Online English teachers in the Philipines see boost in China due to COVID-19, but still no threat to popularity of native speakers of English

By Chen Xi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/8 21:53:41


A foreign teacher is giving a lesson to some kids. Photo: IC

The popularity of English teachers from English-speaking countries on China's online English learning platforms will not be challenged by teachers from Asian countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, though the COVID-19 pandemic might temporarily create a good market for the latter, Chinese education experts said on Monday. 

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting closure of schools, many Chinese parents began applying for online English language classes for their children. During this time, English teachers from the Philippines have increased their market share with their lower tuition fees and due to the fact they share the same time zone as China.

According to a report from Chinese News site The Paper, Chinese online education platforms such as 51Talk and First Future have established branches or teaching bases in the Philippines in response to the soaring increase in demand for online English learning in China. 

According to data released by 51Talk in late May, teenagers having one-on-one English classes with Filipino teachers brought in 404.2 million yuan ($57 million) during the first quarter of 2020 to account for 82 percent of total revenue earned, an increase of 76.7 percent over the same period in 2019. 

The report also revealed that Filipino teachers were the more common choice in China's third- and fourth-tier cities, while parents in first- and second-tier cities preferred choosing teachers from English-speaking countries.

On most of these platforms, the cost of a class with a native speaker in the US or Europe runs about 150 yuan, while the cost for a Filipino teacher is around 50 yuan.

According to Chu Chaohui, a research fellow at China's National Institute of Education Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that the type of teacher Chinese parents choose is directly related to their needs: Parents whose goal is for their child to perform better on their English exams at school and are looking to save money may choose a teacher from an Asian country, while those who care more about standardized accents and want their children to learn more about Western culture  may prefer teachers whose first language is English.

He pointed out that one reason Filipino teachers are more popular among teenagers is actually due to the preferences of the parents and not the student. However, as students grow older and they want to learn more about the culture behind the language, they, especially if they are going to go abroad, will prefer learning from native speakers.

Wang Tingting, a mother in Beijing with a boy and a girl, told the Global Times on Monday that she would be more willing to spend money on a native speaker for her children so they could learn a standard accent and more authentic expressions. 

"Children's second language learning period is very crucial. Besides language learning, it is more about cultural backgrounds and a way of thinking. So it is worth spending more money to hire teachers from the US and Europe," Wang said. 

Yan, the founder of Talking Now for Kids' English Learning in Shanghai, told the Global Times that she feels that students learning a second language need to find teachers who are native speakers. 

"If platforms like 51Talk keep focusing on low-cost teachers, they will not survive over the long-term," she said.


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