Luistro said he understands the concern of various quarters on the contractual service policy. “The bill on universal kindergarten will allow DepEd to allocate funds for permanent positions that is why we are working closely with our legislators to ensure teachers will get the compensation they deserve,” he said. He admitted, however, that the current plan to employ 27,000 new teachers on a contractual basis, was a band aid solution.
The DepEd has previously justified the reason for the low remuneration for new kindergarten teachers is that there are not enough funds to support the opening of the program.
Critics of the Aquino government’s fiscal priorities sneer at its assertions that the 2011 budget is an ‘education budget’ because it allegedly prioritizes the DepEd. The agency received a 18 percent budget increase, from P175 billion P207 billion ($3.985 billion to $4.7 billion).
This budget, however, is still some P300 billion (6.832 billion) short of the United Nation’s recommended education budget . According to the UN, allocations for public educations should be equivalent to 6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to Act, the budget increase for the coming school year will also not be enough to address the shortages in facilities and stop the deteriorating condition of schools. The government intends to build only 18,000 new classrooms out of the 152,000 needed, and only 32 million new textbooks out of the 95 million shortage.
In contrast, the budget for debt servicing continued to increase as the Aquino government maintains the policy of foreign debt servicing from its predecessors. According to data from Ibon Foundation, the government’s 2010 budget proposal contained the largest absolute increase in interest payments in the country’s history. It added P81 billion $1.8 billion) to the budget for interest payments, pushing the total to P357 billion ($8.1 billion). With the principal amortization, which is not included formally in the budget), total debt payments amount to P823.7 billion ($18.75 billion).
Allocations for military spending also increased. The Department of National Defense (DND) received a hike, from P96.2 billion to P104.7 billion ($2.19 billion to $2.38 billion). Funds for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) grew by P10 billion ($227 million). The Philippine National Police (PNP) will also get a P6.6 billion ($150 million) increase.
“All this makes the DepEd’s explanations that there are no more funds for salary increases for teachers and for other improvements in the public education system impossible to accept,” said Tinio.
Lower Qualifications for Teachers
Another organization of teachers against contractualization in the teaching profession has already made its position clear against the DepEd’s plans.
“Pre-school teachers presently hired by the DepEd suffer the woes of contractualization, minimal salary without the privileges given to their basic education counterparts and no security of tenure despite their equal or even more amount of task,” said Teachers Dignity Coalition spokesman Emmalyn Policarpio.
According to Policarpio, the plan to hire 30,000 mentors through contracts with the average monthly pay of P6,000 as against the salary of P15,000 or more for the regular public school teacher, may ‘trivialize’ the program.
“This in the sense that those who might accept the position will not possess the necessary qualifications when it comes to educational attainment, training and skills,” she said. “We support the universal kindergarten policy. However, we challenge the authorities to prepare all the necessary requirements for this- classrooms, instructional materials and especially trained teachers.”
Based on various write-ups on pre-school education and child learning, pre-school age children are easily impressionable, immediately influenced by first impressions and experiences. They react to their environment and whatever stimuli is present. What children see, hear, and touch during the first five years of their lives, according to results of psychological studies, will influence their behavior and thinking when they become adults.
Tinio said getting mentors that do not answer to a certain measure of intellectual skill might imperil the kindergarten program from the start.
“Since the program will be dealing with very young, deeply impressionable minds that might very well be the leaders of the next generation, we should not allow the risk that their education will be of mediocre quality because their teachers have been poorly chosen,” he concluded.