By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) is pushing for higher salaries for guidance counselors in an effort to address the lack of such professionals in the country’s public schools system.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones noted that DepEd has submitted a proposal to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to increase the salary of guidance counselors. “This is to help address the lack of such professionals in many public schools,” she explained.
Briones said that the lack of guidance counselors “has been a persistent problem” not just in public schools but in all levels of education system as a whole.
“That has been a persistent problem,” Briones said, pertaining to the lack of guidance counselors in most public schools. “The profession itself is not necessarily attracting enough graduates to go into the field and if they’re in the field, to go to the public sector,” she added.
Based on the data provided by DepEd Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla, the total number of authorized plantilla Guidance-related items is 3,553 as of June 2018. However, she noted that “only 1,483 or 42% are filled.
Of this number, only 393 are Registered Guidance Counselors (RGCs) and the remaining 1,090 items are filled up by non-RGCs. “Nationwide, there are only 3220 RGCs as of July 2017,” Sevilla said. She explained that when guidance counselors join public schools, their starting salary is pegged at Teacher I with an entry salary of about P21,000. To make the salary “more attractive,” she said that DepEd is requesting for the DBM to adjust their pay to around P31,000.
Given the increased awareness of mental health, Briones underscored the need for licensed professionals to guide the learners. “We talk about helping children make decisions as to what courses they will be taking, decisions about life, about sexuality, about reproductive health [so] we need professionals,” she said. To be able to get professionals, she noted that “we need to pay them adequately.”
Due to the lack of guidance counselors, many teachers in public schools are designated to take on the role. However, these teachers – who are assigned to take on the role of guidance counselors – are on a different title or position.
While addressing the lack of guidance counselors in the country’s public schools is beyond its control, DepEd assured that it is looking for means to close the said gap.
In an effort to address this issue, DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said that the department is looking into the possibility of hiring fresh graduates. He noted that DepEd “can hire them for an entry level while they are completing their masteral as required by the law before they are given the guidance counselor position” with, hopefully, higher salaries.
Sevilla expressed optimism that the DepEd’s proposal to the DBM to increase the salary grade of guidance counselors and to create an entry-level position to attract fresh graduates – since the law requires the completion of a graduate degree and the passing of licensure exam – for full-fledged guidance counselors will address the problem.
Meanwhile, Sevilla said that based on a recent meeting with an association of guidance counselors, it was noted that there are only 3,220 registered guidance counselors in the country. With this number, there will still be lack of guidance counselors even if all of them join public schools.
Briones also noted that the DepEd is also “restrained’ by the law when it comes to hiring guidance counselors. Currently, the law requires guidance counselors to obtain a master’s degree and pass the licensure exam. The masteral degree requirement, coupled with low salary, might be “discouraging” those want to pursue the career or the profession.