Thailand is a magical country, famous for its exotic islands, beautiful beaches, delicious food, laidback lifestyle, and truly magnanimous, gracious people. It is not without reason that Thailand receives more visitors than any other country in Southeast Asia annually, and that is lovingly referred to as the “Land of a Thousand Smiles.”
Thailand is also one of the ASEAN group member countries, which will soon be joined by the likes of China, South Korea, and Japan. The ASEAN group of countries have unanimously agreed that the English language will be used as the common language for business and commerce in all member countries, making it an even more valuable language in the region.
While all ASEAN member countries have invested heavily in English language programs and initiatives within their individual countries, the need for English language training within Thailand has never been more important than it is today. So, if you have a desire to teach English abroad, Thailand is a country where local children need your conversational English skills most urgently.
However, before you begin teaching in Thailand, you must arm yourself with the tools to succeed in the classroom. The first of which is committing to earning an internationally accredited TEFL/TESOL certification in Thailand, which can be done over a two to four week period. After making the decision, you’ll need to begin evaluating individual programs, which are offered by numerous TEFL/TESOL course providers throughout Thailand, and select the TEFL program that best suits your individual goals and needs.
To get you started, here are seven questions you should ask before choosing a TEFL program in Thailand:
1. Does the TEFL/TESOL course provider hold a school license from the Thai Ministry of Education?
Unbelievably, most TEFL/TESOL training centers in Thailand still do not hold a school license from the Thai Ministry of Education, so they operate merely as unregulated training centers. Many of these training centers employ TEFL/TESOL instructors that don’t even have a degree in any subject, let alone teaching or education degrees.
2. Is the TEFL course provider in Thailand internationally accredited?
If the course provider is not internationally accredited, assuming you are lucky enough to secure a teaching job in Thailand, you may not be so lucky when you try to apply for a TEFL/TESOL instructor position in another country. Should you ever want to use your TEFL certification to earn a living teaching in other countries around the world, you MUST find internationally accredited TEFL courses in Thailand.
3. Is your TEFL course provider in Thailand able to provide you with the proper visa assistance?
Perhaps, because most TEFL/TESOL training centers are not able to acquire a school license from the Thai Ministry of Education, many applicants that undertake TEFL in Thailand unwittingly enter the Kingdom on the wrong visa.
4. How many people will be in your TEFL/TESOL courses and what is the instructor-to-participant ratio?
Based on feedback from TEFL course participants over the years, the optimal course size is somewhere between six and 12 people. If there are only two to three people in your TEFL program in Thailand, you will each get a lot of individual experience, but you will gain more if you can interact with and watch more people in action; not to mention, the course will be more fun.
If you are in a course with more than 12 people, you may rightly feel that you are not getting individual attention you need. The one caveat to that, though, is the instructor-to- participant ratio. If one instructor is going to teach 12 participants, that is far from ideal. However, if there are two instructors delivering the training, then that size can work.
5. Does your chosen TEFL certification in Thailand emphasize the practical aspect of EFL/ESL teaching, and involve teaching practice sessions with real life students learning English?
If your course emphasizes the practical side of EFL/ESL teaching, then you will feel equipped with the skills and knowledge to successfully embark on your new career. At the end of your TEFL program in Thailand, you should feel confident enough to be able to teach English not only in Thailand, but anywhere in the world.
6. Upon successful completion of your TEFL certification in Thailand, will you be offered the guarantee of a paid teaching placement?
Why would you ever enroll in TEFL courses in Thailand with a provider that doesn’t or can’t offer such a job placement guarantee?
You will want to ask your TEFL certification course provider how the guaranteed placement offer works, if they do offer one. How much say to you get in which type of school, what location, and what age group(s) you will be teaching? Will there be other western teachers in your school? It is not going to benefit yourself or your students if your dream placement is teaching primary school children near the beach in a large city, yet you only received one placement offer, which was to teach high school students in a remote village, 100 miles from the nearest city, where you are the only Westerner in the school and village.
7. What accommodation assistance do TEFL students receive?
Let’s face it, as adventurous and easy going as you may be, where and how you live are going to be important factors during your TEFL in Thailand. You need to get reassurance from your TEFL course provider, TEFL placement agent, or placement school as to what level of assistance and support you will receive. If you are not happy in your environment, it may very well spill over into your teaching experience and ESL classroom environment.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" – James Howell
Your TEFL program in Thailand, and likely ensuing internship, should definitely not be all work and no play. You will essentially be embarking on an international cultural exchange, and my best advice is to make the most of it; experience everything Thailand has to offer and make a meaningful difference wherever you can.
If you have the opportunity to do a homestay with a Thai family or an overnight English camp with the kids from your school, or you get the chance to volunteer your time at a local elephant sanctuary, don’t even think about it, just do it. And, do it with a smile, which brings us full circle to the “Land of a Thousand Smiles.”
If you look at your typical Thailand travel guide, inside you will find the phrase “Sanuk”, which equates to “fun” in the English language. For Thais, “Sanuk” is so much more than a mere word, it is a way of life! Whether it is at work, at the market, or at school, Thai people strive to make everything they do fun.
If you can bring your sense of humour, fun, and adventure to your TEFL in Thailand and your ESL classroom, not only will you be rewarded for this, you will inspire your students. Thai students will learn more effectively when they are having fun! The reward and satisfaction you will receive, knowing that you have empowered your students through teaching them English and giving them the opportunity of a better future, will be priceless and engraved in your soul for eternity!
This article was contributed by Camp Thailand, an international cultural exchange and intern program provider offering volunteer, TEFL, and teaching program opportunities.