A teachers’ group on Monday, Nov. 14, reiterated the need for a “higher budget” for the education sector as the country grapples with the learning crisis brought about by school closures amid the pandemic.
“There is a marked deflation in the grades of our learners as we now compute for their grades for the first quarter of the school year,” said Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines Chairperson Vladimer Quetua said.
“While we do not want our learners to be grade conscious, this should be a matter of concern for the government as it indicates a greater need for measures to address the learning crisis,” he added.
Quetua also pointed out that the there resumption of face-to-face classes provided is the “real picture that many of our learners struggle to read and comprehend lessons, even those in high school.”
Given this, he noted that it is “not enough that schools have been reopened, our teachers and learners need an enabling learning environment, as well as an evidence-based and effective education recovery program, which both demand higher state subsidy.”
As the Senate plenary deliberated on the budgets of the Department of Education (DepEd) and state colleges and universities, the group held a picket protest in front of the Senate gate to call for a bigger budget allocation for education.
“Cramped classrooms, makeshift learning spaces, scant learning resources, and overworked and underpaid teachers will simply not do if we want education to truly recover, nor will merely extending learning time for remedial classes bridge the learning gaps,” Quetua said.
He also stressed that it would be “more productive to rethink and adjust” the whole curriculum based on an objective study of the general level of proficiency of learners instead of “blindly chasing” the problematic set of K to 12 competencies.
“The government should give education the needed fuel to change the course of our declining education quality,” he added.
To address the learning crisis and fix the system, ACT said that the allocation of the higher education budget should be as much as the equivalent of six percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) “to salvage the education system amid grade deflation and erosion of teachers’ real salaries.” Quetua argued that inadequate teachers’ pay is an “objective hindrance” to improving education quality.
“How can we expect quality teaching if our already overworked teachers are forced to take on extra jobs or leave the teaching profession so that they can amply provide for their families?” he asked.
The group also pointed out that the “problem today is a result of decades of government’s scrimping on the needs of education.”
Quetua noted that for so long, the education budget has only reached up to two to three percent of the GDP.
As the country faces a learning crisis, Quetua underscored the need to “double” the proposed 2023 allocation for basic education and state colleges and universities.
“We need to raise the salaries of teachers and education support personnel to liveable and decent levels,” he said. “As we now suffer the consequences of many years of government neglect, we hope that our lawmakers will finally be jolted to action and give what is due to education,” Quetua noted.
These, he said, can be done if the lawmakers would “correct the gross misallocations on confidential and intelligence funds, onerous debt payments and infrastructure programs that are prone to corruption and deliver little benefits to the people.”