Some 57,000 public school teachers filed a petition before the House of Representatives’ appropriations committee on Tuesday (October 4), appealing for a salary increase amid the soaring cost of goods and services.
According to OneNetwork, the teachers, who belong to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), also asked the lower chamber to set the minimum salary of private school teachers at P30,000 per month.
A national minimum living wage of Salary Grade (SG) 1 for education workers in the government and education support personnel in private schools is also needed, said the ACT.
The petition, addressed to committee chairman Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Elizaldy Co, stressed that "the low level of teachers’ salaries (has) been bogging the education system down." It added, "There is an urgent need to uplift the economic conditions of our teachers to capacitate them toward our goal of education recovery and improving the quality of education."
The petition was filed as Quezon City 5th District Rep. PM Vargas lodged a bill to upgrade the minimum wage of public school teachers in time for World Teachers’ Day celebration on Wednesday. "With the rising costs of living, many teachers still struggle with the financial limitations of their profession while maintaining the delivery of quality education to our students amid the pandemic," said Vargas.
House Bill No. 4070 aims to adjust the basic salary level of public school teachers from SG11, which is currently at P25,439 a month, to SG19 or P49,835. The salary grade levels of those in higher positions should then be adjusted accordingly.
Currently, there are at least 15 bills filed in the 19th Congress seeking to increase the salary of teachers in the country. All are pending in the House appropriations committee.
Excessive work load for teachers
However, some public school teachers will mark National Teachers’ Day with the possibility of more work to come.
The ACT noted complaints from teachers about being required to teach in remedial and special reading classes every weekend, on top of their regular workloads.
It released a copy of a memorandum from the Schools Division Office in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu, which is embarking on a pilot reading enhancement program.
The program will run from October 1 to December 2 and aims to address learning poverty by conducting reading classes on weekends or in accordance with the schedule set by the pilot school. The memorandum added that teachers who conduct the reading classes on weekends will receive service credits.
Similar remedial and reading classes beyond regular class hours and during weekends are also being conducted in other regions as part of the DepEd’s education recovery program. The ACT warned that the additional learning hours may result in burnout in both teachers and students.
"Extending class time and holding classes even on weekends can do more harm than good to our learners, who are still adjusting to face-to-face classes after two years of distance learning, and to our already overworked teachers," said ACT chairman Vladimer Quetua.
"We have received reports of children staring into nothing or cases of panic attacks during classes. Our teachers are already overwhelmed with work. Imposing longer learning time can lead to burn out, which will defeat its purpose of helping in education recovery."
Need to assess current curriculum
Quetua also stressed the importance of first assessing if the current curriculum is fit to address the current challenges.
"We have been pointing out since before the pandemic that the K-12 curriculum is too cluttered, that the mastery of lesson is difficult to achieve. Its streamlined version of Most Essential Learning Competencies, which has been implemented since the pandemic, is still not simplified enough," he said.
Quetua stressed the need for "realistic learning targets", and that instead of delegating reading to remediation and weekend classes, the priority competency should be taught in regular classes.
He advocated a nationwide comprehensive learning assessment that would be the basis of an evidence-based education recovery program.