Where we work / Laos

Although Laos has a small population of about 6.8 million people, it has approximately 160 people groups.

Laos

Laos is a tropical country located in Southeast Asia. It borders Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Although Laos has a small population of about 6.8 million people, it has approximately 160 people groups. Our teachers in Laos constantly rave about the warmth and hospitality that the Lao locals are known for.

In 1996, at the invitation of the Ministry of Finance in Vientiane, ELIC sent a pioneering team of three teachers into Laos, officially known as Lao PDR. Our English teaching teams are an integral part of the university campus education programs. We currently have teams at universities in the cities of Vientiane, Pakse, Luang Prabang, Savannakhet, and Phonsavan. As respected faculty members, we have the privilege of teaching English to local residents, government officials, current and future educators, and the top students from virtually every province in the country. Be a part of this exciting opportunity to educate and be an influential part in the lives of the beautiful people of Laos.

frequently asked

questions

Job description

Which city is the new role in?

Teachers could work in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, or Pakse.

What is our history with this school?

ELIC has had teachers at the National University of Laos in Vientiane since 1998. We have worked in the Faculty of Language Education (FLE) and Faculty of Education (FED) departments.

We have been teaching on the Faculty of Education at Champasak University in Paske since 2006, and the Foreign Language Department of Pakse Teacher Training College (Pakse TTC) since 2007.

In 2014, we expanded to two schools in Luang Prabang. We now have teachers in the Department of Foreign Languages at Luang Prabang Teacher Training College (LPTTC), and the Faculty of Languages (FOL) and Faculty of Education (FOE) at Souphanouvong University.

List duties and responsibilities of the role.

In Vientiane, the primary responsibility is to teach mixed-level classes (25-35 students per class. Testing/placement roughly by levels is starting to happen in Faculty of Language Education (FLE) but has not begun in the Faculty of Education (FED). These class sessions are usually 90 minutes.

A possible secondary responsibility is to teach small groups (6-15) of low-level students to help them with English literacy and reading comprehension. This kind of teaching is more common in the FED. FLE teachers lead/create fun games for English Zone extracurricular group once a month. These class sessions are usually 60 minutes. FLE teachers often act as resources for Lao teachers as well.

In Luang Prabang, the primary responsibility is to teach mixed-level classes (17-30 students per class) for Secondary English Education majors. These class sessions are usually 90 t0 100 minutes, covering two class periods.

Possible Secondary Responsibilities:

  • Teach TTC faculty: The “English Communication Workshop for Teachers” is an optional class for teachers from other faculties who want to learn English. Classes are very small, ranging from one to six students. Technically the classes are leveled and use the Connect curriculum from Cambridge. Due to the varying attendance of various student levels, ELI teachers conduct it more as an oral communication English club loosely based on the Connect curriculum.
  • Teach optional extra classes for students: These additional classes include Overtime for year one students and an English club for year three students.
  • Consult with other teachers in the department for curriculum projects and department events.

In Pakse, the primary responsibility is to teach mixed-level classes (25-47 students per class). These class sessions are usually 90 minutes.

A possible secondary responsibility to teach English literacy and reading comprehension to small groups (6-12 students for 60 minutes). Teachers may also help Lao English teachers with various things, such as creating answer keys and pronunciation of words.

Describe weekly work schedule and hours for the role?

Teachers work weekday mornings and afternoons (typically early September to mid to late June).

What class subjects will the teacher be teaching? Are there opportunities to teach something other than English?

Vientiane

Faculty of Language Education (FLE) Subjects:

  • Public Speaking
  • General English
  • Pronunciation

Faculty of Education (FED) Subjects:

  • Public Speaking
  • General English
  • Writing
  • Pronunciation
  • Vocabulary

Luang Prabang

Faculty of Languages (FOL) Subjects:

  • General English
  • English for Business
  • Phonetics
  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Western Culture
  • Oral Communications
  • Phraseology
  • Word Formation
  • Spoken and Written
  • Pronunciation
  • Writing

Faculty of Education (FOE) Subjects:

  • General English
  • Presentation
  • English for Specific Purposes
  • Pronunciation/Phonetics
  • Listening-Speaking
  • Literature
  • E-Learning
  • Other subjects are possible.

Pakse

  • General English
  • Oral Communication
  • Oral Presentation
  • Listening
  • Phonetics
  • Basic Reading
  • Pronunciation
  • English for Economics
How many students will the teacher have? How many different classes?

Generally speaking, a teacher will have between 17-40 students per class.

What is the student demographic?

In Vientiane, the classes are mixed-level.

In Luang Prabang, we teach primarily  Secondary English Education Majors from the north of Laos and, in another school, English majors and English Education majors.

How much classroom prep time is required/expected each week?

This is determined as needed by the teacher. 

Will the teacher have an office on campus? Will the teacher be expected to hold office hours?

Vientiane

The FLE office is an air-conditioned foreign teachers’ office shared with other ex-pats sent by U.S.-sponsored projects. These teachers also teach English. ELIC teachers are expected to keep office hours. FLE has a considerable office library with EFL resources for teachers and EFL storybooks for students. There is no office printer/scanner.

The FED Office is an air-conditioned office shared with Lao colleagues. ELIC teachers are expected to keep office hours. A smaller ELIC library with EFL resources for teachers and EFL storybooks for students is available.

Luang Prabang

The office is in a room shared with local English and French teachers. ELIC teachers will be expected to keep office hours. The office has small printers and copiers that teachers are welcome to use. The office is often air-conditioned.

Pakse

Teachers are expected to keep office hours. Our office is shared with local English teachers; however, ELIC teachers sit in a smaller private office with one Lao teacher within the main office. The offices are equipped with air-conditioning and WiFi. The WiFi isn’t consistently on, however. We also have a bookcase with EFL resources for teachers and a small student library in the office with EFL storybooks for students. There is an office printer that can be used to print off lesson plans, tests, and syllabi. There are shops nearby for photocopies, which are generally where CU teachers go to copy things.

How many teachers are already placed at this school?

There are currently ten teachers in Laos.

How will the new teacher engage with non-ELIC faculty and teachers at this school?

Teachers engage with non-ELIC colleagues at school functions, in meetings, and if a relationship is established outside of school in normal life in the office.

What are the bare minimum degree requirements needed by a new teacher in this role?

The minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree.

What are the ideal degree requirements needed by a new teacher in this role?

A bachelor’s degree is required.

What are the experience or resume qualifications needed by a new teacher in this role? Is prior teaching experience necessary?

No experience is required. ELIC teachers receive training before going overseas.

Are there age restrictions for a new teacher?

No

City and everyday life

What does housing look like in Laos? How far away are housing options from the school? From their teammates?

Our team will help with housing for all new teachers. Most likely, you will stay in a guesthouse for your first three to six weeks. We know living out of a suitcase is exhausting, so your teammates will work to get you into a home as soon as possible. In some cases, your housing will already be chosen for you and you can move in upon arrival. In Vientiane, our teachers will assist families and singles in locating suitable permanent housing. Whenever possible, single teachers will be placed in housing with other single teachers for easier initial adjustment and also to ensure secure locations for singles. Most teachers live in houses; however, there are simple apartments available in each of the cities where our organization is working.

In Luang Prabang and Pakse, living on campus is possible and may be arranged before you arrive.

One of the difficulties in finding a house near campus in Vientiane is that there is limited advertising for rental homes, making it seem like nothing is available. However, your team will be happy to help use their connections and understanding of the network to get you in the right home.

No matter where you live, you will be immersed in your community and embraced by the people you interact with daily.

What is the local currency in Laos? Do people typically carry cash? Credit cards?

The currency in Laos is called the Lao kip. The current exchange rate is about 9,000/$1. Bank notes range in denominations from 500 to 100,000 (there are no coins). There are exchange bureaus in cities. Thai baht can also be used in the marketplace and, especially, to make large purchases.

Credit cards can’t widely be used in Laos (Visa cards are accepted at some restaurants and travel agencies, but a surcharge is added). However, YOU MUST BRING A CREDIT CARD for emergencies and use in Thailand and surrounding countries, and YOU MUST BRING A DEBIT CARD to get your salary from our organization from an ATM.

ATMs are widely available in all the cities where we serve. Be prepared to pay a service charge equivalent to $5 (and most likely another charge by your personal bank) each time you use an ATM. Before you leave for Laos, you may want to look for a bank/checking account in the US that does not charge fees when you use other bank’s ATMs. We recommend a Schwab Bank Checking account (or USAA if you qualify, i.e., if anyone in your family has ever served in the military). Try to be informed before you arrive what charges you may receive Stateside for each international transaction.

If you have a problem with ATM withdrawals upon arrival, it can be resolved with a phone call to your bank, but it might delay getting cash. Most teachers have no problems, but we recommend that you come with some USD in cash. Having two or three hundred (new, crisp one-hundred-dollar bills, not smaller denominations or any old bills—the banks do not take old bills) will come in very handy if you have problems with your ATM card.

Note: Before leaving the U.S., it is recommended that you alert your bank of your travels so they won’t block your card.

Upon arriving in Laos, you will open a personal checking account with one of the national banks here in Laos. Your team will help you with this process. This ensures that we are able to reimburse you directly for any eligible expenses from your profile that you incur while you’re in Laos. This will also make paying utility, internet, and phone bills much easier as most companies use bank apps to receive payment. ELIC will not send your monthly salary to this account but rather to your US account.

How do people generally travel to their school? What is public transportation like in city?

Getting around your new city will be challenging, but you will quickly learn the different methods of transportation and what you prefer based on ease and price.

Tuk-tuks are three-wheeled vehicles that have fronts like motorbikes and rears like small covered trucks. Pakse tuk-tuks are more commonly motorbikes with attached sidecars. Tuk-tuks can be found almost anywhere in Vientiane and in places with heavy traffic in other cities. Bargaining is the name of the game here and you’ll do best to approach it with a smile.

There are also public transportation buses in Vientiane, and if you find one that goes along the route you need, it can be a very cheap way of getting around, although typically a lot slower as the bus will stop for anyone at any time. Buses are not common in other cities.

Our organization’s policy is that you wear a helmet every time you drive or ride on a motorbike. It is a good idea to purchase a helmet soon after arriving in-country for times that teammates offer to drive you.

Most of our long-term teachers own motorbikes and find this a great way to get around. It is also an option to purchase a car. A motorbike “rental” is included in one-year profiles, so one-year teachers will automatically receive a motorbike once they have been approved to drive.

Note: You MUST bring an International Driver’s License (easily obtained through AAA). You will not be permitted to drive in Laos without one. In most locations, this would make life difficult for you and your team. Also, bring your US Driver’s License as another form of ID.

What are the cities of Laos culturally known for? Where are fun spots to take new visitors?

Vientiane

This city is comprised of over 100 villages linked together by streets and roadways. Each ban has a village chief, school, market, temple, and pharmacy so the city, in some places, feels more rural than urban. Although this is changing rapidly, there are few tall buildings, many beautiful banyans, palm trees and flowers, and lots and lots of dirt. Vientiane is a spread-out and relatively slow-paced capital city. If you leave for even a few months, you’ll notice that many changes, including new buildings and stores, have popped up in your short absence. Roads are being paved in a hurry, and there’s a big push for more development downtown.

The number of tourists/ex-pats in the downtown area takes most visitors aback, especially during tourist season. The university is about a 20-30 minute motorbike ride away from downtown and there is a much smaller foreign presence the further you travel away from the downtown area.

The relatively large number of foreign residents brings some of the best restaurants in all of Southeast Asia. You won’t find a Starbucks or KFC like you have in neighboring Nong Khai, Thailand (less than an hour away). Still, you will find some authentic French bakeries and cafes, pizza, great Indian food, a Chinese dumpling restaurant, excellent Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, a Mexican restaurant that rivals your favorite burrito joint (and is the default location of all team meals) and most recently, Dairy Queen.

Luang Prabang

Nestled in between the towering mountains of northern Laos, Luang Prabang is arguably one of the most beautiful cities of Southeast Asia. Its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site means much of the downtown has retained the old world feel from its storied history as the royal capital (the former royal palace now serves as a historical museum), which further adds to its charm. Despite being the largest city north of Vientiane, Luang Prabang would be considered small by most Western standards, but that hasn’t stopped the city from becoming the main tourist destination of Laos. During the colder months, expect the city to swell as foreigners, both Western and Asian, swarm the city.

Luang Prabang’s history and mountains aren’t its only draw, though. Numerous waterfalls, including the famous aqua waters of Kouang Si, are only a short drive outside of the city. Luang Prabang also serves as a center for the Lao and ethnic minority cultures of northern Laos. The night market, which takes over the main street every night, is filled with excellent souvenirs that represent the best of the Lao culture. The people of Luang Prabang are most well known for their sweet-sounding accent. Expect the tones of the Lao language to reach their full “song” potential here.

Being a tourist city means that Luang Prabang has a wide range of Western food options from pizza to pasta, and, for the occasional special night out, there are even some options for fine dining. If you want to stay under budget, though, most of your meals will likely be with your students or come from the local Lao market near your house.

Pakse

When you visit Pakse, you’ll notice the mountains surrounding the small city right away. Though it’s a bit warmer than Vientiane at times, most days the wind blows and you can travel just a few kilometers outside of town and be refreshed with a swim at the bottom of a waterfall.

Pakse is the largest city in Southern Laos, but you wouldn’t guess that by the size and feel of the city. Our teachers there have found that most vendors at the markets quickly learn who they are and where they live by word of mouth.

Most tourists spend their evenings at one of the many guesthouses and hotels in Pakse and then travel out of the city during the day to visit some gorgeous waterfalls, coffee plantations, or Siphandone (the 4000 Islands) in the Mekong River, all within a few hours of Pakse. There is also an ancient temple, Wat Phu, deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site a short drive outside town.

There is a very small gym where you can pay per visit, or if you like to exercise out in the fresh air, you can join the many other Pakse-dwellers who exercise in the evenings in several locations including a mile-long bridge across the Mekong River, Salao Mountain, and the stadium. There are a few foreign restaurants including French, Italian, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese restaurants. There are also a number of nice cafes.

What does shopping for food look like in the cities? Do people normally eat out? Cook for themselves? Share meals with teammates?

There are plenty of markets in that area where you can find fresh vegetables, fruit, and meat. Students love cooking, having parties and gathering at our teachers’ homes.

The relatively large number of foreign residents brings some of the best restaurants in all of Southeast Asia. You won’t find a Starbucks or KFC like you have in neighboring Nong Khai, Thailand (less than an hour away), but you will find some authentic French bakeries and cafes, pizza, great Indian food, a Chinese dumpling restaurant, excellent Thai and Vietnamese cuisine, a Mexican restaurant that rivals your favorite burrito joint (and is the default location of all team meals) and most recently, Dairy Queen.

Being a tourist city means that Luang Prabang has a wide range of Western food options from pizza to pasta, and, for the occasional special night out, there are even some options for fine dining. If you want to stay under budget, though, most of your meals will most likely come from the local Lao market near your house or with your students.

What do meals look like during school hours? Do teachers share meals with students?

In Vientiane, the school has a food court where teachers often eat during the work week. The shops there have dishes like fried rice, noodle soup, and stir-fry. There’s also a fast-food fried chicken place on campus. Street vendors also come to sell Lao food. Some of our students and coworkers eat in the food court, but most either bring food from home or buy food from the street vendors and eat in their offices and classrooms.

At the FED, the foreign teachers share an office with Lao teachers, and those who are in the office at lunchtime share a meal together almost every day. Everyone brings their own sticky rice and shares the meat and vegetable dishes they have cooked or purchased. 

In Luang Prabang, the opportunities to eat lunch with students are limited, as there is not a cafeteria, and the noodle shops near campus are often too expensive for students to eat there regularly. However, it is possible to eat lunch at these noodle shops with students occasionally. Once ELIC teachers have established friendly relationships with students, it may be easier to eat lunch at these shops or with students in the dorms of same-gender students. But opportunities may still only be occasional, as students often like to use the lunch break (understandably) to relax.

What local dish is Laos known for?

Vientiane doesn’t have its own special dish but is rather known as a place where you can get almost any regional Lao specialty. Sticky rice, a variety of spicy dips, papaya salad, and grilled meats are a few staples.

Luang Prabang is known for orlam (a spicy pork and vegetable stew), khai paen (fried savory riverweed), and jeaow bong (a spicy chili dip).

Does Laos have any western chain stores or restaurants?

In Vientiane, the stores themselves aren’t Western chains, but they stock Western groceries. These are stores like Rimping, and D-Mart (imports goods from Costco). Western chain restaurants include Texas Chicken (Church’s Chicken) and Dairy Queen. There is also a western chain clothing store called Mango.

There are a fair number of western restaurants in Luang Prabang (although not as many as before due to COVID), although even during COVID few of these restaurants were chains and none of them would be familiar to Westerners. The most chain-like restaurant is JOMA, a Panera-like chain of cafes in Southeast Asia

What's your favorite thing to do as a team in Laos? What do people do for fun or during down time?

As a team, we tend to do a lot of hanging out at each other’s homes, eating and cooking together, and having movie/game nights. We enjoy eating out and going to coffee shops together, walking at the track near school, going to the night market, and seeing movies in one of our three movie theaters. There are also some waterfalls, hikes, and beautiful nature spots within an hour or two of the city.

How do people exercise in Laos?

In Vientiane, there are several well-equipped gym options. Most are not air conditioned. People tend not to go running just around town in normal neighborhoods, but there is a track near the school, the night market, and several parks around town where people congregate in the evenings to exercise. Many of these locations also have daily aerobics classes that you can join for a minimal fee. There is also a sizeable cycling community in Vientiane, although most of them don’t live out towards the university.

In Luang Prabang, you can go running or walking around town or at one of two or three local parks. There are a few small gyms that are also available if desired. The three campuses where the ELIC team teach are all located in typical Lao areas. You’ll see students playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton, and rattan ball. This is a sport similar to volleyball but played with a small wicker or rubber ball and only heads, legs, and feet can be used to hit the ball. Please note that, outside of volleyball and badminton, sporting options for females are limited, and men and women don’t typically mix when playing sports. Male students play sports much more than females, but everyone likes to sit on the sidelines and watch. There will also be student sports competitions at your school, and the occasional faculty sports competition, which is a great chance to get out and play soccer, volleyball, and/or bocce ball with your coworkers.

In Pakse, there is a very small gym where you can pay per visit, or if you like to exercise out in the fresh air, you can join the many other Pakse-dwellers who exercise in the evenings in several locations including a mile-long bridge across the Mekong River, Salao Mountain, and the stadium.

Any additional helpful points for Laos?

Luang Prabang is set in a valley on the Mekong River, surrounded by mountains. It’s beautiful, and you can see mountains from almost anywhere in the city.