What's it like to teach in...South East Asia?

3rd April 2019 at 13:45
Ancient temples in Myanmar
Rich in culture and awash with opportunity, it’s hardly surprising so many international teachers are now calling this region home. We take a closer look at what South East Asia has to offer

With tropical beaches, bustling cities and beautiful temples, South East Asia celebrates its enchanting cultures and religions and is, unsurprisingly, becoming an increasingly popular destination for educators wanting to teach abroad.

Nestled between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, the region comprises 11 countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, with a total population of more than 620 million people.

The majority of international schools are in the cities, but with so many rural retreats and beaches just a short journey away, teachers are able to explore further afield during holidays and weekends.

Salaries vary across the region but, with some experience, a teacher could earn from £30,000 to £50,000 in a good school. The cost of living also varies significantly but, generally speaking, teachers say it is easier to save money there compared with the UK.

International schools in South East Asia offer a mix of the British and US curricula, with some also offering the International Bacculearate programme. Some offer extracurricular activities from the UK and US, including Model United Nations, the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the World Scholar’s Cup.

Need-to-know numbers*


170 – the number of English language schools in Thailand.

126 – the number of international schools in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

75% – the increase in international schools in Malaysia since 2012.


£182 – average monthly rent for an apartment in Thailand.

£13.70 – average price for a three-course meal for two in the Philippines.

27 – average temperature (degrees Celsius) in Vietnam in December.

Find out more

Meet Carolyn Neylon and find out what a typical day teaching in Thailand is like.

Experience a day in the life of a teacher in South Korea.

What does teaching in South East Asia entail? 

Stacey Roden teaches in a school in southern Thailand. She says: “It’s good here; I have an easy life, bills are reasonable and you can easily travel around Asia. I’ve had some amazing holidays and experiences in Thailand.

“I live in the south so it’s very ‘sabai sabai’ – everything is very laid back but people are very friendly and accommodating.”

Roden has experienced working for both a government and an international school while in Thailand. In the government school, she experienced a relaxed day-to-day schedule with fewer classes but “constant activities” and a feeling of community with the other teachers.

Her experience at an international school has been very different, however, as she has a greater workload and more independence in her teaching through choosing to make her own teaching materials. But she still says she has a good work-life balance.

Roden says she has had learn to adapt to the relaxed lifestyle, as people are friendly but often things don’t run on time, so she tries to “go with the flow”.

Now, however, she is considering a move.

“Outside of Bangkok, there is not a wide variety of things for my daughter to do and that is a reason we are looking to leave soon as I feel she is not having the best life experience,” she says. “However, without a child, there is a ton of stuff to do.”

Looking for your next adventure? Find the latest teaching jobs in Asia.

*Figures from Relocate Magazine, Holiday Weather and Numbeo.

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