Educators in the Sacramento, California school district have recently turned to the Philippines to find teachers. Staff from the Sacramento City Unified School District first travelled to the Philippines searching for teachers in 2016, ultimately hiring 12 special education and science teachers. Another trip led to the hiring of six more Filipino teachers for the 2017-2018 school year. The chief communications officer of Sacramento’s schools, Alex Barrios, said the schools had no choice but to look for foreign teachers, citing difficulties in finding enough experienced teachers in America. Experts say US schools will face a shortage of more than 100,000 teachers nationwide this year, largely due to poor pay and high turnover, meaning hiring foreign teachers may become more commonplace.
The Philippines provides a convenient source of teachers for the United States, due to widespread fluency in English and similarities between the two countries’ education systems. Increasing openness to foreign teachers also represents a huge opportunity for the new teachers themselves, who all speak English, and have college degrees and significant teaching experience, as they stand to make about eight times more than they did in the Philippines.
Americans often go abroad to teach, but foreign teachers in the United States can also bring cultural advantages in our increasingly diversified country and globalized world, sharing their culture and country with American students. One Filipino teacher in Baltimore offered traditional chicken adobo to his students as a reward for working hard in class, exposing them to Philippine culture. Bilingual teachers, such as those from the Philippines, where both English and Spanish are commonly spoken, also help schools meet the demands of the growing number of Spanish-speaking students in the United States.
America and the Philippines have traditionally maintained very strong relations. The United States has long historical and cultural ties with the Philippines, which is also considered a major US ally in Asia, making it a logical place to look for new teachers. Around the United States, cities and counties are looking to expand cooperation with the Philippines in trade and cultural exchange. Sacramento itself has numerous connections to the Philippines and is the sister city of both Manila and Pasay. The county is also home to more than 55,000 Filipinos and Filipino-Americans.
Savannah Shih is a research intern at the East-West Center and a graduate student of Asian Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C.