Starting next week, underpaid and overworked elementary and secondary public school teachers will report back for work as classes in all levels in both public and private schools in the Philippines will start June 1.
As usual, the opening day of classes will be marred by teachers and classroom shortages, as well as insufficient number of textbooks intended for students in public schools. Traffic jams are expected to occur during rush hours to the detriment of commuters and workers, particularly in the congested areas of Metro Manila.
In far flung or remote areas of the country, schoolchildren will be made to wait in makeshift classrooms for several hours until a teacher will show up for work. Most often than not, no one will show up. The reason is simple. LOW PAY.
It is very sad that the continuing government neglect of the plight of public school teachers have impacted the quality of education in the Philippines.
According to Department of Education data, there are more than 600,000 elementary and secondary teachers taking care of their students in more than 60,000 schools all over the country. These teachers are paid a monthly salary of a little more than P19,000 a month, which probably does not ensure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.
Most probably, a public school teacher in a less affluent municipality, especially those teaching in remote barrios, are getting paid much lower than those who have teaching jobs in urban areas.
No wonder, some teachers have decided to work overseas. To those who opted to stay in the country, they are either working as secretaries or at call centers earning from P23,000 to P25,000 a month.
Filipino teachers are well known for their patience and for working comfortably with children. This shared cultural value is best exemplified in the formation of students.
Most public school teachers that I often interviewed while I was covering the Department of Education for Manila Bulletin in the 70’s told me that despite the meager pay they get and heavy work load they have, they always find satisfaction and fulfillment to see their students learn and excel during their formative years in school.
I consider these public school teachers the real priceless jewelry in the Philippines. They are the ones spearheading the country in molding and developing our students to become our future leaders in government or in business.
At present, a Filipino teacher, especially those in public schools, handles a class of 60 to 70 students in an average of two shifting a day. More often than not, teachers and students stay in cramped classrooms or gyms.
Instead of implementing an expensive K-12 program that will add two extra years to the present 10-year basic education, the government should, instead increase the current budget of DECS to improve not only the quality of education but as well as standard of living of public school teachers.
I do not know how long before Congress will start looking into the sad plight of these public school teachers who do their job without complaints, rain or shine, in cramped or makeshift classrooms.
While the salary of public school teachers has remain stagnant over the years, it is the opposite for our elected officials in Congress. Every year, their income keep increasing by leaps and bounds.
I have never seen an elected Senator or Congressman in the Philippines who is not a millionaire.
The only exception is Congresswoman Leni Robredo representing the province of Camarines Sur and wife of fomer DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Congresswoman Robredo is taking public transportation whenever she goes back to Camarines Sur to check from time to time the conditions in her district. The same with the late Congressman Crispin Beltran who died after he fell 14 feet from the roof of his house he had been repairing. These are the people that we should have in Congress. Public servants that are honest and will work for the betterment of every Filipino.