The Educators for Development (EfD) greets our colleagues in the Philippine education sector on the occasion of World Teacher’s Day and the culmination of the National Teacher’s Month today, October 5, 2011.
“My Teacher, My Hero” has been the theme of this year’s celebration, and indeed Filipino teachers, both in the public and private education sector, are unsung heroes in the forefront of shaping the minds of the next generation of Filipinos.
After 17 years since October 5th was declared as international day of recognition for teachers by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), we are all aware of the continuing, if not worsening travails of Filipino educators.
While Filipino teachers deserve the utmost recognition for their hard work, the EfD believes that the best way to pay tribute to educators is for the Aquino government to prioritize Philippine education. This can be done through providing sufficient budget and implementing measures to improve the capacity and welfare of educators from the basic to tertiary levels.
However, the Php309-billion budget of the education sector for 2012, which accounts for 17% of the total national budget of Php1.816 trillion, remains inadequate to cover the annual shortages in classrooms, desks and teachers. There is a total of 104,000 additional teachers needed, according to the Philippine Development Plan, but the 2012 budget can only fund Php2.9B for the hiring of 13,000 teachers.
Educators in the public tertiary level meanwhile will be affected by the Php147-million net budget cut for 112 state universities and colleges (SUCs). To address teacher shortage, an additional education budget of Php650 million is needed that would include the creation of 38,593 permanent teacher items at the basic level and 8,000 new teaching items at the tertiary level, according to ACT Partylist.
The Philippines merely spends 2% of its gross national product (GNP) for education, way below the minimum 6% set by UNESCO. This makes our country one of the lowest investors in education among Asian countries.
This insufficient support for education has worsened problems especially in the public school system and has translated into a daily burden for Filipino teachers. In Metro Manila, the latest family living wage or the amount needed for a family of six members to live decently has been pegged at Php998 or Php21,956 per month. But the salary for entry-level position of Teacher 1 remains at Php15,649, pending deductions. Thus, thousands of Filipino teachers are forced to borrow from loan sharks or pawn their ATM cards, if not totally forced to go abroad to find employment.
It is for this reason that the EfD strongly supports House Bill 2142 that aims to upgrade the minimum salary grade level of public school teachers in the elementary and secondary schools. There is also an urgent need to increase the budget for each public school teacher’s annual allowance to include additional supplies and materials for teaching aides.
For World Teacher’s Day to be truly significant for Filipino educators, we urge our leaders and lawmakers to stand in solidarity by supporting measures such as HB 2142, as well as the realignment of the national budget from debt and military spending towards education and other social services. As we salute teachers on this day, we also call for the reversal of policies and measures that reduce access to education and compromise the welfare of teachers, such as privatization of SUCs, contractualization, private-partnerships in education, among others. Only when we provide the greatest support for Philippine education as a social investment can we genuinely pay tribute to our teachers.
The Educators Form for Development (EfD) is a voluntary association of educators committed to social transformation. The EfD brings together educators in the spirit of cooperation and fellowship to make education democratic, nationalist and emancipative. It promotes transformative education in pursuit of genuine development, social justice and peace.