Teaching English to Thai Students: What It’s Like, Requirements and Tips
For many students around the world, it’s absolutely essential to learn English. Thai students are no exception to this unspoken rule.
In order to teach in Thailand, you’ll have to go through a checklist of several things to see whether you’re eligible and to see if it’s a good fit for you.
We go over several requirements to consider, plus some challenges you might face when teaching in Thailand and how to resolve them.
- What Is It Like Teaching English in Thailand?
- Requirements for Teaching English in Thailand
- 4 Challenges When Teaching in Thailand and Their Solutions
What Is It Like Teaching English in Thailand?
Teaching English in Thailand not only offers a fulfilling professional experience but also allows for personal growth and exploration of a rich and diverse culture. Here are some of the benefits of teaching there!
Reasonable Teaching Hours
Teaching hours in Thailand are manageable, with most teachers in a regular school having around 15 to 20 contact hours per week. Class sizes can range from 20 to 50 students.
While salaries may vary depending on the type of institution and whether you’re in the city or countryside, many teachers find the salaries in Thailand to be reasonable. You get paid per hour which results in about 30,000 to 40,000 Thai baht (TBH) per month, which is a salary of about $800 to $1,200.
Low Cost of Living
Many consider this to be one of the perks of living in Thailand, as monthly costs can range from $600 to $900. Remember that you won’t get paid during school vacation time, so you’ll have to have a buffer for then! Even so, you might be able to save some of your earnings.
Many schools assist teachers with the visa application process, making it easier for them to obtain the necessary documentation.
Some schools also provide accommodation or assistance in finding housing, easing the relocation process for teachers.
Living and working in Thailand provides a unique opportunity for cultural immersion. Teachers can experience Thai traditions, festivals, and cuisine firsthand.
Thailand’s central location in Southeast Asia makes it a great hub for exploring neighboring countries. Teachers often take advantage of weekends and holidays to travel and explore the region.
Requirements for Teaching English in Thailand
If that all sounds good to you, then what are the actual requirements?
These will depend on various factors such as the institution, region, your qualifications, your teaching experience and more. It’s super important that you do your research if you have particular preferences.
In Thailand, a bachelor’s degree or higher is typically required to teach English as a second language. It’s a common practice for schools to request a copy of your degree certificate during the hiring process.
There might be language institutes or volunteer programs that don’t ask for one, but generally, it’s required when applying for your work visa. If you don’t have a degree, make sure you research your options well.
The degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in English or education, but having a relevant field of study can enhance your prospects.
Native Speaker or English Fluency Requirements
Being a native English speaker is often preferred. These are citizens from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the UK and South Africa.
Many schools in Thailand also consider non-native English speakers if they possess a high level of proficiency and hold the necessary qualifications such as a TOEIC or IELTS certificate. However, some institutions may specifically state a preference for native speakers.
TEFL or TESOL Certificate Requirement
Having a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate is increasingly becoming a standard requirement. Again, it might be possible without one, but your options will be limited and having one will help in preparing to become a teacher.
A 120-hour TEFL or TESOL course is generally recommended, and it should ideally include both theoretical and practical components. Schools may prefer certificates from recognized institutions, so it’s essential to choose a reputable program.
There are many different kinds of certificate programs of various prices, time commitments and structures, so make sure you choose one that’s best for you. Sometimes you can do a TEFL or TESOL program with a work placement after.
Teaching experience is not always mandatory, but it can be a significant advantage. Some institutions may prefer candidates with prior teaching experience, as it demonstrates the ability to manage a classroom effectively.
However, entry-level positions are available for those without teaching experience, especially if they hold a relevant degree and TEFL certification.
A health check is a standard requirement for obtaining a work permit in Thailand. This usually includes a basic medical examination to ensure that you are in good health.
The specific requirements may vary slightly depending on the region, so it’s advisable to check with the Thai embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date information.
Criminal Background Check
A criminal background check is typically required for the visa and work permit application process. This is done to ensure the safety of students. It’s crucial to provide a clean criminal record to secure a teaching position.
The background check should be conducted by the relevant authorities in your home country and may be required to be authenticated or legalized.
4 Challenges When Teaching in Thailand and Their Solutions
Because Thailand’s primary schools have been teaching English for years, you might think that your Thai ESL students will be relatively proficient in English. However, in my experience, this doesn’t seem to be the case for a majority of students.
Meanwhile, English fluency holds the key for Thai students to succeed in an increasingly globalized world. Knowing English well will help them in both their professional and personal endeavors.
This is also why your ESL teaching skills are in high demand in Thailand right now! Here are some challenges you might encounter while teaching there, along with some recommended tips and solutions.
1. They’re accustomed to rote memorization
Many Thai schools use a simple rote instructional method that students must follow closely to receive passing marks. Teachers don’t often stray from the books and English lessons are passed down from a more formal source, like an approved curriculum or publication.
In general, English grammar and conversation lessons are comprised of a worksheet or a list of rules with examples that students must memorize and/or copy. Thus, they may not have interactive opportunities to make English their own or learn it in an individualized way.
When it comes to teaching students how to speak any foreign language, there’s no substitute for practical experience. The best way for you to give your Thai students this much-needed experience is to create situations where proper communication in English is a must.
With the amazing power of modern technology, a wonderful solution could be to find students in English-speaking countries who would be willing to interact with your Thai students via Zoom.
While monitoring these online student interactions, you could require students to convey certain verbal messages and then verify the perceived content of the message with their foreign counterparts.
By allowing their foreign counterparts to offer suggestions related to grammar, word usage and more linguistic details, the learning process can be enhanced. Your students will get more feedback from native English speakers, and students are generally very receptive to learning from peers.
Another excellent method is to expose your Thai students to native English with fun video content from the FluentU library.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.
2. They get minimal English writing practice
Although Thai students are required to write essays in class, they don’t get plentiful opportunities to practice the whole writing process of brainstorming, drafting and editing an essay. They’ll usually write it and submit it.
Without knowing how to form their ideas properly, some students also use Google Translate to help them finish their English essays.
Drafting, proofreading and self-editing activities go a long way towards helping Thai students to develop mastery over the writing process. These activities can teach them the steps they need to become better writers.
You’ll also need to create opportunities to write practical things in English. Consider all the kinds of writing a native English speaker might do daily, such as emails, texts, letters, social media posts and reports. A great way to address this, and to keep students writing consistently, is to require that each student write a daily English-language entry in a personal journal.
By taking the emphasis off formal writing and putting it on establishing practical writing skills, you’ll get your students to seek out ways to better express their personal feelings, thoughts and opinions in a manner that any English-speaking person can understand.
With an eye on their futures, teaching high school level students to write resumes and fill out job applications in English can also go a long way towards giving them much-needed writing experience, while also allowing them to understand why English skills might be important to their future.
3. They’re used to getting grades, rather than full-on feedback
While students do receive some feedback on their writing assignments, mostly in terms of a grade, they may not fully understand their weaknesses. They may not always receive guidance on how they can improve their English grammar on an individual level.
Your Thai students may also be accustomed to receiving feedback from their teacher and nobody else.
However, without greater emphasis on high-quality English writing skills, these students may not get the chance to realize their linguistic potential, or properly utilize it. The reality is that they need feedback from other sources besides their English teachers.
You’ll want to introduce a mix of teacher-student conferences, individual feedback sessions and peer-to-peer feedback. This variety of feedback can be instrumental in teaching students how to write and speak English effectively.
To give students more experience with peer-to-peer feedback, it’s beneficial to allow students to edit each other’s writing assignments. In many cases, the students with stronger writing and editing skills are given the opportunity to help students who aren’t quite as far along in the English learning process.
Another way to create opportunities for feedback can be through the sponsoring of mandatory writing competitions with some type of awards on the line. By creating competition among several different learning institutions and having independent English experts serving as judges, there’s a high likelihood that most students will put their best foot forward and think seriously about what they’re writing.
The anticipation of getting feedback from independent judges could also be a motivating factor. If you can’t arrange such a large event, then make it happen in your school, or even just in your classroom!
4. They don’t feel confident in their English skills
Most high school students understand the need to learn how to write with great English grammar for college and career purposes. However, they may feel they lack the means to do so on their own and must rely on their institutions and teachers.
Without confidence in their ability to communicate in English, many Thai students will avoid doing so unless absolutely necessary.
The good news is that Thai students are eager to learn ways to improve their English skills.
A more intensive English writing curriculum and teachers who are more involved with each student’s progress, along with interactive assignments and peer learning opportunities, can help students with their English proficiency more effectively.
The more proficient they get, the more confidence they’ll have in using their English skills.
So there you have it! All the essential information on teaching English in Thailand.
Keep the above notes in mind, and focus your lessons accordingly. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to building a successful ESL teaching career in Thailand.