By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) confirmed that the Philippines and China will be partnering on various initiatives to enhance the education sector’s infrastructure requirements, as well as cultural exchange – particularly for interested Filipino teachers.
Issuing a statement, DepEd said that Filipino teachers – who wish to be trained in Mandarin or to teach the English language in China – will “soon have more education, cultural, and professional opportunities.”
Education Secretary Leonor Briones was among those who joined President Rodrigo Duterte in a recent visit to China.
In the Beijing trip, Briones participated in various “discussions on the enhancement of cultural and learning exchange between the two countries.” DepEd said that these discussions “resulted in action plans and agreements” – which are “projected to benefit” the Philippines’ education sector.
Training for teachers
DepEd said the discussions between the Philippines and China when it comes to proposed education exchange is the “expansion of the current training” of Filipino teachers in the Mandarin language.
Briones said that the training “has been going on in the past three years on a limited scale.” She noted that what both countries “want is an acceleration of this exchange.”
So far, Briones noted that there were nearly 300 teachers that have already been trained in the Mandarin language at the Confucius Institute here in the Philippines. “They have formal lessons here and then they go to China for exposure visits,” she added.
DepEd noted that the prospective training expansion was “expected to improve the teaching-learning process” for Filipino students – specifically those in junior high school (JHS) who are taking Chinese Mandarin as an elective subject under DepEd’s decade-old Special Program in Foreign Language (SPFL) program in public schools.
Aside from Mandarin, the SPFL program also offers Spanish, French, German, Korean, and Japanese languages as elective subjects.
Briones also reported that China was “interested in hiring around 2,000 Filipino teachers to teach English to Chinese learners.”
DepEd noted that the recruitment of the interested Filipino – which may happen within the year – will still have to undergo several talks. This, DepEd added, is to “ensure the quality, compensation, benefits, and welfare of Filipino teachers who will be employed.”
Meanwhile, Briones said that that the welfare of teachers should be prioritized. “It’s not only China who is looking for teachers to teach English abroad, Thailand is very much interested in our English teachers,” she said.
In March, officials of DepEd and the Ministry of Education of Thailand convened to discuss the employment of Filipino teachers for the “English for All” project of the Kingdom of Thailand. The said meeting on the proposed memorandum of understanding on the government-to-government hiring of Filipino teachers was a result of the Secretary’s side meeting with Thailand Minister of Education Teerakiat Jareonsettasin at the 10th ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting last October 2018.
While partnerships with other countries are opportunities for growth, Briones cautioned that “this has to be discussed very carefully because we also need our English teachers here.” She noted that the “matter of where you want to work, where you want to reside, where you want to pursue a profession, is a free choice – it is a choice that has to be made by the teacher.”
Given this, Briones said that what the government wanted to assure will be that the teachers are going to be well-protected.
“Even as we protect the teachers, we also protect our country and its needs,” she explained. “In terms of public school teachers, we have to look at our own supply of teachers.”
Briones also clarified that DepEd was not “urging” the teachers to teach in other countries since they were free to “make a choice” and choosing their opportunities for growth is a “universal human right.”
In partnerships like this, Briones noted that the DepEd preferred that “this will be on a government-to-government basis” along with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. “Usually if you go through agents on either side, it will be a primary burden to the teachers,” she said. “We need to work on the details, how teachers will be chosen, qualifications, and how will this be implemented,” she added.
ICT assistance from China
Aside from opportunities for Filipino teachers, DepEd said that discussions participated in by Briones also resulted in China’s proposed assistance to the education sector’s infrastructure requirements – particularly for technical and information and technology (ICT) equipment.
“It will be more on scientific and ICT instruments because this is where we need assistance but I was very specific when we had our talks with DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] that it will not come automatically because these will have to be done within the ambit of our own procurement laws, which have to be complied with,” Briones ended.