June 05, 2019
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has not forgotten his pledge to increase the salaries of public school teachers, which is why the country’s economic managers are working on ways to deliver on that promise, as presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said earlier this week.
Teachers are not exactly considered dirt poor by urban standards now in this country.
Their monthly salary stands at P20,754 for the Teacher 1 category and P22,938 for Teacher 2.
But the common perception of teachers is that theirs is a noble profession and no one should resent a salary hike that they deserve.
Although the real amount of household financial requirements is still being debated, there is widespread agreement that teachers are not being paid enough to enable them to focus on delivering good quality education for their students rather than thinking of being able to support their families financially.
According to figures provided by the National Economic and Development Authority last year, a family of five needs about P42,000 per month to live above the poverty line.
If simply to survive and nothing else, a family needs at least P23,660 per month. That was the figure cited as a “living wage” by the party-list group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in a protest rally on Monday against low teachers’ salaries and inadequate public school facilities. Their members cited data from the Ibon Foundation.
Education is a fundamental source of the country’s economic and social strength. Without a sound basic education system, we cannot develop a skilled workforce and improve social stability.
Unfortunately, for as much understanding of the importance of education expressed by generations of government leaders, it continues to take a back seat to other priorities.
This is reflected in statistics on public education spending. Even though the Philippines has the second-largest population among the 10 Asean nations, government spending on education is the third-lowest. Despite having both a growing school-age population and a gross domestic product (GDP) expanding at an admirable rate, the Philippines spends just 2.7 percent of GDP on education. The only Asean countries that spend less are Myanmar and Cambodia.
Public education funding in Malaysia and Vietnam, by contrast, is nearly double that of the Philippines (5.1 and 5.7 percent, respectively). What’s more, with more than 27 million students attending school this year, the Philippine budget for the Department of Education was actually reduced by P9.5 billion in the delayed 2019 General Appropriations Act.
Teachers who cannot focus on their vocation due to concerns about making ends meet for their families cannot provide the quality instruction and mentoring every Filipino student needs to become a productive member of society. Our people are the foundation of everything else the country hopes to achieve, and if they are not equipped with useful knowledge and skills, the shortcomings are magnified to negatively affect every facet of society.
However, raising teachers’ salaries is seen by economic managers as a prohibitive cost too heavy for the government to carry. The latest estimates of the additional amount the government would need for the purpose would range from P150 billion to P344 billion.
Yet, if one looks at that higher figure in proportion to the country’s P17.31-trillion GDP, one will realize it is less than two one-hundredths of a percent of GDP. Therefore, “higher cost” as an argument in that light pales into insignificance.
Teachers deserve to earn a salary that respects the important role they serve in the country’s growth and success. The government should make finding a solution a top priority.
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