The Philippines is one of the countries in the world that grapples with the dilemma of not having enough teachers due to low salaries, poor working conditions and the lack of protection from violence in times of conflicts.
Since the late 1980s, there has been an exodus of highly talented Filipino teachers who go abroad in search of greener pastures.
Some have landed teaching jobs in the United States while a big number resorted to accepting menial jobs such as domestic workers and caregivers.
President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd paid tribute to teachers on the observance of World Teachers’ Day and National Teachers’ Month, issuing Proclamation No. 242 for the purpose in 2011.
Proclamation No. 242 was signed on Aug. 24, 2011 by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. “to revitalize the image of teaching as a vocation by increasing public awareness on the value of teachers in Philippine society and national development.”
Teaching is very hard work, as any teacher will tell you. One is overworked and underpaid, but the psychic rewards are plenty and almost always worth the effort and sacrifice. I know because I was also a teacher once.
Despite the flak the teaching profession gets today, we still have many good teachers, even in public schools. We need more of them and they need more government and private sector support to do their jobs better.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) recently urged governments to encourage young people to pursue a teaching career to ensure the availability of qualified teachers who can educate future entrants in the labor force.
ILO Director General Guy Ryder said governments, the private sector and labor groups have the responsibility to ensure decent work, better salary and training for the professional development of teachers.
The ILO chief said educators play a key role in preparing future adults who face challenges of addressing poverty and hunger.
“The dignity of teachers must be respected through decent working conditions. These include freedom of association and opportunities to participate in the formulation of the education policy,” Ryder said.
He said there should be a direct link between quality education to teaching and decent jobs.
Ryder said governments need to ensure that “learning today can translate to jobs for the future generation.”
He urged governments to implement special measures to encourage talented teachers to go to rural areas and reward them by giving them incentives and protection.
There is a bill in the House of Representatives seeking to grant an additional compensation of P10,000 to public school teachers and it has already been approved on second reading and is expected to be transmitted to the Senate soon.
Public school teachers currently receive a minimum salary of P18,549 under the third phase of the Salary Standardization Law.
There are other measures both in the House and the Senate, seeking to upgrade the salary grade level of public school teachers, indeed, the salary levels for all the corresponding teacher plantilla positions in the Department of Education.
I hope at least one of them gets enacted into law and I also hope that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) make the necessary budgetary adjustments to facilitate the smooth implementation of such a measure once it becomes a law.
We as stakeholders of Philippine society should recognize our responsibilities in helping restore the teaching profession to its rightful glory.
We should honor and respect our teachers all the time, not just when we celebrate Teachers’ Day or Teachers’ Month.
The teacher is the most critical link, the most central element in the chain of educational development. Yes, we need more and better books and classrooms and facilities. But material resources are not enough. No material investment can replace the intellectual and spiritual stimulus that is provided by the teacher.
But even as we pay homage to our teachers let us take a look at their problems and see how we can help the government solve these problems.
The list is long, and the teachers have few allies. But even the grueling hours, meager salaries, poor facilities and stifling bureaucracy do not deter them for making a difference in the lives of their students.
I offer my best wishes and sincerest thanks to all our teachers. You are truly real-life heroes. Certainly, we need not only honor you but pay you much higher salaries.