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Teaching English in Malaysia

Malaysia is a diverse country, enriched by a multicultural population comprised of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and indigenous peoples. With the oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests in the world, picturesque islands, and otherworldly caves, Malaysia is a country that boasts a wealth of natural wonders. It’s also home to dynamic cities such as its capital, Kuala Lumpur. You’d never guess looking at its incredible skyline decorated with futuristic skyscrapers that this city, home to 1.8 million people, was only 200 years old!

It’s an understandably attractive destination for both tourists and EFL teachers. However, unlike other countries in the region, such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the opportunities for newly-qualified teachers are rare. Most TEFL jobs in Malaysia require teachers to have a BA degree, TEFL qualification, and at least three years’ teaching experience.

For qualified EFL teachers with the necessary experience, Malaysia is a great country to work in. Affordable, modern, and vibrant – what’s not to love?

Key Facts

Living Costs

Living costs in Malaysia are low so teachers can live comfortably on their salary. While accommodation and eating out is affordable, you’ll find that certain items such as alcohol and cigarettes are very expensive compared to the rest of Southeast Asia. Interestingly, while Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country, alcohol is only banned in two states (Kelantan and Terengganu), and despite the tax rate being the third highest in the world alcohol consumption in the country is actually very high.

When it comes to food you’re spoilt for choice with Malaysian cuisine being nothing short of incredible, drawing influences from its varied population and cultures. A restaurant meal is comparatively cheap (unless you’re having some beers with it!) but dining out on street food is even more so – and often more exciting!

Although Kuala Lumpur is (unexpectedly) the most expensive place to live in the country, it’s still very affordable compared to the UK or US. You can expect to pay much less for accommodation (although this is typically included as part of your teaching contract), utilities, and groceries than you would back home. Travel in the country is also reasonably priced so you can enjoy exploring on your weekends off – or even venture further and visit nearby countries.

Finding a Job

The demand for EFL teachers in Malaysia isn’t as high as in neighbouring countries. This is because of the high standard of English education within the state school system.

In 2015 a government-funded programme that placed native-English teachers into primary schools to work alongside Malay teachers came to an end, which had been a great opportunity for those wanting to TEFL in the country. Visa requirements now include a BA degree, TEFL qualification, and previous teaching experience, effectively ruling out Malaysia as a destination for newly-qualified EFL teachers. If you’re at the beginning of your TEFL career and have your sights set on Malaysia then you’ll need to build up your experience elsewhere first.

Most EFL teachers in Malaysia work in international schools or private language centres – however, there are nowhere near as many private language schools in Malaysia as there are in other countries. Teachers in international schools are usually required to have a teaching qualification, such as a PGDE.

Age restrictions apply in Malaysia and it’s unlikely you’ll be issued a work visa if you’re under 27. Recently, the upper age limit for a visa was raised to 65, but it’s common to see employers specify that they’re looking for teachers under 50.

TEFL Org students have lifetime access to our exclusive TEFL Jobs Centre, where jobs in Malaysia are frequently posted, along with other positions worldwide. You can also find positions in Malaysia on other jobs boards such as recruit.net, TEFL.com, Dave’s ESL Caf, and ESL base.