The Filipino Teacher in Thailand

Last January 16, many schools in Thailand celebrated the “Wan Kru – Teachers’ Day”. While all the other schools celebrated either with a grand program or even a holiday off for the teachers, all we got in my school was a wisp of a greeting and the usual loads of work for the day. I really couldn’t ask for more than that because some years back in the other school, we foreign teachers were just observers of the whole ceremony, as if we were not recognized as teachers. It took them a while to recognize us as such but thankfully they did anyway probably in deference to our native-speaking teachers but not really to recognize us Asians as teachers.

Her Training
A few years back, an article written by a foreign teacher in the English newspaper The Nation  speaks  about his concerns on the Ministry of Education’s circular concerning the inferiority of the Filipino diploma. It seems that the local Ministry of Education and some foreign school administrators think that our education in the Philippines is inferior to their own - this is such a gross misconception and prejudice. The sad thing is it affects their own countrymen who have studied and graduated in the Philippines and are now practicing professionals in their own country. Because of this misconception, some of their countrymen are suffering prejudices in their institutions and business establishments. This makes it even more difficult for Filipino teachers to find fair salary scales and trustworthy employers even when they have a fine teacher’s education in the Philippines.
The director of the first school I taught in here in Thailand studied at the De La Salle University in the Philippines and stayed on to work there for a few years after he graduated. His confidence and belief in the Philippine Educational System is shown by the way he treated Filipino teachers applying in his school. He knew how teachers in the Philippines are trained and what kind of qualifications they have, so much so that he treated them equally with Native-speakers and gave them the same compensations and benefits as the Native-speakers would have. If only the Ministry of Education can see and experience the training we get in the Philippines, they will know as this director knows what the mettle and character of every Filipino teacher that comes out of the country is.
The Filipino teacher prepares herself by taking a four-year Education course. She has a choice of Government Universities, Private-owned universities and the numerous Normal schools around the country to get her Pre-service training. Normal Schools are also called Teachers’ college – i.e., they are the training grounds for teachers specifically. Many of these normal schools are also Universities and are also good training grounds for specialized courses like English language, Mathematics, the Sciences, Physical Education and Music, and Business and Technology. They undergo practice teaching as well; some even begin this training at the onset of the Course, which is the practice in most Normal schools. At the end of this course is the preparation for Teacher’s Licensure Examinations. When she passes the board exams, then her first job will also be her first In-service training. This is how a Filipino teacher prepares and trains to become a full-pledged teacher.
The surprising thing about the Filipino teacher is that even those who were not trained in teaching seem to have the preponderance to teach – like fish in the water. Perhaps the reason for this is we all begin training at home – every mother in the Philippine household is required to be a teacher once she gives birth to her child. A 3-year-old or 4-year-old learns to answer the basic questions – “what’s-your-name”, “how-old-are-you?”, “count-one-to-ten”, “sing-A-B-C” - before he even steps at the pre-school door, all from his mother.
Teacher Jay is a veterinarian but he found work here in Thailand as a Science teacher.  Even without teachers’ training, he seemed to have found his niche in teaching in his school, just like a natural. How did that happen? Probably this is because his mother was a teacher and her influence must have been so great that even though he trained for something else, the drive and nature to teach is even greater than his desired career. Yes indeed, with or without teacher training, I would say that the Filipino teacher is a natural-born teacher.

Her Work
Overseas Filipino workers are known for their diligence and industriousness beyond duty. It’s much the same for the Filipino teacher in Thailand. Most of us work beyond the school hours, beyond our duties, and even beyond the school perimeters. He or She is a teacher in and out of school, in mind and at heart.
Mrs. Marie is trained as a high school Math teacher in the Philippines but now works as an elementary school teacher. Because she is a Filipino teacher, she was assigned to the lower grades at first but later after proving her teacher abilities she was re-assigned to teach Grade 4. With a big class all by herself, she does all the preparations (including curriculum and daily lesson plans), checking of student homework and tests. For those who have taught in the Philippines, this is just an ordinary task – with a bigger class of 50 or 60, and a 7:00a.m.-5:00p.m. work-day. One day she stayed up after the school hours finishing her tasks for the day. She got so engrossed with her work that she forgot about the school policy of total lock-up at 6:00 p.m.. When she looked up the window, it was already dark outside and it was all quiet at the fourth floor where her classroom was. To her horrors, she couldn’t get out of the school and she ran all around looking for an open door. She found an open window and shouted at the clean-up ladies at the bottom of the building. She finally got out and to this day, learned not to work overtime anymore– after all, nobody is there to recognize all the work she was doing. And that’s just about what happens to most of us teachers here – we get so occupied with our work (just for the sheer joy of it) but in the end, the only recognition we get will be from the four walls surrounding our classroom. Don’t get me wrong – It's just that the Filipino teacher loves her work so much so that time doesn’t really matter. The employers can simply just take advantage of this perception and yet without giving additional compensation – that’s fairness for you.
Here in Thailand, they seem to have the notion as well that a Filipino teacher can sing and dance. How many of our new applicants have the experience of being asked “You are Filipino? Then you can teach also singing and dancing to our students?” Teacher Avee who never joined a choir or danced in any school program back home just gave her interviewer a small smile when she was asked this very same question. But how can they not think this way – after all, if you find singing and dancing groups in a school here, it’s a 95% probability that a Filipino teacher was there teaching them. She may be trained as a Math teacher or a Language teacher but you can be sure that she can count figures and measures and voice out any song you may ask her to teach. It's all in the determination to teach, as long as there is something to teach and someone who wants to learn.

Her Product

It goes without saying that the amount of work you put into your teaching will show in the kind of students you produce. A few years back in my present school, when the Grade 6 teacher was a Filipino, the graduates were usually accepted immediately at any school here and abroad. An old mentor of mine, Mrs. Leden Presto, who was also my son’s kindergarten teacher, always emphasized her policy that none of her students in Preschool should come out not knowing how to read because he needs to be able to read the Bible, and not knowing how to count, because he’ll be using numbers a lot in his life. Her students were usually accepted to Fast Learner and Gifted classes at SPED schools in Iloilo City, and wherever else they go, they became exemplary students. The Filipino teacher has a clear picture of the kind of students they are molding for the society that will be embracing them later.
Teacher Gie, a trained Math and Social Studies teacher as well as an experienced Pre-school teacher, was assigned to teach Kindergarten Students. In International schools, these students are already considered elementary pupils, although in our country they are In-between students of Preschool and elementary.  Naturally, Teacher Gie followed the same curriculum patterns which she taught back home and the children did fine – until the principal said her teaching was too difficult and much too advanced for the level. She was asked to lower her standards even when none of the students or parents was complaining about her teaching contents. In the Philippines, her expectations would have been very much appreciated and would have been expected nonetheless. Here however, the only one who will surely appreciate what she did for these students will be their Grade 1 teacher. The Grade 1 teacher will be so happy to find her students who can spell five-letter words, read and write simple sentences with comprehension, do basic math operations of up to 2 digits, and make her life simpler and easier by just reinforcing on what the students already know. This should be the unwritten guideline among Filipino teachers as well – that you don’t allow anyone of your students to move on to the next level unless she or he is prepared  intellectually, academically, emotionally and physically.
There has been a clamor to prolong the years of secondary education in the Philippines because among the ASEAN countries our students spend the fewest number of years in high school. Even with the few years spent in high school, where there is a variety of teachers and quasi-teachers involved in the training of pre-college students, I do believe none of our high school graduates go out of their school unprepared for college life, at least academically and physically.
The Filipino teacher also is an evidence of the kind of education and training we get back home, and we can expect the same kind of education and training they give to their students here in Thailand.

I know it will take some years to make the Ministry of Education here and some of their constituents realize just what kind of teachers they are getting. Meanwhile, I encourage my Filipino colleagues to press on and prove to them what you are and what you are trained for, just show them what you’ve got. Mabuhay!

(This is one of the songs sung by the AIT-IS Choir at the 116th Graduation Exercises of the Asian Institute of Techonology Science Park.)

A sound of hope,
 a sound of peace,
a sound that celebrates and speaks what we believe.
A sound of love,
a sound so strong.
It's amazing what is given when we share a song.

This__ is why we sing,
why we lift our voice,
why we stand as one in har_mony.
This is why we sing,
why we lift our voice.
Take my hand and sing with me___.

Soothe a soul,              (soothe a soul)
mend a heart,               mend a heart
bring together lives that have been torn apart.
Share the joy,               share the joy
find a friend.                           Find a friend
It's a never-ending gift that circles back again.
                   (Repeat chorus, alto with parts)
Music builds a bridge,
it can tear down a wall.
 Music is a language
that can speak to one and all!
                   (Repeat chorus)

  This is why we sing!
 We   sing!
 We      sing!

The Honor Chorale singing "Why We Sing": (The AIT-IS Choir version coming up as soon as the video is available. Thanks for bearing with us.)

Hello, everyone!
I just started this blogspot today and the first post you saw was just a test, and wasn't meant to plagiarized somebody's work.

Anyway, starting to tomorrow, I hope to do some real work on this blogspot. Hope you'll stick around and hear me out as well. Thanks and seeyou soon!

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