Category Archives: Education

On Teaching English In South Korea


Filipino professors attending a meeting of the AFEK

Most universities here in South Korea (and other Asian countries) prefer to hire English teachers from countries where English is the native language. That is a matter of policy but it does not follow that the best English teachers are the ones coming from those countries… they could be somewhere else just waiting to be given an opportunity to prove their mettle in ESL teaching.

There are only a few tertiary institutions in this country who employ Filipino teachers to teach English. These are the universities who believe that teaching English is not a monopoly of the teachers labeled as “native speakers” coming from the following countries: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland.

If the statistics gathered in 2013 by the AFEK, Association of Filipino Professors in Korea, is accurate then there are more or less 100  teachers from the Philippines in this  part of the Korean peninsula. Reportedly, there are more in elementary and  secondary schools and academies (hagwon). This, the organization (AFEK) came to know when they launched in May, 2017 the program “Skills Enhancement for Filipino Teachers Teaching English in Korea.” Several of the attendees were Filipino women married to South Koreans and are employed as English teachers.  The Philippine Embassy in Seoul, however, doesn’t have an official record as to how many Filipinos are teaching in the basic education schools and academies here.

Filipino professors are not limited to teaching English subjects only. They are E-1 visa holders and are allowed to teach content subjects depending on their fields of specialization.


E-2 visa holders are allowed by the Ministry of Education here to teach strictly English subjects only. One advantage of hiring Filipino professors, because theirs is E-1 visa, is they can be asked to teach content subjects related to their fields especially if the curriculum requires that the content subjects are should be taught in English. Currently, in the university where this writer is teaching,  three teachers from the Philippines, are also teaching, aside from English subjects, content subjects in the university’s Graduate School.

I wouldn’t say that Filipino professors in universities in South Korea are lucky to have been hired. Why? They have to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to have a chance of getting hired. They applied alongside teachers who are native speakers of English who have the upper hand because of their geographical roots.

Most of the Filipino professors here are PhD degree holders. The minimum requirement FOR THEM  is Master’s.

To the universities who opened the opportunity for Filipino professors, the applicants needed to prove that they are as equally capable as their counterparts from the native English-speaking regions of the world. When they got hired, it was because they are qualified and had proven that they have what it takes to be English teachers. It wasn’t luck.

Filipino teachers are trained in the Philippines to both know what to teach and know how to teach what they know.


Modesty aside, the Philippines have a very good education curriculum implemented through the Commission on Higher Education which closely monitors  TEIs (Teacher Education Institutions) to ensure strict compliance. Thus,  Education graduates from the Philippines can be relied upon not only in terms of the knowledge, skills, attitude and values in their field of specialization but also in pedagogy and in research. Filipino teachers are good in both instruction and research.

One of the best features of Teacher training in the Philippines is teachers are made to understand that the most important stakeholder in a school is the STUDENT, not the TEACHER. Filipino teachers adhere to the philosophy that the teaching-learning process  should be student-centered.

One reason, if not the main and only reason,  most universities in Asian countries (like South Korea, Japan and China) prefer to hire teachers from those seven countries is ACCENT.

Filipinos are good at English. It (English)  is the medium of instruction in the Philippines from kindergarten to college – even in the graduate school. Filipinos, at an early age, write and speak English. They hear and read it everywhere. It is also the the official language of communication in the Philippines.  All business and government transactions are done in English. The country also has the 3rd largest group of English speakers in the world. Their accent is not bad. Philippines wouldn’t be the BPO/Call Center capital of the world if so. But notwithstanding all the aforementioned, still the said universities prefer native English speakers and not include Filipino teachers in their lists of preference.

But there are two things that would make hiring a Filipino teacher a wise investment – two things far more important than ACCENT… their PASSION for teaching and COMPASSION for the learners.

It is not difficult for a teacher to improve his accent. It is easy to train the tongue to mimic somebody’s way of producing vowel and consonant sounds and diphthongs. What is hard is to convince a teacher to be passionate about the job and to be compassionate to the students…. especially if he/she is not really trained to be one and was only forced to accept the teaching job for lack of better options.

Source: On Teaching English In South Korea

Remembering My Teachers

Teacher at Chalkboard

“What is done in the classroom today becomes the indelible memories of tomorrow.” – Robert Brooks

What do we remember most about our teachers? Is it their intelligence or their wit and humor?

Why do we say that we’ll never forget some of our teachers? What made it hard to erase them from our memory – the positive influences they exerted on us or the emotional wounds they may have directly or indirectly inflicted? Do they remain in our memory because of the words of encouragement they said that motivated us to excel or the mouthful they gave that destroyed our self-esteem?

Do we recall the lessons our teachers taught in the class or is it the jokes they shared that we cannot forget to the point that to date those same jokes we also share with others?

Think about this… Is it our teachers’ impeccable display of mastery of the subject matter we remember about them or is it their compassion which made us feel so comfortable in their presence?

Being a teacher myself I often wonder what my students remember about me…or do they remember me at all. Imagine how many students I already had having been a teacher since 1988. Has anyone of them proudly announced my name when asked “Who’s your most favorite teacher?” or “Who among your teachers influenced you most positively?”

Constantly asking myself those questions makes me conscious about my performance in the class. Not that I wish to be popular among my students. Teaching is not a popularity contest. But if I get to be remembered by my former students, I wish that it is for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

As part of my planning, each time a school term begins I make a conscious effort of remembering my former teachers. Why? My teachers in the past, aside from the subjects they taught, they directly and indirectly showed me “what to do” and “what not to do” as an educator. They contributed the pieces in the teaching-learning model that guides me as I practice pedagogy.

There are several teachers whose names were etched in my memory (although I wish to keep their identities under wraps except for some clues). There are a variety of reasons why after all these years I have not forgotten them.

During my PhD days at Bulacan State University I always looked forward to attending the classes of two professors. One of them taught me that “Whatever we don’t use will die of disuse.” and “In onion there is strength.” Yes, that’s onion… not “union.” The other one bragged that “His PEN   IS six inches long.”

I didn’t consider their brand of humor offensive although I know some of the ladies in those classes felt uncomfortable whenever those professors deliver those double-meaning sentences. I am not sure what made the students pay attention to those professors…the ideas they were expounding or the jokes they interspersed in their discussions.

Even without those double-meaning sentences those two professors were really committed to bringing humor into the classroom. A lot of times that they shared hilarious personal stories. 3-hour long classes in the graduate school are stressful and the best known antidote to stress is laughter.

That’s what they did…gave entertainment on the side while we go through the rigors of graduate school.

But when it comes to sense of humor, no one beats my Psychology and Political Science teacher during my first year in college. Aside from his contagious smile, he had the knack for injecting humor during discussions. I remember him making exaggerated facial expressions and movements.

As Maurice Elias suggests, “Let’s add some more enjoyment to school. We don’t need guffaws — a smile and a little levity can go a long way.”

I was also blessed to have three teachers (one each in High School, College and Master’s) who modeled academic excellence. Each meeting with them was always an opportunity to learn something new. Of course I learned from all of my teachers and they all contributed to my development but these three are simply a cut above the rest.

Their common denominator is they never came to class unprepared and demanded nothing less from the students. They were demanding but were very supportive. I don’t know but there was something different in the way that they taught and the way they carried out their duties as mentors.

Because of this dedication to excellence, one of them (the professor in the Master’s program who influenced me the most), became “the avoided one.” Students, as much as possible, would avoid enrolling in her classes. They were students who wanted their grades to be given to them in a silver platter. They were the ones who consider a weekly reaction paper and several book reviews too much for a graduate student. For me, that was the challenge that I wanted to undergo to test my mettle… to hone my skills.

That was the kind of attitude inculcated upon me by my High School Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher. She gave us assignments and projects that I considered at that time as requirements done by college students. It was difficult but it prepared me to the rigors of college life.

Then in College I had this teacher who taught Shakespeare (and his plays) rarely bringing instructional materials to the class from beginning up to the end of the semester. She did not use audio-visual materials when teaching. She would just stay seated the whole period. But when she talked it was like listening to an audio book. There was never a question from us (the students) she did not satisfactorily answer.

However, I don’t remember the said teachers only because of their brilliance. I had a lot of equally intelligent teachers but whose names I could no longer recall. But these mesdames are different. They displayed enthusiasm while teaching. I witnessed how much they loved what they were doing.

I would also not forget my Grade VI adviser. I felt so sleepy in her class one day but I was trying very hard not to fall asleep. The reason was during my Elementary days, almost every morning I needed to wake up around 4:00 AM in order to sell “pandesal” (bread) before going to school so I would have extra allowance.

While she was discussing I closed my eyes but I was awake. Then one of my classmates said, “Look ma’am! Ching (that’s my nick name when I was a kid) is sleeping.” My eyelids were a bit heavy so I couldn’t open my eyes immediately when I heard a classmate say that. Then my adviser  responded, “It’s okay. Let him sleep for a few minutes. I saw him selling “pandesal” this morning.”

That for me was a display of compassion. My teacher did not get angry. She was aware of my situation and she tried to understand. Her simple act of kindness made me feel I am important. It started to develop my self-esteem.

Then I had these experiences with two of my High School teachers that reinforced my self-esteem. My English 1 teacher told me one day, “You’re performing well in the subject. Keep it up!” That was the first time I received a positive comment about my academic performance. Then my Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher, the same one I previously mentioned, told me also that I can be a good student if I study harder. In addition, she told me that I can be a writer.

The words they said nurtured my self-esteem. The things they told me awakened a self-confidence that until now is alive and strong in me. The words they said encouraged me to excel.

Those teachers believed in me and I promised myself not to disappoint them.

In his book entitled “Self-Esteem Teacher,” Robert Brooks explained that “Teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. This impact involves not only the teaching of particular academic skills, but as importantly, the fostering of student self-esteem.”

What do I remember most about my teachers? What qualities did they have that made their memories persisted in my mind and continued to influence my practices as an educator?

It is their sense of humor, enthusiasm, dedication to the craft, compassion for the students, and the practice of praising students…of telling them what they are capable of.

The foregoing are the building blocks of the educational philosophy that I have embraced.

“Most children will not remember what a teacher taught as much as how he or she made them feel. Children who perceive themselves as accepted and valued will work harder and have positive feelings about their school experience.” – Leah Davies

Source: Remembering My Teachers

Realities in the Workplace


The experience of Isaiah Thomas in the NBA, getting traded by his former team, the Boston Celtics, despite giving his all when he plays, despite playing for them in the playoffs a day after his beloved sister died tragically in a car accident, mirrors some of the painful realities in the workplace.

Isaiah Thomas learned the hard way that no one’s indispensable in an organization.

How valuable is Isaiah Thomas as a Celtic player? He led the team to the best record in the East during the 2016-2017 NBA season and brought the franchise all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. He was the team’s scoring and spiritual leader. But that did not prevent the Boston Celtics from letting go of him through the Kyrie Irving trade.

Should the Boston Celtics be faulted for doing what they did? Thomas should know that it’s nothing personal. It’s all business. The executives of the Celtic organization merely exercised their prerogatives. They did nothing illegal. They simply acted in what they think is in the best interest of the team.

That is one thing employees should bear in mind. There are times that employers have to do what they need to do in order for their business to prosper or simply survive. They need to implement changes and tweak policies at a certain point, sometimes at times when the employees least expected them. Notwithstanding  disagreements coming from “downstairs,” changes “people upstairs” want to make,  will be implemented.

When changes are implemented and policies tweaked, the employees should not take it personally. Changes in the workplace happen when they are due. It is something inevitable. They need to get used to it. Employees need to be ready to make decisions when they happen. There are available options that they are free to exercise.

Employees may simply embrace the changes and move on. They may decide to just accept organizational shake-ups, policy modifications, and what-have-you then continue working. It’s either they view the changes as necessary or accept the fact that they could simply do nothing to prevent them from happening.

Those who would consider that such changes are unacceptable… those who think that they are being taken out of their comfort zones… those who feel being taken advantage of… do have two possible courses of action. They can either resign and continue their quest to  find a perfect workplace or they will stay put and contest the legality of the changes that the employers made.

But locking horns with the bosses is a difficult struggle. Employers are always careful with decisions they make. Only the ignorant ones would risk getting hauled to court by effecting changes or making moves contrary to established laws and ordinances. Just like the Boston Celtics who certainly made sure that they have all legal loopholes covered before they finalized their agreement with the Cavs.

Most employers are wise.  One of the things an employer or businessman worth his salt does is study the laws and regulations that govern his business endeavors. It’s hard to catch them off-guard in legal matters. They simply know what buttons to push whenever “push comes to shove.”  In addition, they also consult lawyers to make sure that they face no legal impediments with anything that they do.

Employees who disagree with changes that those who employ them implement often fight a lonely battle which they are more likely to lose than win. They risk getting ostracized. If they decide to settle the matter of disagreement in the court of law, the employers are ready. With all their financial resources they are ready to fight  a long-drawn legal battle until the employee’s pocket and resolve run dry. There’s also a question of whether or not the majority (or even a few) of their co-workers share their sentiments. They cannot force anybody to join their cause, especially those who consider the changes made necessary and inevitable. They should not force anybody not willing to listen to their complaints about policies and personalities in their organization to give them time for their whinges and whines.

You simply cannot expect your colleagues to look at things and issues in the organization in the same way you do. You don’t share the same perspectives. Even your circumstances are different. People are also driven by sets of motivations that might be entirely different from yours. Learn to respect that.

Another thing that employees should always remember is that while they need to ensure that their rights as workers are protected, conversely, the employers will do everything to protect their own investments…to improve their business…or to keep their business afloat… even if it means firing their best employees. It’s nothing personal. It’s simply business.

And the lesson everybody should learn from the Isaiah Thomas’s experience in the NBA is that in an “employer-employee relationship,” business interests outweigh loyalty. Expect nothing from your employers beyond what is stipulated in your contract. They do the same.  The employees just need to work as best as they can. There are employers who know how to reward those who work hard. Employers also know how to deal with the perennial whingers and whiners.

Just love the work and enjoy the pay. Find a motivation that will keep you going in the workplace. If there’s none, not even the pay, then it’s time to pack up and find another workplace.

Here is the thing, if you think you can find a perfect workplace, you’ve got to be kidding.

The workplace is a jungle….and only the fittest survive. The workplace is not for the faint-hearted. Remember that!

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