Editor's note: This film is no longer available online.

One hundred years ago, American teachers established the English-speaking public school system of the Philippines. Now, in a striking turnabout, American schools are recruiting Filipino teachers.

The Learning is the story of two Filipina women who reluctantly leave their families and schools to teach in Baltimore. With their increased salaries, they hope to transform their families' lives back in their impoverished country.

This absorbing, beautifully crafted film follows these teachers as they take their place on the frontline of the No Child Left Behind Act, telling a surprising tale of immigration, globalisation and America's shifting position in the 21st century.

Across the school year's changing seasons, the film chronicles the sacrifices the teachers make as they try to maintain a long-distance relationship with their children and families, and begin a new one with the mostly African-American students whose schooling is now entrusted to them.

Their story is intensely personal - as each woman deals with the implications of her decision to come to the US - and fundamentally public - as they become part of the machinery of American education reform policy.


FILMMAKER'S VIEW

By Ramona Diaz

In Imelda, I tried to understand how Imelda Marcos was able not to steal power from the Filipino people, but to use their fascination with myth and symbols, their pride, and their deep insecurities to coax power from them.

In Spirits Rising, I tried to understand how the grassroots People Power movement was able to catalyse and sustain an insurrection that ended the 20-year regime of Ferdinand Marcos and sent him into exile.

More than the simple retelling of events, I am drawn to explore the way power is harnessed, and how it may be seized by charismatic individuals in the name of the people, and reclaimed by the people when collectively are able to break the spell.

In The Learning, I want to look at power from another vantage. I conceived this film as a sort of 'reverse angle' response to both Imelda Marcos and to the female insurgents who took part in overthrowing the Marcos government.

Whereas Imelda was charming and ruthless in her pursuit of power, the teachers are women cornered by economic circumstance. Whereas the women of the People Power uprising empowered themselves within the context of a movement to secure the future of the Philippines, the teacher would be a study of disempowerment - a woman acting entirely alone to secure a future for her children.

Source: Al Jazeera