Nestled between Taiwan and Indonesia, the Philippines is truly one of the jewels of Southeast Asia. Neighbouring China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, it’s an intrepid traveller’s paradise, but it’s not just the nearby locales that should delight TEFL teachers.
The Philippines exists in an unusual cultural space. Formerly occupied by America, the archipelago of 7,000 islands is a proud and patriotic nation, but with western influences. That’s certainly true linguistically – English is far from a foreign language and is very widely spoken, with the Philippines ranking 22nd out of all nations for proficiency.
That proficiency in English has economic advantages. Western businesses are known to outsource work to the Philippines, which has created job opportunities locally. It’s become a profitable place for companies to invest. These, and other factors, have seen literacy in the Philippines rise to 99.27% in 2021, and it’s been incrementally increasing since 2010.
What will you find in the Philippines? Along with an incredibly engaging, resilient and friendly local populace, you’ll see a real mixture of cultures. There are, of course, the hallmarks of American influence – basketball is a national obsession – but Filipino culture is said to revolve around family, religion and intense celebration. Festivals including MassKara, Kadayawan Festival and Moriones Festival are colourful, major events, and Christmas in the Philippines is truly like nowhere else.
So what can this nation of islands provide for TEFL teachers? Well, with such robust levels of literacy and proficiency, expect an education system that’s readily equipped to bring in talent from around the world, as well as a low price of living, an engaged populace and countless sites, sounds and tastes to explore. If you’re job hunting, don’t expect teaching jobs in the Philippines to be few and far between, with teaching positions in the likes of private language schools, public schools, international schools and language schools popping up constantly for interested teachers.
What does a TEFL teacher need to get started in the Philippines? How does the education system work, and what are the opportunities like in this much-heralded archipelago?
Let’s explore teaching English in the Philippines.
Philippines: An overview
So, let’s talk about teaching English abroad in the Philippines. How does the school system work, first of all?
School pupils in the Philippines are mandated to complete 13 years of education. The public school system is run by the Filipino Ministry of Education, and while private schools exist and shape the curricula in their own way, they still have to teach lessons deemed relevant and suitable by the MoE. Primary education lasts from Kindergarten to Year 6, there’s Junior High for kids between years 7 and 10, and Senior High School for the two remaining mandatory years.
Pupils must have an aggregate grading of 75% or over to move on to the following year.
In terms of TEFL jobs, the popularity of the English language in the Philippines means that people born there are able to teach it. This adds a level of competition for TEFL teachers from other nations hoping to settle there. However, there are opportunities. At the time of writing, the Filipino education system is struggling for teachers, so TEFL certificate holders with a degree and knowledge of another subject are attractive.
As we’ll cover, the cost of living in the Philippines makes it an alluring prospect for ex-pats. In Mercer’s cost of living study, Manila ranked 122nd out of 227 cities for cost, with neighbouring Hong Kong ranked 1st.
It’s also, to put it plainly, an exciting place to go. The island nation has incredibly friendly locals, who can speak either Manila or English, engaged students and plenty of teaching positions across the country. The Philippines offers teachers the chance to do some island hopping while working, with opportunities across the archipelago. Expect incredible weather, food, coastline and sights.
Requirements for teaching English in the Philippines
So, what are the requirements for teaching English in the Philippines? To teach English in the Philippines, you must have a bachelor’s degree and TEFL certification with a minimum of 120 hours completed. These are required to obtain a work visa. However, if you don’t have a degree, it may be possible to teach on a working holiday visa or student visa.
With locals taught English from an early age, it’s more difficult to break into the TEFL scene in the Philippines without qualifications and teaching experience on your side. There are specific schools in the Philippines, however, which are excellent for TEFL teachers who are finding it hard to break into the mainstream educational system.
Let’s get into the specifics.
Just like everywhere else, completion of a high-quality course is a must if you want to land jobs in the Philippines. The industry standard is 120 hours of training, so a 120-hour, highly accredited course is definitely one of the best ways to go for any English teacher. If you’re able to spend more time earning a TEFL qualification, a Level 5 certificate is a fantastic choice. Whatever you choose to study, having tutor support, 24/7 guidance and self-paced learning is a major advantage.
Employers, especially in the Philippines where there’s stiff competition, want the process of hiring to be as straightforward as possible. Having a TEFL certificate from a reputable source means a teacher is likely to be able to come in and hit the ground running; schools and learning institutions want that.
Having a degree is a major advantage if you want to teach English to students in the Philippines. For full-time teaching jobs in the Philippines, it’s a must, and it can be an undergraduate degree in any subject. Although some might not require a degree, and with that, a working visa, these are likely to be temporary, low-paid or voluntary English teaching positions.
If permanence in the Philippines is your goal, a bachelor’s degree is needed. When it comes to universities, some private schools or more discerning employers in general, a master’s degree might be a requisite. The more qualified you are, the easier it’ll be to find high-paid jobs. To put a long story short, graduates will find it easier to become an ESL teacher in a Filipino city.
How much teaching experience do you need to work as an ESL teacher in the Philippines? It’s hard to get a prescribed rule on this, but we’d suggest that for higher-echelon teaching jobs, the experience you have will be a big part of whether or not you land an interview.
Being inexperienced isn’t likely to rule you out of jobs within the public system, and it’s not going to be a factor in getting a visa. So, newer TEFL teachers definitely can – and should! – head to the Philippines to find valuable work. However, the further up the educational system you go, the more important experience becomes.
To teach full-time on a contract at a school in the Philippines, you’ll need a working visa. That entails having a degree, as well as a TEFL certificate. If you’re planning on staying in the Philippines shorter term, you can gain a student visa and study in the Philippines while you teach.
Alternatively, you can gain a travel visa and work in the Philippines temporarily. However, this has tax implications, and it’s likely the majority of employers won’t take on applicants with short-term travel visas.
In summary, to gain real career momentum teaching in Manila, Quezon City or Cebu, for example, you’ll need a working visa for a teaching position.
Salary & cost of living in the Philippines
So you want to go to the Philippines to teach and soak up the local culture. What kind of pay can you expect as an ESL teacher? There are a few factors involved here, including your level of experience, and what kind of institution you’re teaching in, but the typical average TEFL salary in the Philippines is between £800 and £1000 per month. Contrasted to the cost of living, that’s more than enough to get by!
A one-bedroom apartment in Manila city centre might sound like an expensive outgoing, but Numbeo – a cost of living aggregator – suggests that it’ll only cost around £450 a month. Location is crucial; if you’re fine living just outside the main hub of Manila’s metropolis, rent can be as cheap as £230.
For basic utilities, you’re looking at £90 per month, and that’s not all – a meal for two at a mid-priced restaurant averages at £24, while a pint of beer is just over £1. A monthly travel pass can be prohibitively expensive in major cities around the world, but in Manila? £10.
Given that the average salary in the Philippines is around £375 a month, the cost of living is extremely low if you’re able to attract monthly TEFL wages in excess of £1000. In terms of saving, the option of putting money away for a rainy day is certainly available if you’re in secure, full-time employment. It might not be the same as saving in the Middle East or comparative nations like Hong Kong, but it’s still an incentive.
English teaching jobs in the Philippines
There are certainly plenty of different English teaching positions in the Philippines. If you want a job in the public school system, there are English teachers needed from Kindergarten level right up to Senior High.
In private schools, English teachers are particularly in demand. Private schools can be found largely in Cebu and the capital, Manila, and while the workload is hefty, the wages are notably more lucrative in these types of institutions.
The same is true of private language schools. These schools cater to learners of all ages, and are open on evenings and weekends. This, of course, can mean even greater workloads for teachers, but they’re a great prospect for teachers who want to test their lesson plans and skills with different kinds of learners. Ex-pats, Filipinos who want to improve their level of English and the curious alike can constitute your classes.
International schools are, as you’d expect, a presence across the archipelago, especially in the big cities. With the Philippines being an excellent centre for business, and with the country being a former American colony, it’s hardly surprising that there is a range of international schools. Many of these were started by religious groups (Catholicism is the principle religion in the Philippines) but there are international schools with ties to Germany, America, Britain, Singapore and other nations. If you want big city life, decent pay and a different kind of ESL experience, we recommend this.
There’s also the option of ESL tutoring. If you have a working visa, and already have another job in education, tutoring can be an excellent way of ensuring extra income. Some adult learners want to be taught English, but don’t feel comfortable in a classroom setting. Or, there are people needing lessons who might have evening commitments but need to improve their level of English for work. Whatever the reason, the opportunities are there, but we don’t recommend doing this on a travel or student visa, necessarily.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How much do English teachers make in the Philippines?
Salaries for TEFL teachers can vary depending on where they’re teaching, in terms of location and institution, but the average salary for a TEFL job is £800-1000 a month.
Q. Are English teachers in demand in the Philippines?
Yes, English teachers are in demand in the Philippines. However, English is one of the most commonly-used languages there, so there are plenty of local teachers who can speak it fluently. To stand out, you’ll need a TEFL certificate and a Bachelor’s degree.
Q. What are the requirements to be a teacher in the Philippines?
To teach English in the Philippines, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree (in any subject) and a high-quality TEFL certificate. This will ensure a working visa to stay in the Philippines. For Universities or top private schools, you might require a Master’s degree.
Q. Can foreigners teach in the Philippines?
Yes, foreigners can teach in the Philippines, provided they meet the criteria for a working visa, which includes a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate. English is widely spoken in the Philippines, so there will be competition from local teachers for jobs.