Some 30 Filipino English teachers employed as Assistant Language Teachers (ALT’s) by the public school boards of education, as regular English teachers in private schools or as self-employed tutors, attended a Christmas get-together last December 16 in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Pref.
The affair was graced by Labor Attache Reydeluz Conferido and Welfare Officer Saul de Vries who encouraged the teachers in their declaration of intention to unite as an organization. Conferido noted that the Philippines very much welcomes new frontiers for its manpower force, given that the entertainers have been almost totally banned from Japan since the end of last year.
Emcee Benigno Tutor Jr., Labor Attache Reydeluz Conferido and Welfare Officer Saul de Vries.
Emcee and adviser Benigno Tutor Jr. noted in his opening speech that teaching as a working visa category is non-quota, unlike that of nurses and caregivers which constitutes the centerpiece of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) as far as the Arroyo government is concerned. The Philippine government should therefore focus its efforts in this burgeoning market in Japan.
A private placement agency has attempted to hire Filipino English teachers en masse directly from the Philippines last year but its attempt has been snagged by administrative hurdles on Japan’s side. An Immigration regulation requires foreign language teachers to have studied in the language he is teaching for twelve years. Given the Philippines’ shift to bilingual policy in schools, Filipino teachers’ qualifications as English instructors are cast in doubt. Since this hitch is easier to address than the rigorous Japanese language and national test requirements imposed on nurses and caregivers, the Philippine government should weigh in in this technical impasse using the JPEPA.
Tentatively calling itself The Association of Filipino English Teachers (FEAT), the group seeks to address common concerns of professional development and mutual help as far as working conditions are concerned.
The teachers expressed their desire to seek one another’s help in terms of professional development through a regular exchange of methods of teaching, games, rhymes, ideas for visual aids, etc. Since Filipinos are not considered “native speakers”, the performance of one teacher is usually interpreted as representative of that of Filipino teachers in general. Given that most of those presently hired as English teachers have not received formal education as language teachers, the need for everyone to achieve optimum proficiency as teachers of the English language has been considered of paramount importance.
With the Mobugakusho policy designating English a mandatory subject in elementary schools in the works, Japan is expected to hire more English teachers. In the present school year, it is estimated that about 100 Filipinos have been hired as Assistant English Teachers (AET’s) in public elementary and junior high schools. By joining hands now and speaking with one voice, the concerns and issues of teachers is expected to find greater resonance with the boards of education, the hiring companies, and the Japanese government in general.
The hiring of AET’s in public schools has either been direct or through placement agencies. Since the Japanese government is streamlining its operations and cutting cost, there is an increasing trend to source its teachers from the placement agencies. Filipino teachers are concerned about the secular deterioration of working conditions because of this trend.
In the middle part of the program, the teachers exchanged notes on how to teach certain subject matters in elementary or junior high schools. They also exchanged views on the classroom policy constraints and how to deal with certain situations on the job.
Teachers try out games devised by Cristina Flores.
FEAT is planning to form an electronic group in order to more efficiently dessiminate information to its members. Meanwhile, those who are interested to join may call Benny at 090-4547-5840; for those in Saitama and Tokyo areas, Cristina at 080-6616-4434; for those in Chiba, Gigi, at 080-5653-8773; for those in Ibaraki, Nonie at 090-6506-9444;for those in Tochigi, Ellen, at 090-7596-1383.