live in? Hoping that the Thai authorities are so stupid they don’t notice I’m border hopping pretending I’m a tourist after ten years in Asia and working illegally without a work permit, in addition to hours of extra activity performing that has burned out many 21 year olds? Not that they have, but no thank you.
If you have other skills keep them up to date. If you intend to make Thailand your eventual home, don’t try to do it by working here. If you haven’t already got them, learn the man-management and associated skills that you’ll need after your time here. Have a plan ‘B’ ready that you can use in non-discriminatory western countries, because if you stay here long enough eventually you’re going to need it. Look on your time here as an adventure as aren’t we all that personality type?
I haven’t been back to the UK for over ten years and it’s going to be strange. I’ll miss my wife, our cats, the weather, the Thai life … Yet I accept the challenge of working again in a country where my skills and education are valued more than my age, I’m not forced to live hand to mouth and my residence doesn’t depend on how much money I have in the bank. I’m sorry that I’ll almost certainly be leaving, but I no longer blame myself.
By John V, Thailand (11th April 2019)
I suppose this is an update as in the end I too lost my patience. I recently applied for my annual marriage visa and got it, but with it came the third degree over my financial status. My financial status is that I have the required banked and can never be spent 400K Baht and I’m living off savings, which means I have no income. I have no income because despite experience and a Master’s degree my age means I’m not even worth 30K Baht a month, or even a reply to my applications.
Those on work permits won’t have experienced it, but those applying for residency visas will have noticed there’s a big tightening up. If my visa application lasted fifteen minutes, two thirds of that was spent delving into how much I owned and was worth.
To remain long-term in Thailand on a marriage visa requires a permanent 400K deposited in a bank (800K for a retirement visa). On top of that let’s say a minimum income of 25K a month for living expenses and that’s walking a tightrope. That’s a minimum combined total of 700K annually - £16,837. Now, how many teachers have got that amount to play with from the age of 60 to the end? I think the biggest worry for older teachers is not having the required amount of deposited savings that guarantees a visa and a British state pension doesn’t cover anywhere near a minimum 25K Baht pcm living expenses.
Which got me thinking …
Fortunately, I have skills which I was employed in before I came to Thailand and having delved into it, an update will put me back in a situation where I can earn four times what I can’t earn here and remain unemployed.
We’re all of us small cogs in the big wheel, but we contribute through work and spending in the local economy. By removing myself, in a small way I contribute to the decline. If I’m not offered a half-decent position by the start of the new semester in mid-May, I too will remove myself and my savings and become a part of the declining small cogs and supposed teacher shortage. I have a wife here who has a little business and the house is paid for and so there’s a possibility of a return in the future, but as it stands, I see no possibility of a future here while I’m still in good health and western working age.
By John V, Thailand (10th April 2019)
Why hire an older more experienced teacher when a younger inexperienced will do?
Ideally a newbie " foreigner" who will leave after only one year to be replaced by a fresh new face.
Preferably a photogenic white person who will look good on a school's social media site.
Superficial appearance trumps knowledge.
By Bob Johnson, Bangkok (10th April 2019)
Teaching in Thailand probably isn't a great idea for most people anymore. Other countries have more to offer. Time to look further afield I would say. It's always going to be tough for over 60s though. That's the way it goes. Nothing you can do but try to deal with it.
By John, Bangkok (9th April 2019)
As it’s sort of drawing to a conclusion, let me also give a little advice based on experience. I’m over 60, so it really is experience and not conjecture or subjective opinion. By the time people reading this get to that age, if they’re still here the situation is obviously going to change, but if you’re near that already, prepare.
As you approach 60, get yourself into a job in a country that has the flexibility of a ‘grandfather rights’ system. You’ll need this to take you from a cut off age to your pension. Those years in between are the killer years that will eat into your savings. Also, if you’ve been here many years you’ll no doubt have a marriage visa, or a retirement one. For those you’ll need a permanent sum of 400K in a Thai bank, (800K if you’re single) and that’s wasted money that you can’t touch.
We are in the middle of a decade old continuing recession and it’s getting worse. The money making schemes ended years ago and left the vast majority struggling. Listen to advice, but don’t necessarily heed it. The world is full of opinion and everybody has an idea. My favourite is the French national who opened a French type bistro in our small Thai village and went bankrupt within weeks waiting for the Thia’s to develop a taste for Bouillabaisse and croissants. I roll my eyes and mutter, ‘well, imagine that!’ He too couldn’t initially understand why I warned against it.
Likewise, it might be considered wishful thinking to believe that someone who can’t speak English but has access to a first world salary is looking for someone from Thailand to teach them English in America. There’s also the possibility that online teaching may well be the future, but it’s already a saturated market in its part infancy. Write a Master’s thesis to sell online? Sounds good? One company is charging $28.92 for a 15 day deadline. Now how much do you think you’re going to get from the company for doing that? Amazing stuff really; it took me three months to complete my Master’s thesis, so I suppose they must already have a stockpile of them to choose from. If you can continually knock out 15 theses a month in fifteen different subjects go for it!
If you have a money making idea, be quite sure that someone somewhere has thought of it already and the market is saturated with ideas and also with Farangs with one way air tickets at Suvarnabhumi airport. It’s not ‘whining and moaning’ to state all this.
No matter what skills we had previously, we all ended up as teachers because that was an only option. No one is saying come to Thailand and do this or that and make lots of money, but all the opinions suggest otherwise. Above all be wary of those that tell you they’ve got an easy life earning 100K+. Few have and if they had a fantastic idea they’d hardly be sharing it as an anonymous poster in an online comments section.
By John V, Thailand (1st April 2019)
Good luck, but I am not sure whining and moaning while remaining inflexible is the approach most likely to lead to success. I guess it depends on what you consider success, to prove you are a victim or find a way to earn some money?
But for others who want to live abroad, teach and avoid John’s fate, I will give a little advice based on my experience and observations. I would strongly suggest to look into work in online education or educationally related activities. A little online work, especially when getting paid at first world rates while living with third world expenses, can really supplement or even surpass your local teaching income, if you are willing to put in the extra hours. It can also help bring in some income when between jobs or after retirement. Although if you have specialized skills there are plenty of online work in the fields of accounting, statistics, computer programming and so on.
There are opportunities for all types of work and one of the cool things is being “online” makes location often of little importance. Although sometimes nationality does, a significant amount of online academic work (Both teaching classes and working on dissertation committees) at accredited universities in the USA is much easier for American citizens to get due to legal and taxes reasons. Also, home schooling is really big in the USA and this is often accompanied by some online interactions with a teacher, I have not been directly involved in this but this path is probably better for qualified teachers who may need to also get licensed in the state they are working at. Not easy but would seem to be a good way to get first world pay while living in Thailand or other developing county. There are other things one can get involved in such as course design (I have done this a couple of times myself) and conducting online corporate training.
The TEFL online work which is often referred to here on Ajarn, I do not have any experience in, but from I have read it looks like a viable option for both an income supplement and some retirement money, and maybe in other cases an option for full-time employment if one has other visa options or doesn’t mind being a bit of a drifter and live out of a backpack temporarily in multiple locations. But there are people here with personal experience who know more about requirements and pros and cons of both this type of work in general and specific jobs.
And there are also educationally related activities, often language related. There is work doing editing (including editing for theses and dissertations), some opportunities in writing (easy to do but difficult to make much money at), and translation work. Few NES seem to ever get good enough in a foreign language to be a translator but I have met many people who do translations from home. Maybe something a NES husband and Thai wife team could work at together. And there is also online tutoring for students in a variety of academic subjects, sometimes for test prep or to help students in understanding the topics they are studying. None of these types of work rely on putting on a clown outfit or dancing around the room, but sometimes require adjustments due to time zone differences .
And as plagiarism software has made it more difficult to just copy and paste someone else’s work, if you are more concerned with income than academic integrity, there is significant amounts of work writing theses and dissertations for students. When the economy is slow, it gets especially difficult for liberal arts majors in subjects such as philosophy and English Lit to find employment and they often end up ghost writing doctoral and master’s theses and dissertations. I have heard rumors the going rate for a PhD dissertation starts at $10,000. I would never say never but I hope I never get into a position where I would even consider this as an option, but it is an option and would be preferable to going without eating.
This last part is just opinion, ignore it if you disagree, but “success” living abroad for a career is not easy and on average requires more effort than it does back home. Education is a field many NESs can earn a living in. But it is probably a good idea to think of it as a career. One can often rely on youth and race (If you are Caucasian) and the fact one was lucky enough to have been born in an English speaking country to earn a basic living teaching ESL as long as the youth holds. But for basic economic reasons this type of work will never pay “well”, and if you want more than a minimum level of income and security and are planning for the long-term, it is probably a good idea to develop your skills and qualifications and stay flexible and adjust to the times and the market.
Just my two satang on a Sunday.
By Jack, City of Angels (Angles) (31st March 2019)
NK, good post. We’re not allowed to mention names, but we all know certain ‘schools’ that employ illegally, no degree, no criminal record check or experience needed. The ‘teachers’ are the dregs of TEFL humanity, which is what you’d expect. They exist by border hopping and Laos visas, which eventually comes to an end and they’re simply refused entry. Thailand is a developing country, but that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. They know exactly what border hoppers are doing and are cracking down on it.
‘He [Police Surachet Hakpal, Maj Gen] asked for school administrators' cooperation in not hiring foreigners on tourist visas and promised trouble for schools that broke the regulations regarding hiring of foreign nationals.’
‘Thai authorities have become weary of foreigners or ‘farangs’, as evidenced in the tightening of entry and visa regulations over the last two years. Immigration is turning away people from the borders who they suspect are living and/or working in Thailand on short term visas.’
I have a marriage (family) visa and it’s not money making schemes I’m after. I’ve no intention of spending my time border hopping and looking constantly over my shoulder, or in the company with the type of people involved in all this.
If you’re younger it doesn’t matter so much, but in your 60s and having put down long term roots, the last thing in the world you want to happen is to be deported and be expected to slot back into somewhere you left many years ago and have to start all over again.
By John V, Thailand (31st March 2019)
Let’s just stop and have a brief recap. Advice is a suggestion, not a solution and many I hear stem from what I call ‘cliché advice’ and that’s based around rumour. Everybody knows there’s money to be made in bit coin, or sitting on a computer teaching online at whatever age, or starting up your own private school … don’t they?
Then follows low information. There is no age discrimination in Thailand, it’s all about your resume, which mirrors the secretive and paranoid western mind-set that suggests omitting age and photo from applications guarantees you wouldn’t get an interview anywhere in Asia. This also contains the hindsight advice that argues, ‘if you hadn’t have come to Thailand none of this would have happened.’ In the end it invariably turns against the poster.
I’ve also had private emails, one of which I’m certain came from a character who carried on his rants about resumes in the same manner by email and who I had to block. The gold dust one was from a teacher over 60 who suggested I try his school and gave me an email address which I’m following up today.
My point is this. I do listen to advice, but not necessarily take it, which people often mistake for intransigence. A sort of, ‘my advice is your solution and if you don’t take it that’s where you’re going wrong.’ If I took every piece of advice offered at face value I wouldn’t be here, I’d be back where I came from with the other millions who went bankrupt in Thailand. Additionally, I don’t take advice to lie on my resume, accept offers to meet dodgy Farangs in a bar to discuss business ventures, or work illegally.
Now, I want you to do something. Google ‘Teaching TEFL in Thailand’ or any variation of it. Click on images and tell me what you can see, or more importantly, what you can’t. Out of all the images, point me to one of someone over 60. That’s what this post was all about.
By John V, Thailand (31st March 2019)
I think most of the suggestions where for John specifically. You are right one normally needs an alternative way to acquire a visa if the goals is to live in Thailand full-time for a long time.
I have been involved in "distance education," mostly on a part-time basis for around 15 years, and it has been important part of my income stream. John dismisses it because "the teachers I spoke to said it was all based on looks." If this were true, I doubt I would have ever been hired in the first place (I am rarely confused with being a model or TV actor) and the type of work I do, not ESL teaching, does not require much on-camera time.
There are many types of online teaching, but of course the type available to individuals depends on qualifications much like in seeking work for all jobs, in education or otherwise. Universities around the world, although mostly in the USA, hold online classes, one can work as a dissertation adviser or committee member if you hold a PhD, or if a "qualified" teacher one can work in the large number of home schooling programs, again mostly, but not exclusively in the USA. If you are a grammar expert and a good writer (As John claims he is) there are opportunities in helping students (mostly foreign) in the writing of their theses and dissertations (and if one is either really desperate or has lower ethical standards one can even write the papers and/or do homework directly for students). And of course their is the "ESL" online teaching which requires marketing yourself and having a personality which comes across in a positive manner on a computer screen.
But John is not interested in looking at the great variety of online work in education available, I have never put on a clown nose or had to dance or play guitar (which I can not do) to earn enough from working online to send my children through university, buy a house, car, and supplement my normal "salary."
By the way, I use the same resume/CV successfully to find online work in the western world and in a number of countries in Asia, A CV/resume which does not include my age or a photo, although sometimes, but not always, I have had to fill in an application form or submit the front page of my passport which shows my age. I am not sure why John refuses to consider leaving off his age from his CV and only supply the information when it's specifically asked for. While schools in Thailand are required to gather specific documents to apply for a work permit, I know of no laws which apply across "Asia" which require schools or other employers to require listing of age on all application documents. But if there are these laws on the books, he might get lucky (like I have) and run across employers who are not following "the law."
John's dismissal of any suggestion given to him indicates he is not really looking for ways to make some money, but is looking to express how he is a victim of outside forces, and if he actually made some adjustments in where and how he is seeking employment it might result in proving he is not as much of a victim or as powerless as his moans and complaints indicate.
Proving himself wrong is something he apparently is not willing to try to do.
By Jack, LOS (30th March 2019)
My question to everyone suggesting online teaching as a solution would be how would most people get a long term visa to live abroad anywhere doing that? Those who aren't married to Thai nationals (or a citizen of any other country) like the author of the article happens to be, I mean.
Are those of you who are teaching online just doing border runs and tourist visas and finding other ways to circumvent or flout Thailand's laws on immigration, labor, taxes and so forth?
That seems like a remarkably insecure way to live and not a good plan for putting down roots anywhere. A friend of mine who has been here a while was just denied entry at the airport on his way back in from Vietnam. They then sent him back to Vietnam, who also denied him entry because of course his visa had been stamped out on his way back to Thailand. Now he's in a bad situation and I'm not sure how he's going to solve it.
Online teaching is a great way to support yourself as an illegal immigrant somewhere, but not a great way to live abroad long term if you don't have another route to a visa. I can understand why you'd suggest it to John V. since he's got a Thai wife, but it seems like a pretty poor idea for most people if their goal is to live outside of their home country.
By NK, Bangkok, Thailand (30th March 2019)
Generalizations do apply, often. They’re called rules. Unfortunately we sometimes become a victim of them, if ‘victim’ is the right word. Thailand has a retirement visa age of 50, so if you’re 49 it’s not a generalization or whining to say you’re not going to get one. Similarly, there’s a cut off age of 60 for employment. Over 60 is not playing the victim and not a question of simply changing to something else and carrying on, or the fault of a resume, or presentation and to say not all recruiters are ageist (except the illegal ones), then produces the question, which one isn’t? That would be answered by, ‘I’m not sure, but there must be some that aren’t’, which is a generalization.
It’s not a wish that the world was different, it’s a fact that teaching in Thailand hits a brick wall at 60.
Advice is a suggestion, not a solution. Part-time, language schools, Internet teaching … I’ve looked into them all. Nothing is being dismissed, except for a resume change which isn’t a fault. I found a dream job at 56 that people would die for with the resume I have; it’s my age that stopped it continuing. You can’t change age as you could move from say Mattayom teaching to University.
I’ll do a post on resumes soon because what I’m reading and from someone who contacted me directly, there’s a lot of misconceptions about them. This is Thailand, you can’t hide personal details here and bring them up at the interview stage as you can in the west, so if that’s given as advice it’s not being discounted, but simply being ignored as something irrelevant.
By John V, Thailand (29th March 2019)
Finding a difference between the way the word is and the way one thinks the world should be is nothing unusual.
It is also common to think the job market should value ones skills and labor more than it does.
I find myself in both situations frequently (daily).
When we find ourselves in these situations, we can whine and moan while trying to change the world or job market, or we can try to adjust as much as possible to the way the world and the market operates.
Which of these two general approaches is more likely to produce desired results?
Also it might be good idea to realize the limitations of using generalizations as they rarely apply across the board. Because there is age discrimination in Thailand it does not mean every organization or individual doing the hiring for ESL jobs in Thailand will ignore all job applicants over a specific age.
But if one has already made up one's mind they are a victim and are unwilling to reexamine this belief, all the advice and suggestions, whether about online teaching, seeking part-time work at language centers or adjusting presentation of application material will be dismissed out of hand.
Sometimes people find it more important to be right in their own mind and prove their victim-hood than finding a solution to a problem or overcoming a challenge.
By Jack, LOS (29th March 2019)
Thanks for that Bob Dobbs. It’s simple really; just as we have yearly contracts, in China companies involved with the government have three yearly contracts with the education authority and I was working in a government school. Most of what you read on the Internet are from teachers employed in private schools which are much more lax, although not with age. Government schools are much stricter with teaching content; we had regular PSB security checks and my claim to fame is probably one of the few teachers here whose superior bore the title of ‘political officer!’ :)
Chinese government schools have what’s called ‘grandfather rights’ and that means that if you turn 60 are in good health and the school wanted to keep you on they can do. The company lost its contract with the government at the end of the second three year contract, which meant I couldn’t then apply elsewhere as I was nearly 63.
You can’t take your age off in Asia. One of the first things they ask for is your passport and get the age from that and also want a photo. Here’s some advice I wrote for designing an Asian resume and completely different from the west.
I don’t even discuss salary until the interview, but as I’m not getting those I suppose it doesn’t matter. That’s what I’m hoping for, that come near the start of the semester I get the position of someone who dropped out.
It’ll all come together, hopefully, fingers crossed!
By John V, Thailand (28th March 2019)
I will say this...John has contributed a few blog posts, appears competent to teach, has a great deal of experience, presumably has letters of reference. He's not a bad looking guy as well. Appears healthy.
So, this really leads me to the conclusion that you want too much money, there really are insurance issues +63. But finally, I'd go back to my initial post. Why hire a 62 year old when you can hire a 42 yo? You need to have an answer for that and can't presume everyone are a bunch of dumbshits because there it's still very competitive imo for jobs at the top 52.5-70k.
How is it you are out of a job? You left a school without a job lined up at 62+???!
Again, as I have stated prior I know for a fact you are abosolutely done at 62-63 unless there's just some magic reason they'll hire and hold you.
Take your age off your resume, get a hipster how, reduce your experience to five years, refresh your resume. Write a brief cover for everything you send out.
Finally, I'm older as well and a few years running I left my job over money, was sending resumes left and right. Getting lots of calls, but no one would pay my price. I just held fast. I ended up at good schools, with the salary I targeted. May is an excellent time to reel it all in. Schools been lowballing teachers, lost many now come May, they've got nuttin.
If you're not getting calls, that's a signal of something else because you've not even started negotiating money.
If you don't have to teach online I wouldn't. In fact, I'd kill myself first looking at those grown adults on YouTube and the puppets, props and toys. I got on this racket to teach. I'm not really certain what that is.
Not a lot of great jobs out there at the moment. Actually, I know of two but they're not hiring +62.
Take a step back and shoot for 45k.
As for ageism, I would be out to pasture before 45 in the US. Thailand's been good to me.
By Bob Dobbs, Church of the Subgenius (28th March 2019)
Patricia, you don’t realize it but honestly, I’m about the most confident and assertive person on the planet. In fact, when I post I have to try to tone it down bit. Wait till you see my next thread if Phil publishes it! What you see is realism. That doesn’t mean I don’t take note of suggestions, but for instance, I don’t do kindergarten teaching, or bitcoin speculation and turned down several previous offers of a partnership in bars. I couldn’t go into private security after all these years even with my military background and neither would my logistical skills be required in Thailand. I know my limitations.
I’m afraid you’re wrong from what my research told me. It’s not a question of ‘good teachers’ and that’s what the central post is all about. At my age clowning around in front of students (rather than just fun activities), would look exactly what it is and I’ll admit it myself, rather pathetic. The way forward is not entertainment at my age. I’ll stand up now and give an hour’s lecture to a hundred university students off the top of my head in English grammar, but without the funny clown nose.
I also don’t do ‘alleged’ Patricia, what you see is what you get and I don’t hide myself, hence my available resume and syllabus. I’m certainly not miserable and something will come up, but my post was simply about a fact of life that eventually applied to myself. :)
By John V, Thailand (28th March 2019)
John, you've got low self esteem by the sounds of things.
If online teaching is so big nowadays, do you seriously think all those teachers are good looking young things?
A good teacher is a good teacher after all, right?
After your alleged experience as an ajarn, your stash of materials and lesson content should be quite big, able to adapt to most situations be it corporate or kids. Clowning around in front of a webcam to 30 students 200km away may take getting used to, but it's well paid and the way forward.
Give it a try John. I'd rather read comments in a months time saying you've embraced it and love it, and raking in some cash, rather than another miserable excuse why they won't employ you.
By Patricia, Bangkok (28th March 2019)
No, I’ve not tried online teaching Clif, although I’ve had plenty of offers and did look into it. The older teachers I’ve spoken to tell me they tried it and weren’t really wanted. A bit like finding someone over 40 working at well-known Bangkok language schools, the teachers I spoke to said it was all based on looks.
By John V, Thailand (28th March 2019)
Have you considered teaching online? Many of my colleagues have chosen online work over brick & mortar schools. The pay is certainly better than most Thai government schools & there's much less of an age barrier.
I've been with DaDa for two years now & it's definitely preferable to any Thai government school I've ever worked in.
Here's some information if you're interested: https://www.dadaabc.com/teacher/landing?referrer=v0v4H1r405
By Clif, Rangsit (27th March 2019)
I’d disagree that I’m ‘whining’ as it’s become a problem for many and a subject of contention across the Internet. My point is that if you start to look for employment over 60 you hit a brick wall. It’s not just Thailand, its Asia wide. On hindsight I’d have done things differently and chosen a company that had a proven record and not lost a government contract which put me out of work at 62.
I have a lead from one of the posts, but ‘Tidy up your CV’, ‘it’s your fault’ and the spam advert for oil workers in Saudi Arabia is not advice. Things will work out I’m sure, but those approaching their 50s and 60s seem to have a better understanding of what’s coming instead of those younger people who seemed somewhat puzzled by it all.
Although I’m grateful for the encouragement from many comments, let’s not forget that not so long ago ajarn Phil had to step in and remind some ‘We don’t do spiteful and nasty here.’ I find the various character types of posters who replied interesting.
By John V, Thailand (27th March 2019)
The comments that everything is John's fault and he should have managed his life better are probably neither helpful not fair.
I suspect most people have met financial or professional challenges at varies points in one's life. But if you are one of those selective few who have had everything in your life go exactly as planned and never faced challenges, consider yourself fortune and probably a bit lucky and there is no need to belittle those of us who have not reached fame and fortune by a specific age.
On the other hand, John might have brought some of it upon himself with has focus on claiming he is a victim of the country and industry and that bit about being fair and blue-eyed being legitimate qualification while whining about youth not being a legitimate qualification.
I am not sure John's motivation for posting the article, but he does not appear to be very open to some pretty good advice he has been given. He seems to focus on the woe is me theme as opposed to actually wanting to find an alternative path to earn some money in teaching English.
Is age discrimination in the ESL and other industries "real?" Sure, but once again, there are many people working past 65 in this world, both teaching in Thailand and working in other fields across the globe, so he is obviously not in an impossible situation, difficult, ok, impossible, no.
By Jack, LOS (26th March 2019)
It was never about money Steve. I was fortunate and always managed well in the UK. I lived through the early 70s industrial decline, the 80s break-up of state-owned industries under Thatcher and by the time 2005 came I already saw the way the wind was blowing and was making plans to get out. I was just among the first wave of millions that left. I think there will always be opportunities in TEFL, but with technological changes. English is the business language of the world and I don’t think that’s going to end.
You’re on the right track if you’re going to China. On hindsight (Isn’t that the usual case :)), I’d have planned my stay in China very differently. It’s one of those, you either love it or hate it places and I loved it. Here’s an article I wrote several years ago about my experience in an out of the way rural setting by Chinese standards.
By John V, Thailand (26th March 2019)
Steve in Warsaw,
Long gone are the days when one could make money in Saudi Arabia. While there are jobs to be had the money which one can earn is dreadfully low. So low that it's not worth getting out of bed for. The only exception that I know of is if you are hired directly by Aramco.
Good luck to the oldies, we deserve respect!
By Ajarn Peter, Old Age Land (26th March 2019)
I like what John West in Kanchanaburi has to say about it. John V, I wish you the best of luck. Perhaps you should look into teaching on the internet.
By Ajarn Peter, Old Age Land (26th March 2019)
Im 66 and have a great job in a great school.
Call me if you are interested
087 510 1717
By Shardsofglass, Hua hin (26th March 2019)
Interesting story but not surprising. Nevertheless I sympathize. I'm 49 next birthday and I've been doing TEFL for the last 14 years. I'm not qualified to do anything else (useless waste of time BA from a joke 'University '). Face facts , there is no money in TEFL - unless you're willing to teach in Saudi Arabia/UAE.... I'm not . Alternatively you might succeed in setting up your own school....not easy but possible. I have an old English friend who has done both. He set up a school in Italy - he speaks fluent Italian of course - and did quite well for a few years until the bureaucracy finally broke him. He also had a nice little earner teaching in Abu Dhabi for 3 years. So money can be made.....but is there a long term future in TEFL ? I doubt it. I will have to go back to the UK and re-train. ....although I'm stumped for ideas. Btw a UK summer school big cheese told me that the TEFL industry will be finished in 10 years with advancements in technology. An exaggeration I would say but still something that can't be totally discredited. In meanwhile face facts - TEFL is a short term fix there's no future in it .... and yes younger teachers are preferred ....sad but true.
By Steve W, Warsaw, Poland (26th March 2019)
I appreciate your post John. Very interesting. My initial thoughts are that you should look into online teaching. You might also do well to visit potential schools and ask them directly about their hiring policies.
A lot also depends on where you live. I'm sure upcountry there are lots of jobs in the 35K range. Get to know people. Work on your Thai language skills. Keep positive.
My situation is kind of mirroring yours. I'm 52 this year and headed for China. I plan to work and save as much as possible before retiring at 60. There are a few countries in Central America that have no age limits and I'll try to get my one-to-one internet game up to par.
Best of luck.
By Andree, Bangkok (25th March 2019)
John your cv only shows that you worked a year in Thailand, yet you've met so many characters that you describe in your blog.
It's all good having so much info and the quotes but the hard facts are the content relevant to what you're applying for.
Tidy up the cv a bit!
By Patricia, Bangkok (25th March 2019)
Thanks Anthony, but I have my own political, educational and anything goes blog that I never seem to have time to finish myself. :)
By John V, Thailand (25th March 2019)
Thank you for those kind comments Patricia and Phil probably has it nailed about spiteful comments. What is happening to me will happen to you all eventually. I’ll give you an example.
Ajarn used to have a very popular forum in which nearly everyone was successful and everyone else was a loser. It was a sort of competition. In early 2012 Thailand had massive monsoon storms which literally closed down Bangkok. No work no pay and overnight the forum became an avalanche of squealing that teachers couldn’t even pay their monthly accommodation. The boasts vanished instantly and it exposed the truth behind many of the keyboard warriors.
I have never met a foreigner who hasn’t had a problem at one time or another in any country I’ve lived in. In Thailand, from the alcoholic who interviewed in a bar to the ‘teacher’ who spent our cigarette breaks instructing us how to build a crack pipe and onto the ones sexually attracted to early teen students … I can count the genuine people who impress me on one hand. The ex-secret service members and previous millionaires; if you’ve been here long enough you’ve met them too.
From my early time with B.A.O.R and N. Ireland probably before you were born and onto the Soviet Union, with a stint in mental health management in-between and then Asia, I’ve just about seen it all. If you want to impress with your knowledge or academic skills instead of spite which shows the real personality behind your character, become an ajarn blogger. Don’t forget to include a link to your resume, TEFL methodology and written work as I have and let’s see what you’ve got. :)
By John V, Thailand (25th March 2019)
There is a newish discussion board that you should visit. They want someone to run their teachers area and mod it. I know a lot of teachers have browsed and signed up with suggestions and it looks as if they're gonna do it.
It's an offshoot of another forum that is about to be sold.
Worth a shot
By Anthony Gannon, Chiang Mai (25th March 2019)
A few doors from us lives a guy in a similar crisis, he's almost 70 but gets by doing odd teaching and proofreading jobs at a university, he's been there over a decade so gets done a favour in return for lunch and beer money. Other habits keep him from having any ambition sadly.
He arrived in Thailand over 20yrs ago with nothing and got himself a TEFL. He didn't have a degree but from what he tells when he's drunk, it was from the University of Banglampoo.
At that time he was in the autumn of his life and still decided that having kids was a good move, and he knows I know that it was a terrible idea.
He struggles from day to day but keeps up a facade to his online friends who respect him a lot. But the reality is quite ruthless.
Now he's got this idea that he could relocate back to the USA after an absence of almost 30yrs and claim welfare while raising his kids. He has no savings and his wife isn't too keen on supporting the whole family on her meagre salary. He doesn't own his house and the car is beat up.
My point is, he's in denial and repeatedly thinks he's still employable in Thailand despite his faults. The reality is that he's not got a hope in hell.
Compared to him John, you're a lottery winner.
By Patricia, Bangkok (25th March 2019)
Hi. This is Phil from Ajarn.com.
It's great to see a blog getting so much feedback and various points being discussed, however (and it's a big however) if you are going to use the comment section purely to be spiteful and nasty towards the writer, then please don't bother (and those of you whose comments have not appeared will know who I mean) We don't do spiteful and nasty here. Cheers.
By Phil, Samut Prakarn (25th March 2019)
"A fair haired blue-eyed British NES"
And therein lies the rub. You complain about prejudice whilst acting like race and nationality are credentials. All you have is a TEFL. I agree that the rampant ageism is an issue in the world of ESL, but so is racism - including against far more qualified teachers. The attitude that prevails amongst students is "at that age, why haven't they moved on to management / teacher training?" With that much experience, surely you could have at least upped to a CELTA by now?
By Mike, Hanoi (25th March 2019)
I think you're missing a key ideology of Thai culture: most Thais are expected to retire at 55 and definitely not more than 60. You're supposed to have your finances in order by then and start collecting your hard-earned pension. You are seen as senile and unable to move well, which many Thais at this age are, and bad health is seen as unfit for work. Even though bad health and old age are almost synonymous decades ago in Thailand, the difference is increasing as healthcare improve. Decades ago, it was super beneficial since those unfit for work were now gone and this gave other people chances in promotions. As people in their thirties and forties moved up, people in their twenties were given a chance at jobs. Nowadays, the ideology still holds: you've thirty to forty years to make something of yourself, so it's time to give the younger generation a chance. This still has some benefits since millennials have a chance to enter the workforce and not have to rely on the state unemployment fund. The downsides are as you said, you lose out on old people that are still going strong that still want to work. Since this is not a one-to-one replacement, it can create unnecessary shortages in the workforce, especially in the English teacher sector due to a necessity in foreigners (cultural clash of retirement age), where there should be a ban of age discrimination for English teachers. However, you should not discount the culture of retiring at 55, where old people are happy to leave the workforce to go travel or stay at home and receive their state funding (if they're poor) or even start a small business that they have always wanted to do just for fun. Aside from that, applying at age 63 gives the impression of almost dying or you're going to retire soon anyway and either way, you're not going to be staying at their workplace for long, giving them more work later to find a replacement. This is different from countries like the U.S. where you can get an early retirement at age 62 and regular retirement at age 65, and you are not expected to retire. As in, if you can keep working, you can. That seems good and all, but in the education sector in the U.S., there is a tenure system after two years of work. Hence, unless the teachers do something really horrible like molest a kid, they can not be fired, which means bad teachers (senile, not energetic, consistently low test scores from students) can stay forever. Now assuming that there is no tenure system and everything is based on performance, the downsides are still not many job opportunities opening up, especially now since healthcare has increased and baby boomers are the next to retire and the dominant age group hogging the workforce. You've mentioned the silence after each application. Welcome to the millennials problem. Not because they're spoiled or entitled, but there are way more people with degrees than baby boomers' generation with not enough opportunities to go around. They'll be a surge in the need for young people in 2030 though, where most baby boomers will decide to finally retire and give way to generation X. They'll have more job opportunities so much there that they'll be a shortage in the workforce. This means that immigration policies will be more relaxed. People won't be shouting "build a wall" but rather "free accomodations with job." You can see the same thing with Germany, but they've tried to prepare for it recently with the admission of 1mil refugees. It "nice" that they've helped the refugees, but it's just great long term economic policy. Refugees will start benefiting their economy in 30 years where as foreign students earning their free degree in Germany will start benefiting the German economy after 8 years in the workforce. So to recap, different ideologies about retirement, though both do have their own problems and their own benefits, you are just on the problematic side of it. However, you are giving off the being new to discrimination vibe, so congrats to the 62 of white male privilege but sorry you are experiencing discrimination now. Do try online teaching with Chinese online companies, they'll love you. Best of luck.
By PK, Thailand (25th March 2019)
Patronising readers by saying "comments from those under 60s who can’t grasp the content" won't help.
I'm in my late 40s and I do not plan to be working in Thailand beyond my late 50s, because it's not the way things work here. If I don't have enough savings by my late 50s to see me through until my pensions kick in, I'll return to the west and work there under the protection of ageism laws. Why are you living in a developing world country in your mid 60s and job-hunting? It's absurd.
The teacher shortage is nothing to do with not wanting to recruit teachers in their 60s. I doubt there are more than a dozen westerners of your age trying to find a teaching job in Thailand. The sensible ones have planned their finances to avoid that unpleasant situation and are retired, or have returned to the west to work. If there is a shortage of teachers from the west, it's because of stagnated salaries and not enough westerners with degrees and teaching skills wanting to work in Thailand. It's the same reason that very few Thais with strong English skills will become English teachers. They can earn much more doing other things.
There's also the issue that most teacher recruiters expect westerners to work on tourist visas for a few months until a work permit can be obtained, and only a desperate fool would do that.
By Tim, Bangkok (25th March 2019)
I believe that the shortage of NES teachers and the employability problems with older teachers are not related. Yes, they are both a problem for many people, but one does not cause the other or vice versa. Qualified NES teachers are choosing other countries to work in for the higher wages, plain and simple. Few countries out there will accept new teachers over 60. As Kerry noted below, Vietnam is at least as strict, if not more so. Many adverts for china or the middle east set a limit of 55. Thailand isn't being more fair/unfair than anyone else.
The age limit on getting a work permit will rise in line with the current phasing-in the increase of the retirement age from 60 to 63 by 2024. That may not be much of a saving grace, obviously for a lot of people. But 61 or 63 will soon become the new 60 and is still noteworthy.
I don't think it is unfair to expect foreigners to observe the same retirement age limits as Thai citizens. Yes there are places, such as universities, that you can work beyond this age. I think the OP of this story does himself a disservice by dismissing those opportunities as unsatisfactory. Combined with other part time endeavors (tutoring, online teaching, etc) there is no reason to think you cant make a livable wage here. I believe he said he has a thai partner as well. Perhaps she could also work? (assuming she is still under 60)
I think the lesson to be learned for those who make a go of it in this industry overseas is to plan ahead. Don't take things for granted, and don't expect magical allowances to be made for those who failed to do so.
By Barry, Korat (25th March 2019)
This isn’t a subject that has suddenly been discovered. It crops up occasionally in various forms and generally attracts the same comments from those under 60s who can’t grasp the content and those over 60 who will give it a knowing smile. Similarly, those in their 50s will be starting to worry and so you should.
My advice is to subtract 60 from the age of any pension you will receive from the west, because those are the lean years you’ll be living on savings. It’s not just me, it will eventually happen to you too. That’s all across Asia, but specifically in Thailand you will not get a work permit over 60 in a government school and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with a private school, they will be looking to replace you at that age. Hence the teacher shortage – the recession put an end to the majority credit card backpackers who previously filled the ranks but the mindset still insists they’re there. I gave myself as an example, not a specific case study.
We all know recruiters also come here, so if you’re looking for a teacher don’t complain the last few wannabe’s you had left after their first salary, came in drunk for work, or simply couldn’t teach despite the degree they’d bought on Khao San Road.
Backpackers and progressive education didn’t do Thailand any favours, which is why so many teachers left for pastures new. Use ‘em or lose ‘em as the saying goes; age and looks do not a teacher make.
By John V, Thailand (25th March 2019)
I'm also 63 and worked for ten years in the Thai school system. I switched to online about five years ago and make over 100k. Granted, I do teach about 30 hours a week, but from home, in shorts, and barefoot. Online isn't for everyone, but for older, experienced, focused teachers, it's a godsend! This is my semi-retirement time, maybe two more years before I stop. My students love me and age hasn't been a factor.
By James Britt, Thailand (25th March 2019)
I'm sorry to tell everyone that there is an age limit here in Vietnam. At the moment it's 55 for women and 60 for men. That means anyone in their 60s finds it difficult to get a work permit and ends up earning a low salary. Plus, you will end up driving around the city going going from one school to the next.
By Kerry, Vietnam (25th March 2019)
Perhaps it's time to consider a career change... Teaching abroad is a lifestyle and experience, but never was it a money maker or a stable career. Perhaps returning to your home country and getting a stable regular job will give you want you want, granted without the palm trees and beaches. Good luck
By Monica, Canada (24th March 2019)
People are attracted to positive attitudes. I recently began teaching online with a company that wants edu-tainers. I am a man approaching retirement age and I was put off by the young, blond, female, giggling teachers that were the typical teachers employed. I had to accept that (as one male teacher has put it) "the student's enjoyment is our employment". I had to adapt to what the employer wanted. My feelings and opinions about some of the teachers were not only not relevant but were an impediment to my success. There was one teacher in particular who was a favorite of our employer whose personality I found grating; putting that aside I found she had insights and techniques that allowed me to succeed. Sarcasm and bitterness don't sell.
By Patrick, California (24th March 2019)
It may not make sense to you, but it probably does to the schools. Think about it from the schools, or at least the school administrator in charge point of view for a minute and you'll probably find 2 or 3 reasons why they wouldn't employ you. That this is the case isnt new, and I cant imagine rocking up in the UK or America aged 64 and getting a job.
What you are asking for is the perfect job in the right place, but all you are doing is sending emails and moaning. Get out there, visit universities which have many faculties all of which work separately and have different recruitment policies, visit schools nearby that might need a teacher. If you have enough about you to walk in and are clearly settled in the area then you have more chance than moaning.
By Rob, Bangkok (24th March 2019)
I am very sad to hear this. I grew up in Thailand. Born and raised there. I know Thailand needs teachers badly. A older teacher with experience and commitment to teaching is more valuable than a young teacher with no experience. I know Thailand could use teachers and sad to hear they exclude some teachers because they think are too old.
By Jo, Canada (24th March 2019)
Ok, you are the best teacher who has ever drawn breath and the healthiest and best looking 63 year old that has ever lived, but still cannot find a job which fits your wants in Thailand and it is not your fault in any way and there is nothing you can do about.
PS I have lived in Thailand for over 20 years and have had many full and part-time jobs here, but I was not aware there was a national law requiring specific documents for each and every job application in the country. Thank you for the information and setting me straight,
By Jack, Land of smiles (24th March 2019)
Thanks for the additional info John but there are some gaping issues.
1) Why did you move to China in your mid 50s and not commit to Thailand when you were still young enough to be recruitable? You must have known you'd want to return to Thailand at some point but didn't think ahead or didn't save enough of your China salary to comfortably cover it.
2) You've contradicted yourself by saying you want a job so that you don't need to spend your savings but then refused a job which would have provided you with 3000 baht per week to spend after outgoings. It's not a fortune but it's better than nothing, and beggars can't be choosers.
3) Yes Thailand is moving to compulsory retirement for teachers of 63 instead of 60. You're already past the older benchmark, and you're not complaining about having to leave a job, you're complaining that they won't take you on as a new recruit. That's bizarre.
You're an elderly foreigner in Thailand that wasn't willing to commit to Thailand when you were a younger man. Thailand doesn't owe you a comfortably paid job, and with recent moves to recruit more of their fellow south east Asians from the Philippines into teaching jobs, that's the sensible direction of travel. You seem to take yourself very seriously, and Thailand isn't the place for that. They'll take a cheap playful young filipino teacher over an elderly expensive westerner, as you've found out.
By Tim, Bangkok (24th March 2019)
We own our own home and I do have funds, so it’s not money I’m chasing. It’s a job so that I don’t have to spend those funds which is part of my pension plan as we all know that British state pension is the lowest in Europe. The savings tops that pension up.
If I take employment where after accommodation and utilities I’m left with 3,000 Baht’s a week to live on, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to refuse that. Can you imagine the quality of teacher they eventually got for that? I’ll guarantee that university will be advertising again in less than six month’s-time!
Do I look old? That’s my blown-up photo on the right at the top of the page.
Am I too serious? Here’s my self-designed Activity Based Learning TEFL syllabus which I used for six years in China.
Resume not up to scratch? Here it is.
Sample of written work?
Let’s get away from the poster. I’ll stand here and give you a demonstration lesson in English grammar off the top of my head without notes or preparation.
There is a shortage of teachers in Thailand and the blame game is ageism. There is nothing secretive about me as my links prove. The post is about why there is a shortage. China were considering moving the age to 65 and Thailand is considering 63. They’re slowly catching on.
If you’ve been here for some time you’ll know that a copy of the passport page and photo are pre-requisites of any application. It’s not the west where discrimination laws apply and you can hide personal details.
Thanks. I will try searches for Vietnam.
Good reply. Perhaps cold-calling is the answer?
By John V, Thailand (24th March 2019)
It's the university town job you were offered and declined that makes a mockery of your article, because it proves that there are jobs out there for people entering old age.
Didn't you know the salary amount when you applied for it? And why did you decline it? Presumably you have no money coming in now, so the 28k or whatever it was offering is better than nothing.
Teachers in government schools are civil servants and retire at 60. That will increase to 63 over the next few years. Thailand has lower life expectancy than western countries, and schools recruiting 63 year old teachers isn't part of Thai society.
By Tim, Bangkok (24th March 2019)
Also John, I've just noticed that soon after you relocated to Thailand in your early 50s you left again for China. Presumably that was because more money was on offer than you could find in Thailand. That, I think, was a mistake. What you needed to be doing in your early 50s was establishing yourself in Thailand. If you'd done that perhaps you'd still be in a nice job now.
I know a farang that came here aged 40, and at age 65 he's in the same teaching job he's been in for the past 20 years and earns a comfortable 70k per month. It's very unlikely he'd be able to find another job now, but unlike you he isn't trying to re-establish himself after returning here a year ago.
Sorry but your situation is of your own lack of foresight and prior commitment to Thailand, and blaming age discrimination won't help.
By Tim, Bangkok (24th March 2019)
John, you said the university town job, the only one you've been offered, didn't pay enough to live on, which suggests you're seeking and expecting a comfortable living from teaching in Thailand rather than a hand to mouth existence where you regularly run out of money before the end of the month.
It seems that you came to Thailand a decade ago in your early 50s without financial security hence were reliant on being able to work here into old age. Thailand is a developing country that lacks employment discrimination. Very few people in their 60s work here and even fewer are offered jobs. A bit of research a decade ago would have told you that and perhaps then you wouldn't have started over here.
Expecting Thailand to respect discrimination laws from your country so that you can find new jobs in the final stages of your working life seems a highly unrealistic expectation. Walk into a 7-eleven shop in Singapore and you'll often see it staffed by the middle aged and elderly. That's not the way it works here. Thailand is a place where people in their 60s live off handouts from their working age children. If you're not in a situation to do that, and you don't have a pension coming in yet, it's probably time to look for a new home country to work in.
By Tim, Bangkok (24th March 2019)
I have taught here for 4 years and have seen the serious teachers and the edu-tainers. My experience has proved that younger fun teachers tend to call in sick more often than teachers say over 45. I keep an open mind and try to learn from both groups. Some older teachers don't care while some younger teachers do care. I agree that age should not be a factor but that they should look at your experience, results, and work ethic. A friend of mine just moved to Vietnam and she said the community is very welcoming. You may do very well there. That said, I would be sorry for Thai students to lose a teacher like you.
By Ellie, Bangkok (24th March 2019)
Its my understanding that government schools cannot insure you after 60-63 and that is at least one large factor in this. I'm sure you perform your duties alright and punctual beyond the millennials and gen x/z but you're just old. Don't you think there's a 45 or 55 yo guy out there with more energy and equal responsibility?
No way I'd consider anyone above 60 teaching prathom, even 52-3. Even middle school, you're just old. I routinely go home beat after work can only imagine what it's like at 65. Try not putting your age on the resume. If that doesn't help, yeah you look old maybe.
You mention being a serious teacher, all well and good but if your classes aren't fun, you're just a boring old guy. Top down lecturing is dead. Grammar is for Thai teachers.
If you're sending your resume off to schools hoping for an opening, this time of year possible but timing is everything. Pre March many teachers not announced departure. Even now the hiring chaos yet to begin. Timing is everything. Your timing might be horrible.
Especially if you're sailing resumes off to international schools without at least notice they are hiring on their website that's just a waste of time. Do you write an individual cover letter for each school? Just attach the resume and blast it?
Surely a dozen of the worst agencies in BKK will hire you. Maybe on reflection your schools and work history just average. There's no compelling reason to hire you.
Here's a tip. Take off a bunch of work history so you are down to 5-7 years.
I agree with Tim. You should not need to grind out a high salary in a classroom in a developing country at a pensioners age. You absolutely are criticising salary at the university (indirectly wherever) for which we all know pay poorly. I'm certain you can get a job at 38k.
You really need to find out if it's insurance. If it is you're wasting you're time.
Try a Sarasass at 38k. I can think of half dozen schools that might hire older guys.
By Bob Dobbs, Church of the Subgenius (24th March 2019)
I hear you, John. I was the same age as you were when I became TEFL certified and am now 60. I was fortunate to get hired at a university language center with only a HS diploma.
Finding a teaching job anywhere, in my experience, is not best left up to emailing CVs. When I got my bachelors degree a little over three years ago I began job hunting. Sending in applications and CVs drew nothing. I drew up a list of where I would like to work (most were in BKK area) and spent a week in BKK going to these places in person. As a result, I ended up with four job offers at places that were on my list.
I ended up taking none of these jobs. I had contacted a former colleague from my university for a reference and he ended up recruiting me to teach at the secondary school ( A Cambridge school) where he was principal. After finishing my two-year contract, I actually was offered two jobs I had sent in applications and interviewed for, and third that my now former principal had helped arrange an interview with.
My point is, that simply sending in apps and CVs is not a high-probability route to finding a job. Many posted jobs are filled from within or with people who have connections to the school. My cold-calling schools was successful because of the ability to present myself well in person. The lady at Chula (not hiring at the time) forwarded my CV to another university which ultimately offered me a position. It doesn't take much to press the send button but it shows effort, desire, and commitment to present yourself in person. Either that or network with people you know. You might be pleasantly surprised.
By BK, Chiang Mai (24th March 2019)
As I am getting up close to you in age, I have started to be more concerned about my future employment and unlike in the past I will think twice before I leave a job without having something solid lined up. It is no doubt more difficult as we get close to what most people consider retirement age to switch jobs, but it surely is not impossible.
When we are struggling it is human nature to seek out someone or something to blame, and for ESL teachers in Thailand that something is often “Thailand” itself, which helps a person to maintain one’s sense of self-worth but blaming Thailand does not pay the bills.
While I am sure there are many employers out there who discriminate based on age, I have a hard time believing every employer in the country does. Don’t give up. Quite a few ESL jobs are recruited and selected by Westerners who have often been trained and more likely to be culturally indoctrinated to not discriminate by age or other factor. I am sure I am not the only person who has seen slightly older teachers get hired and teach successfully.
Also if we believe Phil and others on this site, it has become increasingly difficult to recruit good teachers and if that is true (I am not convinced it is) then it should not be a problem for a quality teacher like yourself to get a job even if your age is not ideally what is being sought. If it is getting to be so hard to recruit quality teachers it is unlikely most schools will find exactly what they are looking for and missing only one ideal factor, age, would still seem to still put you in a pretty good position.
One thing which concerns me is your use of stereotyping and generalizing in reference to young teachers. I am not sure if this just reflects frustration or is an indication of becoming old, stodgy and inflexible. Be careful to not fall into the trap of reflecting the stereotype of being a grumpy older teacher which makes it harder to get hired.
Now on to some practical advice. Leave your age off your resume and application and do not send a picture unless required. In North America, people are taught to leave age related information off both resumes and applications (It is only legal to ask if one is over 18 in relationship to age) and we don’t require pictures as this reflects race, gender and age, all of which are illegal to use in making hiring decisions (but still often are). I know this is Thailand and these rules do not apply, but I assume many schools get applications from Americans and Canadians which do not include age or pictures, and this “oversight” on your part might not be noticed until you get a chance to wow them in the interview or teaching demonstration.
Last piece of advice, you might have to in the short term take what you can get while looking for what you want. Most of us still have to eat while looking for a position which is a good fit.
By Jack, LOS (24th March 2019)
Yes, a lot of what you say is very true indeed and yes unfortunately one can not control what you cannot control. ie After age 60years old!!!
I agree with you and it is the same with everything and just because one has to have a degree but in my experience there are many much more dedicated Native English speakers who not only teach their own students but do many other activities outside the school and have no degree.
Also, as a former teacher who was totally committed to the job at hand and did many more hours outside the classroom and many students used to come up and ask "Can you explain to me what my Thai/ Filipino teacher just taught me in English?
Tim, from Bangkok can I ask you "Are you a teacher?
The bottom line is many teachers (not saying all) go to teach and have not got their hearts in the job and simply do as little as possible but collect the salaries and granted it is not much.
I have seen many cases whereby there is totally no input and in fact seen teachers sleeping when supposed to be teaching.
Yes, I am nearly 69 years young and as I have stated many have so much more dedication.
Still it is their schools and some of the Directors indeed have a very very cushy life and indeed been the head for 14 or 15 years.
By john west, Kanchanaburi (24th March 2019)
Let’s clear up some misunderstandings.
What I said in the op isn’t some discovered secret. All I did was re-hash it and apply it to my own circumstances. The problem of ageism throughout Asia has been apparent for over a decade. Many of us older people have been in Asia for a long time. We own our own homes, we live here; we’re not just passing through backpackers with an anxious mummy waiting for us back in the west. We were responsible for ourselves without a welfare system and paying off a mortgage while many of those criticizing were still at school themselves.
The point of the post is to question whether the current shortage of teachers isn’t self-inflicted and not a problem in itself.
By John V, Thailand (24th March 2019)
I didn’t mention salary amounts, comfortable or not. Neither is it a criticism of countries, but recruitment. The post is about ageism Tim and its effects on what will eventually happen to all of us.
By John V, Thailand (24th March 2019)
You're a nearly 64 year old westerner needing to earn a comfortable salary in a developing world country. You should take a look at yourself and take some responsibility before blaming that country for your predicament.
By Tim, Bangkok (24th March 2019)