Thailand is one of the top destinations in the world for would-be English (EFL/ESL) teachers who want to get TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. Popular for its excellent TEFL courses that are acceptable all over the world, as well as much cheaper prices than most other countries, signing up for a TEFL course in Thailand can be a good career move. But, with so many TEFL courses to choose from, how do you choose the right TEFL course in Thailand for you?
Don’t Only Think About Course Price – One mistake some westerns make who come to Thailand for a TEFL course is to concentrate on the course price and not what the course has to offer or where the course is located. With the difference in price for a TEFL course in Thailand usually only between $100-200 for a six-week course, worry less about the price and more about “Does this course fit my needs and will it qualify me to teach English?”
Where Should You Take the Course? – TEFL courses are offered in Thailand in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya, as well as other smaller towns. Before you choose where to study the six-week course, decide do you want a city, small town or beach environment/ If in the city, can you avoid all the distractions Bangkok has to offer while you’re studying full-time for six weeks? Or will you want to go out clubbing every night and not be able to wake up in time for class the following morning?
If you decide on a beach location, will you actually go to class or end up sunbathing all day and fail the course? Will a small town be liveable for someone who’s just arrived from New York or London, or will living in a tiny town where hardly anyone speaks English be too much culture shock? Decide on which location will work for you before you decide on a TEFL course.
What Does the Course Teach? – Every TEFL course is different. Look at each course curriculum before you sign up for a TEFL course in Thailand. Avoid the short courses (4 weeks or less) as most of them are too short and don’t have the requisite number of class hours or teaching practice hours required by education departments all over the world.
In Thailand (and most other countries), in order for a TEFL certification course to be valid for a work permit, it has to have 120 hours of course work and at least 6-10 hours of observed teaching practice. Don’t sign up for a course with less than 120 hours of course work or no observed teaching practice as, when you try to find a job, you may find your TEFL certification doesn’t have the minimum requirements to get a work permit in the country you want to work in.
Choose a TEFL Course In-Country if Possible and Interview the TEFL School – When I took my TEFL course in Thailand, I interviewed several schools and then chose the one that ‘felt right’ to me. Friends of mine did the opposite. They booked a TEFL course online before they arrived in Thailand then discovered, once they got to Thailand, they didn’t like the school or the instructors. But, having already plumped down $1,400, they were stuck with the school.
Come to Thailand, decided which town you want to study in, then interview the TEFL schools in that town before you make a decision. With most schools having a TEFL course starting every couple of weeks (sometimes weekly), you won’t have to wait long to begin your course and you’ll be happier with it once you know you’ve made an educated decision.
Are the Instructors Qualified? – In some of the TEFL courses in Thailand, they’ve dragged a westerner off the street, given him a quick course in how to teach and shoved him in front of his first TEFL class. Before you sign up for a TEFL certification course, ask the school about the instructor you’ll have. What are his qualifications? How long was he a teacher before he started to teach TEFL? How long has he lived in Thailand? Does he have TEFL certification himself? etc.
Does the TEFL Course Include How to Teach Thais? – If, like me, you’re planning on taking a TEFL course because you want to teach English in Thailand, choose a course with a segment on how to specifically teach Thais. Every nationality has specific problems learning English, due to the original language they speak.
In Thailand, when you begin to teach English, you’ll quickly discover Thais have problems with certain grammar structures, specific pronunciations, and inability to distinguish between certain sounds (the letters ‘r’ and ‘l’ are difficult for Thais when it comes to hearing the difference). But, if you take a TEFL course that specifically teaches you how to teach Thais and how to identify the problems Thai-native speakers will have, it makes it so much easier once you get in the classroom.
Talk to Students Already Taking the TEFL Course – One thing I liked about the school I chose was they had no problem allowing me to talk to some of the students who were already enrolled in the course and in the middle of the six week program. They were one of only two schools that allowed me to do that, which immediately narrowed down my choice quite easily. Because my philosophy is, if the school doesn’t want you to talk to current students, what are they trying to hide?
There are some excellent TEFL courses in Thailand and at costs $1,500 or more cheaper than similar TEFL courses in other countries, it’s not surprising thousands of would-be English teachers come to Thailand every year to take a TEFL certification course. Most schools are legitimate and, if you complete all the course work and teaching practice satisfactorily, you’ll receive TEFL certification that’s professionally-acceptable all over the world.
Just remember, don’t rush into a TEFL certification course in Thailand without doing all the necessary research to make sure you’ve made the correct decision. The right TEFL course will set you up for a successful teaching career and give you confidence in the classroom you didn’t have before. The wrong TEFL course will be nothing more than an exercise in frustration and a very expensive yet useless piece of paper upon completion. Choose wisely.