“We will not stop calling for the suspension of the K to 12 program.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Public school teachers will greet the school opening on June 1 with protest against the implementation of K to 12 program and to once again press the government for a salary increase.
The 200,000-strong Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), whose members range from those teaching kinder up to college, said they will mobilize all their chapters nationwide.
The group asserted that in the four years of implementation of K to 12, there are still more gaps to fill in the country’s basic education.
Benjamin Valbuena, ACT national chairperson said that out of the P68.7 billion ($1.5 billion) allocated for classroom construction last year, only four percent, or P2.9 billion ($65 million) was released. Of the funds released, only P1.7 billion ($38 million) was spent, and the rest is still in the implementation stage.
Valbuena said that aside from the unconstructed classrooms, the shortages from 2010 to 2014 have yet to be addressed by the education department. This includes backlogs in the delivery of equipment for school laboratories and other facilities, books and modules, chairs and even sanitation facilities.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said over 21 million students of basic education who are expected to enroll this school year. With this, the country will need a total of 209,539 classrooms, given the ratio of one classroom per 30 students.
Valbuena, meanwhile, slammed the government’s voucher program or Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (Gastpe)’s Educational Service Contracting (ESC) which would give a subsidy of P10,000 ($224) each to students who cannot be accommodated in public schools and would have to enroll in the ESC-certified schools.
He said the P7.8 billion ($174 million) funds allocated in the voucher program could create 51,020 more classrooms. He added that the voucher program is part of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Public Private Partnership program.
Valbuena said that while the Department of Education (DepEd) claims it has continually built classrooms, it is still not enough.
Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA) president Priscilla Ampuan said that even at the Batasan National High School, one of the biggest schools in Quezon City, one classroom is divided into two to accommodate more students. In these divided classrooms, there are about 50 to 80 students.
Ampuan shared that it is the same situation at the Doña Rosario High School where she teaches. “There are times that I just stay in one spot because if I move, I will bump into a student or I might spatter my saliva on them while talking,” she said.
Shortage of teachers
At least 114,304 teachers are still needed for the expected number of enrollees, said Ridon.
This is contrary to the DepEd’s recent statement that it hired 128,105 teachers from 2010 to 2014.
Louie Zabala, Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) president, said teachers are overloaded. Even teachers with ancillary assignment also have teaching loads. These are teachers who are assigned in the canteen, guidance, library and journalism classes.
These teachers should not have other teaching loads, said Zabala, particularly the teachers with specialized task such as journalism advisers. “This is one way for the DepEd to hide the shortages in teachers – to give more teaching load to teachers, which is wrong.”
Ridon said with the government’s continued mis-prioritization in education, coupled with the implementation of the K to 12 program, students will again suffer from overcrowded classrooms, lack of books, and overloaded teachers.
“How can our schools be conducive for learning under such circumstances?” Ridon asked.
Valbuena said the same problem greets students and teachers every year. This was even made worse by implementing the K to 12 program without thorough preparation.
“Aquino is really stubborn. We have seen the implication of the impromptu implementation of the K to program but it still has not been suspended,” he said.
On May 28, ACT together with other groups opposed to the K to 12 program will file a petition in the Supreme Court. He said the recent issuance of temporary restraining order (TRO) of the high court against the Commission on Higher Education’s Memorandum Order No. 20 (CMO No. 20) is not enough.
“We want the implementation of the K to 12 program to be suspended. We want the government to address first the existing problems of primary education, most especially our long time demand for salary increase,” Valbuena said.
He added that that their battle will not end with the filing of the petition for TRO in the SC. “We will not stop calling for the suspension of the K to 12 program, we will still go to the streets and will exert all efforts until Filipino students attain quality education.”