Teach English in Cambodia: Country Profile

Heading off to teach English in Cambodia is on your radar. You’re happy that the TESOL package at AVSE in Phnom Penh will meet your needs, but you’re still unsure if the ‘Kingdom of Wonder’ is the right choice for you. Here is a little background on the country and what you can expect living here. It might help you with the decision making process.

 History and Geography


By any measure, it’s fair to say that the Kingdom of Cambodia has a chequered history, not just over the past 4 or 5 decades, but for time immemorial. What we know as Cambodia today was pretty much in its entirety part of a couple of ancient realms before declaring independence for the first time in the year 802.

During the 12th century, the Khmer Empire was Southeast Asia’s largest empire with its centre of power being Angkor, the Angkor Wat religious temple dates from this period. Skipping forward six centuries, Cambodia became a French protectorate between 1867 and 1953 – apart from 1941 to 1945 when the country was occupied by the Japanese.

Between 1975 and 1979 the Khmer Rouge were in power under its leader Pol Pot, who killed approximately two million people (a quarter of the population at that time) in a series of purges. During this period religious institutions were persecuted to such an extent that up to 95% of Buddhist temples were destroyed along with significant amounts of Cambodia’s historic architecture.

In 1993, Cambodia restored its monarchy. Today Cambodia operates a ‘multiparty’ ‘democracy’ with a King as the head of state.

Quick tip or two: They say we should be mindful of bad things that have occurred in history, so it’s less likely they’ll be repeated. With this idea in mind, no trip to the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, would be complete without visiting the ‘Killing’ Fields and the Genocide Museum


The total land area of Cambodia is 181,035 square kilometres. Cambodia shares land borders with: Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. River systems, especially the Tonle Sap and the mighty Mekong, flat farming land and mountain ranges are Cambodia’s prominent geographical features. It could be argued that the rivers are the life-blood of Cambodian society as we know it today, providing among other things, a direct source of food, transportation and water for Cambodia’s main industry, agriculture.

Quick tip or two: Do not swim, or even wade in any river or stream in Cambodia. It may well look inviting, but there’s a high chance something is lurking in the water that will make you very ill indeed. If you plan on trekking in the mountains, do so with a friend and take all the usual precautions, water, maps, appropriate clothing – and make sure someone who’s not on the trip knows your plans…

Population, People and Religion


Cambodia’s current population is estimated to be 16.6 million people. Khmer is the largest ethnic group in Cambodia – 90% (plus) of the total population. Other ethnic groups in Cambodia with sizable numbers include Khmer Muslims, Vietnamese, Chinese and tribal groups such as the Pnong, Tampoun, Jarai and Kreung people, who mainly live in mountainous regions of the country.

Quick tip or two: Visiting Cambodia’s tribal groups in the country’s mountainous areas will leave you with lifetime memories. Take the opportunity if it arises – and if it does, at least try some of the exotic foods. Don’t let the appearance or preconceived ideas put you off…


I’ve had the good fortune to spend years travelling around the world. I have lived and worked in 8 different countries. I can put my hand on my heart and say without a shadow of doubt that Khmer people are right up there with the best of the best. Abject poverty prevails in Cambodia, but your average Khmer person will literally give you the shirt off his (or her) back. You’ll be invited in for meals, even though it’s not uncommon for a family to forgo a meal because they don’t have any money. There is every reason for Khmer people to be hostile towards foreigners given the pillaging throughout history, but they’re not hostile at all. They’re a forgiving lot and they’re focused on today – and perhaps tomorrow – certainly not yesterday.

Quick tip or two: If you’re invited to eat with a Khmer family at their house, make sure you remove your shoes and hat before going inside. Also, a small gift, perhaps some fruit or flowers will be well-received…


Official statistics on religious affiliation in Cambodia don’t exist, but observers estimate that around 97% of the population is ‘Theravada Buddhist, with the remaining 10% consisting of Christians, Muslims and others.

Quick tip or two: Monks are revered in Cambodian society. It’s important to show respect to monks. Make sure you are dressed conservatively (fully covered) before entering temple. Do not touch a monk…


Cambodia has a tropical climate with warm to hot weather 12 months of the year. There are two distinct seasons in Cambodia, the dry and wet.

The dry season typically starts in November and goes to the following April. The weather in Cambodia during this period is characterised by zero (or next to zero) rain. With temperatures reaching upwards of 38 degrees Celsius, April and May are the hottest months in Cambodia, with clear blue skies being the norm.   

From late May through to October, heavy rain and high humidity dominate the weather pattern in Cambodia. When it rains, it rains ‘big-time’! Probably like nothing you have ever witnessed before. What I’ve always found quirky is, as quickly as it rains and the related serious flooding dominates the landscape, the rain disappears, the flood water dissipates and everyday life resumes from the very place it stopped. It’s truly a sight to behold.

Quick tip or two: If you’re getting around Phnom Penh on a motorbike in the wet season, don’t try and ride through flood water. There’s a high chance your motorbike will stall or you may simply fall off. In both cases, as a minimum, you’ll find yourself knee deep in raw sewerage while pushing a heavy motorbike down the road. It ‘aint’ pretty and the stench is not something that goes away in a hurry, no matter how many times you shower…


With 90% of the population being ‘ethnic Khmer’, it’s no surprise that Cambodia’s official language is ‘Khmer’. Interestingly, French was the official language of Indochina, which included Cambodia and to this day it’s spoken by a lot of older Cambodians.

English has replaced French as the dominant foreign language. Street signs are usually in Khmer and English and postage stamps and currency include snippets of English. With a high number of Vietnamese, Chinese and Lao people living and working in Cambodia, there’s a good chance you will come across folks speaking a language that is less familiar, as you go about your everyday business.

Quick tip or two: So, taking ‘formal’ Khmer lessons doesn’t appeal to you. Ok, I get it! Do yourself a favor, however, in your own time make a point of learning how to count in Khmer. You will find it really helpful when it comes to buying goods and services and with anything related to size or distance… 



The majority of the economic activity in Cambodia is agricultural in nature including rice cultivation, rubber, cassava and pepper. Cambodia also has a thriving export market for Teak, Mahogany, precious gems, textiles and foot wear.  

The economy in Cambodia is based on the free market system. Cambodia has recorded economic growth over the past decade that most western countries can only dream about, largely on the back of foreign investment of gigantic proportions – and relative ease of doing business at a high level.

Quick tip or two: Doing business at a level I am more familiar with, low key stuff, can be a frustrating due to the bureaucratic processes and language barriers, but putting ‘one foot in front of the other’ nearly always leads to the desired outcome. Patience is a virtue in Cambodia, more so than a lot of other places…

 Visas and Currency


To enter Cambodia you will need a valid passport with a minimum of six months remaining – and a valid visa. You can purchase a conventional Tourist Visa online in advance or you can buy one at your point of entry. It will cost you US $30.00 for a Tourist visa. Note, your payment needs to be accompanied by two passport size photos.

If you plan to: 1. complete the TESOL programme at AVSE in Phnom Penh; and then 2. teach English Cambodia (at least for a few months), you’d be well-advised to opt for the one-month Ordinary Visa (E class) on arrival. Why? It can be extended indefinitely without having to leave the country on what is commonly called ‘a border (visa) run’. The Ordinary Visa (E class) costs US $35.00. Again, you will need two passport size photos to keep the visa people happy.

Quick tip or two: Make sure you have a pen with you when you arrive at the visa counter at Phnom Penh Airport or at one of the other border entry points. It will save you a bit of time and help keep your blood pressure at a sensible level. Treat Cambodian border staff with the utmost respect. No matter what happens, follow their instructions without question. You can swear and carry on once you’re safely way from the port of entry – and not within earshot…


Cambodia’s official currency is the ‘Riel’, but absolutely everyone, from a local TUK TUK driver through to a high-ranking government official prefer and use US dollars. Prices are typically quoted and advertised in US dollars. ATM machines all over Cambodia actually dispense US dollars.

Quick tip or two: Make sure you carry a few low denomination notes in your wallet when you go out. Why? Most things are cheap. It will reduce the likelihood of getting into a dispute over receiving the correct change. If there’s a safe in your room, use it…

 Teach English in Cambodia

The TESOL programme at AVSE in Phnom Penh is the perfect springboard to teach English in Cambodia.  What AVSE delivers is unmatched by competitors, certification that’s Australian Government accredited, complimentary accommodation during the 4-week course and a guaranteed teaching job at the end. AVSE also offer an array of optional extras with the TESOL package, airport collection, accommodation for extra nights and laptop hire for example, to make your transition to local life as straightforward as possible.

Quick tip or two: TESOL classes at AVSE in Phnom Penh, Cambodia fill quickly. It’s best to book at least a couple of months in advance to avoid disappointment. You will find start and finish dates for the TESOL course on the AVSE website.

About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of AVSE-TESOL in Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Originally from Australia, Peter has lived and worked abroad for more than 20 years in total. You are very welcome to email Peter directly if you’d like more information on the pathway AVSE provides for adventurous people who wish to teach English in Cambodia and elsewhere: peter@avse.edu.vn

Teaching English in Cambodia

There’s a substantial realignment happening at the present time in terms of preferred destinations for aspiring English as a second language (ESL) teachers. While interest in Japan, Korea and even Thailand seems to be waning, teaching English in Cambodia is rapidly becoming more than a faint blimp on the radar of both newbie ESL teachers and seasoned campaigners alike.

Cambodia is arguably the ‘last frontier’ in Asia for ESL teaching opportunities and like every other ‘frontier’ the world has known, ‘pioneers’ are in high demand. If you fancy yourself as an ESL pioneer, if you’re up for an adventure or perhaps you just want to make a positive difference in the lives of local people who have been doing it tough for generations, teaching English in Cambodia may well be your calling.

While students of all ages – young learners through to corporate high flyers – have been marching off to English language classes in Vietnam, Japan, Korea, China and in other Asian countries for the past couple of decades, it’s a relatively new trend in Cambodia, becoming more popular by the day. Why, you may ask, especially given that studying English as a second language isn’t ‘sexy’ like training to be a sports star or swiping pages on an IPad? From what I’ve witnessed first-hand over the past few years, the current generation of Cambodians see English language skills as a pathway to a better future. Moreover, the parents and grandparents of the current generation know how dangerous a lack of education can be. By any measure, Cambodians are resilient and they won’t allow a tragic past to repeat itself, or dictate what the future holds.

Privately owned ‘International’ schools and English Language Centres are sprouting all over Phnom Penh and there are even a few up north in Siem Reap and down south in Sihanoukville. The Sovannaphumi School is one of the largest ‘K1 through to K12’ institutions in Cambodia with 25 campuses and almost 30,000 students. Sovannaphumi is huge, by local standards and by world standards and there are a few other schools in Cambodia of similar size.

With the demand for English language classes in Cambodia going through the roof, there’s a corresponding demand for people with the qualifications and skills to take on jobs teaching English in Cambodia. Internationally recognised TESOL, TEFL or CELTA certification, such as the Australian Government accredited Certificate IV in TESOL, is the minimum academic qualification for teaching English in Cambodia. Those people who hold quality ESL certification and a university degree (in any discipline) are in strong demand. Rightly or wrongly, being a native English speaker is also looked upon favourably, but non-native English speakers shouldn’t be deterred; there are plenty of jobs available.

It’s fair to say the hourly rate of pay for teaching English in Cambodia is quite a bit less than what’s on offer in neighbouring countries. Moreover, the hours that ESL teachers in Cambodia are required to work, tend to be more. Having said this, the salary at the end of the month and even more important, the savings capacity through teaching English in Cambodia (around 50%) is not dissimilar to what’s on offer in neighbouring countries. By way of example, a native English speaker with a degree and TESOL will typically work 30+ hours a week teaching English in Cambodia and receive a net monthly salary of around US $1,300.00. In comparison, if the same person was teaching in Vietnam, he (or she) would typically work 20+ hours a week for a similar net salary.

One of the more obvious differences between teaching English in Cambodia and teaching in a neighbouring country like Vietnam is when most of the work hours occur. In Cambodia, English language classes mainly occur during the daytime, Monday to Friday and rarely in the evening or over the weekend. In contrast, English classes in Vietnam mostly take place in the evening, Monday to Friday and anytime over weekend.

Sure, the net monthly salary, hourly rates, savings capacity and suchlike that teaching English in Cambodia affords, are important considerations before diving in head first. I’d like to place another important consideration on the table – lifestyle! If I had to choose between: 1. living in an exotic country, working a handful of hours each week, saving money and getting ahead; or 2. the 9 to 5 grind in my home country while trying to make ends meet, the decision is very much a ‘no brainer’.

Those folks who turn their mind to teaching English in Cambodia need to be realistic about what’s on offer, or perhaps more important, what’s not on offer in a developing country. Basic infrastructure in Cambodia is either non-existent, ‘patchy’ or in both a literal and metaphorical sense, ‘in the pipeline’. Vermin are commonplace, garbage is dumped in the street (later taken away – mostly), the climate tends to be hot, very hot, or very, very hot with an occasional downpour that leaves whole neighborhoods submerged and local people tend to be unorganised and work at a pretty slow pace. Food choices can also be confronting; barbequed cockroaches are not my idea of snack food. Neither are the ‘arachnid-looking’ things, a Cambodian delicacy, that bear a striking resemblance to the ‘Daddy Long Legs’ that lived in my old pop’s outside loo when I was a kid.

The ‘negatives’ you’ll surely see first-hand if it happens you embark on an odyssey teaching English in Cambodia are part of the reason I love the place. It is stunningly different to any country I’ve visited – and I’ve been to a few – and the ‘unexpected’ prevails. You will smile more often than you’ve ever smiled before. You might even break out in an audible chuckle when you see something like a local person transporting two full size fridges in a ‘T formation’ on the back of a motorbike. I saw it on my last trip and I certainly broke out in an audible chuckle. Most of all, you will be taken back by the overt hospitality and friendliness of the local people. Cambodian people have every reason to be a cranky lot, but they’re right up there with the loveliest folks you will ever meet.

So, would I recommend teaching English in Cambodia? Yes I would, without hesitation.  If I had my time over again, I’d start with teaching English in Cambodia. Just now there are plenty of terrific teaching jobs available in Cambodia for people with the right qualifications, but things are changing – see my earlier ‘faint blimp’ comment. There’s  an expat lifestyle on offer that will allow you to get ahead and save money. The 9 to 5 grind that’s commonplace in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, South Africa and in most other developed countries will be a thing of the past. Give it a go!

About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of the Australia-Vietnam School of English in Ho Chi Minh City & Australian Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL) in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi & Phnom Penh. TESOL certification through Peter’s company, AVSE-TESOL, is all about providing aspiring ESL educators with the skills, knowledge and quality certification they need for jobs teaching English in Cambodia, Vietnam and elsewhere. Here is a link to the AVSE-website:  www.avse.edu.vn

Australian Government accredited TEFL Course in Phnom Penh

It’s your time to shine… AVSE-TESOL offers a brilliant TEFL course in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for aspiring English language teachers. The course involves a time commitment of 150 hours over a 4-week period, with a heavy bent towards practical teaching experience. At the end of the 4-week study programme at AVSE in Phnom Penh, participants graduate with TEFL certification that’s Australian Government accredited and internationally recognised, the perfect springboard to teach English Cambodia.

Over the past decade, more than 4000 trainees have completed AVSE’s Australian Government accredited TEFL course and embarked on a on a rewarding career path teaching English in Cambodia, Vietnam and elsewhere in the world. Top shelf accreditation, international recognition and more than a decade training aspiring English language teachers in Southeast Asia all help to distinguish AVSE’s TEFL course in Phnom Penh in a highly competitive market. Offering everything a TEFL trainee needs in the one place to get started on their teaching journey is another distinguishing factor – visa guidance, airport collection, complimentary accommodation during the study programme, a Welcome Party, a free City Tour, a guaranteed teaching job, the friendliest staff you will ever meet and the lists goes on and on.

Once you have completed the TEFL course in Phnom Penh at AVSE, you will be equipped with the skills, knowledge and certification you need to land that all-important first job as a paid English language teacher. Jobs teaching English in Cambodia are available pretty much 12 months of the year. Most foreign English teachers in Cambodia work a 20 hour week and manage to save (after meeting all expenses – rent, food and suchlike) between US $500.00 to US $1,000.00 a month, without scrimping. The opportunity to save serious money and get ahead will be all yours – and you’ll do this while leading an expat lifestyle in an exotic country.

So, how can you start this new chapter in your life, teaching English in Cambodia? Firstly, you need a spirit of adventure. Secondly, you need to make that life-changing decision to become an English language teacher abroad. Thirdly, you need to settle on a date to make the big move. On this point, you’ll be pleased to know that new TEFL courses start at AVSE in Phnom Penh 12 months of the year. Lastly, you need to complete and submit the plain-English, online enrolment form to join the TEFL course in Phnom Penh, which can be found via this link:  https://avse.edu.vn/enrolment/payment-methods/

The enrolment form to join the TEFL course in Phnom Penh at AVSE is straight-forward and will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Among other things, you’re asked to provide your name, address, contact details and information about how far you got at school, completed elementary school, completed high school, completed university and suchlike. There’s no doubt that a university degree (any discipline) will open a few more doors for you as an English language teacher in Cambodia, but don’t be disheartened if it happens you don’t have a degree, you’re still welcome to apply. Each enrolment application for the TEFL course in Phnom Penh is carefully reviewed by the Admissions team at AVSE, with employability as an English language teacher in Cambodia being the key factor when it comes to accepting or declining an application. If AVSE has any doubt about its ability to deliver on the employment commitment that comes with the TEFL course in Phnom Penh, the applicant is advised accordingly in a sympathetic and professional manner.

Within 3 days of receiving you’re your enrolment form to participate in the in the TEFL course in Phnom Penh, the Admissions Officer at AVSE will reach out to you by email with instructions on what needs to happen next. All being well with your enrolment form, you’ll be on your way to an exciting new career path teaching English in Cambodia. It’s that simple.

About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of Australian Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL). With TEFL schools in Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, AVSE is the largest provider of high quality, in-class TEFL courses in Southeast Asia.

Teaching Jobs in Cambodia

If you’re looking for an adventure, have advanced English language skills and either already hold, or are willing to invest in quality TESOL/TEFL training, you’ll be pleased to know there is a multitude of paid teaching jobs in Cambodia for people just like you.

With an economy that is growing at a rate most developed countries can only dream about, coupled with 60% of the total population being under 30 years of age, there’s an insatiable thirst among Cambodian people to acquire English language skills. This directly translates into teaching jobs in Cambodia for folks who are up for the challenge.

Sure, you’ll be taking a risk loading-up your backpack and jumping on a plane because somebody wrote in a blog there’s an abundance of teaching jobs in Cambodia. It might be comforting to know that many people have gone down this path before you and have lived to talk about their adventure. These days Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is full of foreigners pursuing teaching jobs and having walked in your shoes they’re more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Starting your search for teaching jobs in Cambodia while still in your home country can’t hurt, but the reality is that schools rarely engage foreign teachers ‘sight unseen’. Typically, employers (schools) want to see you ‘in the flesh’ and will ask you to do a ‘demo’ class before offering you a contract. This isn’t a reason to balk! With so many opportunities available, if one school doesn’t work out, there are plenty of others that will roll out the Red Carpet.

Most teaching jobs in Cambodia are filled via someone’s network. Talk to as many people as you can and knock on a few doors. With this kind of strategy, you’ll have more employment offers than you’ll know what to do with. Once you have an employment offer that you think will meet your needs, it would be wise to have a friend or perhaps even a family member in your home country read over the small print. Most contracts for teaching jobs in Cambodia are pretty straight-forward, but having another set of eyes read through the document offers additional surety. No doubt you’ll hone in on the provisions in the contract dealing with the pay rate and the number of hours you’ll be required to work each week, but there are other components that are equally important. Does the contract include an Exit Clause? Will the employer sponsor a Work Permit and related visa? What are the taxation arrangements? Is there anything in the contract related to disciplinary action in the event you do something that peeves the boss?

Typically, teaching jobs Cambodia allow folks with quality TESOL/TEFL training to earn around US $1300.00 (net) for working 80 to 100 hours per month. Obviously the salary depends on where the teacher works – rural, regional, metropolitan – the number of hours, the availability of free housing, free utilities and suchlike. Regardless, with the relatively low cost of living in Cambodia, foreign English language teachers can realistically save (after meeting all expenses) more than half of their salary each month, working sensible hours and without scrimping. These days, there are few people in western countries who can save this kind of money, working double the hours.

So, what’s the upshot here? There are plenty of teaching jobs in Cambodia for folks who possess decent English language skills, quality TESOL/TEFL certification and an adventurous spirit. When you find your ideal teaching job, make sure you conduct a thorough due diligence process so there are no surprises. Cambodia is a brilliant place to live and work as an English language teacher. Certainly, working as a teacher in Cambodia will allow you to earn a decent salary while leading an expat lifestyle. You’ll be living the dream.

About the writer: Peter Goudge has been living and working in Southeast Asia since 2006. He is the Managing Director (and owner) of Australian Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL). AVSE-TESOL offers an Australian Government accredited TESOL/TEFL Training programme in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Phnom Penh.

Dodgy TESOL/TEFL courses in Vietnam & Cambodia are on the rise…

What can you do to give yourself the best possible chance of not being scammed by dodgy TESOL/TEFL providers in Vietnam and Cambodia? I will address this question head on, but first some perspective.

It seems to me we live in an era when personal enrichment ‘trumps’ all other considerations. Look no further than the fledgling vocational education and training sectors in Vietnam and Cambodia. They are seriously under attack from offshore entities offering dubious study programmes and certificates that carry paper recycling value only.

As recently as yesterday, in my capacity as an employer (school owner) in Vietnam, I received job applications from two unrelated individuals. Both applicants purported to hold ‘internationally recognised’ TESOL/TEFL certification and produced certificates to support their claim. In both cases, the certificates were issued by a Limited Liability Company (LLC), one based in the United States (Florida) and the other in South Africa. I am not the sharpest bloke getting around, but I do know anyone can set up a LLC with minimum effort and small change. Moreover, I don’t know of an LLC anywhere in the world that has the authority to accredit an ESL teaching qualification, let alone issue an ‘International English Teaching Licence’ as occurred in one of the two cases mentioned above.

Those who make a living out of peddling dodgy TESOL/TEFL courses and certificates have no shame. They’re not remotely bothered by academic standards, course outcomes, being accountable and suchlike. They want your money and they’re very skilled at getting their hands on it.
History shows that whenever and wherever there are well-meaning folks who are prepared to spend money, in this instance on vocational education and training, the scallywags come out to play. This is especially prevalent in developing countries like Vietnam and Cambodia where checks and balances are either non-existent or limited to the extent unsavoury characters can line their pockets by duping unsuspecting consumers. I am aware of one entity currently operating in Vietnam that makes a big deal on the internet about their ‘TESOL/TEFL certification’ being accepted for Work Permit purposes. Being ‘accepted’ by an oblivious Vietnamese public servant does not mean the certificate is accredited by an internationally recognised, independent, accreditation authority. I did find myself asking why the issuer in this case would want to ‘crow’ about their certificate being ‘accepted’. Perhaps they were surprised with the outcome! If so, why would that be? Perhaps they know something that the unsuspecting consumer doesn’t.

So, what are some of the ‘Red Flags’ to look out for when you’re shopping around for a legitimate TESOL/TEFL provider in Vietnam or Cambodia? In my humble opinion, I’d encourage you to reflect on: 1. the price of the course; 2. accreditation; and 3. the legal status of the provider. There are many other ‘Red Flags’, but let’s just focus on the three I have identified, for the time being anyway. Allow me to elaborate.Price: If you are in the market for TESOL/TEFL certification in Vietnam or Cambodia, the price of the product will surely be one of the key considerations. World-wide, TESOL/TEFL training is one sector where in the main – you do get what you pay for. Bonafide academic accreditation does not come cheap. How much did the teachers who taught you in primary school, in elementary school, in high school or at university or college pay for their teaching qualifications? I suspect thousands and thousands of dollars. You should make an effort to ascertain the cost of CELTA, the Trinity Certificate in TESOL and the Australian Government accredited Certificate IV in TESOL. Why? Your research will provide an insight to the cost of TESOL/TEFL certification that has quality accreditation and truly carries international recognition. An independent assessment process, suitably qualified staff, infrastructure, continuous improvement, utilities, equipment, benchmarking and policies on all kinds of scenarios are just a random selection of everyday cost factors associated with bonafide accreditation. Dodgy operators don’t have to bear these costs and consequently they can charge a fraction of the price for their ‘TESOL/TEFL course’.

The reality is, if you want cheap and nasty there are plenty of ‘TESOL/TEFL courses’ available in Vietnam and Cambodia. I recently saw a 150 hour ‘internationally recognised’ course advertised for US $179.00 from the self-appointed TESOL/TEFL Master who infers his programme has the tick of approval from a US Cabinet Secretary. How can an internationally recognised TESOL/ TEFL programme be so cheap? I’m talking really, really cheap, US $179.00, for a course that runs for 150 hours – a bit over US $1.00 an hour – for an academic qualification that is supposedly legitimate. Give me a break! Dig just a tad below the surface and you’ll see this is basically yet another Limited Liability Company that literally banks on the fact that enough people in Vietnam and Cambodia will part with US $179.00 for a ‘certificate’ that carries the value of a sheet of paper and some coloured ink. More recently this particular entity added an acronym to the ‘certificate’ they issue implying a higher level of accreditation than just the LLC that was used for the first ‘role-out’ of certificates. Again, scratch a tad below the surface and you will learn that any person (or LLC) can pay a token fee to the entity that owns the acronym, to have the acronym printed on certificates, effectively adding another layer to the deception. Personally, I am aghast that prospective ESL Educators fall for it, but they do. Then, school owners who know a thing or two about accreditation in the TESOL/TEFL industry are the bearers of bad news when a person who holds a bogus certificate applies for a teaching job.

If the TESOL/TEFL programme you are looking at is really cheap, you may feel inclined to ask the provider, why his (or her) programme is 90%+ cheaper than legitimate courses – CELTA, Trinity and the Australian Government Certificate IV in TESOL. Almost certainly you will get some lame explanation that you will be able to see right through.

Accreditation: Internationally recognised accreditation is critical with TESOL/TEFL certification. In a nutshell, if the course isn’t accredited by a government, a legitimate university or a legitimate vocational training college, you will almost certainly be wasting your money, no matter how cheap the course is. If the accreditation doesn’t measure up, you’d be well-advised to vote with your feet.Teaching English in Vietnam or Cambodia is a profession where quality training is an essential starting point for, among other things, possessing the skills and knowledge to do the job, especially if you expect to be paid for your time. Would you have root canal work done by a random person knowing that he (or she) was ‘accredited’ by an individual who apparently lives in a mail box in the Bahamas and derives income from issuing dodgy certificates to people who think they’d make a good dentist? I wouldn’t! How would you feel after learning the ‘medical practitioner’ you’ve been taking your children to see for the last 5 years is chameleon-like, in the sense that he’s actually a qualified baker, who masquerades as a doctor. Surely, you’d be appalled.

The dodgy TESOL/TEFL operators seemingly have a never-ending bag of tricks to give the appearance of accreditation. They want to ensure: 1. you believe the ‘spin’; and 2. they get their hands on your hard-earned money. They’ll claim international recognition when they don’t have it. They’ll tell you their certificate is ‘accepted’ inferring that ‘accepted’ is a synonym for ‘accredited’. Typically they’ll produce a flashy, colourful certificate decorated by a US, UK, Canadian or Australian flag (all 4 flags in some cases), with an ‘in your face’ emboss (looks impressive, but costs less than 10 cents), pronounced signatures from people who are supposedly really important and acronyms galore. All this ‘fluff’ is designed to fool you into believing you are buying something of value, when the reality is very different.

Legal status: Over the past few years I have heard and read about Vietnamese Government officials raiding schools in various Districts in Ho Chi Minh City, in Ba Ria near Vung Tau and in Dalat with unfortunate consequences for the school owners and in a few cases, TESOL/TEFL students from abroad. Word has it the Ba Ria raid left a group of unsuspecting Filipino ‘TESOL’ students staring deportation in the face because the ‘TESOL School’ they were attending was unlicensed. As a matter of interest this particular ‘TESOL School’ was relentlessly advertising its ‘internationally recognised’ TESOL certificates that are accepted (as distinct from registered or accredited) by the Vietnamese Government – sound familiar? The Singaporean owned Raffles School in Ho Chi Minh City is another one I remember being raided, in part for offering courses and certificates without permission from the Vietnamese Government. The school never re-opened from the day it was raided. The Raffles incident was especially nasty with at least one of the managers jumping on a flight out of Vietnam while officials were scouring Ho Chi Minh City looking for him. Very, very unpleasant! Check out the following link about the raid on the Raffles School: https://bit.ly/2Ttew7g

TESOL/TEFL Schools in Vietnam and Cambodia with quality accreditation are typically legal in all respects – they have too much to lose not to be legal. In stark contrast, the dodgy schools have no interest in being legal because it involves hard work, time and a lot of money. All schools will tell you they’re legal, but the reality is that 90% (+/-) of TESOL/TEFL providers in Vietnam and Cambodia well and truly fly under the radar. Thorough due diligence is imperative if you are to have any chance of identifying legal TESOL/TEFL courses in a sector where the legal to illegal ratio is something like ‘one in ten’. Reading online reviews and suchlike can be helpful, but it’s not sufficient. Here are three basic ‘due diligence’ type questions you should ask a TESOL/TEFL provider directed at gaining an insight to their legal status:

  1. Does your institution have permission from the Vietnamese (or Cambodian) Government to offer a vocational training programme (sourced from abroad) in Vietnam (or Cambodia)? If so, I’d like to see written proof.
  2. Does your institution have permission from the Vietnamese (or Cambodian) Government to issue ‘internationally recognised’ TESOL/TEFL certificates in Vietnam (or Cambodian)? If so, I’d like to see written proof.
  3. Is your TESOL/TEFL course accredited by an entity that carries academic weight – a government, a legitimate university or a legitimate vocational training college? If so, I’d like to see written proof.

If the TESOL/TEFL provider you are speaking with answers yes to all 3 questions and backs up their responses with written proof, there’s a high chance they’re legal. If not, almost certainly the ‘provider’ is just another dodgy ‘diploma mill’ looking for the next person to scam.

So, what’s the underlying message in this article? Pretty simple really! The TESOL/TEFL industry in Vietnam and Cambodia is booming and there are plenty of unsavoury characters who see this as an opportunity to make some serious money. These people are smart, really smart! With just a bit of the old ‘grey matter’, you can be even smarter and this is what’s expected from folks who see themselves working as an English language educator. If a TESOL course seems cheap, find out why it is cheap. Inevitably it will have something to do with accreditation, legality or both. If the course isn’t accredited by a government, a legitimate university or a legitimate vocational training college, smile politely and walk away knowing you’ve out-smarted a dodgy TESOL/TEFL provider. If the course isn’t 100% legal in the country where it’s offered, it would be a brave person indeed who’d part with their money and enrolled.

About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of the Australia-Vietnam School of English in Ho Chi Minh City & Australian Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL) in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi & Phnom Penh. TESOL certification (Australian Government accredited) through Peter’s company, AVSE-TESOL, is all about providing aspiring ESL educators with the skills, knowledge and quality certification they need for jobs teaching English in Vietnam, Cambodia and elsewhere. Here is a link to the AVSE-website:  www.avse.edu.vn

Taxis, Your Best Friend or Your Worst Nightmare

Over the past 30 years or so that I’ve been travelling, I can safely say I’ve heard a taxi-tale from every continent. I’ve heard some shockers in Vietnam where I live and work nowadays, but equally, I’ve had my own less than desirable experiences in more developed parts of the world including Australia where I come from – and North America.

Some taxi-tales are a good news story, the birth of a baby in the back seat and suchlike, but most are about situations that travellers dread. We’ve all heard stories (or experienced them first-hand) about getting ripped off, taken to the wrong location, arguments about paying a tip (or surcharge) lead-foot  drivers verging on street racing, tailgating, jackrabbit starts, clutch dumps, ‘modding’, road rage and the list goes on.

Here in Ho Chi Minh City, I use Vinasun Taxis, or I walk. I should point out that I don’t have shares in Vinasun or an axe to grind with other service providers although like everyone, I’ve heard some horrible stories.

From my personal experience, Vinasun cabs in Ho Chi Minh City are clean, reliable, 100% metered (an expression I heard from another traveller), have decent air-conditioning and you’ll see them everywhere. The drivers mostly know their way around, they’re trained to load and unload baggage and check if anything has been left in the cab before the passenger disappears into the Ho Chi Minh City throng. At the start of your journey in a Vinasun taxi, you’ll even get to hear a recorded message in English thanking you for using the service.

Put simply, what I want from a taxi is to take me from point A to point B for a reasonable price, without any surprises. I think most travellers want the same. So, if you’re new to a city, how do you know which taxi company to trust with your personal property, sanity and dare I say it, well-being? Catching a cab when you’re new in town is like many other travel experiences in my view – go with your ‘gut feel’. If it doesn’t feel right, there’s a good chance it’s not right, so let it go.

In addition, speak with other travellers and local people for their take on which cab service to use and the pitfalls. It’s also worth checking out what information is available on blogs and travel websites before you arrive in a new destination, although personally, I’m only interested in internet comments that have a name attributed to them.

When it’s all said and done, all of us are only one dodgy taxi ride away from having a horror taxi-tale of our own. Be smart and there’s a high chance you’ll be the listener rather than the story-teller.

About the writer: Peter Goudge has been living in Vietnam since 2006. He is the Managing Director (and owner) of Australia-Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL) and the Australia-Vietnam School of English. 

Gap Year – Teaching English in Vietnam

With TESOL/TEFL training schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Australian Vocational Skills and Education (AVSE-TESOL) is seeking adventurous folks, young and old alike, keen on pursuing a Gap Year opportunity teaching English in Vietnam. Perhaps you just completed high school, but college or university isn’t on your personal agenda at the present time. You may be a corporate high-flyer, who is looking for ‘me-time’ away from the hustle and bustle. You might be a ‘grey-nomad’ who finds the idea of covering your travel expenses with paid-teaching work, an attractive proposition.


At AVSE-TESOL, we use the expression ‘Gap Year’ loosely. Your Gap Year might be a ‘Gap Three Months’, a ‘Gap Six Months’ or perhaps even a ‘Gap Who Knows How Long’. The decision is yours to make. We’re sufficiently flexible to present an opportunity for you to do paid-work teaching English in Vietnam over a period that fits in with your plans.

The first step with AVSE’s ‘Gap Year’ initiative involves equipping yourself with the skills, knowledge and internationally recognised certification that’s needed for teaching English in Vietnam. AVSE-TESOL offers an Australian Government accredited TESOL/TEFL training programme over a period of 4 weeks in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. While the TESOL/TEFL programme at AVSE comes with a fee, you’ll be pleased to know it includes accommodation for the entirety of the 4-week Australian Government accredited course. The fee also covers a welcome dinner and drinks on the Saturday evening before the course starts, a bus tour of downtown Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (depending on where you choose to complete the programme) on the Sunday before the course starts, all materials and equipment – and the cornerstone of the ‘Gap Year’ experience, that all-important paid job teaching English in Vietnam.

The second step with AVSE’s ‘Gap Year’ initiative is all about transitioning from the TESOL/TEFL programme in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to a paid teaching job. When you’ve finished the 4-week TESOL/TEFL programme, you have the choice of moving straight into a teaching job or taking up the job guarantee component of the ‘Gap Year’ package at a later date. Post TESOL/TEFL programme, some folks are determined to hit the ground running teaching English in Vietnam, immediately utilising the teaching skills and knowledge they’ve acquired. Others opt to do some travelling in Vietnam prior to commencing their first teaching job. It’s personal choice. Either is absolutely fine. There are jobs available the length and breadth of Vietnam, with the number of vacancies outstripping the number of TESOL/TEFL qualified people many times over.


Teaching placements typically come with a salary of US $17.00 +/- (net) per hour, depending on work location – rural, regional, city – and the availability of non-cash benefits such as complimentary accommodation. You can expect a workload of 20 to 25 classroom hours a week. When you multiply the hourly rate by the number of hours that are worked each week, you will see that a monthly salary of around US $1,400.00 +/- (net) is on offer through teaching English in Vietnam. With the cost of living in Vietnam being much lower than in Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, South Africa and many other countries, you can realistically expect to save (after meeting all living expenses) at least 50% of your salary without cutting corners. Frankly, I don’t know of anyone in my native Australia who can save between US $500.00 to US $1,000.00 a month working full-time hours, let alone only working 20 to 25 hours a week.

To summarise, if you’re looking for a ‘Gap Year’ experience, regardless of your age, background or the  specific timeframe, 3 , 6 or the full 12 months, teaching English in Vietnam is a great choice and with AVSE-TESOL in your corner, a realistic proposition. There’s no doubt the TESOL/TEFL course at AVSE in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City involves some ‘heavy lifting’, but you’d expect nothing less from certification that’s Australian Government accredited. You can be assured that AVSE-TESOL will be by your side every step of the way. The TESOL/TEFL programme at AVSE will provide you with the skills set and a firm grip on what’s required to be a brilliant English language teacher. On top of all this, you have the Employment Guarantee – which AVSE-TESOL takes very seriously – that comes with the TESOL/TEFL programme. As they say in that famous advertisement – Just do it!

About the writer: Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Peter Goudge now calls Ho Chi Minh City home. More than a decade ago Peter Goudge set up the Australia-Vietnam School of English (AVSE) and his business interests have grown to include Teacher Training Schools (AVSE-TESOL) in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. If you’d like more information about teaching English in Vietnam, feel free to reach out to Peter via email: peter@avse.edu.vn

Complete your TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam at AVSE

Australian Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL) offers an Australian Government accredited and internationally recognised ‘In-class’ TEFL course in Vietnam’s two largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Holding quality TEFL certification is a core requirement for jobs teaching English in Vietnam and in many other countries. While this short article focuses on Vietnam, it’s noteworthy that AVSE offers the same In-class TEFL course in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Virtual and Self-paced TEFL programmes – same Australian Government accreditation – are available as well through AVSE in the event you’re unable to make it to Vietnam (or Cambodia) at this point in time. If it happens that you’ve decided to teach English in Vietnam, it makes sense to complete a TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi and it also makes sense to do it at AVSE. By any measure, AVSE is the largest TEFL course provider, has been around the longest (10+ years) and has the best accreditation.

AVSE’s TEFL programme in Vietnam is suitable for professionally minded people over 18 years of age from any country and background, including locals living in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City or elsewhere in Vietnam. The TEFL programme at AVSE is also suitable for practicing teachers who wish to build their skill set or obtain high-level certification as an English as a Second Language (ESL) educator – certification that’s accredited by the Australian Government.

The key goals of AVSE’s TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are twofold: 1. to uphold professional teaching standards by offering certification that’s government accredited and therefore truly carries international recognition; and 2. to equip aspiring ESL teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their chosen profession. It’s all about providing the certification and hands-on experience that are central to securing well-paid ESL jobs in Vietnam and in other parts of the world.

Unashamedly, the TEFL programme at AVSE focuses on the practical dimension of teaching English as a second language in developing countries like those you’ll find in Asia, Africa, Central America and South America. Sure, theory is important and there’s plenty covered during the course, but knowing how to create an environment where students are ‘chomping at the bit’ to study English is equally important. TEFL training at AVSE in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi involves a time commitment of 150 hours over a 4-week period including a minimum of 14 hours of ‘hands-on’ practical experience with ‘real’ Vietnamese English language students engaged in ongoing ESL programs.

‘What about the actual ‘Learning Environment’ at AVSE in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi ’, I hear you ask? ‘What about the trainers?’ ‘Will I obtain a job teaching English once I’ve completed my TEFL training?’ These are all fair questions that warrant ‘upfront’, plain-English responses. 

Learning Environment:  AVSE’s TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh City is co-located with a fully functioning English Language School. Moreover, there is an English Language School in the same building as AVSE’s TEFL Training Centre in Hanoi. Our strategic locations in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi mean that every trainee who completes their TEFL course in Vietnam at AVSE does so in a real school environment, from day one of their study programme.  At AVSE in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi you will find all the modern features you’d expect from a quality vocational training institution with a genuine Australian connection – the latest IT, superior teaching resources, air conditioning, designated areas for ‘down-time’ and ample parking. Our infrastructure in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi is subject to the same occupational health, fire safety and disability access considerations as if we were delivering a TEFL course in Sydney, Melbourne or elsewhere in Australia.

Trainers: While teaching experience is helpful, not all experienced teachers possess the qualifications, skills and knowledge to be a vocational trainer. Teaching and training are very different activities. To illuminate this point, for a fleeting moment I’d like you to think about ‘sex’. You can teach people about sex – pregnancy, health risks and suchlike – or you can train people…, I think you get my point. Students who are completing their TEFL in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or anywhere else in the world have every right to believe that the person who is taking their course is a certified Trainer in a vocational context. All TEFL Trainers at AVSE possess Vocational Training Qualifications and Industry experience that are subject to audit by the Australian Government.

Teaching job: Let’s say you chose to do your TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi at AVSE, rather than doing a TEFL course in your home country. Among other things, this means you will be: 1. on the ground in Vietnam when the time comes to secure a teaching job; and 2. part of the AVSE ‘family’ by virtue of completing our Australian Government accredited TEFL programme. When point 1 is coupled with point 2, there is every reason to believe that you’ll be in a decent teaching job in Vietnam – that pays market rates, provides for a safe and secure work environment, requires sensible work hours and is with a reputable school – within a matter of days of completing your TEFL course. The TEFL course in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi at AVSE includes ‘hands-on’ job assistance. This is publicly stated on the AVSE website. It is a commitment that we take very seriously. It is also a key reason why completing your TEFL at AVSE in Vietnam is a wise move.

In this article we’ve touched on selected matters pertaining to the Australian Government accredited TEFL course at AVSE in Vietnam’s two largest cities, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Eligibility, suitability, goals, course content, learning environment, trainers and job prospects have all been touched upon. If you’d like more information about how the TEFL course at AVSE in Vietnam is a brilliant springboard to teaching English abroad, reach out to AVSE’s Managing Director, Peter Goudge. You will find Peter’s contact details below.

About the writer: Peter Goudge has been living and working in Vietnam since 2006. He is the Managing Director (and owner) of Australian Vocational Skills & Education (AVSE-TESOL). Feel free to contact Peter directly with any questions about TEFL training in Vietnam or teaching English abroad. Here is Peter’s email address: peter@avse.edu.vn

Living in Vietnam – I love it!

Let’s wind back the clock to June 2006. We’re seated in a lovely coffee shop located in a cobblestone laneway off Flinders Street in Melbourne. We’re enjoying a nice brew on a cold afternoon in the middle of winter. Small talk (and Aussie Rules Football) is our thing and for some reason you ask me: “where will you be in 2020?” I can assure you that the words ‘living in Vietnam’ wouldn’t have passed my lips.

In a few months from now I will have clocked up 14 years living and working in Southeast Asia, with Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as my base. Gosh, where has the time gone? How many other foreigners have I seen come and go? Many, but I’m still here for some reason.

So, what’s the fascination with living in Vietnam for me? Am I just an odd bloke who likes things that others detest (occasionally including people) with a passion; a harsh climate; poor infrastructure; high density living; rivers that you can smell a kilometre away and infestations of rats, cockroaches and geckos like you won’t see anywhere else on planet earth. It’s not uncommon in Ho Chi Minh City to see a rat the size of a monkey or a cockroach that would be more comfortable in a shoe box than a match box. I’m not a big fan of rats and cockroaches, but to be brutally honest, I could sit and watch geckos strutting their stuff on the ceiling of my living room for hours.

Over the past 3,000 years there have been plenty of people like me who have ventured to this part of the world from neighbouring and far-off lands. Whilst it’s comforting to know that I’m not ‘Robinson Crusoe’, I do make a point of reminding myself that I am a visitor here. It’s not my place to tell local people how to run their country or their life. History is full of stories about entire ‘armies’ that came here with their superiority complexes, thought they owned the place and ultimately were thrown out on their ear. While I love living in Vietnam, I will not outstay my welcome.

When I first arrived in Vietnam in September 2006, it was the local people and the opportunities that captured my fascination and imagination. Why do I remain in Vietnam after all these years, when there’s a comfortable life on offer in my native Australia? The answer is pretty straight-forward; the local people and the opportunities still capture my fascination and imagination. On this point, nothing has changed despite the passing of time.

My personal experience with local people is that they’re genuinely happy with their ‘lot in life’, despite the harsh climate, poor infrastructure, rats the size of monkeys and other things that most westerners would find intolerable. True, it hasn’t always been like this. Hundreds of thousands of ‘boat people’ are testament that there was a period, not that long ago, when living in Vietnam wasn’t an appealing option.

The cornerstone of Vietnamese society has not changed since King Hung was a lad. It was the family in King Hung’s day and it’s the family now. In stark contrast, I’m a classic example of how western culture has shifted ground to its detriment. If you get fed up with your family in Australia, the UK and elsewhere, no problem, just get a new one. In Melbourne I always saw myself as a ‘lovely white-picket fence’ kind of chap with family and community as the foundation of a healthy society. I lost the argument in Australia, but time spent living in Vietnam has rekindled my faith.

When I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh City I was minus AUD $7,500 and 44 years of age. The debt thing is a long story. It’s enough to say the ‘lovely white picket fence’ was turned into kindling on more than one occasion. Was I a product of the environment where I was living or was there something else going on? Who knows? Who cares? Certainly Vietnamese people couldn’t care less. They’re very accepting. They’re focused on today – and perhaps tomorrow if pushed.

There’s no doubt that time spent living in Vietnam has been a terrific healer for me and provided opportunities that simply wouldn’t have been available in my homeland. Living in Vietnam has given me the opportunity to ‘reinvent myself’ for the better. People who know me might go as far as to say, living in Vietnam has allowed me to ‘find myself’. Maybe they’re right. Vietnam gave me the opportunity to create things. Despite working at the epicentre of power in Australia for a number of years, I never had the opportunity or gumption to create anything. Creating new things surely makes the world a better place and it does marvels for your self-esteem.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ‘dirty’ on Australia at all and I have long since forgiven myself (and others) for the difficulties that occurred before I found my way to Vietnam. I love the company of fellow Australians and I pine for some time with my elderly parents, daughters, grandchildren and other family members in Australia. I miss live Aussie Rules Football, freely expressing opinions on political and social issues and there’s not much that I wouldn’t do for a paper bag, full to the brim with Aussie ‘dim sims’.

Yep, Vietnam has been good for me. It’s all about the people who live here and the abundance of opportunities.

About the writer: Peter Goudge is the Managing Director (and owner) of AVSE-TESOL in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh. AVSE-TESOL is the largest provider of TESOL/TEFL training programmes (Australian Government accredited) for aspiring English language teachers in Vietnam and Cambodia. You can contact Peter directly via email: peter@avse.edu.vn   Check out the AVSE website: www.avse.edu.vn