7 June 2009

Can you teach in Thailand without a degree?

I frequently receive emails, or see questions posed on internet forums, about the possibility of teaching in Thailand without a degree. I always see this as a tricky question to answer.

When I arrived in Thailand eight years ago it was quite easy to pick up work teaching without any kind of degree; there are many people who claim that it is still easy to pick up work without one. The problem is that most of this work is of the illegal variety where the teacher is treated poorly. Working illegally is an expensive game of cat and mouse with the teacher needing to leave Thailand at least every couple of months for a new tourist visa or to get an extension on their 'visiting family' visa (the Non-O as it is less romantically called).

When I first came to Thailand I worked illegally. The teaching agency that employed me had actually promised to get me a work permit, but as time went on it became obvious that it just wasn't going to happen. Even then a degree seemed to be a necessity. I felt like a fraud in the classroom and felt uncomfortable about my legal status. I left the agency and set about getting the qualifications that would allow me to become a 'proper' teacher; I completed my nursing degree and then a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. Four years later I was able to get a work permit and be accepted by the Thai Teacher's Council (TTC).

You still hear stories of people getting a work permit without a degree. I am sure it does happen. People claim that their school has special connections with the TTC. I sometimes wonder though how many of these claims are genuine; after all most people don't like to admit that they are working illegally. People go to extreme lenghts to stay in Thailand. At my current school it is a shock to see how many people are willing to submit obviously dodgy degrees (last year we got one from Oxxford).

My advice to people without a degree is that if they are serious about working in Thailand that they should try and come with the expected qualifications. At least a degree; although the TTC is now saying that it wants applicants to have at least an degree in Education! It is not easy, but delaying their departure for Thailand for a few years will allow them to improve their CV. Thailand isn't going anywhere, is it? Of course this is easy for me to say, and I didn't follow this advice.

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