By Matt Salusbury
Vietnam's largest city is struggling even to recruit English teachers from abroad, let alone pay them. In 2012 the Ho Chi Minh City municipal Department of Education and Training proposed that a hundred Filipino teachers be employed to teach English in its public-sector primary and secondary schools by the end of that year (see November 2013 Gazette, page 4).
As we went to press, a total of only thirteen teachers from the Philippines had been recruited to teach English in the city, which has a population of well over seven million, with a total of 917 ‘general education’ public-sector primary and secondary schools, according to Vietnam General Statistics Office figures. Vietnamese English-language daily Thanh Nien reports that another twenty-six Filipino teachers were due to start working sometime in early 2014. According to the Department of Education and Training plan, funding for the Filipino teachers’ salaries was to come from the municipal government as well as school budgets; however, this has not been the case. Lack of funding from the municipality has forced schools to look for financial support from parents.
The monthly salary for a Filipino teacher in Ho Chi Minh City is $2,000 (£1,206), Thanh Nien reports, and each student pays a monthly fee of about $6 towards the salary of these teachers. (Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee defines a family with a monthly income of less than $62 as living below the poverty line.) However, these funds are not enough. One school has had to use part of its regular English teachers’ salaries to pay for the Filipino teachers.
Not only is there no money to pay for the Filipino teachers, but some schools in Ho Chi Minh City have complained about the teachers’ qualifications. The Philipines is well regarded throughout the Pacific Rim for the surplus of highly qualified English teachers it exports, and its call centre sector capitalises on a reputation for its operatives being pleasingly ‘accent neutral’.
But Vietnamese English teachers have reportedly argued that some of their Filipino counterparts use ‘unsuitable methods’ and have ‘a heavy accent’. In the past the Gazette has explained that many parents and recruiters in Vietnam prefer ‘white teachers’ from the US or Commonwealth. The project to hire a hundred Filipino teachers had received considerable criticism from within Vietnam from the very beginning.
*A British Council / Pearson / Nokia smartphone-based project launched last year aims to improve English in twenty ‘poorly resourced schools’ in Ho Chi Minh City (see the May 2013 Gazette Asia supplement, page 2). Various US states have also extensively recruited Filipino teachers - including 160 hired by the Maryland State Department of Education in 2005.