“The Filipino teachers are probably the best teachers in the world. They are not only qualified, equipped with the credentials required by the Teacher’s Council in the case of Thailand, but armed with the most important qualification – the love for teaching and the passion to make their students learn and prepare not only for the university, the industry but to live their lives to the fullest,” says Dr. Robert Galindez, CEO of Saint Robert’s Group of Companies in Thailand.
Ranked 15th in the world by the EF English Proficiency Index in 2017, Filipinos are sought after to work overseas. Non-English speaking countries like Thailand have been a steady destination of professionals seeking English teaching jobs since late 2000.
The Philippine Embassy estimates that there are 17,921 Filipinos, documented and undocumented, in Thailand.
But with the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015, there have been changes in the needs of the labor-receiving countries like Thailand. With its open door-policy, migrants from countries such as Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Philippines flock to Thailand for job opportunities.
However, there are only eight professions considered as skilled labor and recognized to work in the ASEAN region under the Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) — medical doctors, dentists, nurses, architects, engineers, accountants, surveyors, and tourism professionals. The teaching profession may be excluded from the list, but it is, nonetheless, the most in-demand job in non-English speaking countries.
Is English teaching still a lucrative job in Thailand? Can Filipinos still hold high positions despite being foreigners?
Professor Analiza Perez-Amurao, a multi-awarded lecturer and a recipient of the 2011 Bagong Bayani Awardee, has been teaching in Thailand since 2006. She is currently the Chair of Humanities and Language Division of Mahidol University International College, the top university in Thailand and among the top 100 in the world university ranking.
“My workload here in Thailand is a lot lighter compared to what I had back home. I taught almost the same number of credits both in the home country and here, but the workload here is not as much as what I was expected to carry out in the Philippines. I can also say then that my work here pays better, which should be the case though,” she says.
Professor Amurao, whose dissertation is about migration in Thailand, found out that the salary and low taxes benefited Filipino migrant workers.
Despite the low cost of living, most Filipino teachers do not seek professional growth. Galindez points out the importance of further education for more marketability of the teaching profession in Thailand.
“There is no excuse for teachers not to perform and should professional development is not afforded to them by the institutions they work for, it is their duty to professionally update,” Galindez says.
‘Know your rights’
As Thailand struggles to meet the standard of the ASEAN community in English language proficiency, it becomes a haven for job seekers from English speaking countries like the Philippines. Known for their adaptability, excellent work ethics, and tolerance for low salaries, Filipinos are becoming in demand in Thailand as teachers.
Teachers are paid between 18 thousand to 50 thousand baht, depending on the qualifications. At Ajarn.com, the popular job site for foreign nationals seeking teaching jobs, there is a specific salary range for Filipino teachers, which is 15 thousand baht.
“Filipinos should not bargain their labor in exchange of a teaching job,” Reuben Esteban, a lecturer at Rajamangala University-Lanna, says.
Esteban, who has been teaching for nine years, says that unfair labor practice has been happening for many years, despite the absence of a policy on the salary gap between Filipinos and native-English speakers (NES).
“In fact, universities must encourage fair competition between NES and Non-Native Speakers (NNES) in a good way. Color has nothing to do with competency and efficiency in teaching,” he says.
A teaching contract in Thailand is only for a year, but it is renewable depending on the performance. Compensation and benefits are covered by the Thai Labor Law, including the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1994 and Working Alien Act of 2008.
Serving the Filipino migrants
Professor Amurao has no immediate plan to go back to the Philippines. Her children grew up in Thailand. She still longs to teach in the Philippines though and says that she is always open to helping fellow Filipino teachers.
“While I don’t have the opportunity now to teach Filipino students, I can, at least, help train Thailand-based Filipino teachers. True, many of them remain as overseas workers here or in other destinations, but there have been a number of them who go back home. I sincerely hope they’re able to use what they’ve learned from me when they teach again in the Philippines,” she ends.