Our teachers

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, June 9, 2014


LAST Monday’s teachers’ protest organized by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in Bacolod City attracted 2,000 disgruntled local teachers.

Ostensibly, the protest was about inadequate remuneration. The ACT, however, is short of factual detail when discussing teachers’ salaries, specifically whether or not they have been increased in the recent past. My understanding is that there have been salary hikes over the past few years and whilst no one thinks teachers are overpaid, the current standard public school salary of P18,549 for a qualified represents a significant improvement over the past five years.

Does this mean there are issues other than inadequate remuneration that cause teachers to make public protestations? We think there are and would very much appreciate teachers, either on their own or through the ACT, articulating their concerns.

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We need a national conversation about our education system. Unfortunately, the Department of Education operates on the “we know best” principle which means that other stakeholders especially teachers, students and parents are sidelined.

Stretching the four-year high school curriculum into six years without improving the academic standard which is what K-12 does means a waste of two years. The third year high school Math curriculum overlaps excessively with the second year program so students are not making the advances necessary to become globally competitive.

Global uncompetitiveness is reinforced by capricioussly publishing the third year high school geography textbook in Tagalog. This is not useful or helpful to students in those provinces where Tagalog is not lingua franca.

On the plus side, there is a third year high school textbook on Anglo-American literature. If this textbook is supported by excellent classroom teaching then students can make good progress in literature appreciation.

Overall, however, we give a failing grade for the Grade 9 curriculum. Tagalog is an incomplete language. There is no genuine word for curriculum. To call it kurikulum is just silly.

Teachers are professionals. In other spheres of professional endeavor, for example engineering, the frontline professionals are treated with respect. Not so with teachers who are considered to be merely DepEd’s foot soldiers.

We earnestly believe that a fruitful dialogue with frontline teachers would produce a better curriculum.

For example, we know that Ateneo’s Professor of Mathematics, Queena Lee Chua, was trying to provide input to the Math curriculum. Judging from the results, her potentially useful observations have not generated much beneficial impact.

We are concerned with what is happening to DepEd’s budget. P337 billion for 2014 is a lot of money, yet DepEd continues to operate as though it is penniless. In Bacolod, DepEd is seeking P11 million [P0.011 billion] from the City to pay the miscellaneous fees of students in the city’s public elementary and high schools. Why can’t DepEd pay? It is unattractive for a well-funded government department to be looking for local handouts.

Our globally uncompetitive education system will remain globally uncompetitive even with the implementation of the 2013 Education Act (RA 10533) with false claims to “enhance” the curriculum.

Let us hope that not too much harm is done before 2016; that our education system becomes an election issue for the next President and that by 2017 the misconceived components of RA 10533 will be withdrawn.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 09, 2014.

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