World Teachers’ Day

Not too long ago, little girls dreamed of becoming like their role models: teachers. These days, a career as educator has lost much of its appeal. As little girls grow up, reality creeps in: teaching calls for long hours of work, and the pay is rarely commensurate to the expertise required.

The realities are worse in some public schools, where a little girl might see the household of her role model become prosperous only when the teacher leaves the profession and works as a maid in Singapore.

This should make Filipinos more appreciative of the dedication of teachers who have opted to remain in their own country. The Filipino educator gives justice to the description of teaching as a noble profession. Teachers are in the front line of efforts to instill in the nation’s most important resource, its human capital, the qualities needed for the Philippines to compete. The country has lagged behind many of its Asian neighbors in competitiveness. This can be attributed in part to a serious lack of qualified teachers.

With many government workers protesting funding cuts and low pay, there is no satisfactory relief in sight for the country’s army of educators. But if teaching has become a profession for the overworked and underpaid, it doesn’t have to be a thankless one. In 1993, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated every Oct. 5 as World Teachers’ Day. This was in recognition of the role played by teachers in shaping the minds of the youth and in the life-long learning process.

This year’s global theme, “Teachers for Gender Equality,” aims to promote the inclusion of more women in the teaching profession. In picking the theme, UNESCO noted that where there are many women teachers, there is also a higher enrolment rate for girls. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterates are women. This makes gender balance in the teaching pool a key concern of the UN.

Gender balance is not a major problem in Philippine education. The problem is under-appreciation for the value of teachers’ work. While the government looks for funds to improve compensation for teachers, others can do their part. Today at 10 a.m. in the Philippines, a “Prayer for Teachers” will be recited simultaneously nationwide. Students are encouraged to send a teacher a letter, a gift or card of appreciation. Thank a teacher today. -Philippine Star

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