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Who Are the Foreign English Language Teachers in Thailand?

Updated on August 9, 2020
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

Foreign English Language Teachers in Thailand

The author and teaching colleagues at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand.  Picture taken in 2013.
The author and teaching colleagues at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand. Picture taken in 2013. | Source

Foreign English Language Teachers in Thailand

The foreign English language teachers or EFL instructors in Thailand are different from the English or ESL teachers you find in western countries. EFL teachers in Thailand come from almost any country in the world and generally don't have a formal teacher's school certification. Many of the instructors have learned English as a second language and don't regard EFL teaching as their life-long career. In this hub, I examine the different kinds of EFL teachers I ran into while teaching EFL in Bangkok for almost seven years.

Who Are the EFL Teachers in Thailand?

The EFL teachers in Thailand belong to a diverse group that includes individuals from almost every continent of the world. If you broke the foreign English teachers up into groups, you would find middle-aged and elderly western men, men and women from the Philippines, young backpackers, single western women, and racial minorities. In the following sections, this article will look at each one of these groups in detail.

EFL Teachers in Thailand

The author teaching EFL at a school summer camp in 2009.
The author teaching EFL at a school summer camp in 2009. | Source

Middle-Aged and Elderly Western Men

Middle-aged and elderly Caucasian western men comprise the largest group of EFL teachers in Thailand. These teachers include English native language speakers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. They also include English non-native second-language speakers from European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

Most of the western teachers have degrees from their native country or universities in Thailand. Many of the teachers, however, have no certification as teachers from education schools in or outside of Thailand. For this reason, they must periodically take and attempt to pass teaching proficiency tests sponsored and given by the Teachers Council of Thailand.

While teaching in the Bangkok area, I learned that a great number of the middle-aged and elderly western men have local Thai wives or partners. These teachers had also lived in Thailand for at least 10 years.

The author in a fourth grade classroom at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand.  Picture taken n 2013.
The author in a fourth grade classroom at Saint Joseph Bangna School in Thailand. Picture taken n 2013. | Source

Professional Requirement for Foreign English Language Teachers

What should be the minimum professional requirement for foreign English language teachers in Thailand?

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Men and Women from the Philippines

Young and middle-aged men and women from the Philippines make up the second biggest group of EFL teachers in Thailand. Most of these teachers are women (Filipina) who almost all have teacher certification in the Philippines.

Even though the men and women from the Philippines have learned English as a second language, Thailand schools like to hire EFL teachers from the Philippines because they are almost all certified teachers and will work for half the pay of western men. Many of the Filipina teachers are also able to teach math, science, health, physical education, and music in Thailand schools' English Programs where core subjects are taught in English.

Filipina teachers will also accept EFL jobs in small villages where other western teachers will not work because of the low pay.

Young Backpackers

Young male and female backpackers from western countries make up the third biggest group of EFL teachers. Many of these young people are only looking for a few months of teaching to help pay for their excursions throughout Southeast Asia. Some of the backpackers have no degrees while I met others who had taught as licensed music and biology teachers in the United States. Most of these young people will work anywhere in Thailand.

Day in Life Teaching in Thailand

Single Western Women

The fourth-largest group of EFL teachers is comprised of single western women. These are not backpackers, but rather uncertified EFL teachers who mostly have college degrees. Most of these women are traveling and living in foreign countries after graduation before settling down to a job or marriage in their native country. While teaching in Bangkok, I met single women from Poland, Romania, and Ireland.

Teaching in Thailand

Racial Minorities

Racial minorities make up the smallest group of EFL teachers in Thailand. In the largest minority group of black teachers, I worked with males from the Cameroons, Nigeria, and Ghana. The next largest minority group was composed of men and women from India who taught math, music, and EFL.


As you can see, it is not necessary to be a white English native language speaker from a western country to get an EFL job in Thailand. Since English is being taught as a global rather than a foreign language, most schools welcome both native and non-native speakers from anywhere in the world.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Paul Richard Kuehn


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    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      5 years ago from North Texas

      Good information for anyone wondering if they would fit into this career choice even for a short time as the backpackers you mentioned. Interesting to see the diversity. Voted up, UI, and sharing on HP. Also, pinning to Awesome Hubpages.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Hi Emmanuel! It's great to hear from you again. The Thai government's MOE has a vague generalized curriculum, and the teacher is left with a lot work handling the nuts and bolts of teaching. No, I haven't met a Kenyan in Thailand yet.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Teaching native speakers and second language speakers is certainly a lot different. Yes, you definitely have to understand something about your immigrant's culture and language before you can start teaching them. Thanks for your comments.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      5 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Yes, Thailand is a very interesting place to teach. If you have the time and interest, come over here and try teaching for a while. You are never too old to be hired some place here in Thailand.

    • Emmanuel Kariuki profile image

      Emmanuel Kariuki 

      5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      Great info Paul.

      Seems you haven't met a Kenyan yet. Does the Thai Government's Ministry of Education supply the teachers with a standard curriculum?

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      5 years ago from Templeton, CA

      As a certified English teacher in the United States, I can tell you that most of the education classes I took were useless. When I began tutoring Vietnamese immigrants (boat people) here in the United States, I basically taught myself how to communicate with them to teach them English.

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 

      5 years ago from South East Asia

      I took a course especially to teach English in Thailand. It didn't do me an ounce of good though. Turned out I am too old. I've been speaking English far longer than would think it would count for something.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Sounds like an interesting place to teach.


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