Getting qualified to teach English

Being a teacher in Thailand has its moments. There’s thousands of other foreigners across the country in schools and colleges trying to get Thais to get their tongues around the English language. It’s not easy. Lots of travellers think you can just get off the plane and land a job standing in front of kids, speaking English.

In the last three years the ministry of education has become more and more strict in who they will allow to teach. There’s also a growing demand for teachers, since there’s lot more middle class mums and dads here sending their kids to private lessons. They work hard and save their money to give their little darlings a head start, so if you have no experience as a teacher it’s only fair that you get properly trained in TEFL teaching.

There’s a few things to tell you first about the whole TEFL industry. For one, there’s no central body anywhere in the world controlling the courses and certificates, so any old burnt out teacher can open up a TEFL training business and dish out certificates. It’s important for you to do your homework, some of these places are just selling the dream: ‘teaching in paradise’ and other marketing slogans.

CELTA is the most famous of the accreditations, they are monitored by the Cambridge Examination Board. Trinity is another similar one. They are tough courses and expensive, and you can probably do just as well with one of the other well know certificates. Unless you plan to make a whole career out of it, look at doing something like the TEFL International certificate, as long as they are widely known in many countries you’ll always find work with one.

Next thing is that the Thailand teachers organisation, Khurusapa (TCT) doesn’t actually make the TEFL cert compulsory, because there is no control. But they do expect you to have a degree before you get given your teaching licence. Truth is, there’s plenty of good teachers out there without a degree so they work ‘under the table’ in language schools as such. The other thing is that unofficially, schools prefer native speakers who look caucasian. Sounds prejudiced but blonde woman teachers get snapped up first, that’s just the way it is here.

Nowadays the recruiters at schools will ask to see if you have done a TEFL course. The centres that do classroom pracs and take you out to Thai schools are probably the best to go for. Imagine going for a teaching interview and they suddenly push you into a classroom for a demo, having never faced students. There seems to be more and more of these online TEFLs being advertised but they’re not advisable. Teaching is a face-to-face thing and you need a real trainer to train you successfully in standing in front of 50 mute kids and pulling off a properly planned 50 minute lesson.

There’s now plenty of places offering the one-month TEFL courses in Thailand, you can see them listed on Ajarn.com here. Choosing one can be tricky but you should take the trouble to research their reputation, look them up on a review site like this one. Don’t go for the cheapest, look instead for the extras they offer like job finders and free accommodation.

Location is also important, forget the beach since these courses are intense and you won’t exactly be sun tanning after the day’s over. Probably the most popular place is Chiang Mai, it’s cheaper for one, and more laid back so that your month long training is comfortable. It’s also cooler up North. Of the various decent TEFLs in Chiang Mai,  the one that gets mentioned a lot is Unitefl International.

Whichever one you choose, make sure you’re going to get properly trained, afterall you’re giving up a month of your life and £1,000. Look into several, go and see their premises if you can, meet the trainers, follow them on facebook, contact their grads for a personal recommendation. Quite often the deal clincher is how professionally they present themselves online and respond to your enquiry.

Five tips for choosing a TEFL course 

  1. Do a full 120-hour classroom TEFL that includes real practicums in schools
  2. Research their accreditation and how widely its known
  3. Discover how well established they are: trainers’ qualifications, number of good reviews
  4. Ask if there’s a test at the end, if not avoid them
  5. See if they find you a job afterwards and assist with finding a place to stay

 

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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