Laos is a lesser-known Southeast Asian country, with much more to offer than meets the eye. Bordered by Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, and China, it is an ideal destination for those looking for a blend of history, culture, and adventure.
With this, Laos is sometimes commonly referred to as “Laos PDR” or “Laos - Please Don’t Rush.” A nation known for its relaxed demeanor, as well as friendly and easy-going people, it comes as no surprise that more foreigners are starting to see its appeal. English is on the rise in Laos, and more teachers are needed in underfunded and neglected classrooms. So, if you are an ESL teacher looking for warm weather, hiking and trekking in beautiful mountains, or “chill vibes,” Laos is the perfect destination!
There is a growing demand for English teachers in beginning-level students, mostly in kindergarten and primary school classes. International schools typically follow the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) curriculum, while bilingual schools instruct in both English and Lao.
English language schools, such as Vientiane College, offer long-term programs for young and adult learners. Classes are held in the early mornings, evenings, or on weekends. Teachers instruct students with a wide range of skill levels. Some informal language schools pay about $6-10 USD per lesson.
In Laos, there are numerous volunteer opportunities, many that focus on teaching English to young children. Programs, such as Open Mind Projects do not require their volunteers/teachers to hold any formal teaching certifications. However, if you have previous experience working with children, these volunteer opportunities are ideal for you! Aside from teaching English, if you are a “techie,” you can also choose to teach computer/IT skills.
Finding a Job
When and Where to Look for Jobs:
Almost all teaching jobs are located in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. However, some volunteer positions are available in other parts of the country, including remote and rural areas. It is easiest to look for teaching jobs once in the country, as there are few listings online.
A bachelor’s degree and TEFL/CELTA are required to teach in international schools and language centers. Those with teaching experience are highly preferred, and will likely receive a higher salary. If you plan to volunteer, there are no requirements, however, prior experience with children will help you greatly during your stay.
Salary & Cost of Living:
Teachers will typically make between $800 – 1,500 USD per month at an international/bilingual school or English language center. This is enough to cover basic goods and rent according to the cost of living in Laos. Rent generally runs between $400 and 500 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment.
Even though volunteers do not earn a salary, a room and board situation is often included in the program fee. Most volunteers choose to live with a host family for their short stays, as food is provided (yum, Lao food!). On the plus side, volunteers usually teach between 3-5 hours/day. This allows for a lot of free time to explore and travel.
Classroom & Work Culture:
Lao teachers practice a learning style of memorization, not really self-expression or critical thinking. Thus, you will notice that students are shy at first, but eventually warm up to you as an instructor. Note that students do not look teachers in the eye, as it is a sign of disrespect. Get to know the local language a little bit to break the ice with your students, and they will learn to get a bit friendlier, while still maintaining the conservative student-teacher relationship.
Laos, as a whole, is known to be very laid-back. Meeting or appointment times are not as strictly regulated and you may notice that people will make plans at the last minute. This is not to say that Lao people are unreliable, but be aware that plans are not set in stone and can change at any given moment.
Header photo by Bryant Cheng
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