The Best Way to Teach in Thailand

Cut the middle man out

If you’re coming to Thailand to teach, or just backpacking and looking to teach for a semester to save up a bit of money to extend your travels, chances are you will find a teaching job through an agency.  Having had repeated and ongoing issues with teaching agencies here in Thailand I thought I would make the case for current and future teachers wanting to work here in Thailand why you should just go directly to the schools and cut out the agencies.  I will admit that I’m currently working with an agency but having weighed up the pros and cons I would not do so again, which led me to write this post.

Why not to work with an agency

  • MORE MONEY: Agencies regularly low ball teachers with 30,000baht a month offers but in reality the school is probably willing to pay the teacher up to 40,000 baht. This means that the agency is taking up to a quarter of your salary!!!  Agencies won’t mention to you how much they’re taking, or even that they’re actually getting money from the school as part of your salary but they are.
  • They OWN you: Not literally, but pretty close to legally, they do. Many of these agencies insert clauses in contracts that prevent teachers from working with the school once your current contract is over for a period of up to 3 years, meaning you can’t just go straight to the school and work for them. They can also insert clauses that prohibit you from communicating to the school about a problem you have with the agency, e.g. not getting paid, by making it grounds for the immediate termination of the contract.  Another way they limit your freedom is by preventing you from taking extra classes or tutoring.
  • Minimal services offered: What do agencies do?  They post job ads online, interview teachers, arrange for your visa and work permit, and then take your money without even mentioning it.  All of those services can be done by the school but is easier for them to outsource teacher recruitment and legalization of their teachers.  It literally doesn’t cost the school anything because they are sending the teacher’s salary to the agency, which then keeps a significant portion of the money for very little in return.
  • They don’t work for you: They work for the school; schools want a supply of teachers while not having to lift a finger. If you have a problem with the school, do you think the agency which is taking your money from the school is going to go out of its way to endanger a profitable relationship? I seriously doubt it.  As there are so many agencies working in Thailand, competition is fierce to provide schools with teachers and so it is prudent business sense to acquire as many clients (schools) as possible and cultivate relationships, often personal, so as to keep back the competition.  At the school in Trat I briefly worked at, the agent and the director were as thick as thieves.  The director didn’t even bother to come to me about an issue; she just talked to her friend the agent who told me I was being let go without warning.  This agent demonstrated what I mentioned earlier: agents put their long-term economic interests ahead of the short-term (you).
  • Scammers: You may see an ad posted by an agency but in reality is just an opportunist presenting themselves as an agency.  At my last school in Trat I quickly became aware that something was amiss when I went to sign the contract I saw that the contract was actually directly with the school and made no mention of an agency, or more importantly, any obligation to pay one.  This person, that I mentioned was close with the director, was simply processing visas and work permits for teachers while collecting 8,000+ baht a month for doing very little else.  The story goes on from there but as you can imagine it had a big impact on my remaining time at that school and decision to leave.

How to go direct?

  • The old fashion way; pound the pavement and drop off some resumes. I guarantee you that some of the schools will ask you to wait while they get the foreign language department director who will do a short interview.  They may even offer you the job on the spot!  If you go this route, be sure to bring your documents with you and references if you have any.  You could also offer to do a demo lesson which might really impress them.  Admittedly this way is more labor intensive and is more suited to bigger cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and a handful of other places but it can be very effective in putting you ahead of other candidates and getting a job quickly.
  • Browse the usual Facebook groups and websites like Ajarn.com, looking for ads that explicitly mention that it is the school itself posting the ad. Good indicators include the email address belonging to the school English department or the English program director.
  • Post in expat groups asking local teachers if they know of any job openings as most fellow teaching expats are more than happy to help out. You can also ask them their honest opinion about the school, teaching conditions, salary expectations, holidays, the director, etc. Talking to a current teacher is always a smart thing to do before you make a decision to sign on at any school.
  • If you are already working at a school and are on good terms with your Thai teachers or even better, your director, you can ask them if they know a teacher or director at a school in the area you want to go teach next. I’ve personally seen this done and if I choose to continue working in Thailand after my current contract expires, I would use this route in addition to the other methods I listed above.

I hope this helps and has opened your eyes a little to see the truth behind working for an agency.  That is not to say all agencies in Thailand are bad, my first job here in Thailand was with Mediakids and I would recommend them, but overall it simply makes more sense to work directly and can save you a lot of hassle down the road.  Let me know of your agency horror stories and any other ways you know how to find jobs directly with the school.

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