Sunday, August 23, 2015

PINOY POWER. Filipino teachers teaching at different schools in Phitsanulok province.

ENZO'S POINT. Are we, Filipino teachers in Thailand, underrated? Do we deserve a salary as much as Native English Speakers (NES) get?

Filipino teachers are 'jack of all trades' and we are hard workers, resilient and we never back down on any battle. When we are assigned to do a particular task, we do it aiming for the best results because we are goal-oriented, and we strive for excellence in all that we do. In many cases, we can even perform a better job than those native speakers who come to Thailand and teach only to sustain their Asian exploration. If only for that reason, we do deserve equal pay as our native speaker counterparts. 

Nonetheless, many of us here still come short compared to what most of the NES teachers are receiving. While we perceive this glaring disparity of salary as discrimination, I think it is also best for us to consider the factors why we, Filipino teachers, can't demand as much pay that we deserve.

1. NON-EDUCATION DEGREE. With the growing number of foreign teachers (Filipino and NES) here in Thailand, to have an education degree is a plus factor. Most schools set a particular salary grade for Filipino applicants, but we can request for a better offer if we have a genuine document to show them that we are worthy of our demand. When I applied in my first school here in Thailand five years ago, my first employer shelled out a 20,000 as a starting salary, but I was able to bid for a higher offer because I had an education diploma to back my claim.

A Filipino teacher shared in her blog that due to the infiltration of non-education degree holders in the kingdom, the salary of Filipino teachers has also decreased considerably because some of them take as low as 8,000 baht a month. We cannot blame them because a meager salary is still better than nothing at all especially for those who have just arrived in the country and are badly in need of a working visa. However, this desperate move of our 'kababayans'  to grab a job with such an unreasonable pay creates a dangerous precedence for setting an inferior salary grade for all Filipino teachers in the kingdom. 

2. POOR ENGLISH SKILLS. When the then out-going Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Jocelyn Batoon-Garcia visited Phitsanulok last March, she shared to us that the issue on 'salary increase for Filipino teachers' is the most common clamour of the Filipino teachers in the provinces where the Philippine Embassy conducts its regular consular outreach. She went on to say that after talking to some of the teachers she was not surprised at all why they were just given a less-satisfying compensation instead of what they claimed they should have got. She emphasized that as teachers of English we have the responsibility to better ourselves in our English communication skills because we are here to teach the subject. She further stated that if we are to demand a considerable rate for our teaching services, we should also make sure that we are what we ask for.

In the survey conducted by the Maps of the World recently, Philippines ranked third in the top 10 English speaking countries in the world. While the study might give a boost to us being English teachers, the survey solely focused on the number of speakers per country and did not give any count on the proficiency. Being in the top 10 speakers of English does not make us native speakers, so there is a need for us to enhance and develop ourselves to become proficient English speakers and teachers.

Do we deserve better? As a foreign employee, it is not for us to say. We can only do a better job wherever schools we are in no matter how much salary our schools are giving us because that's what we are expected to do, and that's what we are being paid for. 

3. LACK OF EXPERIENCE. Experience does matter. Employers prefer experienced teachers most especially if applicants have already several years of teaching here in Thailand. When I applied in my very first school here in Phitsanulok, I remembered submitting a portfolio containing certificates of training, certificates of commendations for being a trainer of different contests back in the Philippines. Added to that, I also included several photos of myself with the students in many school activities proving them of all the experiences I listed in my resume. Luckily, those were exactly what I needed to convince them to hire me. When I made the big move two years after, it became easier to get to a school with a higher salary because the two years of experience was already an edge over other applicants.

4. COLOR FACTOR. Some schools think that once their foreign teacher is white, he deserves a higher pay while the browns or the blacks, lesser. This may sound ridiculous, but it is a daunting reality.  I had once a Moroccan colleague in school years ago who was given a pretty higher pay than mine. As we had the same number of hours in teaching, and I had more extra-curricular activities with the students, I asked my former department head to give me a salary as much as the Moroccan did, after all he wasn't a native speaker either. Our only difference was that I am brown, and he was white. But I was told I can't have the same salary because I am a Filipino. I left.

But of course, this is not always the case because in the next schools where I landed I've met immediate superiors who looked beyond the color of our skin and put ability first rather than what meets the eye. The reason the number of Filipino teachers in Phitsanulok increases is because more schools tend to trust in the capability of Filipino teachers rather than by looking at our color.

Do we deserve better? As a foreign employee, it is not for us to say. We can only do a better job wherever schools we are in no matter how much salary our schools are giving us because that's what we are expected to do, and that's what we are being paid for. Our students and the schools that hire us deserve a 100% service. 

We can only continue to educate ourselves and be a better teacher so that when a golden opportunity knocks on our doors, we can do a graceful exit and leave behind regretful employers.


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