Why Does Thailand Discriminate Against Teachers Over 45 Years Old?

teachers day thailand
Wai Kru or ‘Teachers Day’ in Thailand – copyright Yobonwan, Public Domain


No English teacher who’s taught in Thailand is surprised to see job ads in local newspapers saying “Thai national only. Must be 25 years of age or younger, female and attractive”. In Thailand, discriminatory ads like this are acceptable and legal. In the last few years though, more and more job ads for western English teachers are stating “must be under 45 years of age”. Age discrimination against western teachers? Sure it is. But why is this acceptable in Thailand and, if you are an older English teacher over 45 years of age, can you still get a teaching job in Thailand?

Why Do Thais Discriminate Against Teachers Over 45?

Primarily, teaching English in Thailand is all about ‘edutainment’, meaning if you teach English in Thailand you must be an entertainer as well as an educator. Thais hate to be bored at any time so English class too has to be ‘fun’. If it’s not fun, they don’t pay attention and consequently don’t learn anything. But the prevailing thought in Thailand is, for a teacher to be entertaining and fun, they must be young. Not true, but that’s the way some Thais think.

Retirement Age in Thailand

The retirement age in Thailand is 60 years of age and many middle-class Thais retire well before this, in their late 40s to early 50s. When I asked 30-something Thai students when they planned on retiring, most of them said by age 45. Asking why so early, the replies I got were most of them figured they wouldn’t live much past 60, so they wanted to enjoy retirement age while they could.

I was shocked when I heard most didn’t expect or want to live past 60 years of age, but this is often because, in Thailand unlike in the west, many elderly people are in poor health and younger Thais nowadays don’t want to be like that. Thus the discrimination against western teachers older than 45 too.

Thais are presuming westerners will be frailer in their 50s and 60s like so many Thais supposedly are. (In actual fact, this isn’t true about modern middle-class Thais either – it’s only that Thais are still living with the mind set their parents had about age in the 1950s and 60s, and it’s difficult to change that).

Will Teachers Over 45 Be Discriminated Against In Every Job in Thailand? – No, not at all. I know many teachers over the age of 45 who, sure, might have been turned down for a few jobs because they’re not 25 year olds but, there are so many teaching jobs in Thailand, there’s always a school or a company that will hire you.

Even if you’re an older teacher in your 50s or 60s and, sometimes, even beyond.

How To Get a Job Teaching in Thailand If You’re Older than 45 – Seriously, it’s not that difficult. If you’re an older teacher in Thailand, send out a few resumes but don’t include photographs, as that’s often a dead giveaway of your age. Also eliminate things like university graduation dates on your resume.

Once you get the interview, it’s easier to get the job if they like you but, if you include things on a resume that can date you, you may be less likely to be called in for an interview at some schools. Stupid? Of course. Reality in Thailand? Unfortunately, yes.

As the population of Thailand ages and people still stay healthy, this discrimination against older teachers is likely to change. Unfortunately, that won’t help those of you who are already 45 years of age or older. But don’t worry. I’m truly of the mindset, if you want something badly enough there are always jobs that will suit you and, as my over-45-year-old teacher friends in Thailand can attest to, there’s a job out there for everyone.

For interesting comments from teachers in Thailand over the age of 45, check out Oldies but Goodies on Ajarn.com.