Teachers to DepEd: Address shortage, reduce class size for safe reopening of classes

Licensed teachers wearing protective masks answer calls to assist students online at the Tele-Aral Center in Taguig City, the Philippines, Sept. 15, 2021. (Photo by Rouelle Umali/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Licensed teachers wearing protective masks answer calls to assist students online at the Tele-Aral Center in Taguig City, the Philippines, Sept. 15, 2021. (Photo by Rouelle Umali/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Teachers’ group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) to hire more teachers and reduce the class size to 35 students per section as it plans to physically open the schools by next year.

According to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a press briefing after his first Cabinet meeting on July 5, DepEd Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio is planning for full face-to-face classes by November.

However, in June, the Vice President and incoming education secretary said that she’s targeting to implement full face-to-face classes in schools by August, arguing that 38,000 schools around the country are now ready to physically reopen when the school year 2022-2023 starts.

But according to ACT, a total of 26,000 teaching positions have yet to be filled as of February 2021, and an additional 10,000 teaching items are created under the 2022 General Appropriations Act. On top of these, from 2016 to 2020, an additional 1,500 to 2,500 positions are being left unfilled by DepEd.

Ano na ang status nito ng filling up nito? Marami kaming nakukuhang reklamo ng teacher applicants na taon ang hinihintay bago sila ma-rank o mabigyan ng assignment,” Vladimer Quetua, ACT’s chairperson, said.

(What’s the status of the filling up of these positions? We’ve been getting reports from teacher applicants that it takes a year before they get ranked, or given an assignment.)

Quetua said that the teaching shortage is greatly felt in urban areas, where the number of students per section reach up to 60 to 70, which would be “a recipe for disaster under the pandemic situation,” and teachers wouldn’t be able to ensure learning quality under such a dire setup.

“The reduction of class size is very important for safety and to ensure the quality of education of our students, especially now that we are striving to address the learning gaps due to more than two years of school closure,” Quetua said.

ACT is urging the Marcos administration to fast-track hiring of more teachers before the physical reopening of schools “to somehow relieve our educational system of overcrowded classrooms,” and for Congress to mandate in the 2023 budget to create more teaching positions to finally reduce the class size to 35 students per class.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.

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