Filipino teacher Raven Kate De Leon is in demand, spending up to 10 hours a day at her home computer surrounded by mini cars and stuffed toys that she uses as props to inject fun into her English classes for students far away in China.
Since the coronavirus took a hold in China at the start of this year and forced schools and offices to shut down, thousands of Filipino teachers are cashing on overtime as grade schoolers and professionals in China, Japan and beyond turn lockdowns into opportunities to better their English.
One of only a few countries in Asia that can combine affordable e-learning with an ample supply of teachers and strong English proficiency, the Philippines is uniquely placed to absorb demand in Asia for Internet language classes.
Online platforms like 51Talk of China Online Education Group (COE.N) and RareJob Philippines, and a host of smaller local Philippine outfits, have seen demand and usage soar since February, bucking the devastating effect on the world’s economies from coronavirus, which has infected more than 337,500 people and killed more than 14,500.
“I usually have 20 classes every day, so I could meet the demand of the great number of students nowadays,” said De Leon, 22, who works for 51Talk.
“I take that opportunity to give them a fun and fruitful distraction because I know they’re stressed, worried.”
De Leon is currently now working from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., without a day off.
51Talk charges around 45 yuan ($6.36) per 25-minute session, with teachers earning around 130 pesos ($2.53) per hour.
China shut down its schools in February to contain infections. More than two dozen countries followed suit, sending more than 290 million children and youths out of school, data from UNESCO, the United Nation’s cultural agency, showed.
“More and more, the safe way to continue learning is to go online,” said Jennifer Que, country head of 51Talk , which has 20,000 partner-teachers in the Philippines.
Many online teachers in the Philippines typically work from home, which has insulated them from the home quarantine measures that have devastated businesses and restricted tens of millions in the Philippines, which has nearly 400 confirmed cases.