A federation of teachers on Tuesday, Oct. 20, criticized the Learning Support Aide (LSAs) program of the Department of Education (DepEd) for not taking into consideration the needs of marginalized students under the distance/blended learning, especially those who belong to the poorest communities and those who lack capable or available adult guidance at home.
Following the guidelines released by the agency on the selection and recruitment of LSAs, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines pointed out that its design “will not provide the learning needs of the marginalized students in distance learning,” such as those who do not have access to technology, as well as those who cannot learn independently, among others.
“The LSA program does not really provide learning opportunities for the most disadvantaged, as by DepEd design. LSAs have no teaching function and will simply assist teachers in class management and clerical work,” ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio said.
While other students have learning opportunities via online classes, phone-based consultations, and home tutorials, among others, Basilio said that the most marginalized will “remain wanting of somebody to teach them the contents of the modules.”
ACT also questioned the viability of the program given the unreliable sources of funds identified for hiring LSAs, as well as the long and arduous hiring process set by DepEd.
The guidelines identified the Special Education Fund, local government funds, DepEd division office Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), local school MOOE, and DepEd special project funds or support from the private sector, as fund sources in order of priority.
“We are afraid that this program will go nowhere as, instead of allocating funds for it, the DepEd is again passing on to LGUs and local schools the task of financing LSA salaries when these funds have already been drained for modules, devices, and school safety supplies,” Basilio said. “Moreover, LSAs could be too-late-the-hero to prevent the rapid dropping out of unattended learners given the laborious hiring process set by DepEd,” he added.
Basilio also argued that the guidelines may “violate” teachers’ basic right to just compensation as it mainly targets professional teachers but would only pay salaries at minimum wage levels.
“Our professional teachers will essentially be relegated to this program, when in fact they have the capability and training to really teach the marginalized students and have the right to be compensated accordingly,” Basilio said.
Instead of the LSA program, ACT is pushing for the hiring of 100,000 community tutors who are teachers that will “conduct community-based learning to service the most marginalized students” and should be paid Teacher 1 or entry-level salaries.