“We don’t need no education,
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom,
Teachers leave them kids alone…”
PINK Floyd, an English rock band formed in London in 1965, waxed philosophical about classrooms, students and teachers in their song, “Another Brick in the Wall”.
The group of course could not have imagined Filipino teachers leaving students behind more than 40 years later—to look for overseas employers that value their worth, or at least pay them decent wages.
The millions of public and private schoolteachers in the Philippines may not have been moving out in numbers as other professions, but migrate they did—and continued to do so not just for the money but for career progression and self-worth.
The country’s more than 720,000 public school teachers are already better off than their private counterparts.Teachers are migrating from private to public schools because of the disparity in pay. A private school in Isabela pays entry-level teachers P8,000 a month, way below the P23,000 monthly salary of a publicschoolcounterpart.
In August 2014, Senators Grace Poe and Loren Legarda introduced twin bills proposing to increase the salaries of public school teachers from P18,549 ($425) to P25,000 ($573).Legardasaid the rationale for such a salary increase was, “to ensure that the State fulfills its responsibility of ensuring adequate compensation for teachers and to prevent our competent and efficient educators from leaving the country for better opportunities abroad.”
Unlike the salaries of public school teachers that come from taxpayers’ money, private school teachers are paid out of the tuition payments of students. A total of 1,013 of 12,890 private schools have already obtained approval from the Department of Education (DepEd) to increase their tuition rates for schoolyear 2017-2018.
While raising public schoolteachers’ salaries was a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno last year admonished teachers and nurses not to expect a salary increase under the Duterte administration, at least for 2017. Diokno noted that state nurses and teachers are already paid higher than their private sector counterparts, hinting that expecting further increases would be too ambitious.
Yet, even with their “higher salaries,” public school teachers are deep in debt. In a report issued by the DepEd Saturday, the“accumulated debt of public schoolteachers across the country has reached a staggering P300 billion.”
Of this amount, P178 billion were in loans from private lending institutions and P123 billion in credit from the Government Service Insurance System as of 2016.Unless the loans are restructured, or their salaries raised—whichever comes first—teachers would be looking out for overseas opportunities.
In June 2009, Annie Geron, secretary general of Public Service Labor Independent Confederation (PS-LINK) explained that “poor working conditions, a dim chance at career advancement and low salaries have continued to push thousands of experienced Filipino teachers to greener pastures abroad, leaving behind a generation of students hungry for quality education.”
“In less than a decade,” PS-LINK said “more than 4,000 Filipino educators, including school principals who demoted themselves to teaching jobs, have moved to the US, Middle East, and other Asian countries like China, Japan and Indonesia to teach.”
There may be less educators on record leaving for jobs abroad, but the prospects of better pay, recognition of self-worth and respect for their professions could re-ignite the exodus.
Then and now, Filipino secondary teachers can expect to be paid 10 to 20 times their annual paycheck in the Philippines. In Australia, the average yearly pay is A$65,941; in Canada it is C$58,474. In New Zealand,the current starting salary for a trained secondary school teacher with a Level 7 subject or specialist qualification is NZ$51,200. In the UK, England and Wales start on the main pay range, which rises incrementally from £22,467 to £33,160 (£28,098 to £33,160 for inner London). Salaries on the main scale in Northern Ireland range from £22,243 to £32,509. In Scotland, salaries range from £22,194 to £35,409.
The lowest of the lowest-paying states in the US pays an annual mean wage for secondary teachers of $42,460, which at the current exchange rate ($1:51.71) would be P183,000 a month. The next four states’ salaries for teachers are: Mississippi, $43,950 annual mean wage; South Dakota, $44,210; North Carolina,$45,220; and West Virginia, $45,240.
The five highest-paying states for high school teachers (annual mean wage) in the US are: Alaska, $82,020; New York, $81,410; Connecticut, $76,260; New Jersey, $75,250; and California, $74,940.
How about the cost of living?Since Filipino teachers would have to spend what they earn there, converting the salary into Philippine pesos would not be appropriate.
The five countries were selected because Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US are countries with permanent migration programs. The first three have points-based system of migrant-selection, the US does not.
A US employer must file an immigrant petition for a teacher in the second or third employment-based US visa category – EB2 (for aliens with advanced degrees and EB2 for skilled workers and professionals). The good thing is that the waiting period has considerably been reduced from the previous 5 to 6 years to about 1 to 2 years.
Applying for work visas would not be the best or most viable option since a Filipino teacher would have to be registered or licensed in the country of intended destination. On the other hand, teachers could qualify for permanent residency – for example in Canada – without having to be licensed or registered. However, proficiency in the English language is a must.That could be a subject for another column.