Teaching English in Chiang Mai
I daresay that over half of my acquaintances in Chiang Mai are English teachers of some sort, and nearly all of them have been such at one time or another. And though they share this occupation -- or perhaps I should say diversion -- this is about the only thing they share. I know an older English gentleman who has been in Thailand for about thirty years, and though he is an editor of a local travel magazine and has published reams of articles about Thai culture, he also teaches English on the side for ready money. I have known English teachers who have subsequently become journalists or marine biologists; ex-journalists who are contemplating a move back to English teaching; and indeed some of my teacher friends are not white men (though most of them are) but Thai women, often charged with introducing rudimentary English to children. So long as the Anglo-American steamroller continues to roll, the teaching of the King's tongue or some bastardization of it will continue to present the otherwise unskilled with employment in far-off lands.
In Chiang Mai there are roughly four routes to an English teaching job. In order of desirability from worst to best (in my opinion) they are: "privates", language centers, Thai or international schools, and universities. Some NGOs also employ volunteers to teach English to the downtrodden -- Burmese refugees, for example -- but such jobs would probably appeal only to the intrepid or the independently wealthy.
The good part about teaching private lessons (or "privates") is that practically no qualifications are required except fluency or even near-fluency in English. Most educated Thais can read and write English passably. But because their exposure to English-speaking people is almost nil (at least upcountry), their conversation skills are abysmal (though perhaps no worse than those of foreigners in Thai.) Often you can land privates without any effort at all on your part because you will be approached by concerned parents or ambitious students. The main problem with privates is their inconsistency. Cancellations and schedule conflicts can be extremely frustrating, and novice teachers commonly have to learn about all the pitfalls the hard way. I know of only one person who has been able to scrape by on privates alone, and he is one of those rare people who could probably live on a daily crust of bread and a song if it came down to that. Much better is to use privates to supplement a regular gig, e.g. at one of Chiang Mai's many....
Listed below are some of the city's more reputable centers, although it should be borne in mind that centers come and go as fortunes rise and fall. In general, the centers require some qualification above mere fluency (like a bachelor's degree, TEFL certificate, or even -- in the case of AUA -- college transcripts and letters of recommendation.) And because so many foreigners arrive in Chiang Mai with no job and no money, but quickly develop a desire to stay long-term, competition for these jobs is fairly stiff and the pay less than spectacular. (Bangkok, needless to say, is a different story; every day in the classifieds of the Bangkok Post there are lucrative jobs on offer for which only fluency is required.) Some obvious benefits of the centers are that you are usually teaching adults and not children; the hours are fairly regular; the atmosphere is relaxed; and one can work for as many terms as one likes. The centers are also a great place to make friends, foreign and Thai. (Finding a Thai girlfriend among one's students, however, is frowned upon.) Please note that all phone numbers must be preceded by 053 if calling within Thailand, and by ++6653 if calling internationally. Please do take all numbers with a grain of salt; numbers change with astonishing frequency in Thailand. And inclusion of an organization in this article does not imply my endorsement of it.
75/1 Moo 14, Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 276269, 810552-3
New Zealand Education Services Institute of Languages (Baanpasa)
Sirinthorn Road, Chang Phuak, Muang, Chiang Mai 50300
Chaiyaphum Road, Chiangmoi, Chiang Mai
Nimmanhemin Road Soi 17, Suthep, Chiang Mai
The British Council
198 Bamrungrai Rd., Chiang Mai 50000
Note: As recently as May 2003, the British Council was openly seeking both full-time and part-time teachers.
Nimmenhamin Road, Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
15/73 Huay Kaew Road, Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
Thai and International Schools
If you are planning a longer stay, you might consider teaching English in a bona fide school. Listed below are those that have been known to employ teachers of English as a foreign language. Generally speaking the pay is better, the hours longer, and the qualifications more severe; and you may be called upon to do more than just teach. But you will be part of a community, and moreover a community that contains some of the best educated people in Chiang Mai.
American Pacific International School (APIS)
158/1 Moo 3, Hangdong-Samerng Road, Bangpong, Muang, Chiang Mai 50230
Tel: 365303, 365305
Kawila Wittayalai School
200 Mahidol Road, Tasala, Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
Lanna International School Thailand (LIST)
300 Grandview Moo 1, Chiang Mai-Hangdong Road, Chiang Mai 50100
Fax: 271159 ext 16, 25
118/2 Moo 5, Thanon Mahidol, Tasala, Muang, Chiang Mai
Prem Tinsulanonda Center for International Education
PO Box 1, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai 50180
Web: http://www.premcenter.org or
Chiang Mai has three main universities and several commercial and technical colleges. While teaching at a university may be more prestigious, the pay is comparable (and in some cases less) than the pay offered by international schools, which often cater to the Bangkok rich. But Chiang Mai University, at any rate, offers positions not only in EFL but also in English literature, should you abhor the thought of playing conversational games day in and day out.
Phrao Road, Sansai, Chiang Mai 50290
Fax: 498861, 498862
Superhighway Chiang Mai-Lumpang Road, Muang, Chiang Mai 50000
Fax: 241985, 241983
202 Chang Puak Road, Muang, Chiang Mai 50300
Tel: 214138, 222778
Both of Thailand's English dailies (The Nation and the Bangkok Post) occasionally run ads in their classifieds for English teachers upcountry. So do the monthly Chiang Mai Citylife and the recently inaugurated newsweekly Chiang Mai Mail. All of these have websites. Citylife's website includes a comprehensive list of Chiang Mai schools, but there are no guarantees that the schools are seeking English teachers in particular (the Alliance Francaise, for example, appears to teach only French.)
You might also try "Quiz Night" at the Irish Pub on Ratwithi Road. Taking place every Thursday evening around 8 p.m., the event is probably the largest informal convocation of teachers in town. There will you find information unavailable on any website.
Pay, Visas, Work Permits, Training
Whether for privates or in a language center, a standard rate of pay for an hour of English teaching in Chiang Mai is about 250 baht (about US$6). This may not sound like much, but consider that 250 baht can get you about 10 dishes of pad thai, 5 pints of draft beer, or one night in a decent guest house. Monthly international school salaries can range from, say, 30 to 60 thousand baht for full-time work.
Technically, if you work in Thailand and are paid in baht then you are required to have a work permit, and are therefore liable for Thai taxes. But this is often overlooked because teaching stints are so short or irregular, and perhaps because the Thais know that too much red tape would deter much-needed teachers. Some international schools will arrange your work permit for you; others leave it up to you, and the same goes for visas. In practice it is possible to work in Thailand for many years by simply crossing the border every month to get a new one-month tourist visa.
If you are without a TEFL certificate, you can take a course in Chiang Mai itself. Touting itself as Thailand's only accredited TEFL course, the "Text-and-Talk Academy" offers continuous classes at Suriwong Plaza Building. See http://www.tefl-teach-thai.com for details, or call William at ++66.9.8515440 or Leigh at ++66.9.8237049.
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