Tell it to SunStar: Deeply-rooted problems in education should be addressed

By Teachers’ Dignity Coalition chairman Benjo Basas
Tell it to SunStar: On education chief’s resignation
SunStar Tell it

The recent results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) have revealed that Filipino students are struggling with creative thinking skills, placing the Philippines at the bottom among 64 participating countries. With an average score of 14, our students lag far behind the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) average of 33, and even further from the top performers like Singapore, which scored an average of 41.

This disheartening outcome, which adds to the country’s dismal performance in recent assessments in academic subjects, is not just an isolated issue but a manifestation of much deeper and systemic problems in our education sector. Our students’ poor performance in creative thinking highlights the chronic neglect of basic educational needs in our public schools. For years, advocacy groups like ours have called on our policymakers’ attention to confront these fundamental concerns, yet they remain unaddressed.

Our classroom situations are dire, characterized by inadequate school facilities, a lack of essential instructional materials, and insufficient numbers of teaching and non-teaching personnel. Furthermore, our teachers are not compensated justly for their hard work and dedication. These issues create an environment where neither teachers nor students can thrive.

We are urgently calling on the Department of Education (DepEd) and the entire government to prioritize and address these basic yet critical concerns.

The path to a competent education sector and high-quality teaching lies in the following:

1. Provision of adequate school facilities.

Our schools need to be equipped with modern and safe facilities such as libraries, well-ventilated and uncrowded classrooms, access to electricity and internet connectivity, health clinics, cultural and sports equipment, and sanitation facilities to foster a conducive learning environment.

2. Availability of instructional materials.

Students and teachers must have access to up-to-date and relevant learning resources, both online and printed. Textbooks have been a perennial problem in our system that was responded to with the provision of disposable modules.

3. Sufficient number of school personnel.

Both teaching and non-teaching staff are essential to support the diverse needs of our students. Aside from specially trained teachers who handle their respective subjects, our schools also need, guidance counselors, librarians, health workers, clerical and administrative staff, and security personnel to ensure that tasks are well distributed to the right individuals.

4. Just compensation for teachers.

Fair salaries and benefits for teachers are essential for attracting and retaining dedicated and skilled educators, as mandated by our 1987 Constitution.

Unfortunately, extremely low salaries have led many of our best talents to seek opportunities abroad. Additionally, non-monetary benefits such as housing, education, and healthcare are almost nonexistent, and often teachers are forced to cover work-related expenses out of their own pockets. This inadequate compensation package makes it challenging for teachers in the Philippines to remain passionate, motivated and committed to their profession.

Addressing these issues is not just about improving scores on international assessments; it is about investing in the future of our nation. The ability of our students to think creatively and solve problems is crucial for their success in an increasingly complex and dynamic world.

This latest and even the recent Pisa results serve as a wake-up call for all of us. It is high time that our government takes decisive action to uplift our education system. Our children deserve better, and it is our collective responsibility to provide them with the tools and opportunities to succeed

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