'Glaring' teacher shortage on school opening day needs 'strategic' solutions — lawmaker

'Glaring' teacher shortage on school opening day needs 'strategic' solutions � lawmaker
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 — The perennial shortage of teachers in public schools must be met with a comprehensive hiring system and a “strategic” approach by the government, Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list) said.

The lawmaker said that she saw the “glaring lack of teachers and education support personnel” during her visit to three Metro Manila public schools during Tuesday’s opening of classes.

Castro said that she saw the “urgent need for additional personnel, such as nurses and guidance counselors” when she visited Batasan Hills National High School, President Corazon Aquino Elementary School, and Melencio Castelo Elementary School.

"The lack of teachers and education support personnel is a critical issue that needs to be addressed immediately. It directly affects the quality of education and support services that our students receive," the lawmaker said.

"We need a systematic and strategic approach to address the lack of teachers and education support personnel in our public schools," she added.

While DepEd in recent years managed to whittle down the teacher-to-student ratio to around 1:31 for elementary, 1:36 for junior high school and 1:31 for senior high school (as of SY 2017-2018), several schools, especially in highly urbanized cities, continue to have large class sizes.

Commission on Audit reports on DepEd from 2019 to 2021 show that DepEd has struggled to fill its target number of teaching positions despite modicum increases in pay.

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

Besides having manageable class sizes, Castro also stressed the need for more nurses and guidance counselors in schools to provide students with physical and mental health support.

In the country, there are only roughly 2,000 guidance counselors in schools, bloating the guidance counselor-to-student ratio to around 1:500, a DepEd official told a House panel in January.

RELATED: Lack of guidance counselors hampers prevention of student suicides 

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa assured the public in March that the agency intends to continue hiring more teaching and non-teaching personnel in 2023. In particular, DepEd said that it would hire 9,650 more teachers.

Unutilized funds for hiring 

State auditors' report on the education department for 2022 found that several DepEd offices failed to utilize billions of funds allotted for the hiring of teachers. 

For instance, in DepEd NCR, COA found that around P1 billion for the hiring of teaching and non-teaching personnel was left untouched, while DepEd's Cotabato office did not use its P106 million fund to hire more teachers and procure learning materials.

Around 22 million students have enrolled for School Year 2023-2024, latest DepEd data shows.

— Cristina Chi

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