DepEd has tried to keep teachers' pay attractive amid inflation. Why has this not solved staff shortages?

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
DepEd has tried to keep teachers' pay attractive amid inflation. Why has this not solved staff shortages?
Grade 1 student of St Mary Elementary school in Marikina City during face to face class on June 20, 2022.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Even if the Department of Education commits to hiring 30,000 additional public school teachers this year to address classroom congestion as a teachers' group suggests, data shows the agency has struggled to fill vacant teaching positions despite pay hikes.

A Philstar.com analysis shows that the government has generally tried to keep entry-level teachers’ annual salary increases attractive despite soaring inflation.

But from 2019 to 2021 — the three years where Teacher 1 salaries consistently kept pace with the rising cost of goods — DepEd could only meet little more than half of its target number of new teachers hired.


In 2021, for instance, salary for entry-level teachers rose by 7% or from P22,316 to P23,877. This was a higher increase compared to the inflation of 4%.

Meanwhile, only around 53% or around 12,700 of teaching positions were filled out of the nearly 24,000 target in 2021, according to the Commission on Audit.

In a Viber message to Philstar.com, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) emphasized that annual adjustments in teachers’ pay have been "pennies" when compared to the actual family living wage — the amount a household needs to earn for a decent life — which it pegged at P34,000 a month in November 2022.

"The current salary level of teachers and other workers in government is not livable," said Vladimir Quetua, chairperson of ACT.  

To shrink class sizes to 35 students, which is considered a manageable level, ACT has called on the DepEd to hire 30,000 new teachers every year until 2028 — a proposal shot down by Vice President Sara Duterte.

In a heated reply, Duterte, who is also DepEd secretary, said that achieving the feat would be "unrealistic" and "impossible".


DepEd previously set a target of hiring 9,650 new teachers in 2023 — just around a third of what ACT proposed. 

Bureaucracy stalls hiring

DepEd has perennially struggled to hire new teachers every year despite having the funds for it. 

In 2021, senators flagged the agency for having 33,260 unfilled teaching positions — equivalent to P13 billion in funds not disbursed.

"I remember some senators, including myself, flagged this also last year and the year before that. We have to, once for all, find ways to reduce the six-month turn-around time somehow," said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian in a Senate panel hearing on the proposed budget of DepEd for 2022.

The hiring process at DepEd usually takes six months, DepEd officials said during the hearing.  

"We have to, once for all, find ways to reduce the six-month turn-around time somehow," said Gatchalian.

In 2015, DepEd was also flagged for its slow hiring process, which led to a backlog of around 39,000 teachers that had yet to be hired in time for the opening of classes in June, according to a Senate press release.

Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list) on Wednesday said that teachers’ call to hire 30,000 new teachers and construct 50,000 new classrooms yearly until 2028 to eradicate teacher and classroom shortages and improve education quality are “perfectly legitimate and logical demands.”

"It’s important to fill the shortage of school facilities because students increase every year, and the shortage will grow bigger if DepEd does not hire 30,000 new teachers or build 50,000 more classrooms every year," Castro said in Filipino.  

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