Why Filipino Teachers Are Leaving The Coop

Although there are several variables to consider when we face the issue on the declining quality of education in the Philippines, the role of the teachers are often considered as the most controversial and the most impacting. There are many questions behind this and they generally boil down to the level of professional satisfaction of our teachers. As the notion goes, “the gratification one experiences is always reflected on the quality of work being produced.”

Why is this happening? Why are our teachers unhappy? Why are they migrating to other countries? Why have most of them opted to teach foreigners rather than their own?

child holding banner teachers not for export

Photo credit: GMA Network News

While pondering, I came up with common conditions that are important. I will try my best to give a clear picture. After all, what is the point of ranting about this issue if I can’t even make my readers empathize, right? You must be wondering, what right do I have to talk about this issue? My answer is simple, I am currently working as a Kindergarten Teacher in Bangkok, Thailand.

Here are three of the common conditions that I think are major contributors to why our teachers are leaving the coop.

How much are they worth?

worth of Filipino teachers

Photo credit: Bulatlat, WN

Whether we admit it or now, most teachers are still within the poverty threshold and while they are holding their breaths for the approval of the much-coveted salary hike, they would have to keep swimming towards safety; hopefully away from loan sharks hovering nearby. Back home, it is not new to hear about teachers selling all sorts of knick-knacks to their students inside the classroom (most of the time with the approval of the Dean or Principal) or about teachers who have so-called sidelines or second jobs to go to after their usual schedules. The purpose is to “make ends meet” in an economic environment propelled by high prices. The truth of the matter is, the average teacher salary can barely keep up with the inflation over the past years and because our teachers are overworked but not well compensated, most of them switch to more lucrative careers or opt to go abroad to be rewarded with the compensation they deserve. In fact, a friend of mine just sent off her sister-in-law to the airport this week for a teaching position in Maryland, USA where there is a high demand for Filipino teachers.

What is available to them?

limited resources

This has always been the problem with our public schools. It is common knowledge that our facilities are far from ideal and most of the time, our teachers have to resort to resourcefulness. Most of these teachers handle 40-70 students per class which is beyond the ideal ratio of 1:25. Please remember that class size impedes meaningful involvement and this means that our public school teachers are barely given the opportunity to know their students; except for those who are doing excellently or unfortunately, those who are managing poorly in class. This type of setting does not allow them to pay attention to each student in their classes. Imagine my astonishment when high school graduation day came and I realized that the DCNHS class of ‘98 totaled to almost 2000 graduates with 24 sections in the 4th year level to root for. The graduation program started at 3pm and ended at around 7pm, students were still going up the stage to receive their supposed diplomas while some were still waiting for their turns. I wondered then how we all fitted in the campus.

Resources are another matter to delve into. In my high school for instance, I witnessed classes being held under narra trees (as our school was well known for having several of them) and because of this, the students and teachers developed the contraction of the popular classroom notion “UTNT” which obviously meant “Under The Narra Tree.”

Student: Ma’am, aha ta mag-class? (Ma’am, where are we having our class?)

Teacher: Adto didto sa UTNT ra. (We will just have it at the UTNT.)


However, if a class was lucky enough to be appointed with a classroom, usually, these are often cramped. Many of the classrooms are multi-purpose covered courts converted into makeshift classrooms with thin plywood walls as partitions. For worst cases like our high school, no partitions were necessary since the covered court was big enough to accommodate over a thousand students and putting partitions will only consume the school’s budget. (Take note, I am basing this comment on my high school’s state in 1998) Besides, where will the presentations or school activities be held if the court was converted into several classrooms? I can specifically remember seeing six classes being held simultaneously on both the east and west wings of the court while our dance troupe was rehearsing on the ground floor. How can this type of scenario be conducive to learning or teaching respectively? In addition, most of our public schools are even barely equipped with the most basic of resources which are the blackboards, chalks and erasers. These days some schools are fortunate enough to have additional resources such as educational tools either donated or purchased by the administration. In most cases though, teachers are still forced to be resourceful or worst, dig into their own pockets to produce the kind of materials (example: rolls of manila paper or ‘cartolinas’ they needed for teaching.

When do they grow?

dep ed

Photo credit: Balita

Like most occupations, it is not plausible to compare a teacher’s development to a normal human being’s physical growth where the bone growth ceases at age 26. A teacher or any other employee should be encouraged to improve her skills and knowledge in order to fully prepare her in surviving the demands of the changing society. Currently, the Department of Education is promulgating programs that support this condition. Hopefully, such programs will be maintained.

Also, more programs should be designed to create a continuum of teacher learning based on compatible standards that operate from recruitment and licensing, induction into the profession, to advanced certification and ongoing professional development. We have to admit that most of them never intended to be teachers in the first place. They wanted to be nurses, doctors or lawyers but due to financial constraints. They were forced to settle with taking up Education in college and with this concern at hand, the administration should focus on developing these individuals’ appreciation for the teaching profession. This is why, for me, it is necessary to reinvent the teacher preparation and professional development programs being implemented.

As mentioned in the beginning, teachers do not act as a solitary component accountable for the decline of our educational system, however, they are merely the most obvious component. It would be unfair to put the blame solely on the teachers, most especially when we know that they are just affected by the conditions brought by the system. Such are termed as process failures that they do not have control over, despite their attempts. This is why it is important to make considerations on how good education is earned. Good education, largely rely on the capabilities of educators and in order for the learners to receive this, we need to ensure that the educators are rewarded in accordance to their hard work. Again, I go back to the notion mentioned in the beginning, “the gratification one experiences is always reflected on the quality of work being produced.”

Like This Blog's Posts? Get the latest updates straight to your Email for FREE!
Please check your email to confirm your subscription