Teaching English in Myanmar (Burma)

Do you want to teach English in Myanmar?

This article looks at what you need to work as a TEFL teacher there. You’ll find out about the qualifications you need, how to find work, the pay and the teaching conditions, and also a little bit about the lifestyle and culture you can expect to find while you are working there.

A little bit about Myanmar

Myanmar (formerly called Burma) is the second largest country in South-East Asia with about 60 million inhabitants and about 680,000 sq km. (As a comparison, it’s just a little smaller than Texas with 3 times the population; or 2.5 times larger than the UK with a slightly smaller population.)

It’s a former British colony and since 1962 it has been under military control. During that time it was effectively closed to the outside world with many human rights violations and sanctions from the UN and so on.

However, in recent years the country has opened up and begun trading the world, relaxing some of its draconian laws and making it a safer and more hospitable country than previously. (It still remains, however, one of the most corrupt countries in the world.)

Because of this new opening up it has meant an increase in the need and desire to learn English‏‎. Opportunities are popping up for English teachers to go to Myanmar and work there and demand is increasing for professional and capable teachers to help.

TEFL Pay & Teaching Conditions in Myanmar

TEFL pay is not great in Myanmar so don’t expect great salaries right now.

Many of the state schools and private schools are poor and simply cannot afford to employ foreign teachers. Some of these have opted to use neighboring Thai teachers of English simply because they are cheaper than Western teachers however there have been a few problems with the quality of work and so more schools are pushing for native English speakers to teach.

So you will find that things are changing in Myanmar and there are more jobs being advertised and targeted towards native English teachers. Some private schools are developing and growing and there is always the option of a few international schools; these employ well qualified and experienced teachers. There is also the British Council‏‎.

In a good school pay can go up to K2,000,000 or $2500 USD (€1978, £1591) per month but in most schools it is less, often about half this. There is no taxation on this.

It doesn’t sound much, but it’s more than enough to live on.

As for the students themselves, they tend to be very quiet and diligent and very interested in learning English. With the opening up of the country they see great opportunities ahead and they know that English will give them a foot up.

Qualifications, Visas & Paperwork

A business visa for 70 days costs about K45,000 or $50 USD (€40, £32). To get this you can be in the country but you will need a letter from your employer so it’s best to get a job organized first.

To get into the country as a tourist you will need to get your visa beforehand (although there are plans to allow for visas on arrival). It is wise not to stay beyond the visa expiry date as this can cause problems.

There is no work permit or teacher’s license required. Almost all jobs will ask for aTEFL Certificate and some, though by no means all, will also ask for a degree.

Living Conditions

Obviously these vary, but Yangon (Rangoon, the capital city) has a reputation of being an unlivable city by Western standards coming in at number 195 out of 221 cities in the world in a 2012 survey making it the worst in Asia. It is notorious for power cuts, broken roads and sidewalks, lack of street lighting, and its generally poor infrastructure. There is a lack of international banks (no ATMs), a decent (and affordable) mobile phone network and cheap, good, accommodation. On the upside, despite the traffic, it is very safe to live there and there’s little pollution.

However, with the influx of more foreign companies and the improvement of relations with the outside world, things are set to change.

Accommodation is relatively expensive. It also tends to be very basic and, at times, primitive. Monthly bills will be low, a small apartment begins at around K200,000 or $250 USD (€198, £159) per month. Some schools will have their teachers share an apartment.

The cost of living is low. A meal can cost as little as K1.5 or $1.5 USD (€1, £1) and a large beer about the same.

As regards social life, in the capital there are a lot of international organizations and embassies and there is a thriving expat community involving these people.

Quick Notes

  • Local people tend to be very polite and courteous.
  • USD are accepted in many places, however bills MUST be crisp & clean!
  • There is internet but it is very slow.
  • Many people put a yellow cream, Thanakha, on their faces; it is worn to refresh and as a sunblock and also for decoration.

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Posted in Country Guides.

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