“We wore our protest gears during the flag ceremony and while teaching to deliver to the Duterte administration our demands to prioritize the allocation of sufficient budget to fill up the deficiencies in education, raise the salaries to P30,000 ($571) for Teacher 1 and create enough items for education support personnel.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL and ADAM ANG
MANILA – Despite the pronouncement of the Department of Education (DepEd) of “all systems go” for this year’s school opening, teachers and students began the first week of classes decrying “lack of preparedness.”
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines together with other groups has once again called on the DepEd to address what they described as “perennial problem of shortages” from classrooms to teachers as they trooped to Chino Roces bridge (former Mendiola bridge) on Monday, June 4.
With these shortages, public school teachers have to be creative to make learning still conducive to students, ACT Philippines lamented.
“Year in and year out, the teachers, students, and parents suffer the inadequacy of the government to address facility and personnel shortages, budget misallocation, meager salaries and contractualization. To protest during school opening is only appropriate and justified,” said Benjamin Valbuena, ACT Philippines chairperson.
But such claims were refuted by Education Secretary Leonor Briones. During her visit at the Quezon City High School on June 4, she said the department was ready for this school year.
“May I remind you that if the one percent is not ready, it does not mean that the whole education system is not ready, because we are ready.” (Ire-remind ko kayong lahat na kung one percent ay hindi ready, hindi ibig sabihin, iyong buong educational system ay hindi ready, dahil ready tayo.)
According to ACT NCR Union president Joselyn Martinez, there were the usual confusion on classroom assignment and crying pupils in most public schools. But more than these, she called attention also to the lack of classrooms and needed facilities to cater to over 27 million enrollees nationwide under the K-12 program.
“Regarding the implementation of K-12, they’re not yet prepared (DepEd). The reference materials, curriculum guide, and the books itself for the kids aren’t completed until now,” said Martinez said.
A Social Science teacher at the Imelda Elementary School in Malabon, Martinez reported that books for the subjects are not yet available. “That’s why the teachers have to conduct research, spend their own money to have it printed out.”
Even data from DepEd showed that Public schools in Metro Manila alone need at least 18,000 more classrooms.
Tinio also said, there is a total of 81,750 classroom shortages in all public schools in the country including Metro Manila. Teachers and administrators have to make do with whatever available facility in schools like transforming storage rooms into classrooms or holding classes in multipurpose halls.
In Bagong Silangan Elementary School at Quezon City, there are two sections in one classroom with 45 students each or 90 students in one classroom. Outside of the capital, Tinio said, class size is much higher such as 80 to 100 students in one section in Cabuyao, Laguna. There are schools holding multiple shifts to accommodate all students.
Tinio said there is almost no learning environment with this condition. “How could there be quality education when, because of the number of students, teachers could not even memorize the names of each student, much less instill discipline.”
Lack of manpower
During his privilege speech at the House of Representatives, Tinio reiterated the lack of manpower in the public education system and how far the Philippine is from its neighboring countries in terms of teacher to pupil ratio.
He said the DepEd requested for 81,100 teaching items or teaching positions. But, he said, only 75,242 teaching positions were approved in the 2018 national budget, still short of 5, 858.
With this, teachers for special education are still short by 1,944, more than 3,000 for elementary and 900 for junior high school, Tinio said.
According to the United Nations Human Development Report, the Philippines has 1:31 primary school teacher-pupil ratio. This is a far cry from the ideal, Tinio said, as neighboring countries like Malaysia have 1:11 teacher-pupil ratio; 1:15 in Thailand, 1:17 in Indonesia, 1:19 in Vietnam, and Myanmar with 1:28 teacher-pupil ratio.
That is why, he said, even if the government has filled up the gap in the shortage of teachers, this is still not at par with the ideal teacher to student ratio. “In fact, the DepEd should double the number of teachers to hire to be at par with our neighboring countries,” he said.
Tinio also mentioned the lack of non-teaching personnel and support staff. For 2017, he said, DepEd data showed that there were only 38,284 non-teaching personnel and support staff to 687,229 public school teachers. This means that nationwide, there is only one non-teaching staff that supports 18 teachers a day, said Tinio.
With this, teachers also have to do clerical work such as registering students to the Learner Information System in the DepEd website, a task which should be done by a registrar, Tinio said. Many schools also lack clinic personnel, custodians, and canteen managers.
Teachers and parents putting up with education system’s ‘cyclical problem’
The same problems have greeted the students every year, and for teachers under ACT Philippines, these problems are not being addressed by the government.
Valbuena said their protests “Are an expression of the teachers’ frustrations with the cyclical problems of the education system that are constantly put upon the teachers’ and parents’ shoulders to bear.”
Public school teachers in several areas also expressed their frustration by wearing salary increase headdress, body placards and stickers, such as in Region 3, Cordillera Administrative Region, Bacolod City, Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro City, Cotabato City, General Santos City, Tacurong City, South Cotabato, Butuan City, Davao City and Zamboanga del Sur including the Metro Manila.
“We wore our protest gears during the flag ceremony and while teaching to deliver to the Duterte administration our demands to prioritize the allocation of sufficient budget to fill up the deficiencies in education, raise the salaries to P30,000 ($571) for Teacher 1 and create enough items for education support personnel,” Valbuena explained.
He said students will also learn, through their protest, to stand up for their rights. “The Filipino youth are observant and intelligent, it is better to discuss in the classroom the harsh realities of living in poverty that they themselves experience than to pretend it is not happening. When education becomes significant to their everyday lives that is when learning begins,” he said.
He said their protest is the start of their intensified struggle of making President Duterte accountable to his promise of change.
“We have been promised of salary increase three times in a span of two years but nothing came out of those sweet words. We cannot help but feel shortchanged. The president is leaving us not much choice but to intensify our protest,” Valbuena said.