Thursday , April 26, 2018

Editorial: For want of chalk

OVERHEARD in a jeepney was a group of public school teachers who came from a seminar-workshop. Young and enthusiastic, the teachers were discussing how to apply the training in their classes.

Four of the five teachers had to catch a bus to return to their posts in the south and north of Cebu. The teachers were on their way downtown to purchase cartolina, cheaper in Cebu City, for their visual aids.

Unlike the training lecturers, these five mentors did not have a personal or school laptop to use for preparing a multimedia presentation. It was just as well, pointed out a colleague. Their schools also lacked an LCD projector.

Chalk and more

From Sept. 5 to Oct. 5, the nation observes National Teachers’ Month. This and two other events—National Teachers’ Day and World Teachers’ Day—are covered by the Department of Education (DepEd) Memo 139, s. 2016.

For many Filipino parents, education remains to be the highest aspiration for their children. Teachers then are the partners of students, their families, and the nation in reaching not just a personal life goal.

Quality education for all is the fourth of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, which build upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to end poverty, preserve the environment, and ensure peace and prosperity for all.

This year’s observance of National Teachers’ Month reminds Filipinos of the need to support teachers in attaining excellence in their profession.
A day before National Teachers’ Month, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto called for increasing the “chalk allowance” of public school teachers from P1,500 to P5,000 annually.

As reported by Sun.Star Cebu on Sept. 5, the chalk allowance refers to the funds given for teachers to buy chalk, pens, and other school supplies at the start of the school year.

Recto’s Senate Bill (SBN) 812 aims to institutionalize the periodic review and, if needed, adjustment of the teaching supplies allowance.

For 2017, the DepEd has allocated P1.1 billion for the chalk allowance of 770,656 teachers. This amount represents one-fifth of one percent of the DepEd’s 2017 budget of P566.2 billion.

Reach out and connect

The DepEd estimates 21 million to be currently enrolled in public schools. This means that every public school teacher handles an average of 27 students in a class.

To catch attention, stimulate curiosity, maintain focus and engage students, teachers must plan and carry out an interactive, level-appropriate approach in teaching. The current chalk allowance of P1,500 annually is inadequate for acquiring multimedia tools and preparing online aids to engage students, especially Millennials who are the so-called digital natives.

If passed into law, SBN 812 will augment a teacher’s resources to invest in computers, flash drive and portable wifi device and load.

For a teacher to be excellent as a mentor, he or she must be a lifelong learner. The chalk allowance hardly addresses the other needs of a teacher to research and be updated in the latest knowledge, to connect with other teachers and share facts and insights that can be transmitted in class, and to innovate.

Ingenuity, flexibility, and resourcefulness are qualities worth praising in public school teachers who do not allow themselves to be fazed by resource constraints, difficulties in teaching environments, corruption and unprofessionalism in the bureaucracy, and their students’ learning challenges.

On the other hand, losing the fight against illiteracy because of an unrealistic chalk allowance—P1,500 annually translates to P5 per day for teaching supplies—is a national tragedy that must be avoided at all cost.