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Filipino teachers feel impact of China’s new rules

Filipino teachers have been among the worst hit by China’s crackdown on online English Language classes, part of wide-ranging reforms of China’s after-school education industry which has introduced bans on profit-making companies operating in the market for 6-15-year-olds, restrictions on the number of hours students can be taught and, most recently, the announcement that teachers working online with Chinese children must be resident in China.

“Filipino teachers have been among the largest providers of online English teaching services in China since 2010,” according to Sixth Tone, an English medium news website owned by a state- controlled media company. Early pioneers of the use of online teachers were 51Talk and ALO7, which set up their first overseas operations in Manila.

In April last year, the founder of 51Talk, Jack Huang, celebrated 10 years of the company’s operations in the Philippines with the promise of thousands more jobs to add to the 30,000 teachers already working for them.

Initially. Covid provided a boost to the online tutoring industry in China, with 51Talk, part of the China Online Education Group, seeing 23% year-on-year growth in the first quarter of this year. Further, the online boom provided a boon for the teachers who were laid off when the country’s private language schools were forced

“Initially Covid proved a boost to the online tutoring industry in China”

to close, many permanently, when the pandemic hit inbound tourism. One source in the Philippines told the Gazette that the local language travel market has “totally collapsed. We were getting 70-plus flights a week from Korea full of Koreans coming to ESL schools. Now they have all long gone and the pandemic rages on here.”

At the moment, the online industry is also on its knees, with the market value of the China Online Education Group down 88% in the past 12 months.

“Now China has pulled the plug on online English, thousands of so-called online Filipino English language teachers have lost their jobs,” says our source.

Students had been choosing Filipino teachers because they were both affordable and professional. English is one of the official languages of the Philippines, and Filipino English teachers possess the same professional TEFL qualifications as their American counterparts.

Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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