If you want to teach in Thailand, you will need a valid work permit. In order to get a work permit, you’ll have to obtain a Teacher’s License from the Teachers Council of Thailand (TCT). One of the requirements to get this license is the completion of a 20-hour Thai Culture and Ethics Course.
Numerous universities and private language schools offer this course. A few weeks ago, I have attended the course offered by TLS Language School, one of the government approved training agents in Bangkok.
I was mildly disappointed with this course. The first day started out with a one of the trainers explaining the role of the Teachers Council of Thailand (TCT) and listing the requirements to receive a teacher’s license: a bachelor’s degree, attending the 20-hour Thai Culture and Ethics course, and the successful passing of 4 TCT tests. He went through a set of 68 (!) slides, reading each word with great difficulty, as if he just took an English 101 course the prior week. My colleagues and I looked at each other with disbelief: Is this how the next two days will be conducted? After two hours of this painstaking presentation, it was time for the first break. A collective sigh went through the room.
After the break a different trainer took over. She spoke English fluently (she had lived in Europe and the USA for several years) and things became a bit more interesting. She covered Thai Society (rural and urban), National Holidays, and Family Dynamics before it was time to break for lunch. After enjoying a fried rice and some fruit, we tackled subjects covering the Thai Government, the Royal Family, Religion, and Thai Architecture. All of the attendees agreed at the end of the first day: no big insights here and no deeper understanding of why Thais do and think the way they do. If you have been living in Thailand for a few weeks, you’ll be quite familiar with these cultural aspects of the Thai culture.
On the second day, we took a field trip to Ko Kret – a pottery village with a nice temple and many vendors selling traditional Thai products and food items. We were free to roam the island on our own and check out the attractions. I felt more like a tourist than the attendee of a culture course. The group met back at the pier at noon, had a quick lunch and then took a boat tour around Ko Kret. We stopped at two more souvenir shops along the way and then made our way back to the TLS offices, where we completed a short written test. That was it!
Each of the participants of the course agreed: this would not have been worth our time if it wouldn’t be a requirement to teach in Thailand.
There are many language institutes and TEFL centers offering this course and perhaps I just didn’t select the “right” one. I suspect, however, that all of these courses are about the same and therefore recommend to simply take the one that is most convenient for you: close to your home and most affordable. Attend the course with the mindset of taking a 2-day vacation and do not expect to learn too much about what makes Thai people really tick. Expect to be presented only the basic information that you’ll find in any tour guide about Thailand.