Hit by Covid crisis, pilot finds work as online English teacher

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With the Covid-19 contagion rendering about 2.6 million Filipinos out of work due to the temporary stoppage of business operations, home-based online jobs have become a viable source of income for workers affected by the crisis.

Commercial pilot Xandra Hill

One of those who have been sidelined by the pandemic is Xandra Hill, who found her career as a professional pilot in limbo as travel restrictions meant that the travel industry was put on a standstill.

“As a pilot, the world literally stopped for me because of the suspension of work, which was my main source of income. I had to look for alternative means to earn and sustain my family’s daily necessities. That’s how I found 51Talk,” said Hill, referring to an online English tutoring site that caters to the Chinese market.

Hill, a graduate of psychology in college, said her family felt proud that she was able to be productive during the quarantine people while helping people in a different kind of way.

“To those looking for a job in these trying times, I strongly recommend teaching at 51Talk. You can earn in the comfort and safety of your own homes, anytime. All you need is a computer, a good Internet connection, and a heart that is willing to serve other people through teaching,” she said.

Being an online English teacher can be very rewarding. In 2019, the average monthly salary in the Philippines was P50,600 and online English teachers may earn more than this amount per month, depending on their number of classes.

51Talk, which has been around since 2011, has been promoting this home-based online English teaching opportunity. The company connects its 20,000 English teachers to Chinese students using its proprietary technology called Air Class to deliver live and one-on-one lessons.

Zeeryl Vivi, a licensed professional teacher from Bacolod City, has been teaching with 51Talk for two years now. Vivi said her earnings have increased during the pandemic because her students are mostly staying at home.

“I continued to earn from home despite the quarantine restrictions. I actually realized that I was earning more than usual and I was able to provide for my family’s needs. This home-based opportunity really helped us a lot,” she said.

Despite initial reservations, the company said more people are coming to appreciate online freelance opportunities that are flexible yet stable and sustainable. “My family is really thankful that I was able to contribute even more during this time. My dad was not able to receive his salary for two months and I was able to cover some of the bills that we have here at home,” added Vivi.

In the case of Trixie Laura, she worked as a production staff in an advertising company before she joined 51Talk. Having no background in teaching, she said it was quite challenging at first because teaching was far from what she was used to doing.

But she was able to attend the company’s free training sessions that equipped her with the necessary teaching skills that allowed her to make the shift to online teaching. “This livelihood opportunity helped me discover new skills and has eased my anxiety as I get to earn and keep myself busy,” explained Laura.

Even during the pandemic, 51Talk said it continued to hire and promote home-based online English teaching through digital conferences, webinars, and social media campaigns.

“Everyone has seen, especially in the past three months, that earning a livelihood from home is not just possible but also sustainable and profitable. Business processes like meetings and interviews can all be carried out virtually with the aid of technology. We have been doing this for nine years now and as you can see, our teachers are able to earn and be safe as they continue to teach from home with 51Talk.” said 51Talk founder and CEO Jack Huang.

“If the pandemic affected your job, then 51Talk can offer you a new option. There has probably never been a better time than right now to teach English online,” Huang said.

The company said the Chinese market for foreign English teachers has grown massively over the past decade, and it shows no sign of slowing down. In China, all children from age seven are required by law to learn English and most parents enroll their children earlier than this, even as young as two years old because they want their children to gain an advantage in a highly competitive environment. This means there is a very bright future for the online ESL (English as second language) industry in the Philippines to meet this increasing demand from China.

According to Huang, beyond the livelihood opportunity and English language education his platform provides, 51Talk has become a bridge that promotes cooperation and understanding between the Philippines and China with its thousands of Filipino teachers interacting with and educating Chinese children daily.

“We are very proud to serve as a bridge to further educational and cultural exchanges between the two peoples through language education. May this strengthen the bond and friendship between us,” said Huang.

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