I have noticed many Filipino English teachers have gone back home. What makes them leave Thailand for good? Is teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) no longer challenging to them? Is it something to do with the remuneration they receive?
In response to these questions, I talked to a number of Filipino teachers who are leaving in a term or two and tried to get some answers and find out their reasons for leaving.
Can't support my family
A teacher from an agency in Bangkok said," There are so many reasons why I have to go but the main reason why I want to quit my job here is because my earnings these days aren't enough for the people I support back home. With my meager salary as a foreigner I can hardly cope with the rising cost of living in this country. I don't really understand why the administrators of the project which I have been teaching in for ten years have never given us a salary increase."
Three months of poverty
Another Filipino teacher from Nonthaburi said, "I am only hired for 9 months with a 7, 000 baht allowance with tax for March, 7,000 baht with tax for April, and 6,000 baht with tax for October. So can you imagine how I live in this "Land of Smiles" considering that I have to pay 3,000 baht each month for an apartment excluding, food, health, and other expenses? Enough is enough."
A teacher working in Pathumthani province complained, "on semester breaks, I can't get tutorial jobs from language centers because language center owners prefer native speakers or don't have tutorials because I teach public school students."
Too much change
One directly hired teacher said, "It's really high time for me to say goodbye to Thailand because I am already tired of encountering so many changes in our project's policies. In addition, supervision is becoming rigid and no consideration is given to an experienced teacher like me during observations. I am treated as if I am like a newly hired teacher. "
"During the renewal of contracts" said another teacher, "needless additional papers are required to be submitted. Notwithstanding the stricter labor and immigration laws nowadays, the practice of "no failure policy" and unmotivated students are all contributing to my departure."
One homesick teacher said, "I miss teaching back home because the students are more dedicated to their studies. I can discipline them because they can understand me. In this country, I can hardly be understood. "
An excited teacher commented, "The reason why I am returning to teach in the Philippines is that a teacher in the Philippines (new graduate) will receive 36, 000 pesos (more than $1,000). On top of that the teacher will receive 4 thousand pesos (over a hundred dollars) allowance for chalk and teaching materials. Worth mentioning are the 13th and 14th month pay which Filipinos never enjoy here."
I never thought that there are still teachers who feel this way but here are few more comments.
You can't get sick
"The most discouraging policy in my project is that the committee discourages us from using our one day leave a month. We are advised, if possible, not to incur any absence which is tantamount to saying "It is unlawful to get sick", as if we are machines. If I don't go to school, I hear negative comments from my Thai counterparts."
This is appalling.
"Imagine, I cannot leave the school earlier than 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon to submit records in Bangkok at the end of the month even if my school is more than a hundred kilometers away. The reason they give is that the secretary will wait for us anyway up to 6:00 o'clock in the evening. They never consider the time, the distance and the traffic we encounter in going to and fro considering that it is a pay day and we have to go to work the next day. "
"I am going home for security reasons, nothing more. I have no future here. What happens when I grow old? Unlike in the Philippines I can enjoy the benefits of the social security system of which I am a member for 10 years already.
"Why am I going home? Well, I am going home for personal reason. My family needs me and after having lived and worked in Thailand for some time, enough is enough. I have learned to value my family."
This is a very encouraging comment from a friend of mine.
Exploited by agencies
"If conditions were better than before I might have had second thoughts about not going home. You know, I can speak Thai already. I have been tolerant of the Thai philosophy of "Mai Pen rai" or "Mai mi panha" and the "Jai yen yen". In other words I now understand Thai culture and I just have to dance with it. But this is the end of the road."
"I have loved this country, my school, my students, my Thai friends and the low crime rate because of the extreme honesty of Buddhists. But sad to say, I have to go. In fact, this term 6 teachers in my project or even more than that from other projects will go back home. With the unpleasant experiences of Filipino teachers being exploited by teaching agencies, time will come, and not very far from now, our very good, hard working, and efficient teachers will all go home.
As the incumbent president of the Philippines said in a speech," overseas foreign workers (OFWs) can come back to the Philippines after 6 years because at that time, the country will be better."
Inspired by our Filipino saying, "Mahaba man ang prosesyon sa simbahan din ang tuloy. (No matter how long a church procession goes, it will surely return to the church). "After all, there's no place like home."
It is unfortunate that Filipino teachers have started to leave Thailand because of stricter immigration laws, unending new policies, intolerable school practices as well as the positions awaiting them back home.
May better things change in this country in favor of foreign teachers in terms of higher salary, annual raises, health insurance benefits, and job security so that Thai students will continue to benefit from well-trained, experienced, and effective Filipino English teachers. But will that day ever come?