Teachers tell the coalition government: Address the chronic problems of the education sector

File image. (Photo by A. Umil/Bulatlat.com)

Written by Zisa May Iloran

MANILA – It is unfortunate for Filipino teacher Robbie Bernardo that we open this year’s classes with rooms and chairs that are still not available for students. But she said that this is just the tip of the iceberg besieging the education sector in the country.

“Teachers have long suffered from the country’s atrocious education system. It is time for the government to address these issues,” said Bernardo, Alliance of Concerned Teachers – NCR Federation president. sacred.

ACT Philippines recently called for increased budget allocations to address the shortage of teaching and non-teaching staff, classrooms, facilities, and learning and teaching resources in the education sector.

In the proposed 2024 budget, the Department of Education is set to receive P758.6 billion, an increase of 39 percent from 2022. This will budget per capita P27,000 or P121 per day.

According to the independent think tank Ibon Foundation, DepEd received 13.2 percent of the allocation in the proposed 2024 national budget of P5.768 trillion, second only to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with 14.3 percent. For this reason, many Department of Education agencies are facing budget cuts.

Such budget cuts are occurring in light of the Department of Education’s increased secret and intelligence funds.

“It shows a kind of government that does not prioritize education. Although it is written in the constitution that it should have the highest priority in the budget, that has not happened yet,” Bernardo said.

Overworked, underpaid

According to Bernardo, public school teachers remain among the most underpaid government employees, with ACT campaigning for teachers to receive a salary of at least 50,000 pesos ($880) per month.

According to ACT Philippines, about 92 percent of public school teachers earned an “unlivable wage,” a far cry from the government-set ideal family living wage in the Philippine capital of P1,164 per day or P25,327 per month.

“Despite being overworked, the situation has forced teachers to take up side jobs to make ends meet. This shows how we give value in our public service,” she said.

Public school teachers are also juggling non-teaching duties due to staffing shortages and the sheer volume of reports and paperwork they need to complete.

Bernardo said the Philippine government needs to hire non-teaching staff such as guidance counselors, nurses, clerks and others. Based on ACT estimates, at least 94,000 non-teaching employees are needed nationwide as additional school workforce.

Under the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law 5 (SSL 5), public school teachers classified as Teacher I to III are scheduled to receive a monthly salary ranging from P27,000 to P31,320.

Class accumulations

Government-run schools officially opened on Monday, August 29 despite the lack of 159,000 classrooms, for which DepEd has allocated an annual budget of P10 billion. This is slightly less than the estimated number of ACT classrooms that would need to be built, estimated at about 175,000, to meet an ideal learner size of 35 people per class.

This has since led to overcrowding in some public schools reaching up to three class periods per day.

Bernardo found it difficult to teach 50 students in one classroom.

“It’s difficult because you can’t see the students’ development,” she said.

To lower the teacher-student ratio, ACT said the Department for Education needed to recruit 145,000 new teachers.

This will also entail the need for 13,249,187 chairs to meet the projected enrollment consistent with the current number of armchairs, new desks and tables especially in DepEd schools data and infrastructure facilities.

“The conference must ensure significant appropriations in the annual budget for the construction of 50,000 classrooms annually, until 2028 to end the classroom shortage,” ACT said.

Assistant Secretary of Education Francis Bringas said the overall shortage includes school facilities damaged by the disasters.

To address this shortage and overcrowded classrooms, DepEd’s long-term solution is the institutionalization of blended learning.

“We have learned from the two years of the pandemic that there are many best practices that we have done or have implemented in many schools across the country, and we intend to look at these best practices to integrate them into our system to develop standard and institutional blended learning,” he told CNN Philippines. .

Redirecting confidential funds and information

While the Department of Education prohibits donations to repair classrooms, Bernardo said that without it, “we are spending our own money on school needs.”

According to ACT, in the 2022 Annual Audit Report of DepEd, the Commission on Audit (COA) found that DepEd failed to utilize a total amount of P27.420 billion including P10.268 billion for capital expenditures for the construction of classrooms and buildings. , and other school facilities; P9.802 billion for school maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE); and P2 billion to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund – Rapid Response Fund.

Based on the 2023 Basic Education Report, about 104,536 out of 327,851 school facilities remain in “good condition”. The General Appropriations Act of 2023 showed that the government is only targeting to complete 6,379 semesters this year.

Of the 327,851 school buildings, according to Duterte, 100,072 buildings need minor repairs, 89,252 buildings need major repairs, and 21,727 buildings are under condemnation. The 2023 budget allocation for new construction of school buildings is P15.6 billion and P4.9 billion for repair of existing classrooms.

Meanwhile, a review of budget documents submitted to Congress revealed that the 2024 classroom completion goal is 1,628 lower than this year’s goal. The government also aims to establish 3,943 classrooms next year.

For 2024, the government only proposed a budget of P33.7 billion for basic education school facilities. It includes P19.6 billion for the construction, replacement and completion of new school buildings; $6.5 billion to repair existing facilities; and P2 billion to build medium-rise school buildings and install facilities for people with special needs.

Despite the budget increase, ACT said this was not enough to address the shortfall.

Also, despite the glaring shortages in the sector, Education Secretary Sara Duterte is set to receive a proposed secret sum of P150 million as part of the proposed 2024 budget.

“Because education is intertwined with national security. “It is very important that we form patriotic children, children who will love our country and defend our country,” Duterte told reporters during an ambush interview.

However, ACT has called on the Department of Education to redirect its secret funds to allow for the construction of more classrooms, and the employment of teaching and non-teaching staff, to name a few.

“The agency is focused on intensifying anti-labor and anti-union rights programs in close coordination with the National Task Force on Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) leading to further violations of the union rights of teachers and education workers and freedom of expression and association.” He said.

The financial burden

Public school teachers are scheduled to receive allowances and compensation from the government such as teaching allowance, clothing allowance, performance-based bonuses, and rice allowance.

However, it is still not enough, as all these allowances and benefits, according to Bernardo, are too late and a low amount to support daily teaching tools. Public school teachers also do not have health benefits and sick leave.

“We have a teaching allowance of 5,000 pesos a year, which means he will not be able to access 20 pesos a day. We only borrowed money to buy a laptop,” added Bernardo. not enough”.

Parents also struggle with the daily costs of educating their children, such as Des Dela Cruz, who said that her partner’s salary is not enough to meet their children’s needs, especially education.

Des has three children currently enrolled in basic education: her eldest child (8th grade) is 14, her middle child (6th grade) is 11, and her youngest (1st grade) is five years old.

Dess’s partner is a security guard and a minimum wage earner based on the National Capital Region (NCR) rate. He receives a minimum wage of 610 pesos per day. Des helps her partner wash their neighbours’ clothes. Her earnings at least supplement the family’s expenses and the education of her children.

“Sometimes they would ask our relatives for an allowance to buy snacks during their break at school. When it comes to school supplies, we can’t buy new supplies. We just reuse what we have,” she said. “Every time they have lessons, our expenses increase.” And our debts.” sacred.

In 2021, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that at least 36% of Filipino families incur loans and debt to cover the costs of their children’s education.

UNESCO claims that the Philippines has the highest percentage of families borrowing money to educate their children.

This number is higher than in poor countries such as Uganda, Haiti and Kenya, where 30% of families resort to loans or credit to pay for education.

However, government agencies such as the Ministry of Social Welfare and Development have an educational assistance program that financially supports students from low-income families.

According to the DSWD, up to three students per poor family can receive assistance of P1,000 for elementary students, P2,000 for high school students, P3,000 for high school students, and P4,000 for tertiary students.

Des Marcos Jr. called for increasing the minimum wage for workers and making it livable.

“The current wage is not enough for one family because if you want your family to eat three times a day, your minimum salary will only go to food, what about other expenses such as electricity and our children’s school needs.” (JJE, RTS, RVO)


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