Discrimination against Filipinos

Are the Filipinos getting a fair crack?

Discrimination against Filipinos. What a nasty issue.

It is incredible that in this day and age, we as a species still have to deal with such things as racism, sexism and inequality. I love all countries and cultures. Most normal people do. If I didn't care for Thailand, I wouldn't be here. But let's not forget, it's a country which has grown up in many ways so very fast - by western standards. It's economic development has sprung up from almost nowhere in a relatively short number of years.

In many ways it models itself on the West ( whether for good or bad - who can say.. I just hope the wonderful and positively humbling elements of Thai Culture are not lost in the process - as is all too often the case in westernising countries ), however some of the social developments taken for granted in the west, are still in catch up mode here in Thailand.

Social reform won't happen over night. Even in my own country Australia, racial and sexual discrimination as such has only been officially outlawed within the last 25 years.

Prejudices still occur, however it is illegal to, for example, hire on the basis of gender, religion, race or colour, or even to adjust your shop prices on the basis of race or background ( sound familiar? ).

Leading by example

I do love Thailand, but dealing with some of these common frustrations are at times a daily issue for us foreigners. The best I can do is try to lead by example. Thais are basically good people. We have to do our best to demonstrate other ways of thinking and operating, until better practices, where appropriate, become the norm.

It is my vision that today's MBA's studying in Thailand ( under a NO FAIL policy - oops ), will be tomorrows CEO's, and will hopefully - when they take office someday accept nothing short of world's best practice, and the kind of business standards that are common place in the west.

This kind of thinking will filter down through the community, resulting in less corruption, less 'old school' business tactics and behaviour, more accountability, and more fair trading. 

Less than helpful generalisations don't serve to help this issue. eg. 'Filipinos are better at grammar than native speakers..' etc etc etc. Clearly we can't with any credibility say that ALL native speakers or ALL FILIPINOS are better at anything, than anybody. So let's keep it real.

However, I digress. There are sad facts on both sides of the fence that need to be addressed. Be warned. I'm a straight shooter. I tell it like I see it. I try to show balance and honesty. I'm not always right - but I do my best to portray things as I see them - and criticism is my friend. Below are some of my observations concerning this issue based on the years I have spent teaching EFL here in Thailand.

Hardworking

1. I wish to say this from the outset. MOST Filipino teachers are the MOST hard working and passionate teachers I have ever come across in my 20+ years of teaching.

Generally, most Filipino teachers spend more time in preparation and making materials than most other teachers I have witnessed. This is a flat fact. Does it make them better teachers? Well - you can play golf for twenty years, practice your swing daily, and still be a crappy golfer... but it does demonstrate a level of dedication and professionalism that is self evident.

Most other teachers I've worked with, including myself, don't spend as much time and effort in these areas.

Low pay

2. Racism is real. Yes, we all know this fact. Rarely does the pay level of a Filipino come close to that of a native speaker. A quick check around the staff room will show you that you are in fact the lowest paid English Teacher in the school - aside from the Thai staff who teach English there - sorry dear friend - it's all relative.

Clearly many advertisements ask for native speakers only. And while it is often necessary that English teachers have a level of proficiency that is at least equal to that of most native speaking people, a person's racial background obviously does not qualify this fact.

Part of this is a mix of quasi cultural / business prerequisite on the part of the employer. Face does play a part of business relations in Thailand. If a parent is paying 30 - 60 000 baht per semester for their child to attend an English program or a bi-lingual school, sometimes the parent is not happy to see that child being taught by someone other than a native speaker.

Filipinos or Thais?

Some schools are acutely aware of this. One particular school I have witnessed, has gone so far as to take the most sickening of measures, by trying to disguise Filipino staff as Thai staff. Yes, you heard me correctly. I would love to name and shame this school - for a variety of reasons, however - moving along, female Filipino staff were actually forced to wear uniforms identical to Thai staff uniforms, while native speakers actually had a separate dress code.

Practically all of the 100 or so native speakers at this school signed a petition urging the school to relax this and the countless other discriminative policies enforced by the administration, against the Filipinos. Many, including myself, eventually left in disgust at the various kinds of humiliation perpetrated against our Filipino comrades ( among other reasons )... however change DID occur. If no-one had spoken out, what would be next? Why not make them wear a 'Star of David' on their shirt ( no offense intended )? You get what I mean?

But of course discrimination also occurs against dark skinned people ( Thais included ), as well a Farangs. Some African people I have worked with have grammar skills and education degrees far superior to my own, and beautiful enunciation to boot, but are not only paid less, but forced to stay at school, alone, while the rest of the school attends field trips. How would you feel?

Not all teachers are competent

3. Some Filipinos are truly crap teachers, have crap grammar, crap attitudes and sound like crap. Sorry. Flat fact. But this is ALSO true for some teachers from every other country in the universe.

Some teachers qualify in some way for either part or all of the previous compliments. Sometimes I will walk past a classroom, being taught by a highly qualified Filipino teacher, armed with education degrees, beautifully prepared material and lesson plans, and shake my head in wonder of what the heck it was they actually said. My worry being that if 'I' didn't understand what they'd said, there is no chance in hell that the students will have the slightest chance of getting any of it.

Then the teacher will finish the class daunted and exhausted from the amount of classroom management having to be applied during the lesson, and complaining of how disinterested and lacking in focus the students were. I wonder why?

Having said that - I similarly have walked past Irish, Australian, and Scottish teachers, and wondered exactly what language they were teaching. This is a common issue in ESL instruction. It is a commonly appreciated fact, that for practical reasons, it is important for ESL students to be exposed to a variety of accents, however - some accents really do make ESL learning about as comfortable as passing wind in a space suit.

Some teachers on the other hand, take great care in their delivery, so as to make their presentation more neutral. One particular teacher, a Texan guy with one of those incredibly strong 'southern accents' was deeply passionate about this. I did a double take past his room once, thinking we had found a new teacher, when I in-fact had discovered to my delighted surprise that he had completely ironed out his accent for the classroom. It was so lovely to see. Not an over qualified guy by any means, but a truly dedicated and passionate professional teacher, who cared deeply about the learning outcomes of his students.

Survival wages

Another problem I have encountered is grammar. A case in point reflects the problems associated with the terribly low salary some Filipino teachers are forced to accept. Due to this fact many teachers fill a gap in the market, catering to students who's families can't afford to pay around 500 baht per hour for after school tuition.

Some Filipino teachers are happy to work for 200 - 350 baht per hour tutoring students after school. The basis for some of the lessons taught by some of these teachers, involve the completion of the students' mainstream English home work assignments.

This has represented a real dilemma for me. I have frequently found my students, being taught by my Filipino colleagues after hours, presenting their completed homework with numerous grammatical errors courtesy of the Filipino teacher.

This presents a couple of problems - 1. I have to un-teach these errors. 2. I really would prefer the teacher to stop teaching my student, on account of providing erroneous lessons. When I mentioned this issue to the teacher concerned, it was world war three.

The small amount of extra income is desperately needed by some of these teachers, who are often forced to share accommodation and live a fairly spartan lifestyle. Faced with the prospect of possibly losing this extra work, this previously friendly ( and self proclaimed 'God Fearing' ) teacher, rather than creating her own lessons for the student ( as was suggested ) and leaving my assigned homework alone, instead decided to act overly defensively, assigning great hatred and fury towards me.

Needless to say, 99% of all other Filipino staff at the school shared similar sentiments towards me after this. Most pleasant. My dilemma was obviously between my empathy towards the poor teacher, and my duty as a teacher - to the student, who was receiving conflicting lessons.

My feelings here lean towards suggesting that teachers who are not English majors, and / or are professional enough to know that grammar is not their strongest point, should stick to health, social, science, or conversational english in these cases. I hope that doesn't sound too harsh.

People DO care

4. Got a chip on your shoulder? Beat a dog often enough, and before long - it will act defensively even when only looked at.

Most Filipinos I've met have the biggest hearts and are the most passionate teachers of all I've met. The common place discrimination is hard to shrug off. There are bound to be casualties.

Now, increasingly I see small numbers of teachers of Filipino origin, huddled together, wagons in a circle and quick to lash out ( often when back is turned or Thai admin are out of sight ) at anything or anyone that may seem even remotely anti-Filipino, whether it is the case or not. Hypersensitivity and extreme defensiveness has been observed from many teachers who are rightly 'shell-shocked' by this incessant lack of equal rights.

Let me say this to those people. You are not alone. People do care. Native speakers do care. Many Thai people care too. Don't forget who you are. It's the worst thing to do. I have lost too many friends ( totally different situations ) who have come to Thailand, and forgotten who it was they were back home... and allowed themselves to give in to the pressures and temptations of living life in this country.

Don't alienate yourself. Don't hide. Don't think that the only honest support you will get will be from your Filipino brothers and sisters. Seek - dare I say it - 'outside' counsel. Like minded caring professionals from all walks of life are ready to listen. It will help you broaden your outlook, give you ideas about how to survive and succeed and even help you take your mind of some of this crap, and stay focussed on working well and enjoying life.

Thanks for your time. Filipino teachers... ( and others ) bless you. You are admired. You really are doing a great job. Be proud of yourself, keep it real, live well and prosper.

Peace & Love.

Ajarn X


Comments

I don't know why someone would be offended if they are confronted and/or corrected. If I were that person, I would be very grateful to know something to improve myself. :)

By R, Philippines (2 months ago)

I don’t think you fully understand the term racism and I don’t know why you hash tagged it to your writing. Filipinos and Thai’s are of the same race which is Asian but are two different ethnic groups. Think racism is not the right word you should be using especially when your only basis of this was different pay and wanting you wear a “uniform” similar to Thai teachers and claim the school wanted to pass you off as Thai not Filipino. But racism is more sinister act then that and by you promoting that idea to people online you’re furthering a wedge between the two countries and people. Which is not only going to create actual unwanted hate, you may also be wrong on your observation and it has nothing to do with you being Filipino just bad staffing/management of that school. I’m mixed Thai and my husband is Filipino obviously if these feelings of racism were true we wouldn’t be married and my mom would have never approved. So please don’t generalize Thailand or Thai people as anti-Filipino because it’s far from true. Also, Thailand does not hate Black people there is a mixed Thai singer that’s half Black named Mike Pironporn who has been famous for years and loved by Thailand.

By Kalena, Bangkok, Thailand (2 months ago)

I would probably agree with most of what you said. Another point is, most Filipinos accept mediocrity and I am not exempted from that. The reason for the low salary is not just about crappy grammar or teaching skills or even nationality. It has something to do with a culture that we were born to accept...we accept low wages...ha ha ha ha ...sometimes if you know you are good then accept anything but if you know your potential then time to move up..15,000 baht is not even a decent wage..I can earn more than that in my own country....less the stress and discrimination..Anyways, I like your objective point of view...I agree with the hypersensitivity too...LOL

By Flo, Philippines (7 months ago)

Ajarn X is apparently exploding from being so displeased of why Filipinos are paid and treated almost same way as him. Its plain as a pikestaff that you wanted to whine about this but instead of a rant, had nicely pile up flowery words so not to 'offend' (now, how sweet) the Filipino readers.

Nice try though.

P.S. I won't be anonymous if I'd only want to praise a particular race.

By Marzha, Philippines (3 years ago)

We can variety Filipino as good worker, flexible, reliable, professionals, and English speaking. Professionals - we truly excel in such as nurses, doctors, accountant, engineers etc. the standard of education in these areas are world class. English speaking - Philippines education policy clearly state that every Filipino should speak Filipino and English perfectly. Filipino is a global citizen-ready to play a greater role in the world.

By DIANE, Taguig City (4 years ago)

Good Day  I myself as Filipino strongly believe that our race, history, custom and traditions, and cultures are powerful and unique. It is natural for our nation to suffer such those things (racism, political issues, etc.) because we are indeed of progress and goals for the betterment of the society as well as the Filipino people.

By Ana Marie C. Umali, Philippines (4 years ago)

Its disheartening to read articles such as discrimination. People discriminating filipinos, for what? Because we think of our families back home, than ourselves more? We are willing to work our way up start from the bottom. That is called humility. Regardless of the salary. What we think most is to be able to start and give to our families at home. Is that too bad? People are abusive. In the Philippines, we are nice to foreigners, but this because we are not aware of this happening outside our bounderies. Regardless of race. We treat all the same. Being poor is not an excuse to belittle anyone.

By Ann of Manila, PH, Baguio City (4 years ago)

I didn't get your point ajarn x. You have contrasting ideas. Next time, write after you have sipped your cup of tea. It seems your brain cells are still asleep.

By Regin, (4 years ago)

To whom it may concern..

First of all, I would like to say that I am not a native speaker, not an english teacher, and I have no attitudes at all toward any group of foreigners teaching english in Thailand. As I would say, my english is as bad as a 4 years old so please be fair here and please dont bother yourself trying to correct my grammartical error because you will find yourself busy with this thing here for days..^^

As you said in your essay that you are a straight shooter, i would take it as an advantage to talk straight here too. I think your article is a very clear and concise one. I can imagine what you've been through and all. It seems like you feel sorry for those filipino teachers around you, still I found some of your statement itself showing certain degree of racism and discrimination towards "the object" you've been privately "observed" by walkin pass their classrooms while they were teaching.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but after I've been reading through the essay I feel like you wrote this story with certain level of racism and attitude yourself. This is not what it called a straight-shooter though in my opinion. Take this for example, when you were talking about how the Thais were treated filipino teachers so badly, how the Thais were trying to put some pressures on those filipinos and all,etc., I know you were trying to stating the fact (accoring to you) but you have also need to be fair with these Thais and these schools you were talking about. I think this has a lot to do with cultural elements in your background and Thai background. It seems like you prefer to do it your way, in your opinion, according to you..just like the way you wrote this article..the world according to you indeed. But if you wanna try to be fair, these schools are doing their business as well as trying to teach these kids english. Filipinos or Native speakers will not be the core elements of this issues at all if what it matters the most is not because of the fact that you are ONE of the english teacher yourself (and I can tell from your writing that you also have certain level of attitudes toward your own colleagues too). I know that you only want to be fair, you want to make it all fair for any foreigners teaching english in Thailand, but have you every try a second read to your article? did you realize that it made up of all kinds of racism towards the soil you're working at and toward your own work mates?? If you do understand even a little things about culture, you would omit that all in your essay. This is a platform to discuss such topics I know, you want to tell the outside world and ask theire opinions I know, you only want to make it right as a teach I understand, but what about the school you're or have been working with..did you realize that they have to pay much for english teachers like yourself? are you trying to blame them because they pay the filipino less and pay you more? Business is business, it is also the way you change to place to place when the salary is higher.

I think your essay is out of unity. One minute you were talking like you are so sorry for the filipino while the next you were saying and blaming them how bad their english were and that you would not want them to lay their hands on your students ever after again. I feel like you're confusing yourself. there are parts where some comments you've made sound contrasting to the earlier comments or the very next comments that actually follow.

If you want to write as a professional English teacher with moral then plese write while you are wide awake and beware of your attitudes. I know this is not an academic writing forum, but dont under estimate your audiences, how do they suppose to know about Thailand from your writing or your context? It does matter if those who read the article doesnt know Thailand at all or does not even know where it is in the world atlas as those people will get to learn about the Thais by your writing and all of the pictures you were trying to portray by your story is not exactly true. Next time please try to write without attitudes. Professional writers only write base on the fact, and like I said I am not an english teacher, my english is crap (if I could borrow your word), so I hope you dont mind having an english inproficiency person to comment on your highly grammatical correct essay.

Thank you for your attention..

By Anonymous, Bangkok, Thailand (7 years ago)

I have experienced the same thing in Korea. There is just too much discrimination against Filipino teachers here. When I was looking for a job, I have experienced being rejected many times just because I'm FILIPINO, and (according to them) it is ILLEGAL for a FILIPINO TEACHER to teach in Korea, which is not at all true. Nowadays, FILIPINO F21 VISA HOLDERS can teach English LEGALLY in Korea. My husband and I asked the Korean Immigration Office about this, and an official said that as long as you're holding an F21 VISA (visa given to a Korean spouse), you can work LEGALLY anywhere in Korea. I guess most hagwons just don't want to hire Filipino teachers because of that common misconception about Filipino English accent... but there are so many of us Filipino teachers here who can speak English LIKE A NATIVE SPEAKER and who are more experienced and dedicated educators. It makes me wonder sometimes, is it really just the accent that bothers hagwon wonjangnims (directors) or there is more prejudice against Filipinos? In most of the phone interviews I've had, the employers sounded interested to hire me at first, and would even ask me to come to the hagwon for a face-to-face interview... until they ask me that "dreadful" question, "Where are you from?". When they find out I am from the Philippines, they would make up excuses like, "I will call you back." or "We don't hire Filipino teachers." There was even a time, the employer just hang up the phone the moment he heard, "I'm from the Philippines." (as if being a Filipino is a disease) One woman even told me, "Sorry, you cannot teach in Korea because you are not a native speaker, but if I know somebody who needs a FILIPINO HELPER, I will let you know." (I felt so humiliated thinking, "Are we Filipinos perceived only as house helpers or factory workers?")

In the first hagwon where I worked as a regular teacher, I was asked by my wonjangnim to pretend I was a Kyopo (a Korean born and raised in an English-speaking country), because she was afraid that if parents find out I'm a Filipino, they would bombard the hagwon with complaints. I don't look like a Filipina, and my features are more similar to a Korean; I don't sound Filipino when I speak English, and my accent sounds more like an American... so it was easy to make the students, co-teachers (other than my wonjangnim and supervisor), and parents (of the students) believe I was a Kyopo... but my heart was screaming, and everyday I was asking myself why I had to feign my identity like that. I couldn't take it anymore. Later, I decided to quit. My wonjangnim didn't want to let me go, and was offering me two jobs, but my PRIDE as a Filipino was more valuable than the salary I could get.

Now I'm looking for another teaching job, and it's the same struggle everyday.

It's unfair, not just to me but to fellow Filipino teachers who have so much to offer and yet never get the chance because of that one thing... we are FILIPINOS.

TOTAL DISCRIMINATION...

By Chris, South Korea (7 years ago)

I've just started becoming aware of racism towards Filipinos here in Thailand. As an Asian adopted to parents in Australia and living my entire life there I'm not a stranger to racism but ignorantly I'd always grown up thinking that racism was isolated to "western white" countries. It wasn't until I came to Asia that I began to hear about racism within Asia.

My initial reaction was that this was the most ridiculous thing that I'd heard. Growing up in Australia most racism was just directed towards anyone that wasn't white. All Asians were lumped into one category and I'd developed a solidarity with other ethnic friends I had no matter where they came from just because we'd all suffered the same mad prejudice.

The funniest irony for me is that if Thais, Filipinos, Chinese, Vietnamese, Burmese or any other Asians had experienced racism where I did while growing up there would have certainly been no differentiation between their races towards the bullies. It would have been equal opportunity bullying!

One positive that came out of growing up with racism is that I'm unable to be racist towards other people. I know what it feels like to be judged not on my merits or who I truly am but instead on some perceived fantasy of who I am.

Racism is caused by ignorance first and foremost. When people gain the opportunity to understand another person through enough connection they will often come to see that this person is just like them. In my turbulent teenage years I've had people who were neo nazis come to connect with my enough that they dropped the madness and became good friends.

There is still racism in Australia now and perhaps there always will be but I believe that as a whole the society is becoming a lot more integrated as it becomes a more multi-cultural place. Perhaps this is the solution for Thailand too. I believe it needs to start with laws against discrimination. When the government allows discrimination in any form it is permission and endorsement to the people that this is the right way to go. If the government reflects the wisdom and insight to recognize that all people within Thailand are due equal rights the people will first follow then gradually begin to see why they follow. Through this real understanding will eventually come. I believe this to be the best solution to racism.

By Jack, Thailand (7 years ago)

Hi there! As a teacher I think there should be a standard for teachers to deal with a school. For example; minimum salary, rate per hour, and hours of teaching per week. I am sorry to say that there are many teachers from the Philippines who lower the standard that we should have by accepting lower pay and work more hours. What is good about it? I know that the majority of teachers from the Philippines have quite good education, some have higher education than a lot of native English speakers. But why lower yourself when you know you are qualified. Come on set the standard for the sake of others and stop being desperate.

By A foreign teacher, China (7 years ago)

Simple and clear: Where's the vision, mission, and goal of the school if these discriminating circumstances are taking place? Why seek your bread to these types of school? A true noble teacher should not allow any form of bigotry to break down his conviction. What a shame on the administrators!

By Donald Tygart, Australia (7 years ago)

I'm a falang in a private/government school. This school has recently decided to replace all the Philiphinos in the English Program with falangs. They are all qualified and experienced and there haven't been any issues with them. I am absolutely outraged by this

Apparently, the parents are calling the shots here and I realise competition between schools in the region is tough which has obviously made them more inclined to lower their moral standing for the sake of the school's survival.

It's something I find very hard to deal with, as a human being and a teacher. The role of the teacher is to set a good example and racial favouritism or whatever you want to call it, is just plain wrong. It's a poisonous message they're sending to the students.

I feel that I am part of it. It looks like I support it if I stay but I'm pretty much stuck. Jobs are scarce in the area at the moment. I'm thinking online teaching but worried about getting strapped if it doesn't work. I want them to know how I feel about it but I risk being singled out if I share my opinion mainly because I don't see eye to eye with the other falang in the EP regarding this. I've made my feelings known to my colleagues who have received their termination letters but is that good enough.

I'm a teacher. I don't just teach the subject. My job is to promote good morals. It's hard for me to decide whether or not to make my opinion known, especially since the Philipinos have not protested or even questioned the decision. Do I hold my ground and keep my opinion to myself and try to rectify the example the school is setting by staying and giving some lessons on racial tolerance?...or do I quit in protest in an attempt to make a difference? Would it make a difference one way or the other? Is it my place? Should I stay out of it?

Has anyone had similar experiences? Are people afraid to speak about this?

By Falang, Thailand (7 years ago)

I really have to decide on whether I should take the TEFL class in Phuket Thailand or not. I thought that If ever I took it, it would be good to practice teaching in Thailand. I'm not sure though if this is a wise career move. Right now, I'm a freelance translator and would very much welcome a change of pace. Thanks for any thoughts on this.

By Josefina, Philippines (7 years ago)

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