Interested in teaching abroad in Southeast Asia? Find out what you need to know and check out our jobs in this welcoming, diverse and fascinating region.
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Southeast Asia is a diverse region with many interesting countries and cultures. Southern and Southeast Asia is comprised of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Burma (Myanmar), East Timor, and Philippines.
Southeast Asia has a nice variety of schools - a good number of original expatriate and broadly international schools, since this region has long been home to expatriates, and more recently the region has seen a large increase in the number of local international British and International schools which offer a high quality education to wealthy host nationals, particularly in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and to a lesser extent Indonesia.
In almost all cases, a focus on academic attainment is very high in this area, and teachers will need to be at the top of their academic game. Culturally, as in any region, those teaching in local international schools or those with a stronger host national influence, either through school management or parental involvement, will find that the more local the management and children, the more locally flavoured is the school culture. In Southeast Asia this means that there is a focus on good academic attainment in core subjects, test taking and grades. Education is extremely important to families in this part of the world. It is not unusual, within a few minutes of meeting a fellow host national professional, to find out where their children are attending or did attend University, particularly if it was a prestigious one. Learning and attainment are admired, and seen as the path to prosperity and respect, not to mention wisdom. So with this kind of expectation, it is no wonder that the students are hard-working, focused and that expectations of teachers are high. This is not a region you should come to if you want a relaxing break. It is a region you should come to if you like teaching your subject, imparting knowledge and want to learn what it is like to live and work in a rich, deep and different - though very welcoming - foreign culture.
Country Profiles (click on the names for more information)
International schools in this region know that hiring good teachers is the key to their reputations, and schools in this region hire many thousands of teachers each year. They look for a strong academic focus which can sometimes, though not always, mean an emphasis on testing, rote learning and pure academic results.
Contracts are typically 2 years long, with flights offered at least at the beginning and end of the contract, but sometimes in higher-paying schools, yearly. Housing is usually provided by way of a stipend with help to secure housing upon arrival. There is usually a very good selection of housing stock and the cost is typically low in most regions. At the same time it is always a good idea for teachers to check with the school to get a good idea of what standard and location of housing they can expect within their housing allowance to be sure it meets their expectations.
Salaries are rarely tax-free, but taxes in this part of the world are usually graduated – meaning you pay less the less you make, and more as your earnings go up - and quite low by western standards: somewhere between 10 and 15% of your income, for a typical teacher salary. Some contracts will include bonuses such as attendance bonuses or end of service bonuses, but not all will. Southeast Asia is one of the cheapest places to live in the world, with the exception of more expensive Singapore, so your money will go very far.
Some of the countries in this region have age-related visa restrictions making it difficult for teachers approaching the age of 60 to be seriously considered. Almost all countries have a medical exam requirement to get a visa, and the tests can be extensive so teachers with pre-existing conditions (especially HIV, hepatitis or tuberculosis) can be rejected and so we recommend you discuss this confidentially with your Edvectus consultant so we can best advise you. Most American and Bristish International schools offer some form of medical coverage, but it is important to understand what it covers and does not cover, because pre-existing medical conditions are often excluded.
In most international schools serving an expatriate community, the school year runs from September to June. In rare cases for some schools serving a local population, however, the school year may run from February to December or even May to April, so it is important to ask for a school calendar.
Because of the multicultural aspects of the region, teachers with some experience and training of teaching children for whom English is not the first language are in high demand and teachers who have English as their first language are preferred. Because modelling the language and communicating with children who are acquiring English is so important regardless of the subject being taught, many schools can be sensitive to strong regional accents of any kind, whether English mother tongue or not, so it is important to communicate clearly at all times.
Many countries in this region have a requirement for teachers to have 2 years of post-qualification teaching experience at the time they arrive for a new job teaching in an international school. Whilst english language schools often hire newly qualified and less experienced teachers, international schools are often held to different standards by the ministry of education.
Teachers who register with Edvectus will find resources and tips for teaching children who are acquiring English in our Learning Portal.
Southeast Asia is tropical, so the temperature ranges from 25 to 35 C (75-95F) all year round. Humidity can be high. The wet season can be cooler, which usually occurs in the winter.
In Your Free Time...
Southeast Asia has lots to offer, particularly for outdoor and active pursuits.
Teachers in the region have an array of places to visit on school breaks. Amongst them, Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, the beaches of Pattaya in Thailand and Bali in Indonesia, the jungles and wildlife of Borneo, the colonial cities of Luang Prabang in Laos and Hanoi in Vietnam, or the vibrant urbanised landscapes of Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang and Bangkok. A two-year contract will probably not be enough time to see it all!
Understandably, water sports and outdoor pursuits are popular here. Scuba diving is popular throughout Southeast Asia, with Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia leading the pack. Surfing and wake boarding is becoming more popular, with Indonesia and Phillipines beaches standing out. Sailing and snorkling is available throughout the region and for something more unusual, you can explore the world's longest underground river at Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan, Philippines.
Inland, you can hike, bicycle and motorcycle to see the spectacular landscapes and towns.
Clubs and societies
There are a number expatriate clubs throughout the region and you have only to ask your school or visit our learning portal to get a taste of what's on offer. This area tends to be very multicultural and English is widely spoken, so many teachers find that they make many more local friends, hence the need for expatriate societies is less great than in other regions of the world.
Bars, pubs and clubbing
Alcohol is only restricted in small parts of Southeast Asia. Bars and clubs are particularly numerous in urbanised cities such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Penang. Buying a cocktail in a live music club is sure to cost you dearly no matter where you go, which is probably no different to your home country. In each region you will find local beers, alcohols and sometimes wines that are much more economically priced and most expats develop a taste for them quickly.