Filipino English language teachers look forward to working in China following the recent bilateral agreement at the Boao Forum for Asia

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/4/23 15:38:39

Better pay and opportunities are a big pull for Filipino English language teachers looking to work in China. Photo: IC

Cresencia Mapalad, a 72-year-old English language teacher from the Philippines, was excited when she heard the recent news that China and the Philippines signed an agreement to hire more Filipino English language teachers at the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province in early April.

"I am excited to apply [for the program]. I hope that there will be no age restrictions for applicants because I'm very interested in applying," Mapalad told the Xinhua News Agency.

Mapalad said if she could get a teaching job in China, it would not only bring her better pay but also a better quality of life. She estimates that she would get three or four times her current salary.

Like Mapalad, many Filipino English language teachers want to come to China to work because the country offers higher wages and more job opportunities. They also think that since they are from an English-speaking country, they will have a greater advantage over teachers from other countries.

However, they also have difficulty attaining positions in China because some parents and students doubt their language skills.

Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, said that he was pleased that China is further opening its doors to Filipino English language teachers. Both sides signed an agreement at the Boao Forum for Asia in which 2,000 Filipino English language teachers will be allowed to work in China starting this year. The agreement is valid for two years and is subject to renewal. The new drive could encourage more Filipino teachers to come to China to teach.

The new bilateral agreement between China and the Philippines will give 2,000 Filipino English language teachers access to the Chinese teaching market. Photo: IC

An extra edge

Mapalad hopes that she can land a teaching job in China and thinks that she has an advantage.

Mapalad is the dean of the College of Education at Metro Manila College (MCM) in Quezon City in the Philippines. With a doctorate in education, she also has many years of experience teaching English in the country.

She said the Philippines is recognized as one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world, with the majority of its population having at least some degree of English proficiency.

"We are even better than some Americans because we strictly follow grammar," she said.

Teofanes Pie, a 61-year-old English language professor at MCM, agrees with Mapalad.

Pie told Xinhua that English has always been one of the country's official languages and is widely spoken by millions of Filipinos.

"English is the primary medium of instruction in education in the Philippines, and it is the language of commerce and law," he said.

Pie has both a bachelor's and a master's degree in education and is optimistic that he will earn more than what he gets now if he teaches English in China. Chinese students will also like Filipino teachers more because they are happy people, he said.

"We have an edge because of our proficiency in the English language. Also, we have perseverance, and we are known around the world as people who have initiative," said Pie.

The Chinese English learning platform hires Filipinos as online tutors for Chinese families who want their children to learn English from native speakers.

Jack Huang, the CEO of 51Talk, told Xinhua in 2017 that the idea for the services came from his personal experience. When he worked in Japan, he found that Filipino teachers were less expensive hires than American or British teachers and were a good online English tutoring resource. He founded his company and hired Filipino teachers after returning to China.

According to Huang, there are more than 10,000 home-based Filipino teachers registering on the platform. They are very patient, know how to teach English as a foreign language and their language proficiency is much higher than people assume, he said.

The challenges

Despite many advantages, Filipino English teachers still face a lot of difficulties in China, including finding it hard to attain the necessary qualifications to work as an English teacher because while they view themselves as native English speakers, China has yet to assign them native speaker status.

According to latest policy in 2017, foreign English teachers should be native English speakers with a bachelor's degree from their home country and two years of teaching experience.

In a 2016 Global Times report, Filipino Sixto Julio Piso, who works as an English language teacher at an international kindergarten in Beijing, said he hoped that the government would relax the restrictions on English language teachers from the Philippines.

Before coming to China in 2015, Piso taught English in the Philippines for 10 years. He said many Filipino teachers are university graduates and certified teachers in their country, but due to their non-native English speaker status in China, schools or training centers often shun them.

Noli Castillano Apachicha, another Filipino teacher, has been teaching in Beijing for nine years. He recalled some cases where he was not considered for a job because of his background and skin color, the Global Times report said.

"Some Chinese parents are very particular about natives, and we are not given a chance to showcase our teaching capabilities. But after we are given a chance to teach, some Chinese parents realize that Filipino teachers are also good," said Apachicha.

He thinks that compared with other non-natives, Filipinos are more culturally diverse, and many of them speak English with an American accent, which is preferred by many Chinese parents.

But some parents and students still doubt the quality of Filipino teachers. Some parents are afraid that their children will have a Filipino accent, and that Filipino teachers are unable to think in English and they lack the cultural background that is natural to English speakers from the West, education news portal reported.

Moving forward

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said in the Xinhua report that before this new program, there were already Filipino teachers working in China but they had found jobs on their own.

"There used to be a Chinese rule that excluded the Philippines as a legal source or as a source that they encouraged. They wanted to emphasize what they called 'native speakers,' but they have relaxed it now," said Sta. Romana.

He added that the improved ties between the Philippines and China have also played a role in China's willingness to hire more Filipino teachers.

According to Xinhua, the Filipino government has already started to implement the guidelines for hiring Filipino English teachers. The agreement might be renewed after two years and it outlines the salary, work hours, benefits and other employment rules for Filipino workers.

"The new program will be a good opportunity for Filipinos who wish to work abroad. The Chinese are eager to master their English language," said Pie.

Global Times

Newspaper headline: More opportunities


blog comments powered by Disqus