June 4, 2014
Government Fails to Prioritize Teachers
“Teachers continue to be the most important factor in the educational system yet they continue to be the government’s last priority.” This was the complaint aired by Benjo Basas, spokesman of Teachers Dignity Coalition, on our program Kasangga Mo Ang Langit *.
“Schools nationwide may lack classrooms, chairs and textbooks but the most important aspect of the educational system that must be prioritized is the empowerment of teachers. They should be prioritized. In terms of financial benefits, professional assistance, and their general welfare,” Basas said.
I asked Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo of the Department of Education, in the same interview, if the salaries of teachers have been increased. Unfortunately, the last increase for teachers’ salaries was in 2008. “We understand that teachers would want a salary increase,” Mateo said, “However, while we support this, a corresponding law would have to be enacted because every salary increase for government employees requires a law.”
PUBLIC SCHOOL PAID HIGHER THAN PRIVATE SCHOOLS TEACHERS?
Mateo also defended the salaries of public school teachers by saying that, believe it or not, a lot of private school teachers have been transferring to public schools. “We received some letters from administrators of private schools asking that we not accept applications from private school teachers because they are running out of teachers. And the reason for the transfer from private to public schools is their salaries, the pay in public schools being higher,” Mateo shared.
I asked Mateo how this would be possible, given that the reason that private schools give for their tuition fee increase includes, aside from the improvement of facilities, the increase in salaries of teachers.
Mateo conceded that while salaries might have increased, teachers’ benefits remain lacking. These include the teachers’ allowances (Cost of Living Allowance or COLA), chalk allowance, PhilHealth, GSIS, and Pag-Ibig (housing) benefits.
Bases, however, pointed out that it has been two years since teachers were given a salary increase. “We just hope that the government won’t be deaf to our pleas. They allocate funds to so many other things yet there is no action on what the plight of teachers, the most important factor in the educational system,” Bases lamented. “Our teachers really need this increase as they can no longer afford even the cost of basic commodities with their meager salaries.”
The spokesman of the Teachers Dignity Coalition, while saying that they are “ready to listen to the government”, also pointed out that even monetary incentives such as tax deductions, health benefits and transportation allowances have not been given.
WHAT TEACHERS NEED NOW
The Teachers Dignity Coalition is asking for P10,000 across the board wage increase for teachers because the P18,549.00 currently being received by entry level public school teachers is still below the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.
With the lack of attention to teachers’ wages, it is no wonder that the country is experiencing a brain drain in the field of education. We were able to interview for our television show Biyaheng Langit (Sundays, 10.30 p.m. on PTV4), Filipino teachers who had moved to Macau to teach English.
The teachers we interviewed admitted that they moved to Macau because there is a big difference between what they would earn here in the Philippines versus what they are earning in Macau. They also enjoy fringe benefits and perks, such as free lodging at the school’s dormitory and plane tickets to fly home to the Philippines during their breaks.
Truly, teachers in the Philippines sacrifice much. It is their passion and commitment to educating our youth that allows them to continue in this profession.
* Kasangga Mo Ang Langit and IZ Balita Nationwide airs 6-8am on DWIZ 882khz and airs simultaneously on ally stations of RPN9 nationwide.
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward
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