These pages contain an extensive selection of questions sent to me by ajarn.com readers. As you can see, the questions are divided into eight sections. You are very welcome to submit a question of your own by clicking the link below. However, please take the time to read through the questions first. We can't answer questions that have been answered already in this section and sorry but we won't answer questions if the question is too specific to just one person's situation.
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Questions related to TEFL courses and TEFL certificates are here.
Is getting a TEFL certificate a wise idea?
Many teachers will tell you that a TEFL certificate is no longer a legal requirement when it comes to obtaining a teacher's licence and work permit, and while that may be true, you have to keep in mind that many employers still request one. If you are applying for a job and you are up against someone who has a TEFL certificate (and you don't)...... guess who the job's probably going to?
Is an on-line TEFL certificate worth doing?
The 'problem' with on-line TEFL certificates is that many of them contain no actual observed teaching practice. Therefore if you are interviewed by a foreign academic director (or whoever does the hiring and firing), then there's a fair chance they will see certain brands of on-line TEFL certificate and know that you've never set foot in a classroom in your life. Other interviewers won't give a damn as long as the certificate looks nice and says 'TEFL' on it. On-line TEFL certificates are useful inasmuch as they give you an indicator of what teaching will be like and what you are expected to know.
Why are on-line TEFL courses so much cheaper?
I suppose on-line TEFL courses are cheaper because the provider doesn't have so many overheads. Are on-line TEFL courses of less value than other TEFL courses? - it depends who you show the certificate to. Many interviewers, particularly foreigners in charge of hiring and firing teachers, know that many on-line TEFL courses do not contain any observed teaching practice.
What qualifications do you need to enrol on a TEFL course?
It varies from course to course. Some simply require that you have a decent command of the English language, others might require you to have finished at least a high school education. You need to ask the course provider in question.
Does ajarn.com recommend any particular TEFL course?
Sorry, no. It would be totally unethical for us to favor one course over another without having taken them. You can Google a number of 'impartial' TEFL course review sites on-line.
Would doing a TEFL and getting some experience be a good option before looking for a job?
You mean as opposed to looking for a job without having a TEFL certificate and without having any experience? Well it certainly won't do any harm.
Is it better to obtain a TEFL certificate (CELTA) in Switzerland or in Thailand?
I suppose this all comes down to what's convenient for you and whether or not you plan to teach English in Thailand. In terms of being accepted by employers worldwide - certainly in the case of the CELTA - it doesn't really matter. However, many TEFL course providers in Thailand will offer job placement services and sound employment advice. You would also expect the trainers to be more familiar with how things work in a Thai classroom.
Is it better to go for a TEFL course internship than look for paid employment?
With a TEFL course internship, everything is organised for you. You have a support network from the moment you land (at least with the better TEFL courses you do) The courses arrange your accommodation, set you up with a job etc. However, there is no reason why you shouldn't organise things yourself if you are the more adventurous type. Internships generally pay a lower salary than if you found a TEFL job yourself. I think it's purely a matter of choice.
Some new arrivals like to have their hand held from the moment they get here while others prefer to go down the DIY route and take a TEFL course - then look for employment. Much also depends on how much spending money you have because the DIY route can be more costly in the early stages. It's a swings and roundabouts situation.
What visa do I need to do a TEFL course?
It doesn't matter. It could be a tourist visa or a non-immigrant visa. You just need a visa that allows you to stay legally in Thailand for the duration of the actual TEFL course. On the other hand, once you have finished the TEFL course, you'll possibly be seeking teaching work in Thailand, so the non-immigrant B visa would be the best visa to go for. If you are planning to do the TEFL course in Thailand and then go and look for work in another country, then you obviously follow the visa rules of your destination country.
Is it better to do a TEFL course in Thailand or in my own country?
It's a very good question. I asked several of Thailand's well-known TEFL course providers to give us some answers. And while you would of course expect the course providers in Thailand to be slightly biased, I think their answers are well worth reading.
Questions related to teachers and particularly the numerous people who write to me and worry about whether they will find work in Thailand due to their age, nationality, appearance, suitability, etc. I call this the 'worriers' section and it's probably the largest of all the sections here.
Will I be able to pick up part-time work just to get some experience?
I don't think you'll have any problems at all. There really is something for everyone over here in Thailand at the moment and there are many many schools or perhaps kindergartens that are just desperate to get a farang body in the classroom. Keep your eye on the ajarn.com job ads, especially the private language schools who might be looking for someone to teach a few hours 'here and there'.
When is the best time to look for jobs?
The best time to look for jobs as regards there being the most choice is certainly April to June. The worst months are December and January. Don't let that put you off doing a job search at any time of the year though. There is always a demand for decent teachers here.
I'm a farang but look like a Thai. Why don't schools seem to want me?
It's all about changing the mindset of the employers, particularly the Thais. Many Thai school owners tend to have a pre-conceived idea about what a farang teacher should look like. It's all about finding a school that will give you 'a chance'. They are out there - you just haven't found one yet. Once you get into the classroom and do your thing, and the students warm to you and recognise your qualities, you'll be fine. How does the saying go - you might need to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.
Despite sending my resume to dozens of employers, why am I getting no replies?
It could be one of several reasons but I'll give you the main two. Firstly, do you actually match the requirements? You'd be surprised how many applications schools get from teachers who clearly don't fit the position and in many cases didn't read the job ad carefully enough. The second reason is that generally - and Thai admin staff aren't going to thank me for saying this - but they suck at handling e-mail enquiries. It's got so bad that very rarely do I communicate with any Thai person by e-mail full stop. I don't know what it is about Thais and e-mail but even my wife agrees that they are extremely poor in answering e-mails in a timely manner - and my wife is Thai! When it comes to weighing up e-mail versus a phone call.......get dialling!
Where can I observe some English lessons in progress?
Your best bet is to ask at the school where you are thinking of working. No reasonable employer would refuse someone the opportunity to sit at the back of a class and get a feel for how things work.
Why are there so many horrible teacher agencies out there?
Almost anyone can set up a teacher agency and provide teachers to schools. Many schools just don't know where to turn in their quest to hire foreign staff so enter the agent who promises them the world and delivers someone who looks every inch the quintessential foreign teacher. I'm not tarring all agencies with the same brush here. Some agencies do care about the teacher's development and progress and check on things from time to time, but for too many agencies, all they seem to be interested in is taking a cut of the teacher's pay.
Is there such a thing as a teachers blacklist?
Ah that old chestnut. The teachers blacklist. Who is it shared by? Who inputs the information? Does the thing even exist? I've had a few e-mails down the years from teachers who seem to think they are on some mysterious blacklist without ever having seen it. There may well be a blacklist of some sort that's shared between a specific group of schools who operate under the same umbrella, but there's nothing further reaching than that. For a network of unrelated schools to get together and compile a blacklist, it would mean designating a member of admin staff for each school to work closely together. That's just way beyond the capabilities of your average admin department I'm afraid so it isn't going to happen. You do hear of teachers being threatened with the blacklist by irate school owners, especially if the teacher has broken a contract and left the school in the shit. But they are generally very idle, groundless threats
I need to swot up on my grammar so what books would you recommend?
Look for anything with the name Michael Swann on it. For me, he's the grammar guru and you'll always find a well-thumbed Michael Swann reference book on my teacher's desk. He has a very neat and simple way of explaining things and his books are always well-indexed. The book I have is called Practical English Usage by Michael Swann.
Another great writer of English grammar books is Raymond Murphy. His Essential Grammar in Use series is wonderful because it has the explanation of the grammar point on the left-hand side (with lots of examples) and student exercises on the right-hand side. If you've got Mr Murphy and Mr Swann in your teacher's bag - you can't go wrong!
Once I'm in Thailand, what's the best way to start as regards a job-hunt?
How you cope with the first stages of life in Thailand depends on what type of character you are. Some people will make five good contacts and have three jobs lined up within 48 hours while others will be panicked into the first job that comes along.
My advice - come with enough money to tide you over for two weeks. Spend that two weeks looking for somewhere nice to stay (an apartment not a hostel), make a few friends, scour the ajarn jobs board or listen for things on the grapevine. Attend a few interviews
Should I fix up a job before I leave home or get one there?
This is a no-brainer and yet so many people feel the need to set up a job before they leave home. Don't do it! Employers can promise you the world in an e-mail but come over and check things out first before you sign on any dotted line. Is that accommodation you were offered really as good it sounded? Are the facilities what you expected? Is your teaching load heavier than what you accepted? Things can look very very different when you're here compared to reading an e-mail in your bedroom in Ottawa. This might be a good opportunity to read an article I wrote on the main mistakes that foreign teachers make when they come to teach in Thailand.
What's the ideal age to be for a teacher in Thailand?
This is always a difficult question to answer because different employers look for different types of employees. Some schools might be looking for a young, gorgeous thing in his twenties to flash his Hollywood smile at the paying parents as they drop off their kids at the school gates, while others may feel that the balding lecturer type in his late 50s suits the situation perfectly. Funnily enough, I get asked this 'perfect age' question mostly by folks in their 40s and I can never understand why. It's a terrific age to be looking for teaching work in Thailand. A guy in his 40s represents a degree of stability and worldly experience. Teachers in their twenties, particularly early-mid twenties, can be an extremely risky hire (certainly from my experience) While they are undoubtedly dedicated to the teaching, they're also often here for the cultural and travel experience (and that's perfectly understandable) The younger teacher doesn't mind the work but they'll want to mix that with a good dose of scuba-diving and weekends away. So they tend not to be the most reliable teachers when a school needs emergency cover or there's a Sports Day in the offing. At the other end of the scale, older new arrivals fret about the official / unofficial retirement age. Again, the official retirement age is another one of Thailand's many grey areas and I've heard conflicting reports and information. Officially the retirement age is 60 I think but if you are working at a particular school on your 60th birthday, you are by and large allowed to continue. Private language schools don't care. I worked at a private language school with a teacher well into his 70s once - and he was one of the most popular teachers there!
How much money should I bring with me?
This differs from person to person but I'm always inclined to say bring as much as you can. Even though you'll probably find a teaching job within a matter of weeks (even days), you could find yourself working a month until your first pay packet. Then there is the cost of your hotel or apartment (don't forget apartments will want a one or two month deposit up front)
In my view, you certainly need enough money to tide you over for a period of five weeks or so. And with the apartment deposit, I wouldn't like to do all that on less than about 150,000 baht.
Are there English teaching jobs available for Indian teachers?
We certainly don't see many jobs on ajarn.com that specifically ask for Indian teachers if that's what you mean? But that doesn't mean there aren't Indian teachers working here. I would guess that quite a few work in universities teaching specialized subjects. If you are of Indian nationality and a well-qualified teacher, I would apply directly to the universities and try and get a teaching position that way.
Am I too old to teach in Thailand at 65?
I would be lying if I said age wasn't against you. You've reached the official retirement age so it's going to be quite difficult to find teaching work at a Thai school, college or university. Although they do employ teachers well into their 60's and beyond, teachers tend to be staff that have been there a number of years and already worked there at the time of their 'official' retirement. Your best bet is to approach schools in the private language sector. They tend to be less choosy when it comes to a teachers age and if you're only looking for a few hours here and there - private language schools can be a good choice anyway.
Which universities or schools would hire non native speakers?
There is no definitive answer to this question. Some universities and schools will hire only native English speakers and others won't be so choosy. Each university, school and college in Thailand has their own recruitment criteria.
Should I be wary of any employer that posts a job ad specifically asking for females only?
A number of schools prefer to hire females only, especially if the teaching is at kindergarten level. I don't think we need to go into the reasons why. Seeing 'females only' in a job ad shouldn't be cause for alarm but it's always wise to exercise a certain degree of common sense.
There have certainly been incidents in the past when a bogus school has advertised for female teachers and had a sinister ulterior motive. This was one reason why we stopped allowing free access to the ajarn.com resume database. We got far too many complaints from female teachers trying to fend off marriage proposals and job offers that sounded rather too good to be true.
Not everyone who scours your personal details on-line is looking for a teacher.
Does the culture course requirement make it unrealistic to come to Thailand looking for work?
I'm pretty sure the Thai culture course, which used to be a teaching requirement here, was abandoned quite some time ago.
Is it difficult to find a teaching job if I'm a fluent native English speaker of Chinese descent?
As is mentioned elsewhere on this FAQ section, there are teaching jobs for everyone in Thailand regardless of color of skin, race, ability, etc, etc - but some will find getting a job more difficult than others. Will some schools and employers be reluctant to employ someone who is a native English speaker but looks Chinese? Yes, definitely. So it's a simple case of finding the ones that will give you a chance. It's nigh on impossible to say how difficult or easy it will be for a person to find a teaching job without actually meeting and 'interviewing' them. That's something you also have to appreciate.
Why do job advertisers want you to send copies of your passport?
That's a very good question and I don't think there's a really straight answer. When Thai jobseekers apply for any job in Thailand, they usually have to submit copies of their ID card and house registration. So schools asking foreign teachers to submit a copy of their passport could simply be a 'mindset' and there may actually be little point to it. However, I'm not surprised that the mindset exists.
Going back to Thai jobseekers, they often draw two vertical lines through the copy and write something to the effect of "this is a copy and only for use by XYZ company, etc" and then they sign and date it. That said, I don't think Thais are anywhere near as paranoid about 'identity theft' as other nationalities are.
How much do I need by way of a nest egg if I move to teach in Thailand?
This is always a difficult question to answer because we're all different with different needs. Some people have the ability to land in a strange country and make things happen quicker than others as well. However, once you arrive in Thailand, if you hit the ground running, and you are qualified, you should be able to set up a teaching job within a couple of weeks.
But remember - your first pay check might be a month away and so you're going to need a place to stay for five or six weeks. It might be an apartment (in which case you'll probably need to fork out a deposit as well as the first month's rent) or a guest house or small hotel. And as a new arrival, you'll possibly make mistakes - and sometimes those mistakes can be financially costly.
When I embarked on a new life abroad, a wise old friend of mine said "as long as you keep the money in your pocket for a return flight home, you can't go wrong". It's good advice but these days you need the cost of a return ticket and then some. I wouldn't want to land in Thailand with less than 150,000 baht. That equates to 25-30,000 baht a week until you get your first pay check - and that's certainly the bare minimum you would need to tide you over in Bangkok.
What is the age limit for being a teacher in Thailand?
As with most things here, it's not really about legality. It's more about how much the school wants to remove barriers to employment. Provided you approach your job search professionally and remain flexible in terms of location, I imagine any decent teacher over the age of sixty should be able to find a job without much hassle. (Thanks to Eric in Phuket for the answer)
Can you teach in Thailand with visible tattoos (e.g. on the face and neck)?
Good question but not an easy one too answer because it depends on several variables. Firstly, how big are the tattoos and how prominent are they? Secondly, who is going to be interviewing you for the job and how much do they care? If you ask around though, most inked teachers will tell you it's a good idea to keep your artwork covered up whenever possible.
Questions related to degree certificates and on-line degrees, etc If you haven't got a degree in the first place then you need the 'worrier' section.
Do I need to bring the original degree certificates?
The straightforward answer is yes, you do need to bring the original certificates. The Ministry of Education in Bangkok not to mention countless employers, will certainly want to see the originals. You may (and I stress the word may) get away with photocopies in some places, but it's not really worth the risk. Bring your originals. The frame as well if you have to.
Will a lack of degree rule me out?
I've spoken to a number of teachers in recent times who have found it very difficult to secure a teaching job without a degree. One teacher had successfully worked in Thailand for almost a decade with no degree certificate, but every interview he attends now comes to an abrupt end when he mentions the fact that he lacks that academic qualification.
Things have certainly changed over the past couple of years. There are still agents and schools who will take you on without a degree - they are still out there - but if you are planning on coming to Thailand to teach without a degree certificate, you could be in for one hell of a struggle finding a position. Make no mistake about that.
Will a master's degree in linguistics put me above everyone else?
With your qualifications I can't for the life of me think why you are considering Thailand when the salaries are going to be far better in other countries but possibly making money is not your main objective. You might try and set up a job with one of the proper and better paying international schools before you get here, but if you take a look at the ajarn jobs page, you'll see that a 30-40,000 baht job is exactly that - you won't get more because you have a masters degree.
On a separate note, you'll find that quite a few farang directors and recruiters (in Bangkok especially) won't exactly drop to their knees and beg you to join the teaching staff. Very often teachers with an MA in linguistics tend to be theorists rather than good facilitators of an energetic, communicative language lesson.
Is one of those 'life degrees' worth a gamble?
You would certainly be taking a gamble, especially if you came up against a farang recruiter who knows exactly what those life degrees are about. You may get lucky and the person interviewing you could be so desperate for teachers that he/she doesn't care how you obtained the degree, but I think you can forget it for the better jobs. These life degrees are not difficult to check up on. You just bang the name of the university into a search engine and viola! Not worth the risk in my opinion....and they're quite expensive as well aren't they?
I've no degree and no experience. Does this rule me out of teaching in Thailand?
I think we have to look at things in black and white here. With no degree and no experience, you're certainly at the bottom of the pile. You will find work for sure. There are jobs for almost everyone in Thailand. But it's not the 'unqualified teachers market' it once was here and you can certainly forget securing the better paying jobs as things stand
Does the degree you possess have to be from your country of origin?
By this you mean if you're for example an American and you studied for the degree in England, is that acceptable? Yes, no problem at all but I guess you need to be prepared to give your reasons to any potential interviewer.
Would an accounting qualification which is equivalent to a master's degree be accepted?
My guess would be that it would not be universally recognized, though it would ultimately depend on the person doing the hiring. It would be unrealistic of the applicant to expect the employer to verify that the CA or CPA designation is equivalent to a Master's degree, so they should be prepared to back up this claim from an independent authority i.e. not the professional association that issued the qualification. For instance, the Education Department for the jurisdiction where the qualification is held.
Any idea on the best place to buy books (in English) in Bangkok for a Masters Degree in Education?
Chula bookshop in Siam Square is probably as good as it gets without using Amazon. Also check out branches of DK books.
Do I really need to submit my original BA diploma if it's in the US and I am in Thailand?
Full question and background
I have a BA, but my diploma is in storage in the US. If I want a new original, my University can get me one for $25, but this will take 6 weeks plus. They can, however, send me a letter of "verification of degree received" with any and all official University stamps and signatures - this can be emailed or faxed to me in days. If I submit this with a copy of my transcripts, resume, letters of reference from schools I have worked at in the US, will it satisfy school administrators? I have studied on exchange at Thammasat and am currently completing research to complete my Masters Degree in Education at a US University, so Thammasat could verify my degree also (since I had to have one to be accepted into the International college there. My main reason for not wanting to wait 2 months for my new diploma is I need to start working soon, or the money will run out. What do you think my best options are?
Answer - I think this simply comes down to a matter of employer preference, which admittedly you have no control over. Some employers might be happy with the letter of verification whilst others may insist on seeing the original degree. There's little or nothing I could add to that. Why not go ahead and obtain a copy of the original degree and at least you'll eliminate this worry in future.
Is a BSc degree ok to use for a work permit here?
It carries the same weight as a B.A when applying for a teachers licence from the Ministry of Education. The work permit is issued by the Ministry of Labor on the strength of having that teachers licence (in most cases)
Does being fluent in Thai but having no degree put me up the pecking order?
To be honest, both of these questions are answered seperately in the ajarn questions section and combining them into one question doesn't really make a difference. Not having a degree makes it a lot more difficult to find teaching work in Thailand at the moment, although certainly not impossiible.
And being a good or fluent Thai speaker may carry some weight with some employers but spoken Thai is generally not required in the classroom. It may even be frowned upon by some interviewers who worry that you might constantly be using Thai in front of your students. When asked at an interview if you can speak Thai, I always think it's best to answer with "yes, some" - and leave it at that.
Which is more valuable to an employer - a degree or a TEFL certificate?
A degree is valuable to employers for the obvious reason that you've studied to a degree level, but for many employers, it's valuable because it means that you can get a work permit and teach legally at that particular school.
As for the TEFL certificate, it's valuable because it does at least show an employer that you've attended some kind of teacher training program and you're not a complete novice. In a perfect world you would probably have both a degree and a TEFL certificate, but in Thailand there are still employers that do not require a degree (but getting fewer and fewer these days) and employers who don't require a TEFL certificate.
Very rare though is the employer who would ask for neither.
Are two (2) AA (Associate in Arts) degrees going to be worth nearly the same as a BA?
Two, three or four associate's degrees, it doesn't matter. The answer is 'no'. A bachelor's degree, in any field, from a recognized university is the minimum where degrees and the Teachers Council of Thailand are concerned. That's only for the provisional teaching permit. To get the full teacher's license, it must be a degree in education.
(Thank you to Ajarn reader and teacher recruiter, Eric, for helping with this answer)
Do I need to bring an English translation of my degree because mine is in Spanish?
You could either bring an English version from your university or pay to have it translated from a recognized translator when you get here.
Questions related to visa issues, visa runs, Thai consulates, Thai embassies, overstays and getting turned away at the airport.
Should the school pay for the cost of a visa run?
I've never heard of a school reimbursing a teacher for the cost of a visa run but there might be one or two out there. You might get the cost of the actual visa back but you'd be working for the greatest employer in Thailand if you got reimbursed for train tickets, etc.
What visa do I need to apply for a work permit and teacher's licence?
You need a non-immigrant visa to secure a work permit or rather to start the work permit process. A tourist visa is no good I'm afraid. Look at the ajarn jobs board - many employers state that they will provide the paperwork for the teacher to get a non-immigrant visa - because that's the visa you need.
Do you need to hand in your work permit and surrender your one-year visa once you quit a job?
Yes. The one-year visa that comes with the work permit is inextricably linked to your job. Once you quit that job, the visa and work permit are null and void. In some cases, immigration then give you seven days to leave the kingdom and sort yourself out with another visa from a neighboring country (or wherever you choose to go). However, it's always worth talking to an immigration officer and find out where you stand. If you have another job lined up, then you may be able to transfer your visa to another work permit.
This is one of those situations where no two teachers ever seem to have the same story to tell . Go to immigration and speak to the officer personally is my advice.
What kind of visa do I need?
Thailand's visa laws are unbelievably complex. Everyone moans about it. We've prepared a visa / work permit FAQ page which will hopefully go some way to providing answers.
Where is the Bangkok immigration office?
In September 2009, the main Bangkok immigration moved from its long-established home in Soi Suan Phlu, off Sathorn Road, to a completely new location at Government Centre, Chaengwattana Road Soi 7 (close to the Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chaengwattana Road. For more information, call 02-141-9889 or 1178.
Unfortunately Chaengwattana Road is quite a jaunt from Central Bangkok and can get very crowded at certain times of day. Most teachers I know will always go early in the morning to try and be one of the first in the queue.
What type of visa/work permit do I need to legally volunteer at a school in Thailand?
This seems to be something of a grey area. Technically I would say that even a volunteer teacher would need a work permit, but having looked at several volunteer program websites, no mention is made of a work permit at all. But that's not to say you absolutely don't need one. Perhaps some programs have a special waiver if it's for a duration of say two or three months. I think the work permit question needs to be aimed specifically at the company you intend to volunteer for.
I used a letter of employment to get a visa and now I don't want the job. Can I use the visa?
Just to clarify the situation, this is a question from a teacher who applied for and accepted a teaching position whilst still in their home country (rarely a good idea) and now the teacher has arrived in Thailand, the job isn't what the teacher had been promised. Oh what a surprise!
So the school sent the teacher a letter of employment or 'letter of intent to employ' and the teacher used that letter to obtain a rather nice multiple-entry visa.
Yes, you can carry on using the visa. If it's a genuine case, then it's not your fault that you've been misled by an employer. These things do happen.
is it illegal to work as a teacher on an ED visa?
An ED visa is obtained by someone who is 'studying' the Thai language for a minimum number of hours at a school or college in Thailand. You are certainly not supposed to be working on such a visa, although I guess many people are. If you are going to work legally, then you need to have a non-immigrant B category visa in order to start the work permit process.
If a qualified teacher works legally, can his American wife get a dependency visa?
I asked a few teachers this question and the general concensus was yes, your American wife can get a dependency visa provided that you as the teacher and 'breadwinner' as it were, is employed legally with a teaching licence, work permit, etc. This certainly means that your wife won't have to do those horrible visa runs. However, there were still one or two teachers that said no, and they had heard of teachers in your situation who had been refused any kind of dependency visa. As always, check with your local immigration office. They know the answers, they are usually very helpful - and they know how the rules apply to that particular day.
Questions related to legal issues such as teacher contracts, work permits, work permit prices, work permit procedures, etc, etc.
Is my school obliged to give me a copy of my contract?
For sure they are. And I always went through contracts with a toothcomb with extra fine teeth. You should be given time to look over the contract carefully and to raise any points that you are not sure about. OK you don't want to earn the reputation of a troublemaker before you've even set foot in a classroom but it's important to let your employer know that you don't take contracts lightly. I've seen teachers whip out a biro and sign their name before you can say "what do you mean I'm not entitled to the annual bonus". Take your time reading a contract. It can save you a lot of headaches further down the line.
Is there a benefit to doing say an 10-month or 11-month contract rather than the standard twelve?
The 11-month contract is often the bane of the English teacher in Thailand. It's a way for schools to get rid of you for a month, unpaid of course, when the students are on school holidays. So you lie on a beach or stay holed up in your apartment without any wonga going in your back pocket. Look for the 12-month contracts that pay a nice bonus upon completion. They're the contracts to go for.
What are the consequences of breaking a contract?
It depends on the relationship you have with the school. Yes, you do hear rumors of schools threatening teachers with deportation and immigration blacklists if they break contracts, but in truth it very rarely happens. It's usually the school owner losing a bit of face so he reacts by throwing his toys out of the pram. I couldn't tell you the name of one single teacher who's been fitted up with concrete boots either. If you have to break the contract, then you'll have to go ahead and break it but do so as a last resort. Of course, if you're a very average teacher or known as a person who upsets the harmony of the teacher's room, the school will probably be happy to see you go anyway.
Where can I teach once I have the little blue work permit book?
The standard blue work permit book only covers you to work at the location stated in the book. Many language schools who send teachers out to do corporate work, are (or were) blissfully ignorant of this law and although they were very isolated incidents. I have heard of one or two teachers getting into trouble for working 'off-site'. However, a while ago I got an e-mail from an ajarn reader who told me that if an employer goes to the Ministry of Labor and fills in a WP.7 form and hands over a few hundred baht, they can effectively turn an ordinary work permit into a roaming one. I've not personally heard of anyone doing it but that doesn't mean it can't be done.
Is it possible to get a work permit for a part-time job?
It depends on the definition of part-time. There are more and more 'part-time' positions becoming available in deals that invariably include a work permit - mostly at Thai government and secondary schools etc. If you are working a few hours a week at a private language school, I would say it's highly unlikely you would secure a work permit. Most private schools want a teacher to commit to full-time work before they go to the hassle of obtaining your little blue book. As usually the key expression is 'in general'
How much notice do I need to give a school when I want to quit the job?
Usually the notice period is one month and that seems to be a Thailand standard. I have heard of some teachers being asked to notify the school three months in advance but that's just plain daft.
Do schools pay air-fare if you sign a one-year contract?
Thailand is not Korea or Japan. Very very few employers pay for air-fare regardless of how long you sign up for.
Should the school pay for the cost of a work permit?
In my opinion every school should pay for the costs of the work permit, visa and teaching licence but sadly many still don't. We're not talking about a great deal of money here and making the teacher pay for this stuff themselves always smacks of penny-pinching.
Do teachers keep the teachers license when they leave their job or does it get cancelled?
Part of the teacher's licence paperwork might certainly be kept by the employer or even the employee, but the question is 'do I need to start the whole teacher's licence / work permit process again when I start a new job and unfortunately the answer is yes.
Is a foreign teacher allowed to hit children?
This is a question we've had come up a few times. Having never worked in the Thai school system, I can't offer a personal observation but it seems from reading other teachers points of view that it's a case of one rule for Thai teachers and one rule for the farangs - that is to say the Thai chalkies can smack the hell out of their own kind but foreign teachers must leave well alone unless they fancy getting hauled up in front of some teacher/parent committee.
How much holiday should a government school teacher get in Thailand?
You would expect somewhere between seven and ten weeks, plus of course the public holidays (of which Thailand has many) This should be paid holiday. If it isn't then you haven't negotiated the contract very well.
Is it legal for employers to deduct money from your income if you are late and no warnings given?
I would say no, this is not legal. Any 'fine' in place for a teacher being late for school should be clearly stated in the signed contract. Teachers constantly arriving late for lessons is actually quite a common occurence but the school or employer should still follow a system of at least a written warning.
If I work at a school for just 9 months, do I need to pay tax?
Yes. Tax for a foreign teachers starts from day one and will be at the rate of about 15% until a work permit is issued. Once you have the work permit, the tax rate drops to the regular 7% as prescribed by the revenue and tax office.
How much notice does an employer have to give you if they're not going to renew your contract?
Ok, so we are talking about a year-to-year teacher contract here or perhaps a slightly shorter contract period. This is often referred to as a 'temporary contract'. In other words, the contract has a start and end date.
When a contract is about to end - generally about six weeks before - a good employer will do an evaluation and inform the employee of the outcome no less than one month before the teacher's contract expires. In reality, this rarely happens.
Some schools will wait until the last day of the contract to inform the teacher that their services are no longer required so don't come on Monday. And that's it! The teacher is out of a job. It's a dirty, low-down horrible way to end things but frankly speaking, the employee should have seen it coming. It's no good the teacher screaming about it because once a contract ends, there is no obligation on either the part of the employer or the employee to continue.
If some schools - the better schools - have a teacher they are not happy with, they will ask the teacher to leave one month before the contract ends and pay the teacher in full for the last month, even though they are not working.
It's in the school's interest to do this if they want to part with the teacher on good terms. The school gets to kick out a bad teacher. The teacher has one month on full pay in which to look for a new job.
How do foreign teachers get a tax rebate?
You just go down to the local Revenue Office branch, get a form called a "por ngor dor 91" and fill it in. It's in Thai, so take someone bilingual along. Fill in as many "Claim for Exemption" slots as possible and hope for the best!
You must try to claim exemptions before the end of each year, i.e December 31st.
Is it possible to get a work visa without a degree?
Firstly, there is no such thing as a 'work visa' in Thailand. Any amount of time that you are allowed to stay in Thailand over and above the non-immigrant visa in your passport is an 'extension of stay'. It's not a work visa. The degree is required by the Ministry of Education in order to issue you with a teacher's licence. This then starts the process of you being able to get your extension of stay and work permit.
To answer your question, yes it's possible to get a work permit without a degree. This has certainly happened in a number of government schools and on teaching projects where large numbers of teachers were required for short term contracts. It's certainly getting more and more difficult though for teachers without degrees.
Does my employer really need to take my original passport to get a letter from the MOE?
I think we should point out also that your employer has told you that the Ministry of Education wants your passport and other documents for two weeks. You can't be without your passport for two weeks. That's just insane.
I would accompany your employer to the MOE with your passport and photocopies of the important pages. By all means show the officer at the MOE your genuine passport but only leave them with photocopies. To be without your passport for two weeks is an absolute no-no.
If I get hired by an agent to work in a government school, who is responsible for paying me?
The agent is responsible for paying you because you work for the agent, not the government school.
Schools often decide to recruit through teacher agencies simply because they don't want the headaches that would come with employing a teacher directly. The school doesn't have to sort out the paperwork (very often they don't know how to do it anyway)
If the school has problems with a teacher, then they can just notify the agent rather than get involved in a slanging match with the teacher. The list goes on.
Is it a legal requirement for an employer to offer Thai national insurance?
This is what a couple of Ajarn readers had to say on Facebook.
Other than private schools, all employers must provide social security to their employees. The premiums are split evenly, 750 baht/month from the employee and 750 baht/month from the employer. Private schools are exempt from requiring social security, but the coverage must be EQUAL TO OR BETTER THAN social security. Unfortunately, most private school plans are worse than the government scheme. Some employers choose to provide social security plus additional benefits - Sean.
Yes, it is a legal requirement but there is an age limit, which I believe is 55 years old. I tried to look it up but their website is down at the moment - Eric.
After teaching for four years, I had a one-year break and then joined a new school. Do the number of teaching licence waivers go back to zero?
The short answer is no I'm afraid. Any licence waivers you have received in the past stay against your name as it were.
Life in the Rurals
Questions that fall under the category of 'teaching outside Bangkok' - finding work and surviving in places like Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai, etc.
Are the streets of Chiang Mai paved with gold for a teacher?
Despite being officially Thailand's 'second city' the salaries and earning potential in Chiang Mai are generally below what you can make in Bangkok. The very 'average' salaries on offer in Chiang Mai have always surprised me because it's NOT a cheap city to live in.
Of course there's that perpetual argument that the cost of living in Chiang Mai is significantly lower than it is in Bangkok. I've been taken to task over this many times down the years but personally I think that that statement or comparison is complete rubbish. I've sometimes found CM to be even more expensive than the big mango.
Is voluntary work easy to find?
Yes, voluntary work is easy enough to come by in Thailand but I don't think you should have to pay for the privilege. However, short-term voluntary teaching programs (usually just one semester) and often combined with weekends spent mucking about with elephants, are becoming more and more popular. They seem to appeal to gap year students and 'young adventurers'. There are now many, many companies offering this kind of package - and they all charge you a fee because they are nearly all businesses for profit.
Get tapping into Google and you should come up with some decent names. If you're looking for a good cause in Bangkok then you could do a lot worse than the Goodwill Foundation, who help underprivileged women get a chance in life.
Is hotel teaching work easy to find?
I don't know about easy to find but the vacancies are certainly there. We do get hotel positions crop up on the jobs page now and again so it's worth keeping your eyes peeled. Hotel work never seems to pay that well. Five-star hotels might spend a small fortune on jazzing up the hotel lobby but they are often notorious tightwads when it comes to trainer salaries.
But when you work ten meters from the beach and you dine on hotel leftovers (piquant lobster and baked alaska) then it's something of a trade-off I guess.
Actually I have spoken to a number of teachers who have done hotel work. Sometimes it's great and other times it isn't, especially if you have to train hotel staff who are already overworked and lack the motivation to attend your classes. If you fancy this kind of work, applying directly or just walking in and asking if there any vacancies for an in-house teacher might serve you well.
Would it be possible to find full-time evening work in Krabi?
If you are just looking for evening work in a place like Krabi, then you're pretty much reliant on private language schools. I don't know Krabi at all but I'm guessing it isn't a hotbed of students all studying English in the evening. You would probably pick up a few hours here and there but I would be extremely surprised if you managed to get enough hours to survive financially.
How easy is it finding a teaching job in Pattaya with just a tefl certificate but no degree?
The question of how easy is it to find a job without a degree is answered in the 'degree' section. The fact that you are targeting Pattaya specifically for your job hunt doesn't really make a difference. The same rules apply. At this current time, not having a degree doesn't make finding a job impossible, but it does put you somewhat down the pecking order. To throw one more obstacle in the way if I may - Pattaya is hardly a hotbed of TEFL jobs at the best of times.
Where are the best places to look for work in the Southern provinces?
Difficult question to answer because firstly, no city or town in Southern Thailand really stands out as an education hub and secondly, it all comes down to what you are looking for anyway. Do you want to be near beaches or ferries to tropical islands? Do you want to be in a larger inland city? Nowhere really qualifies as 'the best place to work'. Phuket seems to have many teachers who enjoy working there, although the cost of living is on the high side for Thailand. Nakhon Si Thammarat is a town that's getting good reports from new teachers - plenty of work there and close to Koh Samui. There's the vibrant hub of Hat Yai - a place that teachers seem to love or hate. Songkhla is another place that gets a lot of positive reports. It's really for you to decide.
Teaching in Bangkok
Questions that fall under the category of 'surviving and teaching in Bangkok' - actually this section seems to get a lot of questions about money and salaries.
What's my earning potential in Bangkok? Is 50,000 baht a month possible?
Your earning potential is whatever you want it to be. You can certainly pull in 50,000 baht in Bangkok. How hard are you willing to work? You could do an 8-4 Monday to Friday gig for 35,000. A couple of private students twice a week maybe giving you another 8-10,000 baht a month. Much time off for yourself? no. Will you burn out in six months? possibly. Your earning potential is directly linked to how hard you're willing to work or rather how many hours you're willing to do.
Does Bangkok have the most job opportunities?
Yes, Bangkok has the most TEFL positions on offer and it certainly offers the best salaries, but there are plenty of options outside Bangkok for people who can't stand life in the big city (and there are plenty of folks in that group)
Is doing corporate teaching a lucrative gig?
Corporate teaching pays as much as 600-1000 baht an hour (or more) at some places so it can sound quite attractive, however; very few teachers succeed at becoming 'full-time corporate teachers'.
The very nature of the beast dictates that most companies want their staff to study a couple of times a week in the evening so corporate teaching is often the icing on the cake to supplement your full-time salary from elsewhere.
Exceptions to the rule would be those opportunities where a company will employ someone as a full-time 'in-house' teacher. This kind of position can realise a salary of up to 70,000 baht a month for a bit of teaching, proofreading, editing, etc. These in-house jobs aren't that easy to find though and often get filled through word-of-mouth.
Is it difficult for a husband and wife or a 'couple' to find work at the same school?
I've worked with a number of husband and wife / boyfriend and girlfriend couples down the years and they are usually an employer's dream because they represent stability. Couples will help each other out with lesson plans and generally look out for one another. Schools know that couples make good employees! As long as you don't try to suck out each other's tonsils in the playground or 'have a domestic' in full view of the parent's association treasurer, you'll be hot property!
Which is the best private language school to work for?
There is no real answer to this question. You talk to teachers from any private language school and some will be happy and others won't. It depends what you want out of the work. Some schools will offer a better hourly rate but won't be able to give you many hours. Other schools will have more hours but a lower rate. You'll need to shop around for a private language school that suits your needs.
I'm looking for part-time work for a few months. What are the chances?
You are probably better off contacting private language centres once you get here. They will offer you part-time hourly paid work but it will more than likely be evenings and weekends. You could work for one semester at a Thai school but it would certainly be a Monday to Friday gig. Some schools do use teachers a couple of day a week though. Contact a few agencies and see if they have something a couple of days a week only.
How much can I earn at an international school in Bangkok?
Presumably you are talking about 'true' international schools rather than a school that has the word 'international' in its name purely because it looks good? Well, I knew a teacher about three years ago who was earning well in excess of 150,000 baht a month plus a benefits package that included a nice two-bedroom apartment, paid flights home and free international school education for his kids. I do know of international school teachers earning less than this amount but never by that much.
Note that international school positions are quite difficult to pick up locally. The schools - certainly the better ones - tend to recruit directly from abroad through events such as education and job fairs, etc. Some schools here in Bangkok have a strict policy not to hire locally. Oh, and you will certainly need to be well-qualified.
How do recent college grads afford to live in Thailand while still paying back student loans?
It's a very good question. I think that anyone coming to teach in Thailand and at the same time finding themselves saddled with student loan debts or any debts for that matter, is playing a risky game. Obviously much depends on the size of the debt itself but you need to realize that there are probably better options than Thailand in terms of salary amount. No one ever came to teach in Thailand to get rich. Any decent, qualified teacher should be aiming at 40-50,000 baht a month. So deduct the amount of money you owe on the debt and then consider whether you could survive on that amount. Check out the ajarn.com cost of living sections to give you more idea.
Why does university work in Thailand pay so poorly?
Although the base salary at universities can seem on the low side - in many cases as low as 20-25,000 baht a month, there are often numerous opportunities to earn more with hourly paid overtime, weekend work and private students, etc. Many university teachers double their base salary with extra work and because a university teaching schedule is often not that punishing, there is plenty of spare time to take advantage of. Rarely do university teachers have to survive on a university base salary and if they are well-qualified, universities can sometimes reward them with extra higher-paying classes.
Is ABC Language School credible when it comes to hiring teachers?
We get quite a lot of questions of this nature - asking us if such and such a school is worth working for or how credible are they or how do they treat their teachers. The straight answer is we have no idea. You have to bear in mind that over 15,000 employers use the services of ajarn.com or have used the services of ajarn.com at some stage in the past. It would be impossible to keep tabs on even a small fraction of those schools, colleges and universities, etc. In addition, ajarn.com is not an employer watchdog site. Advertisers and employers send job ads to us - and the rest is up to the teacher or employee to find out I'm afraid.
When I arrive in Thailand what is the best way to start my job search?
I think you firstly need to ask yourself three questions. Where do I want to work? It's no good applying for jobs in a rural town if you're a city person. Secondly, what kind of students do I want to teach? It's pointless applying at kindergartens if you prefer teaching adults. Finally, how much money do I need to make? Why apply at schools paying 25,000 baht a month if you need to make far more than that and in reverse, why work full-time at a school if all you are looking for is a few hours here and there? Answering those three questions honestly will narrow things down and give you a better focus.
I would then scour all the Thailand-related job sites and spend a day or two on the phone. Set up quality appointments and by quality appointments, I mean those phone calls where you got a good vibe from the person on the other end of the phone. Don't go to interviews for the sake of it, especially if when you called, the school sounded desperate for the first teacher to walk through the door.
A lot of teachers advise just turning up at a school unannounced, and while it is a strategy that sometimes works, it can be very time-consuming. I would make this strategy your plan B.
Don't overlook the possibility of working for an agency. Although there are bad points to working for an agency, they do allow you to get a foot in the door and find out how things work here. Once you have a year of teaching under your belt, you'll be a much wiser person and in far better shape to go it alone.
Are there any Spanish teaching jobs available in Thailand?
When you take into account the number of Thai students studying Spanish compared to the number studying English, it's pretty much as you would expect - a mere drop in the ocean. Some of the better Thai universities will employ teachers for their Spanish courses. There are probably one or two private language schools that specialize in Spanish and you might even pick up the odd corporate gig, where a company wants to give one of their executives some conversational Spanish ability; however, it's generally slim pickings in Thailand for a teacher of Spanish.
Your biggest worry - certainly if you failed to land a full-time university position - would be getting enough teaching hours to make a living. You would be very fortunate to make ends meet on corporate and language school bits and pieces. I see this situation a lot with what I call 'teachers of minority languages', especially among French teachers. There always seems to be a lot of French teachers chasing too little work here. And that's been the case for as long as I can remember.
Will I find a job if I arrive after the school term has begun?
Just because the new school term has begun and you've missed the boat, there is certainly no need to give up hope. Teachers leave jobs in mid-term for all sorts of reasons and they need to be replaced. What often happens a few weeks into the beginning of a new term is that there is a 'second wave' of job vacancies. This occurs for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps the new teacher just didn't show up for the first week of school? Maybe the teacher got a better job offer elsewhere? Perhaps there was a disagreement over the contract and the teacher decided to refuse the position at the 11th hour? There are so many reasons why a position can suddenly become available.
Is there a list of agencies that employ foreign teachers?
No. And even I have difficulty keeping track of which teacher agencies operate at any given time. Teacher agencies in Thailand open and fold with quite alarming regularity, especially the smaller players. Compiling a list of 'teaching agencies currently looking for teachers' would be nigh on impossible to keep up-to-date so approach any such list with great caution.
What is the best way to request to observe a lesson at a Thai school?
Your best bet would be to somehow 'befriend' a teacher and hope that they are willing to arrange for you to observe one of their classes. Don't forget that in most cases that teacher would also have to clear things with the school and make sure it's OK for a stranger to be on the school premises observing classes. It's certainly not a very common request. You could contact schools directly and ask if it would be OK to observe some classes in action but it strikes me as rather a time consuming way to go about things and I'm guessing that a lot of schools just wouldn't be interested in accommodating you if you have no intention of working for them but are doing it just for the experience.
Is there a list available of private English language schools in Bangkok?
Yes, there are some lists or directories floating around on the web, but I would approach with great caution. These lists can become old and out-of-date very, very quickly.
Smaller private schools with inexperienced owners can sometimes close down fairly quickly. For those schools that do make a go of things, the actual contact person in charge of hiring can change faster than the seasons.
Where is the best place to look for an online M.Ed. while living and teaching in Thailand?
Thank you to Tom Patz for the following answer;
SEAMEO (Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization). The regional language center (RELC) of SEAMEO offers training programs for language teachers and educators. Programs on offer include: MA Applied linguistics, Post Grad diploma in Applied Linguistics, Post Grad dip TESOL (by distance learning), and specialist courses. Contact them for further info. Tuition for post grad diplomas are in the range of SG$4200 (100k THB). Tuition for the MA is $SG9500 (230k THB) I am not aware of any place that is offering an M.Ed by distance (that is worth the time and money). There are lots of (decent) MAs that you can do by distance learning and that are (as far as an MA goes) affordable.
Do the top international schools employ supply teachers?
Most of the top tier international schools use supply teachers from their network of teachers' wives and other associated people, some of whom probably have their kids studying at the school. Next in line are their former teachers who semi-retire. The mid-level schools may hire additional staff. Knocking on doors and word of mouth are about the only way to go if you want to get into this type of work.
Are there any teaching agencies in Bangkok that I can just walk into?
You mean just turning up at an office or shophouse or wherever the agent operates from and knocking on the door without an appointment? I don't think many businesses or teacher agencies would be keen on you doing that. A number of teaching agencies place job ads on ajarn.com from time to time inviting teachers to an 'open day' for walk-in applications, but by and large each agency has its own recruitment procedure - and it usually involves the teacher getting in touch by phone or e-mail first and taking it from there.
I'm sure the odd teacher agency might welcome a personal cold call but I'm guessing they would in the minority.
Which area in Thailand needs business English teachers?
I presume you are talking about corporate work - teaching English to business people, usually at their company location? This kind of work seems to have dropped off a little in recent years but it could just be a case of not seeing the jobs advertised. Come-what-may. Bangkok will always be the place for this kind of work if you intend trying to make a full-time job of it (or as close to full-time as it's possible to achieve) simply because Bangkok is where the biggest companies have their offices. There are of course many companies located on the large industrial estates within say a 60-mile radius of the capital, but the recruiting will still probably be done from a central Bangkok office. That's not to say you couldn't find corporate work by simply knocking on doors in far-flung places like Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai, but are there enough companies in those places looking for a business English teacher?
My school has asked me to do 'gate duty'. What is it exactly?
There are several reasons why schools have foreign teachers do gate duty. Firstly, many schools like to show the world that they have a foreign teacher. It looks good. In many ways, the foreign teacher becomes the 'face' of the school.
You are sometimes there to greet parents, answer any questions they may have, help carry heavy schoolbags, etc and just generally be an all-round nice person.
Some teachers don't mind doing gate duty at all while others moan about it being perhaps 'beneath them' or a job better suited to Thai staff or an invasion on their out-of-contract hours.
Where do you stand on gate duty? - Do you approach those extra responsiblities with commendable gusto?
Questions that don't really belong in any of the above categories. Topics include accommodation, hotels, apartments, teacher fashion tips, lady-boys and all sorts.
What do female teachers wear?
We now have a guide to what women should wear in a Thailand classroom written by a female teacher.
Do schools offer decent health insurance?
Schools usually offer only the most basic of health insurance packages. If you want something a little better, then you might be better paying your own way. Ajarn.com has plenty of information on health insurance provided by Pacific Cross and our health insurance expert.
What kind of resume works best? Any resume writing tips?
Keep it simple. Employers are interested in your qualifications and what experience you have in the TEFL-related arena. That's all they want to know. I recently read a three-page resume where the applicant had listed (in detail) TEN jobs he'd held in the aeronautical industry. In my opinion, a complete waste of time when you're applying for the job of a teacher. Keep it simple and that means just one A4 size page with a nice photo at the top.
Will Thailand like my long hair?
Long hair on male teachers is generally a no-no. Check out the ajarn.com fashion guide for the full skinny on how to present yourself in the classroom.
Why is ajarn.com aimed chiefly at English native speakers?
Times are changing. Although probably most of the jobs on the ajarn jobs page are for native-speakers, there are many positions there for non-native speakers as well. Often what the schools want and what the schools are prepared to accept are two entirely different things. many schools are aiming high when they request a native speaker. many schools lower their sights when it dawns on them that no native speaker wants to work in the sticks for 20,000 baht a month.
Can I teach in Thailand without knowing any Thai language?
It's not necessary to know any Thai language at all to secure a teaching job. That said, it can come in bloody handy when you're disciplining a class of 30 rowdy teenagers or asking why a single soul hasn't done their homework.
What are the perils and pitfalls of renting a house or an apartment?
We've prepared two fairly extensive guides to renting a house or an apartment. Please read the ajarn guide to renting an apartment and the guide to renting a house.
Do schools pay for accommodation / housing?
Some schools will offer housing as part of the contract but they are certainly in the minority and what's offered can sometimes be pretty grim (a small room on or near campus). Other schools and colleges might offer a housing allowance as part of the teacher salary.
Would you be aware of any Thai to English via internet interpreter work?
My wife works as a translator. The internet is no substitute for legwork. Go to places that may need translation work done and pin up / pass round your details, try to talk to someone in a position of influence. Push anyone you work for to pass your details around. Universities, the big hospitals and publishers are good places. The pay rates probably won't interest many foreigners though (thanks to Cyrille for helping out with this answer)
Is there a website where teachers can post negative opinions on schools?
There isn't one that I'm currently aware of. There have been numerous attempts to run that kind of website or forum over the past few years but none of them have succeeded. I think all the bloggers and webmasters who have tried would agree with me that running a 'schoolwatch' website is far too much hassle. Apart from the obvious pressures you might get from rich and powerful school owners, there are far too many teachers with axes to grind. Some teachers do have cause for complaint; many do not. And much of the information you end up reading is garbage.
If you do feel that you need to speak out against the school that has wronged you - there's no reason why you can't start your own blog on one of the numerous blogging platforms available.
Could I find a job in the hospitality industry here in Thailand?
"I have been applying in few hotels, resorts, travel/tour agencies & airport receptionist. Some have contacted me but then once they learn that i dont have a work permit they automatically turn me down. Predicament is, how can i ever have the work permit they are asking for when no one wants to sponsor my working visa"
Two things here. Firstly there is no such thing as a work visa in Thailand. Visas granted for an extension of stay (usually one year) are connected to your work permit and issued by the immigration department, but it is inaccurate to call it a 'work visa'. Secondly, the positions you mention such as those in travel agencies and on airport receptions, etc are filled by Thais. Thailand has very strict labor laws regarding jobs that foreigners can and cannot do.
Are foreign teachers at a Thai government school entitled to a pension?
No. Foreign teachers are classed as 'temporary staff' regardless of how long they work at a particular government school. In fact, even young Thai graduates who will sometimes help out with teaching duties are lumped in the same category. As a foreign teacher it's up to you to organise your own private pension plan.
What exactly is the definition of an English native speaker?
Native speakers of English are people whose first language is English. They learned English when they were children. They think in English. They use it naturally. Usually native speakers of English are people from English-speaking countries like the USA, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Ireland, etc.
What bus number goes to Central Chaengwattana from The Mall Bangkapi?
Ask a policeman!
Should I buy my teaching clothes in Thailand or my home country?
Years ago I would have said Thailand, but having travelled around Asia a bit and seen the bargains you can get in Hong Kong and even in Japan, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that Thailand is now more expensive than many other countries for quality clothes. When I say quality, I'm not talking designer labels and I'm not talking cheap market tat either - just good quality, off-the-peg, department store clothing. Even the UK is cheaper than Thailand, as I found on a recent trip home. Buying gear in your home country could well be the way to go. And for those of you who take a larger shoe size (especially women) - my wife has great difficulty finding her shoe size here.
Should I cut my neat medium-length dreadlocks before applying for teaching positions?
Thais place great importance on appearance and they like their teachers to look like teachers. Although it's difficult to judge things without a photograph, I think many Thais would associate 'dreads' with Koh Samui beach bums and what they've seen in the movies. I don't think you are doing yourself any favors by applying for jobs with such a hairstyle but if you are attached to the way you look, then maybe you need to test the water. You should get an inkling from the first few job interviews whether or not your look is going against you. If I were an academic director with the responsibilty of hiring new teachers, someone with dreadlocks would go way down the list. It's just not a teacher's look. Not in Thailand. Plain and simple.
Does a thai government teacher have the right to be able to teach in a school near their home.
As a government official, the teacher generally has to ask the government for a transfer and then wait for a decision. It seems the decision can take some time (this is Thailand after all) but if the teacher has connections or knows a teacher willing to swap schools, then the transfer can go through quicker. It's possible that the teacher would also need permission to transfer from the actual school director. This can also slow things down if the director doesn't want the teacher to leave. All the latest information on transferring schools is available from the Ministry of Education. That's really who a government teacher should be asking. (thank you to the ajarn Facebookers for help with this question)
Does a student at a language centre have the right to choose who teaches them?
Yes they do. Private language schools are a business. The students keep the money rolling in. The last thing a school wants is a teacher who is so unpopular that no one wants to study with them. What are the students going to do? I'll tell you. They vote with their feet and go elsewhere.
There's no doubt about it. A popular teacher is always good for business!
I worked at several schools where the admin staff would sometimes hand out questionnaires to payiong students and have them score each teacher for personality, effectiveness, appearance, etc. Fortunately I used to score well in these surveys but I still enjoyed a moan about what I felt was the unfairness of the system. It's only years later the reality has dawned on me - why shouldn't schools survey students and find out which of the teachers are cutting the mustard. Which of their teachers are keeping those re-enrolments going? Which teachers are bringing in the cash? It's all a business at the end of the day.
Can I rent a Bangkok apartment and keep a dog?
You would need to aim this question at the owners or staff at the apartment building. I'm guessing that some apartments would allow dogs and many wouldn't. And I would say the more expensive the apartment, the less likely you would be allowed to keep a dog. Thai dog-owners generally live in houses.
Is it possible to open my own small language school?
Jason Alavi wrote a great article for ajarn.com in 2009 on the process of setting up your own language school. Although the article is a good few years old, I'm sure very little, if anything has changed. If you are just looking to teach students from your house, without any elaborate signage or semblance of the building being a school, then that is what I would class as 'freelance teaching'
Read the ajarn guide to freelance teaching.
How much paid holiday is standard for a full-time teaching job in Thailand?
There is no such thing really as 'standard paid holiday'. The amount of holiday or the number of holiday days will vary from contract to contract. Some schools offer only a 10-month or 11-month contract. In fact these contracts are becoming more and more common place. Whether you are paid for the one or two month's 'down time' will depend on the school. The best advice is to check that contract carefully before you sign it - or at least know exactly what you are going to be paid for and what you are not.
What nationalities are considered native English speakers?
As far as most employers in Thailand are concerned, the native English speaking countries are America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the countries that make up Britain. It's often difficult to accurately define 'English native speaker' but I know of one recruiter who regards a native English speaker as a person who spent their 'formative years' growing up in a country where English was by and large, the only language used. I think that's a reasonable assessment.
Update: we're hearing from more than a few teachers that some employers are now insisting that South African and Irish teachers are being made to sit a TOEIC test before gaining employment as a 'native-speaker' teacher. No, I'm not joking about this. Honestly.
What's the average pay for a summer camp?
The pay varies wildly but it's nearly always quoted as an hourly or daily rate. I've noticed that schools running summer camps generally fall into two categories. The first group are those schools that think they are doing the teacher a favor by offering them summer course work. What could be more wonderful than the opportunity to spend several days playing games and singing and dancing with Thai students? You should be paying us for pete's sakes! I've seen hourly salaries as low as 200 baht an hour for this mob.
The other kind of school - those that care abour running a good program, care about the quality of the teachers, and don't place urgent ads on ajarn.com looking for summer camp teachers about 48 hours before the actual camp is scheduled to start - can pay up to 2,000 baht for about a four-hour working day. Seriously? Would anyone do it for less than that?
Summer camp work is never or rarely well paid. You're out in the fresh air! What more do you want.
What is the English proficiency of employers in Thailand?
Good question this one. The full question is actually "What is the English language proficiency of employers in Thailand and will I have a hard time negotiating a position without a sound level of Thai language? I think firstly you have to clarify that 'employers' and 'interviewers' are not often the same person. In other words, the person who pays your salary (the school owner in most cases) is not the person who will watch your teaching demo and end up giving you the job.
I would say that in most cases the interviewer's English will be more than good enough, and often the interviewer is an English speaker anyway. You may get the odd rural school where the hiring staff have limited English but it should still be enough to answer your basic questions. And you'd be surprised how good a hirer's English becomes when you tell them you won't work for a penny less than 50,000 baht a month or you need more paid holiday.
What break should be given to me whilst teaching nine hours a day?
Nine hours a day? Wow! That's a punishing schedule. It reminds me of the 9-hour teaching days I used to do at a language school back in the 90s. How did that pan out? Well, I would teach classes from 9.00am to 12.20 (with a 10-minute break between each lesson) Then there would be 50 minutes for lunch. The afternoon session was 1.10 to 4.30pm (again with 10-minute breaks between lessons) Then there would be a two-hour break before the evening session started at 6.30pm.
Yes, they were long old days - and I certainly wouldn't recommend anyone doing that number of contact hours more than a couple of days a week, if at all - but there were gaps in-between lessons to do lesson planning and to just generally relax and unwind. If you are teaching nine contact hours with virtually no break, then that's sheer madness. And your teaching is surely going to suffer.
Frankly speaking, there is something of a 'work the willing horse' mentality that goes on at many schools in Thailand. And you really only have yourself to blame if you are accepting that sort of workload. I would go to a superior and explain politely that the workload is unacceptable purely because you care about the job you do and don't want to suffer from the dreaded 'teacher burnout'. Any decent school will see your point of view.
Of course, if you are on an hourly rate and doing all those hours to make as much money as possible, then that's a whole different story.
Would employers consider hiring someone with a vision impairment disability?
Thailand has never struck me as a particularly 'disabled person friendly' country. In fact, I've heard many people say that those who are severely physically challenged seem to be rather 'hidden away' in Thai society. They are certainly not as visible as they would be in other countries and societies. Are there teacher employers in Thailand who make it a priority to employ the physically challenged? Truthfully, I've never heard of one. Education is a business here and ethics can very often take a back seat. If you are concerned about a minor disability such as vision impairment, then I think as long as it doesn't stop you doing your job as a teacher, I wouldn't mention it.
Do I need to open a Thai bank account if I'm teaching in Thailand?
Almost certainly yes, because your employer will most likely want to pay your salary into a specific branch (usually one near the office or school). Usually your school will help you with this if for some reason the bank get a bit funny.
Is there a need for a teacher in Thailand to be an entertainer as well as just a teacher?
This is one of those very divisive issues but let's put it this way - it will do you no harm whatsoever if students like you. And unfortunately, because of the Thai ingrained sense of fun, students often associate being a good teacher with a person who makes them smile and laugh. Particularly at private language centres, teachers are often evaluated by the students in end-of-term surveys. The teacher who repeatedly receives low marks and negative comments probably won't last very long. Education is a business here and the customer is king (usually the fee-paying parents).
Does it matter if I do the TOEIC test in my home country instead of once I'm in Thailand?
It surely doesn't matter but one Ajarn reader (a fellow South African) said "Take it here in Thailand becuse it's far cheaper and easier. You will only need it for your work permit application and you have the three months of your initial 3-month non-b visa to do it. Test is done twice a week in Bangkok, but sometimes takes place in Chiang Mai, Phuket and Hat Yai. Over the past two years, I haven't even needed my TOEIC because Bangkok labor office didn't require it during covid. That might change though, so good to have it just in case"