Low pay of teachers
If push turns to shove, teachers throughout the country will be receiving P9,000 pay increase in their average monthly salary of P10,000 – at least on three equal tranches of P3,000 – from 2008 to 2010. This effectively brings them on the safe side of the beach from loan sharks. And teachers will have to lobby at the Batasan to get this pay hike on the bag. But why a mass action as a political statement by those teachers who support this proposed salary bill? Will they leave the classrooms for a while to get their voices heard in the hallowed halls of Congress? Well, let us see.
With poverty threshold known to afford only for basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter and transportation, no more money can be made available for either recreation or emergency purposes as when the teachers themselves or their children get sick. Apparently, Representatives Del de Guzman and Teofisto Guingona III of the House of Representatives provide heat for their planned mass action to register their serious demand for salary hike. And they seem to have been assured to be compensated from the LGUs, a medical allowance, and a Magna Carta bonus – among other things. This congressional action is tantamount to ‘class legislation’ if it would only benefit teachers, and other government employees are otherwise placed in isolation. Let come what will.
Come to think of it, teachers’ lot has not quite improved over time. Some of them are seen selling all sort of stuff in the premises of the school. Still some of them probably go into another job after their teaching schedule if only to “make both ends meet” in an economic environment characterized by high prices. The so-called purchasing power of the peso is not one that brings teachers to a ‘comfort zone’. The whole scenario for teachers is far from ideal. They have more students than the ideal size of 40 per class – some of them from 70 to 120 students for one class alone. That means more test papers to check, more students to evaluate for recitation, class activity, and quizzes, seatwork, project and assignments. So are they not overworked than any other government employee? They sure are.
Social justice dictates that those who worked in government should be properly compensated with just renumeration in exchange of their services. If this fails, the teachers fail, too. And when teachers fail, so do the students – so do the parents. We all fail in the final analysis. That is why, until the teachers do really get their just compensation package, we should not expect too much of what they can deliver in terms of quality education, innovative methods in teaching, and levels of research and expertise in their subject specialties. Faculty development will not be best served under a low scheme of pay and allowances. Truly, teachers must be paid well, very well. Why not?
Perhaps, pulling the teachers up just above the poverty threshold so no one drowns in abject poverty is really a good subject matter of legislative action. This way, the best of the crop of future teachers will be recruited. This way, we can keep the good teachers to avoid the flight of human capital, so to speak. Truth is, there are already a significant number of Filipino teachers who opted to get themselves employed overseas because of a better pay scale. Soon come a time when only the lesser breed of teachers stay in the country because the government can ill afford to give them so much pay. If this happens, government would have failed in the education sector. What is the use of more classrooms when teachers have to become less and less?
This is Catch 22. Both Senate and House of Representatives ought now to legislate or enact a law that will give teachers a decent pay comparable to those in the private sector as well as would compare well with the pay of teachers in other countries. Let us get them well paid so that they will not become cheap apparatus for cheating during elections as they constitute the COMELEC’s Board of Canvassers. Let us get them paid well so they don’t have to succumb to loan sharks where if they do, all the more are they driven to a financial sinkhole they always will try to get away from but can’t. The school, sacred that it must be, should be free from loan sharks. At any period in our history, we cannot afford to lose teachers who are the crème of the crop simply because they hate low pay and would opt to find better pay somewhere.
Teachers, as the dedicated professionals, will not thrive under a low pay scheme perpetuated by their State. While many of them love teaching despite the low salaries, to advance in their skills or to go into higher studies at their own expense are real concerns that any well-meaning Department of Education should address. What is the good Secretary doing to alleviate the plight of our teachers than mess up with the curriculum that has placed us on equal footing with the rest of the world? An education department that cannot learn when to suspend classes during inclement weather really leaves much to be desired.
Viewed differently, the plight of our teachers is not one in isolation. Truth is, even American teachers suffer from low pay themselves as a national survey by the National Education Association would indicate. We do find in this survey that teachers in fact have to shell out from their own money certain other requirements to keep their work going. Imagine having to purchase supplies, books, and materials for your students? Imagine long hours and low pay? Imagine teachers having to hone their skills, to keep abreast with advances in technology, to enroll in other related courses to make themselves prepared before their students? This, as the survey findings capture, reflects the Status of the American Public School Teacher. At least in America, it remains the case that the best educated and the best experienced teacher teach in public schools – no matter the cost on their part where some of them are said to spend as much as $400 slashed from their own pay.
We are far compared to the American setting where on the average, teachers have 15 years of teaching experience, where teachers (most of them anyway) have master’s degrees. They make for good mentoring for new teachers who would soon replace them, don’t they? But how can such a situation evolve if our public schools always have a quick turnover of teachers – no more old teachers seen to stay in the public education sector? Who would then bridge the “experience gap” through good mentoring? Truly, the skills of the old and veteran teachers ought to be passed on to the new and such a low scheme of pay hardly allows for this scenario to take shape.
The good secretary of the Department of Education should not be an armchair technician, more than that. Let us please attend to our public school teachers. Let us free them from the fiscal bind. Let us study how to renumerate them for their instructional duties, their non-compensated but school-related activities. Let us harness long time commitment to teaching as a job by setting the stage conducive for this purpose. Let us not allow a situation where good teachers leave teaching because of the low pay they get. Help them now!
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