Science and Environment

Does the teaching profession deserve a declaration of a ‘state of calamity’?

STAR SCIENCE - Luis F. Razon, Ph.D. - The Philippine Star

My answer is “yes.” Let me explain.

In 2016, the first batch of the K-12 program students will progress to Grade 11 instead of proceeding to college under the old system. Except for a handful of graduates from the few high schools that are already K-12 compliant, there really will not be anyone entering the colleges and universities around the country. With a minimal amount of students, who will the teachers teach? Most of the universities in the country are private, meaning they depend largely on tuition for their revenue. Even the public universities depend on tuition revenue to some extent. Without students, where will the revenue come from? Many of these colleges and universities are already operating on a shoestring budget. The cash flow impact will be significant.

This initial disruption will be followed by a more lasting one. Since many of the basic education subjects will now be taught in high school rather than in the university, the required number of units necessary to obtain a university degree will be less. Indeed, many of the staples that used to pepper the curricula are no longer mandated by the Commission on Higher Education. P.E. is no longer required and neither are English and Pilipino, per se. The colleges have the option to require these on their own volition but the bottom line is there will be fewer subjects to teach. With less subjects to teach, less teachers are needed, so what to do with the current faculty?

Government consultants have been going around the universities explaining the legal options open to the universities and their faculty. The options given include asking the faculty to do research, giving faculty administrative tasks, reassigning basic education faculty to teach senior high school, and immersing faculty in industry activities. Research and administrative duties are not revenue-generating and therefore are unattractive options for the less prosperous institutions. Transferring to senior high school is obviously unpalatable to most tertiary education faculty from an economic standpoint and there would be thorny issues of how to settle issues of rank and length of service. Besides, most universities’ students do not come from their own high schools. Industry immersion would at best be a temporary measure.

The last alternative, the least attractive to everyone, is retrenchment of the unneeded faculty. If the entire institution is to be kept alive, cash flow needs to be managed and, without tuition revenue, there may simply not be enough cash to go around. The most vulnerable are those who teach part-time. They have no legal options. The institutions can merely opt not to renew their contracts. Next are the junior, untenured faculty. Like any other industry facing a financial crunch, “last in, first out” applies.

What will these people do for a livelihood? Suddenly, these members of the “noblest profession,” through no fault of their own, would have no means of supporting themselves or their families. There are many good reasons to adopt the K-12 program and really there is no other way to lengthen basic education without keeping the students from enrolling in the universities. But for all the lip-service given to the value of teachers to society, there are apparently no plans for keeping our colleagues from going under.

Much like a typhoon or earthquake, here are innocents who will lose their livelihoods with no clear alternative for the future. Surely, this is a CALAMITY and the government should make a declaration of such for the teaching profession. Teachers deserve a “state of calamity” so that they may avail themselves of the help given to calamity victims: interest-free loans and availability of local funds for rebuilding of “infrastructure.” The interest-free loans need not be limited to individuals; they may be granted to institutions, too. If we think of faculty, universities and colleges as “infrastructure” that needs to be rebuilt after the calamity, then the advantages of this perspective should become obvious. Pricing controls, similar to those given to senior citizens, would go a long way to helping the displaced teachers rebuild their lives. Extending the medical benefits of laid-off faculty would also help.

The K-12 program is a relentless juggernaut and, deservedly so, because it really is for the benefit of the students. Perhaps, this is why opposition to it has been so muted — K-12 is for the students and all real teachers would place the benefit of the students ahead of themselves.

Alfred North Whitehead wrote­­­­­: “… the essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things…” and, by this definition, the K-12 program is a tragedy for many tertiary school teachers. Tertiary education teachers deserve a safety net and the government can provide it by recognizing this tragedy and declaring a “state of calamity” for teachers.

* * *

Dr. Luis F. Razon is a full professor of the Department of Chemical Engineering in De La Salle University. He graduated from De La Salle University in 1980 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering (magna cum laude). He obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana under the direction of Prof. Roger A. Schmitz in 1985. Prior to returning to the academe in 2001, he worked in the food industry where he saw the impact of constant corporate reorganizations and retrenchments on his colleagues. He would dearly love not to see this again. E-mail him at [email protected].











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