The licensure examination for Teachers: Solution or anomaly?

Professiona-lization of teaching is 20th century Philippine educational system's legacy to Filipino children. Republic Act (R.A.) 7836 (The Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994) mandates the conduct of the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). It was enacted in recognition of the ''role of teachers in nation-building and development through a responsible and literate citizenry.''

The law stems from the belief that professionalization will improve the quality of teachers, quality of teaching and, therefore, quality of students. According to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the national passing rate (percent) in LET from 2001 to 2011 are: 34.30; 35.87; 26.27; 27.24; 26.99; 30.99; 28.50; 31.43; 25.50; 21.21; and 22.25, respectively.

Based on these, one may ask if LET is so stringent that it certifies as passing only the best. No. After almost two decades of implementing R.A. 7836, LET figures and actual observations in Philippine schools indicate the poor quality of education graduates churned out by our teacher education institutions.

THE CULPRIT

There are many factors that determine the production of quality students like class size, family, aptitude and student attitude, among others. But surely, the lack of quality teachers contributes to the stagnation of Filipino students.

A 2008 survey by Sonia A. Arenillo and Medel T. Arenillo found a clear case of failure to produce quality education graduates who can pass the LET and the ''progressive accumulation of non-qualifiers and repeaters.'' Disturbing is that graduates got high marks in school, but very low marks in the LET. Nelly G. Espino, et al.'s 2011 study, likewise, found graduates getting a mean rating of 87.33 percent as students, but performed badly in the LET.

Aside from grade inflation, these schools are also not getting the best high school graduates. Roberto Padua, et al. pointed this out as early as 1994 in the study ''The Demand for, and Supply of Basic Education Teachers in the Philippines.'' Teacher programs get ''the less able students while the more able ones (who are attracted to higher pay)... seek admission to other degree programs like Engineering and Medicine.'' This said, Juanita B. Pascua and Jane D. Navalta concluded in a 2011 survey that the higher the grade in the teacher program, the higher the grade in the LET. Padua et al.'s study, therefore, explains the low marks as well as low passing rate of LET takers.

THE NAT

The overall teacher education program of the country is so bad that only a fourth of its yearly output passes the LET. Many schools produce ill-trained graduates who cannot pass the LET, even when they re-took it. These schools can be seen in the Professional Regulation Commission's (PRC) website: http://www.prc.gov.ph/uploaded/documents/LET0313ps_ELEM.pdf> and < http://www.prc.gov.ph/uploaded/documents/LET0313ps_SEC.pdf>.

Low quality teacher education programs and graduates impact badly on students. Department of Education (DepEd) data (percent) for school years 2006-11 of Grade 6 National Achievement Test (NAT) are disappointingly low: 59.94; 64.81; 65.55; 68.01; and 68.15, respectively.

For second year high school, NAT results are shockingly below any decent standard: 46.64; 49.26; 46.71; 45.56; and 47.93 for the same period. Using DepEd's institutional description, elementary students are ''near mastery'' while high school students are ''below mastery.''

CALL FOR 21ST CENTURY REFORMS

As can be seen, the R.A. 7836 is not a solution that guarantees quality teachers. The government-funded LET only legitimizes even those who lack teaching skills. Teacher education schools must have the conscience to improve their programs and faculty since they are the source of unqualified graduates. However, CHED must gradually make the education curriculum harder to ensure quality graduates. It must be responsible, too, in immediately abolishing the education programs of schools that consistently failed to produce LET passers.

Training of teachers by DepEd is one response, but a temporary solution to lack of quality. It is a great waste of money if the problem source is not addressed squarely. Instead, the government should re-channel funds and massively offer, through CHED, big scholarships and incentives to the country's brightest students to attract them to enter the field of education, much like the old State Scholarship program of DepEd in the 1980s. Eventually, the highly competent teachers, by law and based on student achievement as well as relevant factors (not just longevity), should be entitled to salaries and incentives on a par with other highly competent professionals.

Without doing these, professionalization, through certification, does not mean anything if the bulk of LET takers are not the best among the best of the country's population.

An award-winning educator, education reformer, and a multi-awarded literary writer, PROF. ROLANDO S. DELA CRUZ is President of the Darwin International School System. He is an alumnus and former faculty member of UP Diliman who was also a scholar at the Osaka University (Japan), the University of Cambridge (England) and the University of Leiden (the Netherlands).

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