The many crises in the teaching profession

June 20, 2019

Foremost among the varied issues making a lot of noise especially during school opening is the compensation of the country’s 800,000 public school teachers – specifically their supposedly low pay and unfulfilled promises of salary increases.

The purportedly dire situation, according to a special report on teachers’ salaries, has resulted in “economic stagnation on the part of the teachers, with an estimated 75 percent of them trapped in debt totaling at least P300 billion.”

But is the monthly pay of the typical public school teacher really too meager as claimed by teachers’ advocacy groups? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, their pay is low if compared to those of policemen, soldiers, jail officers and fire fighters whose salaries have been doubled by President Duterte. An entry-level public school teacher now gets a basic monthly salary of P20,754 or roughly two-thirds of the P29,668 received monthly since last year by the entry-level policeman, soldier, and other uniformed personnel.

But no, the pay of public school teachers is not meager if compared to their counterparts in private schools. The monthly pay of P20,754 can be extremely high considering that the average salary in private schools is merely P12,000 to P15,000 monthly across all regions.

There are even private school teachers in one region getting paid with only P6,000 monthly, according to the legal counsel of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), and the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAPSCU).

A joint statement released last Wednesday by major business and professional groups cautioned government against the immediate granting of salary hikes promised by President Duterte, amid the clamor for a P10,000 monthly increase.

“Raising the disparity in pay between public and private school teachers would further fuel the migration of private school teachers to public schools and exert financial pressures on private schools whose tuition fees are regulated by government,” the statement said. It was issued by the Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Action for Economic Reforms, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Foundation for Economic Freedom, and Philippine Business for Education.

They said that because such salary increase has “no identified recurring source of funding,” it will raise government fiscal deficit from 3% to 4% of GDP and drive the country’s credit ratings down, leading to higher borrowing costs and lower investments. However, they said they support “moderated adjustments in pay which are phased.”

Other issues hounding the teaching profession are the low proficiency of some teachers on what they’re supposed to teach, and the dismal results of Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) for a decade now.

A study of Philippine Business for Education revealed that since 2009, passing rate of teachers averaged only 31 percent, way below government’s 53 percent target passing rate, and “behind the average passing rate of those who took up medicine, the sciences, maritime, engineering, accountancy and agriculture.”

The poor performance of LET examinees has prompted the Commission on Higher Education to call for a review of the performance of teacher education institutions (TEIs) to determine those that have to be closed down. The PBED disclosed that “for the period 2005 to 2009 covering 10 LETs, 154 TEIs produced no licensed teachers.” In 2010, 35 percent of TEIs, or roughly 900 institutions, did not produce a single passer.

Teaching is undoubtedly a noble profession indispensable in any society. Teachers in private and public schools help shape the intellectual prowess of students, particularly those in pre-school and grade school levels where young minds are taught not only how to read and write, but even how to think. The role of teachers in nation-building is vital. Government is obliged to take care of them. Subsidizing the salaries of private school teachers to make them at par with their public school counterparts would lessen disparity in pay.