Poverty drives Filipinos to UK

IT MADE for a bizarre sight. As the monsoon beat down outside, phrases such as "local education authority", "national literacy strategy" and even the dreaded "targets" rained down on 80 nervous Filipino teachers.

The occasion was an induction course in the Philippines capital, Manila, as a new British recruitment company prepared to add another nation to the ever-growing list of countries now sending staff to English classrooms.

Three teachers from Hastings, East Sussex, had been flown 6,000 miles, along with The TES, by St George's Recruitment, which claims to be the only British recruitment firm based in the Philippines. There, the firm laid on three days of preparation for the 80 staff hoping to begin new lives in English schools.

Over the past nine months, the company, which pays teachers' air fares and charges schools pound;2,500 as well as the teachers' pound;19,000 salaries to employ them on extendable one-year contracts, has flown out four English headteachers to begin the process of sifting through applications. Schools have so far requested 17 teachers.

The Filipinos are desperate to teach in Britain, driven mainly by economics in this poverty-stricken archipelago, where teachers generally earn pound;150 a month.

Elizabeth Teng-Eg, a 32-year-old elementary school teacher, told a typical tale. She had risen at midnight to leave home for the six-hour bus journey to Manila. Her husband is working in a factory and she said she would leave her two young daughters behind with their grandmother if she got a job teaching at a south London primary school.

English is the country's second tongue, but some of the teachers' language skills are not perfect. Pupil behaviour in the UK could also present some difficulties: pupils are brought up to respect their teachers and the 4,000-pupil high school The TES visited was a haven of calm despite class sizes of 55.

But the English teachers left convinced that the best of this batch could succeed in our system, so long as they were given support adapting to a very different culture.

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