Thursday ∗ 07 Oct 2010

dear P-Noy, on Teachers Day 2010

which has just passed, this day that should be more momentous than most because you yourself spoke of your own teachers at this speech you delivered to commemorate it two days ago. there is no person who was not affected by a teacher in a good way, and that teacher need not be in the classroom.

in the ideal world though, in a world where education is all important in a real sort of way, that teacher would be in the classroom, inspiring students to become teachers too, if not become productive/honest/compassionate citizens of nation. but that is an ideal, and this is not the most ideal of situations we’re in as you yourself say.

but maybe we must start with agreeing on this: if we value education and learning, we must first and foremost value our teachers, and yes, even more so public school teachers. no government has done so in the longest time. no government has cared truthfully and sincerely enough.

why? because it isn’t an easy task to value teachers. because this isn’t about spending on infrastructure and giving students textbooks. to value teachers is to hear them out, to hear them out is to know that their lives within the halls of the public school system are really and truly the most horrid for any teacher across the world. the answer to the question of “why?” is so simple that i will, instead, take you up on all the things you said you are doing for teachers’ benefit and welfare.

(1) you said you were going to build infrastructure where it is needed, and yes it is needed as pictures of overfilled public school classrooms must be floating in your head, as we know of how 60 students fill up classrooms across this country.

BUT. won’t dividing this 60-student classroom just mean having the same teacher running across two rooms, repeating the same lesson? and then imagine doing that in those uniforms with horrible thick and hot tela, and the required heeled shoes, and tadah! a teacher who suffers because there are now more classrooms, but still the same number of teachers.

2) in aid of de-congesting our public schools, you say that there’s now the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education or GASTPE, which is suppose to “make our private school system better so that it can be a viable alternative for parents who want to put their kids to school.”

I translated this section of your speech from Filipino with a smirk. because you don’t need to change anything in the private school system: you need to talk to them owners of private schools to bring down their tuition fees. because in fact, parents who used to be able to afford private schools have been bringing their kids to public schools. the private school tuition fees have killed the middle class families, believe you me. so to think that you can use the private school to decongest the public school? HAH!

3) you say that to help teachers “develop their skills” you are for the National Competency-Based Teacher Standards or NCBTS which will give teachers a whole new set of rules to follow, and some guidelines on which they will be tested, through which they will learn the new ways of teaching.

my question is this: have you seen the NCBTS? the only way it will be used properly and effectively is if all public school teachers are made to go on leave for a full year, un-learning what they’ve practiced all these years, and learning these new ways of teaching and learning. give them a year off with pay, where they will learn to teach again using the NCBTS, during which they can go through real seminars for their areas of specialization, and for English skills as well. have the peace corps teach our public schools for a bit, get volunteers from the private school system (where teachers are paid infinitely better). or sige, compromise tayo: give public school teachers time off with pay, even if just twice a week, thrice if you include saturdays, and have them go through seminars for all the changes you want for a full year or two. it’s only though something like this that this NCBTS plan of yours will be fruitful.

otherwise, it will just be something that will be used by the tenured/regular faculty members in public schools to threaten the job security of the younger/contractual/casual faculty members. and just so you know, as a perfect example of how the NCBTS will just be another test that will not be a measure of teachers’ competencies, check out the fantastic grammar on this site that talks precisely about NCBTS.

your government has said that the “wrong identification of the problem leads to the wrong solution.” well, this is exactly what ails your decisions with regard to education in this country, no matter the kindness of Bro. Luistro’s heart.

you think our problem is the lack of two years in our curriculum: the real problem is that the current curriculum for 10 years isn’t being taught well and doesn’t have corresponding relevant/correct/ critical textbooks for the times. you think our problem is too much homework for kids: the real problem is that this homework is nothing but a reflection of the kind of (non-)teaching that goes on in most public schools, where copying off the board and memorizing without understanding is the point. you think our problem is that our teachers are incompetent: the bigger problem is that they aren’t given enough respect and value to be wanting to teach better and learn more in the process.

the bigger problem is that competent contractual faculty members are at the mercy of the tenured regularized faculty members in the public schools. and while this is not to generalize, you need to have a sense of this struggle, and with whom the change can lie: the teachers who are still excited about teaching are DepEd’s and CHED’s allies.

but protect them. protect our teachers. allow them an amount of job security even when they’ve only been teaching in for a year. don’t treat the academe like a government office where regularization takes forever: teaching is a highly skilled job. telling teachers they need years to gain tenure is to say that they’re nothing but workers. kill off that bundy clock: it’s the worst kind of oppression for teachers who work overtime every day, planning lessons and checking papers outside the classroom, researching and studying on their own outside of school. to require teachers to stay in school beyond their class time is only fair if the schools are equipped with the things that make studying and checking and planning lessons easy: an internet connection, a good school and teachers’ library, desks and tables for studying and writing versus desks that are attached to each other, assembly line style.

protect the teachers, P-Noy, by taking steps to pay them what’s due them from the GSIS and the SSS, where teachers are treated horribly, from which I personally got my benefits a full 22 months after I needed it. protect the teachers, P-Noy by paying them better when you require them to serve during elections.

and quite simply P-Noy, protect teachers by giving them a salary increase. and just in case you think they don’t deserve it, here’s the truth.

when I taught in a public school last year (SY 2009-2010) I was forced to bundy in for six hours a day, regardless of my hours in the classroom. six hours times 10 days (which is half the month that I’m required to be in school) equals 60 hours for the 7,000 pesos or so that I would get on the 15th and 30th of every month. subtract the amounts taken by Pag-Ibig and GSIS and PhilHealth (all of which I have yet to receive IDs for), and that goes down to about P6,500. that means I would get P108 pesos per hour.

yes you read that right: that’s P108.00 pesos per hour. sakto lang sa pamasahe at pagkain. kulang pa para sa pentel pen, manila paper at white board marker na ako pa ang bumibili dahil ang haba ng pila sa paghingi sa school.

if you want to value your teachers, P-Noy, start by telling your Congress to sign House Bill 2142 or the “Public School Teachers’ Salary Upgrade Act” which only has 48 signatures out of 277 house representatives. if you want to value your teachers P-Noy, do so by treating them a little better than you would your regular employee. you are telling your teacher that the future is in their hands, that you want them to mold minds and change this country’s children’s perspectives about the world. this is an infinitely bigger responsibility than that which falls on the shoulders of too many — if not most — government officials.

the public school teacher’s life is really quite difficult enough. it would do your government well to see that everything you’ve wanted to do thus far will not mean any concrete or tangible change in the educational system, and is only going to make things worse.

and yes, P-Noy, if you’re a teacher like me, who’s taught within the tragedies and travesties of the public school’s space(s), you would know that making things worse is the easiest thing to do.

Posted in: akademya, aktibismo, bayan, gobyerno, komentaryo, pulahan, pulitika

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