Thailand is the third most popular destination in SE Asia for international students. But this is going to change soon. Let me explain why. The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) puts Malaysia as the number 1 destination for international students, but the market is saturated and the Malaysian government is very introspective about education right now. This means a downward trend over the next few years.
Slot 2 belongs to Singapore and the reasons why Singapore is popular differ wildly from Thailand. We all know Singapore has a reputation for world class universities and research and nothing will change that. If you want a serious degree in engineering, science, medicine or systems go to Singapore now. Now consider the fact that the vast majority of outbound students in the world are Chinese (Vietnamese next). According to the UIS again in 2016/17 there were over half a million! Of course, Thailand is not on their top 10 destinations list.
But wait. Thailand is actually the number 3 destination in the world for Chinese tourists. 1.2 million visited in February alone. And here is where the trends connect. Chinese tourists know Chinese outbound students. Of course, many of these tourists are parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. They are comfortable in Thailand. They can afford to visit. To some extent, they understand it. We also know most of these outbound undergraduates want degrees that lead to jobs. If you can afford it and have the grades go to Singapore, the US or somewhere in Europe. What’s left? Degrees that are hard to market, that’s what. Some people call them soft degrees. We all know what that means: marketing, management, business, hospitality and tourism and English.
These degrees are seen as less rigorous and therefore less appealing. But guess what? The English degree is a gold box. Most Asian international students in Thailand (as well as Thais) do not understand fully how a degree in English will get them a meaningful, wellpaid job in the same fields they desire and in the same companies. Yes, they understand they should speak and read English, after all their parents have been tourists in Thailand and used English as a bridge, but a degree? No.
How many jobs fill this box? Here are just a few: Under the broader category of Writing, there are copywriters, editors, travel writers, translators, and journalists. 1 example: script translation and editing. Translating TV and film dialogue (subtitles) from English into a variety of languages or vice versa is in huge demand. The pay ranges from 20 to 35 dollars an hour to start. And the top writers become editors and earn well over these figures, also eventually entering many high paying creative positions.
A degree in English meets the broad demand for communication skills across every industry. Advertising, marketing and PR are probably the most well-known fields where communication skills are the same as talent. Most of our tourist parents do not fully realise English is the front door to law, the public sector, and even business. A talents for words and numbers cannot be overlooked.
“Narrative is a magic wand you can wave over anything you wish… Do not forget: libraries, publishing houses, media and marketing firms, the film industry, advertising and even sales. An English degree gives you a ticket to enter any of these fields, anytime.”
After working in these writing and communication fields for a few years you will also become an expert in storytelling or narrative. Think this is just for art? Wrong! Narrative is a magic wand you can wave over anything you wish. The SEO, web content development and social media spaces have enough job opportunities to fill our entire gold box. One huge advantage of this space is you can freelance… which frees up plenty of time to do other tasks either more work or more fun.
Do not forget: libraries, publishing houses, media and marketing firms, the film industry, advertising and even sales. An English degree gives you a ticket to enter any of these fields, anytime. Educators can help students understand the benefits of an English degree by teaching practical, useable skills and showing students how these skills connect to real jobs. The quality of all written content, media, publishing and communications is on a continuous arc of radical improvement during the next 10 years or more in SE Asia. Accept it. And the students are coming because the trends are clear. Let’s steer them where they really want to go.
http://uis.unesco.org/UNESCO Institute for Statistics
All of the eBooks about expat life in Thailand, including Water Heart, are now available at Amazon and have been chugging along for almost 10 years.