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Teachers' group: Educators largely 'disappointed' with DepEd's Briones

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Teachers' group: Educators largely 'disappointed' with DepEd's Briones
Staff of Dagat Dagatan Elementary School in Navotas City prepare the classroom and other materials needed on Sept. 16, 2021 once the government allows the resumption of face-to-face classes.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Many of the country's teachers are "disappointed" with the performance of Education Secretary Leonor Briones over the past few years, a group representing teachers said Monday. 

Speaking in an interview aired over ANC's "Headstart," Alliance of Concerned Teachers secretary-general Raymond Basilio said that the group has been calling for Salary Grade 15 as entry-level pay for teachers. 

This comes on top of poor teaching and learning conditions, student test scores that lag behind Southeast Asian peers, and insufficient instructional facilities worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, among other immediate problems in the education sector.

"We know that there's a limited budget, but we've been doing this injustice to our teachers for several years already... it's not merely about increasing, it's about correcting the injustice that has been done to our teachers," he said. 

As it stands, a Teacher I gets Salary Grade 11 or P25,439. In her report to President Rodrigo Duterte last September 2021, Briones said the department focused on increasing the salaries of teachers, raising it to P23,877 under the present administration from P19,077.

“By the time you end your administration in 2022, the lowest salary rate of a teacher, lowest grade is P25,439, and not the pittance, which has also been described by various sources,” Briones was quoted in a Palace statement.

The increase in wages however is in accordance with the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, but teachers remained in Salary Grade 11 despite repeated requests to set an entry-level educator’s salary at Grade 15.

'P5,000 to P8,000'

Sen. Win Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate basic education, arts, and culture committee, has said that the entry-level pay for teachers in the Philippines is lower compared to other ASEAN countries. 

But even in public schools, Basilio said that ACT continues to receive reports of teachers taking home just P5,000 to P8,000 per month for their work. "They are being abused terribly by their employers," he said, though he admitted it was difficult for the government to step in for private enterprises. 

Was the issue ever addressed in the nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic? "Well, we never heard Secretary Briones supporting our call for better compensation packages for our teachers. That's the truth," Basilio responded. 

"In fact, it was her who said that our teachers are well-compensated already and we do not need an increase. So that's why a lot of teachers are actually not happy with her leadership," he also said. 

Asked what Briones' achievements were during her stint as chief of the Department of Education, Basilio said: "It's hard to say anything about that, because we are very much disappointed with her."

The ACT sec-gen pointed out that many students up to Grade 3 will be going back to on-site classes not knowing how to read and write. 

"We are the only country in the world that is yet to open our schools back again, so that is something that we should be thinking of. Why has she allowed our schools to be closed for almost two years?"

"We've been seeing the effects of the closure of schools in our students, and it is the teachers who are going to take the toll of this problem."

According to the World Bank in 2021, more than 80% of students in the Philippines do not meet the learning standards expected for their grade level. It also pointed to what it said was a crisis in Philippine education "which started pre-COVID but will have been made worse" by the pandemic. 

Briones eventually sought a public apology from the World Bank for that report, saying the Philippines was "insulted" and "shamed" by its findings. — Franco Luna with a report from Angelica Y. Yang 

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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