Thank the teachers

Teaching has often been described as a thankless job. This is probably why the Department of Education, as part of activities marking Teachers’ Month this September, is urging students to thank their teachers. Beyond gratitude, the DepEd should consider other ways of showing appreciation for teachers’ services.

Without those other ways, the country is likely to continue losing its teachers, and to see enrollment in education courses fall. Thousands of teachers have left the country for better paying jobs overseas. A number of them opted to take jobs as maids in places such as Hong Kong and Singapore rather than work three shifts daily in their own country for a fraction of what they can earn overseas. Others are teaching English in places such as Cambodia and inner city schools in the United States. The exodus of qualified English teachers has taken its toll on the English proficiency of the Philippines’ workforce.

As required under the Constitution, education gets the largest share of the annual appropriation among all sectors in government, although the amount is lower than the allocation for debt payments. The bulk of the education budget goes to personnel services. Still, teachers’ pay is modest considering the working hours and skills required.

There is little room for salary adjustments in a cash-strapped developing country, where all government workers and services can use more funding. But if the Aquino administration wants to stop the slide in the country’s competitiveness, it must start by improving the quality of education. And this requires competent teachers.

Students can sit in the shade of trees, lacking classrooms and other school facilities. But without a competent teacher, no learning will take place. Unattractive pay and the exodus of educators have forced school supervisors to hire even people who lack the required qualifications to teach. The government must find ways of investing more in the country’s teaching pool despite budget constraints. Teachers appreciate gratitude, but they can surely use more cash. -The Philippine Star Editorial, September 04, 2011

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