For many native English speakers who have the desire to experience life in Asia, teaching English is the perfect way to reconcile travel with work. English teachers are in high demand in many rapidly economically and socially developing ASEAN
countries such as Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia – which are pushing for higher levels of English proficiency amongst its populations. You don’t necessarily need a degree in English or even a degree at all, just a good grasp of the English language and a passion to teach.
There are two main categories of teaching :
Voluntary teaching is usually carried out on a relatively short-term basis, which makes it a great option for students or graduates who are looking to get some overseas work experience as well as those with long-terms jobs and that looking to take a sabbatical. ‘Voluntourism’ is a rapidly growing niche within the travel industry and teaching English is one of the most popular roles. Many people choose to travel in conjunction with their volunteering duties and it’s a great way of giving something back during your travels. Win-win!
There are no shortage of paid teaching positions available in Asia for native or competent English speakers and it’s usually carried out on a contractual basis. It’s a good option for those who want to move to Asia on a permanent or long term basis and are looking to tide themselves over financially. I know many British expats who live in Asia and work full time as English teachers. Salaries in Asia tend to be lower than in the West, however English teachers can earn a decent amount depending on the country. There are a whole host of recruitment agencies that can facilitate finding a teaching job, however I’ve heard of many success stories from people who simply emailed schools directly to enquire about the possibility of employment. I would suggest cutting out the middle man and giving that a go first.
My Experience with Teaching in Asia
I spent nine weeks volunteering as an English teacher in Thailand. It was part of the Thailand English Teaching program which is hosted by the British Council and Thai Ministry of Education. I taught a variety of classes ranging from grade 6 to grade 11. Although many people opt to do the popular TEFL course to qualify and prime them to teach in Asia, I carried out an online teaching course and attended some teacher training days in Bangkok at the request of the British Council.
A lot of Thai children have never interacted with a native English speaker before so it’s highly beneficial for them to them to get the opportunity to do so. Nine weeks isn’t necessarily long enough to turn someone into a fluent English speaker but it can really help to ignite their enthusiasm to learn English and help build their confidence with speaking English. It also helps the children to become more accustomed to varying British accents. When you teach in another country you act as a cultural ambassador, meaning that not only can you teach your pupils new language skills but you can also give them a change to learn about your native culture.
Teaching is a demanding role and at times it is essential to be able to exercise incredible levels of patience however it’s incredibly rewarding and worthwhile, whether it’s short term or long term, paid or voluntary. Although the hours are long and preparing lessons can permeate into your free time, there’s real potential to balance travelling with your teaching duties. Learning English is something that will help to improve the employability and the future prospects of students. My students were an absolute pleasure to teach and have shown that they have limitless potential along with a keen interest to learn. I have high hopes for them all.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering as a teacher and found it to be an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone who is planning to spend a prolonged period of time in Asia. Of course there’s scope to teach anywhere across the globe, no matter what you first language is, so why not consider sharing your language and culture with the rest of the world?