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RP's best teachers are leaving in droves

For hundreds of Filipino teachers who have given up on their disproportionate salaries in the country, a future in the United States seems to be the best option. And then, there's also China.

Filipino teachers are highly esteemed abroad and are paid up to 10 times their salaries in the Philippines.

Because of the attractive salary rates and other incentives for their families, there has been an increasing number of Filipinos pursuing teaching jobs overseas. In the process, the Philippines is losing many of its better, if not the best, teachers in specialty subjects like Science, Mathematics and English.

Emerita Cervantes took a one-year leave from the University of the Philippines-Los BaƱos and accepted a teaching job in a university in Fujian province, China.

"I'm proud of what I'm doing in China," she declared. "I can still recall that on my first day at the university, my students asked me where I come from. When I answered, 'Philippines,' they asked, 'Where is the Philippines?' Not one in my six classes (total of 270 students) knew anything about the Philippines. Now, it's a different story. Little by little the Filipino English teacher is gaining respect," she said."

Even on the train, I often get requests (through some Chinese passengers who speak a little English) to teach English, on the spot. The train often becomes an 'English Corner.'

"I am proud to be a Filipino and to do my share in improving other countries' perception of the Philippines. I hope, though, that the Philippine government, through the Department of Labor and Employment, will be a little stricter in screening overseas job applicants, especially professionals, to make sure that only the qualified ones are sent for overseas work," Cervantes said.

In an attempt to somehow curb the trend of the country's best teachers leaving for overseas jobs, bills have been filed in Congress seeking to upgrade the salary rates of teachers. However, the proposed rates still pales in comparison with the salary offers overseas.

House Bill No. 800 or the “Act Upgrading the Minimum Salary Grade Level of Public School Teachers in the Elementary And Secondary Levels from Grade 10 to 15" is geared towards providing public school teachers a much-needed wage hike.

"Our teachers are not accorded due recognition and importance they deserve, their salaries are insultingly low and with the high cost of living today, it is no wonder that the best and brightest among them are now teaching abroad, or worse, have migrated to work as caregivers or domestic helpers," said Caloocan City Rep. Mary Mitzi L. Cajayon, author of HB 800 at the House of Representatives.

Cajayon airs the side of the much underpaid yet overworked professionals in the country who, aside from performing their jobs as teachers, would also endanger their lives when being called to serve during local and national elections.

"This could be done by giving our public school teachers --who are unappreciated, overworked, and underpaid -- proper incentives, such as increasing their minimum salary grade level from Grade 10 to 15," said Cajayon.A similar bill is introduced at the Senate by Senator Edgardo Angara but with a bigger adjustment of salary rates from Grade 10 to 19.

A public school teacher under a Salary Grade 10 receives a gross pay of P9, 939 a month.

A Salary Grade 15 teacher gets P12, 546 a month and a Salary Grade 19 teacher is entitled to a monthly salary of P16, 792.

“There is a need to upgrade the minimum salary grade level of teachers from Salary Grade 10 to 19, which corresponds to almost P6,000 increase in their monthly basic salaries. With this increase in salaries, more qualified and competent educators will be attracted to teach in public schools," wrote Angara in his bill’s explanatory note.

The proposed salary adjustment does not seem adequate to entice emigrating teachers to just stay or come back home.

In the United States, for instance, a Filipino teacher in Maryland is offered a starting annual salary of $43,481 (roughly equivalent to P1.8 million), making it a much coveted slot for many teachers from the Philippines.


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