Many have heard about EFL teachers in Thailand panicking about the ‘teacher license’. The reason for the panic is because teachers are unaware of what is required to obtain one. Thankfully, the situation has become clearer over the last year few years.
What is the TCT?
The TCT stands for The Teachers Council of Thailand. It was formed in 1999 by Chuan Leekpai’s government as part of the the National Education Act of 1999 which provided for the Reform of Teachers, Faculty Staff, and Educational Personnel and included the formation of the Teachers Council of Thailand (TCT).
What are TCT Responsibilities?
The TCT is responsible for setting professional standards; issuing and withdrawal of licenses; overseeing maintenance of professional standards and ethics; and development of the profession of teachers and educational administrators. As part of the licensing process the TCT outlined the requirements to be licensed in Thailand. The most significant of these was the educational requirement which we shall go into in more detail later.
What are TCT Role within the Government?
The TCT is made up of highly qualified individuals who work in the field of Education and they are able to make recommendations to the Government but cannot create legislation. It is overseen by high ranking government officials.
This of course means that when a newly elected government comes to power with a new Minister of Education there is the possibility of the Ministry and the TCT being at loggerheads and that may be a fair reflection of the current situation.
This in turn means that the situation remains fluid and there may be changes afoot. As with anything like this avoid taking a panicked teacher’s rants as the unadulterated truth, and try to source information for independently.
TCT License Requirement to Teach in Thailand
Does a teacher need a license from the TCT to teach English in Thailand? The short answer is, yes or no depending on the category of the school. If yes, there is still not immediate cause for concern. A teacher need not have a license from the TCT the first time they begin teaching at the school.
Thailand can see the need to have well qualified EFL teachers but one can also understand the need to ensure that these teachers have met a standard set by the TCT.
Political Importance of the TCT License Requirement
The political need for this is paramount as one could understand the resentment of a 22 year old Thai graduate who has just completed their degree in education, only to see another graduate earning a great deal more than them based on their proficiency in a language and because they took a 4 week TEFL training course.
Therefore, whilst the requirements for obtaining a teacher license have to be obtained whilst working full time, bear in mind that they are far less arduous than those faced by Thais studying to be teachers here.
• A new Teacher does not need a TCT License Immediately
Thailand does recognize the need to improve the English language skills of its population and so the TCT do not want to drive foreign teachers away or put them off teaching here.
It is with this in mind that they created the temporary teaching permit also described as a ‘waiver’ from the TCT permanent license requirements. If a teacher is working at a formal school in Chiang Mai, they will need one of these. Details of how to get one are provided below as well as what constitutes a formal school and a non-formal school.
Formal and Non-formal Schools in Thailand
Formal schools can roughly be defined as schools where students are placed in classes along with other students of the same age and follow the Thai curriculum as prescribed by the MOE (Ministry of Education). Formal schools can be government schools or privately run institutions.
Non-formal schools can be defined as schools that teach a curriculum that has some oversight from the MOE. They could be anything from a language to a cooking or a massage school made largely for tourists. These schools are exempt from the TCT’s requirements. For example, foreign language school teachers do not need to worry about the TCT’s requirements.
Interestingly, if an agency is defined as being a type of non-formal school (there are many different categories and classifications), they may name the place where one works for them as a second location. As they (the agency) are then exempt from the TCT requirements, the teachers they employ do not have to meet the TCT’s requirements either.
To summarize, only a teacher teaching at a formal school in Thailand must meet the TCT’s requirements regarding the teacher license.
Temporary Teaching License in Thailand
A temporary teaching permit is something that the school will apply for on a teacher’s behalf as soon as they begin work there. It's a waiver for the requirements of the standard teaching license. It is granted for two years and allows the school time to get the teacher to meet the requirements of the TCT to obtain a teaching license from them.
Previously, at the end of two years the school had to be able to show the TCT that there had been progression in meeting the TCT requirements and if there had been, the school was able to apply for a subsequent temporary teaching permit.
As to what defined progression, that is a more difficult question to answer and it was reported that it could depend on the particular school’s influence and status.
Presently, it seems a lot clearer. A school can apply for a temporary teaching permit of two years for a new foreign teacher. It can do this another two times giving that teacher six years to meet the TCT’s requirements for licensing.
If a teacher wishes to see the current status of their temporary teaching permit they can do so at this link:
Below, we will look at how a foreign teacher can obtain a teaching license in Thailand now.
Requirements for the Standard Teaching License in Thailand
Recently the TCT published some very helpful information on its website to inform teachers as to what is expected of them. I have copied and pasted the information verbatim to here so please forgive any minor grammatical errors:
“Standard Teaching License Requirements For Foreign Teachers
- Not younger than 20 years of age
- Have academic qualifications in one of the following:
(a) Have a degree in education or its equivalent
(b) Have a degree in another field and a teaching license from another country
(c) Have a degree in another field and a graduate diploma in teaching profession with 1 year of course study
(d) Have a degree in another field and have passed other professional certification in accordance with the professional standards of the Teachers’ Council of Thailand
- Have continuing experience in teaching of not less than 1 year
- Have a Thai work permit
- Have evidence showing that an applicant has been permitted to stay in Thailand
- Not possess any of the prohibited characteristics pursuant to section 44 of the Teachers and
Educational Personnel Council Act B.E. 2003
- Having improper behavior or immorality
- Being an incompetent or quasi-incompetent person
- Having been sentenced to imprisonment in any case, in the opinion of the Teachers Council of Thailand, which may bring dishonor upon the profession.”
Everything bar point ‘2’ is relatively self-explanatory so we shall look at this in more detail.
2(a) “Have a degree in education or it’s equivalent”
It appears as though a Bachelors in Education (rather than a Masters degree) will suffice and a list of institutions approved by the TCT can be found online but the list is far from comprehensive and it is best to contact the TCT directly to check whether the institution is recognized by them.
2(b) “Have a degree in another field and a teaching license from another country”
There are many routes to becoming a qualified teacher in your country of origin but they normally require studying for at least a Bachelors degree and then completing a post-graduate diploma/certification/licensing (the terminology varies from country to country) that will normally be at least a year of study and will have a practical element to it too.
Again a list of institutions approved by the TCT can be found online but the list is far from comprehensive and it is best to contact the TCT directly to check if your post-graduate qualification is approved by them.
2(c) “Have a degree in another field and a graduate diploma in teaching profession with 1 year of course study”
This is an interesting option for many teaching in Thailand now. There are many online courses of study that offer graduate diplomas in teaching. Again, the terminology varies from country to country and they may be referred to as a diploma, certificate or license.
Before looking to embark on a potentially expensive course of study, you should look to check two things:
1) Is the institution offering the post-graduate diploma approved by the TCT? Again, it is best to contact the TCT directly to do this.
2) Does the course of study last for an academic year? This is the minimum requirement for the TCT.
There are a plethora of options with some UK universities offering relatively expensive online courses compared to some Filipino universities that offer cheaper courses. As with anything of this nature, it is best to shop around.
2(d) “Have a degree in another field and have passed other professional certification in accordance with the professional standards of the Teachers’ Council of Thailand”
The TCT used to offer, quite frequently, a set of 5 exams that were termed ‘professional knowledge’ exams. Passing the exams showed that a teacher was competent and could look at different ideas about education theory critically.
Unfortunately, the TCT does not seem to offer these exams very frequently at all now. Also, a lot of time would be spent by candidates studying for these exams along with money being spent on the suggested materials and the qualification obtained would not carry much weight outside of the Kingdom of Thailand.
Therefore, for a person without a degree in education or a post-graduate certification in education the above ‘route’ is not considered very viable these days despite being, perhaps, cheaper than gaining a post-graduate certification through online study.
Summary for FAQ
• Who's Responsible for Applying a Teacher’s License in Thailand?
The school should be responsible at doing all the paperwork for you. All you need to do is prepare copies of all the paperwork they ask you to get, a copy of your TEFL certification included. After that, all you have to do is pick it up at the Thai Labor Department.
• When Should the Teacher’s License Be Applied For?
The answer is right after you get accepted for the teaching position. Since the teacher’s license is required to get a work permit. The processing time for a work permit takes some time. If you will have leave the country to have another travel visa issued by a Thai consulate.
• What's Changed in 2021?
- Starting since 2019, TCT adjusted the format of a teacher's license in Thailand. A new version is a bilingual version. For those who received the older version, their license will still valid, there's no need to change to the new version.
- The requirements for a teachers’ license in Thailand have changed over the years, and now there are more requirements added. For example, TEFL certification, Thai culture course, A TOEIC score or IELTS score in case you are from a non-native English speaking country, etc.
Summary of the TCT Requirements
It is important to keep abreast of current developments with regards to what the TCT’s requirements are. There are discussions of this topic on the Ajarn.com website as well as the Khurusapha website of the Teacher’s Council of Thailand.
When looking for work teaching English in Thailand, find out if the school is a formal or a non-formal school, as only those teaching at formal schools have to obtain a teaching license.
Most people coming to Thailand looking to teach will probably be considering working at a formal school. As a result, most of them will eventually have to start looking at online courses in post-graduate certifications in education as not many will already have the requisite qualifications for a teaching license already
Whilst this does make the process of teaching at a formal school more costly, an educator should not look upon self-improvement and further study as a burden but rather a chance to acquire exciting and new skills for further professional development.
– updated September 2021