What teachers expect from new DepEd Secretary Sonny Angara

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Before Senator Sonny Angara steps into his role as the new Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), teachers' groups expressed eagerness on Tuesday, July 2, to see what changes and initiatives he will bring to the forefront.

Rod Cañalita and Pixabay.jpg
Incoming DepEd Secretary Sonny Angara (Credits: Rod Cañalita and Pixabay)

With years of legislative experience under his belt, Angara faces high expectations from teachers nationwide.

From curriculum reforms to teacher welfare and beyond, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines and the Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) expressed hope that the next Education Secretary will address the concerns of the teaching community and bring meaningful reforms to Philippine education under his leadership.

Game-changing measures needed

ACT Philippines, in a statement, said that Angara will assume the helm of DepEd at a time when the Philippine education system is embroiled in an "unprecedented crisis."

"Game-changing measures are urgently needed to overturn the decline in our country's education quality and to sufficiently capacitate the education system to fulfill its role in nation-building," ACT said.

Following his appointment, ACT presented challenges of the education sector to Angara to be considered among his priorities.

ACT believed Angara should push for the doubling of the education budget to meet the United Nations' standard of allocating the education budget equivalent to six percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

The new DepEd Chief, ACT said, should also "aggressively address the enormous backlog in classroom and facilities construction and create teaching items to effectively reduce class sizes to 20 students in kindergarten and 35 students in elementary and high school."

Instead of relying on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to determine the nature and extent of the learning crisis, ACT said Angara should push for the development of “culturally appropriate national assessment tests and design and implement an evidence-based education recovery program.”

ACT urged Angara to provide sufficient and quality teaching and learning resources such as gadgets, textbooks, modules, and internet allowances, among others.

Angara, ACT said, should overhaul the K to 12 curriculum towards an "education that molds a Filipino citizenry with strong patriotic ideals, trained in scientific study, capable of critical and creative thinking, and possessing a deep sense of service to the people."

This, the group explained, can be achieved by reinstating Philippine History as a dedicated subject in the high school curriculum with a focus on factual Martial Law education to counter historical distortion and strengthen the teaching and use of Filipino and Mother Tongue in education.

For the welfare of teachers, ACT hoped Angara would urgently push for substantial salary increases for them and education support personnel. The group is advocating for a P50,000 entry-level salary for Teachers and a P33,000 monthly salary for Salary Grade I employees.

The new DepEd Chief, ACT said, should also support the call to set minimum salary standards for private school teachers on par with those in public schools.

ACT expressed hope that Angara would “aggressively work” for the creation of sufficient education support personnel items for schools to unload teachers of burdensome administrative duties and enable them to focus on instruction; regularize contractual teachers and education support personnel; and improve the benefits of education workers.

The incoming DepEd Secretary was also urged to ensure the academic freedom of all teachers and full union rights of all education workers and to implement a “democratic style of governance” by holding regular dialogues and democratic consultations with education stakeholders on concerns that affect them.

Engage with stakeholders, teachers

TDC, for its part, expressed hope that the incoming secretary would engage with stakeholders, especially teachers.

"He will encounter significant challenges, but addressing these can lead to substantial progress in our education system," TDC said in a statement.

TDC presented the critical areas that would require Angara's immediate attention, including supporting legislation proposing salary increases for teachers, implementing the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670) welfare provisions, and providing mandatory legal support for teachers facing charges while on duty.

TDC also urged Angara to incorporate discipline enforcement into the child protection policy and implement existing policies crafted to reduce administrative tasks and provide overtime pay for teachers.

Angara, TDC said, should also reform the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) or establish a separate insurance system for teachers and simplify the employee performance rating system by abolishing the Results-Based Performance Management System (RPMS) and providing comprehensive, free training for teachers.

TDC said Angara should work towards expediting the promotion system, particularly for senior high school teachers, and implement the career progression policy outlined in Executive Order 174.

Just like ACT Philippines, TDC expressed hope that Angara would address resource shortages, including classrooms, instructional materials, and support personnel such as guidance counselors, librarians, health workers, and other non-academic staff, revise the curriculum to align with our socio-cultural context, and reinstate Philippine history in high school.

While TDC said Angara will face formidable challenges in DepEd, the group expressed readiness to cooperate to overcome these for the education sector's benefit.

In earlier statements, TDC urged President Marcos to choose educators instead of politicians as the new DepEd Secretary.

READ: 

https://mb.com.ph/2024/6/29/teachers-urge-marcos-consider-current-former-dep-ed-officials-for-next-education-secretary

Following Angara's appointment, TDC said it respects the President's discretion in appointing any member of his cabinet.

READ: 

https://mb.com.ph/2024/6/20/duterte-resigns-who-should-be-the-next-dep-ed-secretary

"For now, we welcome the Senator to the Department and request a meeting with him at his earliest convenience," TDC said. "But we vow to be vigilant in preventing any attempt to use DepEd for partisan politics," the group added.

Following the resignation of Vice President Sara Duterte as DepEd Secretary on June 19, Angara's appointment will be effective starting July 19 or 10 days before the School Year (SY) 2024-2025 formally opens on July 29.

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https://mb.com.ph/2024/7/2/education-health-agencies-welcome-angara-as-new-dep-ed-chief