PH, China eye expanding Mandarin training for Filipino teachers

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino teachers may soon find more opportunities to receive Mandarin language training as Philippine Education Secretary Leonor Briones' recent visit to Beijing saw the Philippines and China agree to expand its language training programs.

Briones said on Tuesday, May 7, that discussions between the two countries led to "action plans and agreements" that involved the education sector. The education secretary had joined President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China in April 2019 for the Belt and Road Forum.

Briones said the "foremost" proposed education exchange between the Philippines and China involved expanding training of Filipino teachers in Mandarin. The exchange program has been ongoing for the past 3 years.

"What both countries want is an acceleration of this exchange because so far nearly 300 teachers 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," Briones said.

The Department of Education said it wants the additional training to improve the teaching-learning process of Filipino students taking Chinese Mandarin as an elective subject under public schools' Special Program in Foreign Language (SPFL). Other elective subjects include Spanish, French, German, Korean, and Japanese languages. 

Hiring teachers: Briones also said China was interested in hiring some 2,000 Filipino teachers to teach English to Chinese students.

Briones said the recruitment could happen within 2019, though there's still a need to discuss quality, compensation, benefits, and the welfare of Filipino teachers who would be hired. 

"We prefer that this will be on a government-to-government basis, along with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, because usually if you go through agents on either side, it will be a primary burden to the teachers. We need to work on the details, how teachers will be chosen, qualifications, and how will this be implemented," Briones said.

The education secretary added Thailand was also interested in hiring Filipino teachers as part of the latter's "English for All" project.

Briones gave assurances that DepEd will review the projects carefully as English teachers are also needed in the Philippines.

"Even as we protect the teachers, we also protect our country and its needs. In terms of public school teachers, we have to look at our own supply of teachers. We are not urging them, they make a choice [where to work]; it's a universal human right," she said.

Aside from the education exchange, Briones said China also offered to supply some educational equipment, particularly technical and information and technology equipment.

But these won't come "automatically," Briones said, as these would have to comply with the Philippines' procurement laws. – 

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at