APROPOSAL to increase the salary scale of public school teachers in basic education will not solve the problem of education quality. What it will do is to increase the number of applicants who will jostle for permanent teacher positions despite the lack of qualifications.
Moving one step down the line, an attractive compensation package encourages young high school graduates to think of a career in education, thus resulting in increased enrollment in education degree programs. If there is no control on the quality of teacher education at the tertiary level, then we are simply increasing the number of education graduates who will hopefully pass the licensure examination for teachers . . . eventually.
While the public school system still lacks qualified teachers and principals that are sufficient in number to make a difference, this is a function of the quality of teachers produced at the higher education level. However, since the quality of higher education graduates is dependent on the quality of basic education graduates, then we are unable to produce the quantity and quality of teachers needed to improve Philippine education.
What we hope to happen is to break the vicious cycle of a poor basic education program feeding graduates into a tertiary education program unable to produce a sufficient number of quality teachers to improve basic education.
Instead, we would like to see a virtuous cycle where quality basic education produces graduates who have the potential to improve themselves further in higher education so that they are able to pass the licensure examination for teachers in one try; thereby feeding into basic education more quickly.
The introduction of the Registry of Qualified Applicants (RQA) in 2012 by the Department of Education is a first step in breaking the vicious cycle. While the RQA can still be improved in both criteria and cut-off scores, the system of ranking applicants and posting the ranks in public venues has helped superintendents do their job of selecting best qualified applicants for vacancies.
They are now able to move away from a “padrino” system where they previously had to accommodate the requests of interested third parties or else suffer the consequences of not getting institutional support. With the current system, there is no need for endorsement. In fact, endorsements are not part of the criteria in ranking applicants.
The RQA system has begun to weed out unqualified teacher applicants. It has shown that, perhaps because of a previous increase in salary scales, there are tens of thousands of teachers hoping to obtain secure public school teacher positions. However, the bottleneck is still the quality of applicants. Consequently, increasing the salary scale further, by itself, will not solve the problem of quality education.
Admittedly, improving salary scales serves as a magnet to draw interest in the education field. Yet, what the country needs and wants are teachers who enter the profession for its noble ends. Teaching, especially at the basic education level, is not a job. It is a lifelong commitment to shape the hearts and minds of young, trusting children so that when they graduate, they develop the passion to serve the nation, whichever sector of society they end up in.
The challenge, therefore, is to attract a critical mass of young, bright high school students to pursue a degree in education. Ideally, they will excel at the tertiary level, work in the public sector, and help energize our current pool of teachers, now carefully screened, to become catalysts of change.
Dr. Santiago is a Full Professor at the Management and Organization Department, of De La Salle University. She teaches Corporate Social Responsiveness, Sustainable Organizations, Leadership in Organization, Family Business Management, Human Resource Management, and Finance in Education. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.