Education is a primary driver for every nation as it depends on citizens as their main resources and future leaders. According to the 1987 Constitution, “The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education.” With the 2019-2020 academic year underway for 27.7 million students nationwide, the Department of Education (DepEd), based on the 2018 budget allocation, received P553.31 billion. Despite the funds going towards facilities maintenance, recruiting teachers and non-teaching personnel, and developing new learning materials, the Philippines still ranked low on the 2018 Global Innovation Index. Coming in 105 out of 126 countries, the country is the lowest among ASEAN nations.
The Philippines has a long way to go when it comes to quality education. It’s ironic that, while teachers inspire their students, they are also disenfranchised by the state; to add insult to injury, administrators also apply pressure to noble professors.
Quality education means having quality teachers
The call for “quality teachers” has been going on for years with a hope that teachers will inspire lifelong students. However, what quality is expected when teachers are buried under paperwork?
Aside from their lesson plans, there is also the absurd job of evaluations and accreditations, which results in sacrificing their lessons just to ensure they meet certain standards. Such an accreditation process is ineffective as a majority of educational accomplishments are fabricated (in order to comply by standards, documents are manufactured).
Yet, even with annual back-breaking evaluations, why is there no improvement in terms of “quality?”
Teacher salaries make “quality education” a difficult goal
There are those who claim “salary doesn’t matter as long as you have the heart to serve,” which always irritates me as they fail to realize teachers are also human; they need to live, too. A P20,754 entry level salary is not enough to support a family—reviewing research journals is not necessary to understand how salary influence productivity.
Jared Bernstein, former chief economist for former US Vice President Joe Biden, said productivity growth feeds into wage growth. However, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones doesn’t even realize teachers in remote areas used their salaries to support their students or classroom needs—clear indication higher salaries for teachers are needed.
Aside from income, facilities are also a problem, which only became worse when K-to-12 education was introduced. “We are K-to-12 ready” is a delusion of grandeur and has resulted in overcrowded school. Such a situation has forced schools to eliminated needed amenities, such as converting restrooms into faculty rooms. A lack of facilities prevents students from a proper learning experience.
At Balutakay Elementary School, located in Bansalan, Davao del Sur, due to a lack of modern learning equipment, teachers educate students about computers with chalkboard drawings. One Grade 6 student said they dreamed of working in a call center but they’ve never used a computer before.
On a visit to Japan, I saw schools equipped with state of the art equipment and small class sizes, which is more conducive to learning. Students are more likely to succeed and teachers are able to focus on a smaller group. Research shows an overcrowded classroom is not associated with higher achievement.
Quality education is desired but the bureaucracy is afraid to provide the necessary backing to improve teacher competency. The country is too focused on “tarpaulin culture”—“ We are K-to-12 ready”—but it lacks academic rigor. This is the culture of the country’s education sector, there is an idea of excellent but a lack of will to execute.
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