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TEFL is Teaching English as a Foreign Language. This acronym describes the industry, the profession and all the courses you can take to qualify as a teacher. TEFL can be temporary or permanent. Some people do it as a career break, others a gap year as it’s a great way of earning money while travelling and discovering new cultures, and in Southeast Asia and Thailand particularly, this is a way that many finance their wanderlust.
Teaching is a very rewarding profession, and teachers are highly respected in this corner of the world. While children are generally very respectful of teachers in Southeast Asia, if the thought of teaching children brings on a sweat and anxiety attack, perhaps you would prefer to teach adult learners. There are language schools throughout Southeast Asia catering to adults, and many TEFL teachers end up at hotels and resorts, teaching English to staff.
Teaching hours are not long, leaving plenty of time to explore new surroundings. Public transportation is also affordable and regular in Thailand, so a teacher based in a hub such as Bangkok can effortlessly explore the area on weekends, as well as taking longer expeditions — say here or here — during school holidays.
Average teacher’s salaries in Thailand are about 38,000 baht per month for teachers with a degree, and about 32,000 baht for those without a degree. A teacher can live comfortably on such a wage, with accommodation costing about 20% of this salary. Often accommodation is included in the job package. Many teachers increase their income by offering private lessons after school hours, usually at around 300-400 baht per hour. Packages in China usually include accommodation in the form of a private apartment, meals included, and a salary enough to live on and save a bit. Although Thailand and China are the biggest employers right now, positions are also available in Burma as well as Vietnam. Those holding a four-year degree as well as a TEFL certificate can earn a good income in countries such as South Korea or Taiwan
, where salaries can easily be around $4,000 per month. CORRECTION: Please see below.
What does an average TEFL course in Thailand involve? Generally speaking, they are 120 hours over four weeks, Monday to Friday, and consist of both theory and practical training. Courses include topics such as Thai culture, classroom management, phonology and phonetics, teaching pronunciation, lesson planning, grammar, ice-breakers and games in the classroom as well as various assignments such as one to one projects and making your own teaching materials. Practical training will be in the way of delivering lessons to real students, across several age groups and ability levels, from preschool through to adult, from low level to advanced learners. Lessons can be taught in a local school, language school, at a business, or students can come to the TEFL training centre for free English lessons. Most TEFL courses assist with tailoring a CV to the Asian market, as well as assistance with job placement.
What can you expect to pay? Courses cost between 35,000 baht and 50,000 baht, excluding accommodation and flights. The course provider will usually have a recommended resort for their trainers, at a reasonable rate for a month-long stay, and with all students staying at the same place, this is a great way to make new like-minded friends to explore the surroundings with during down time — as well as possibly making a new travel buddy for Southeast Asia. Remember to bring enough money for food and expenses during your month of study, as well as for an extra two months, allowing enough time to find a job and see you through to your first pay cheque.
Amendment: The average English teacher salary in Korea is $2000, not $4000 as mentioned above.
Disclaimer: Our Ko Samui correspondent, Rosanne Turner, is also the director of Samui TEFL, but information provided above is general, and not specific to her course.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 18th March, 2015.