By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Amid complaints of teachers groups on workload of teachers especially in public schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) assured that it is already doing a review to address the issue.
DepEd Undersecretary and spokesperson Anne Sevilla told the Manila Bulletin that the workload and other curriculum-related issues being brought up by teachers groups are currently being looked into by the concerned DepEd department.
Groups such as Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines and Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) have been calling the attention of DepEd on the “heavy workload” of public school teachers which, according to them, greatly takes toll on the “physical and mental” health of the educators. Both groups also cited cases of teachers who killed themselves allegedly due to the “exhaustion” just to comply with the “demands” of DepEd.
DepEd has yet to issue an official statement on the issues raised by teachers’ groups – particularly on teachers who died by suicide. Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Sevilla said, wants to discuss the issue further in a press briefing. “In the meantime, concerned regional offices are validating details of the report and our curriculum group is also doing review of workload issue,” she added.
Teachers of all trades
Meanwhile, progressive group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines observed that the workload of public school teachers has “become more and more burdensome over the years.” This, the group said, is due to the implementation of policies that “demand greater effort” from the teachers.
The group, in an earlier statement, also criticized the non-implementation of policies “that secure ample rest” among teachers. These policies, they claimed, are not directly related to teaching have wringing out the “labor power out of our mentors’ beings.”
ACT has noted several reasons why teachers in public schools are “overworked.” The main reason, according to them, is the “pathetic number of education support staff.” More than a decade ago, the group said the DepEd has implemented a rationalization program wherein about 6,000 nonteaching items were abolished.
In 2017, ACT said the “ratio of DepEd nonteaching staff to teachers is at 1:18 while the ratio of nonteaching staff to students is even worse at 1:658.” Thus, “each staff only performs specialized duties as doctors, nurses, guidance counselors, or librarians.” The ratios in the school level, the group noted, is “more pitiful as most of these education support personnel are assigned in the DepEd national, regional and division offices.”
The group also lashed out the “contractual maintenance personnel whose salaries are paid for by the local government units or parents associations could not even cover the general upkeep of school premises.” This, ACT said, forces teachers to “wear a variety of hats in school.”
The heavy workload of teachers is also attributed to the K to 12 program. ACT noted that the “addition of grade levels under the K-12 program without foresight and preparation has scattered thinly the already stretched teaching workforce.”
The implementation of the K to 12, ACT said, has “caused the ballooning of class size, which entailed heavier demands on teachers, both in actual teaching and other teaching-related duties such as checking of student work, computation of grades, monitoring student development, relating to parents/guardians, etc.” The group also noted the “huge gaps between the number of classrooms, instructional materials, instructional facilities, and nonteaching personnel needed and the existing ones.”
While the K to 12 Curriculum demands outcomes-based education framework, ACT said the DepEd fails to provide enough instructional and learning materials. Due to lack or existence of “unusable” textbooks in a number of Grade levels, and lack of modules and instructional materials for teachers in the Senior High School (SHS), the group noted that “teachers take the extra effort of finding suitable materials for their use and their students.” This “experimental curriculum,” Act said, “frustrates the teacher as learning seems to be more difficult for students.”
ACT noted that the outcomes-based education framework – due to the K to 12 – also “banks heavily on student output in the form of numerous reports and projects that taxes teachers with lots of checking time instead of focusing on the improvement of pedagogy and monitoring learners’ development.”
The group also lamented that the result-based framework in evaluation and performance-based bonuses and benefits that is being implemented is “oppressive.”
The Result-based Performance Management System, ACT said, has been a burden for teachers. They also hit the implementation of the “more oppressive” Philippine Professional Standards for Teachers which is currently being rolled out in schools.
“Both strain teachers with an amount of paperwork good enough to occupy full-time staff,” ACT said. “The evaluation system that is based on an array of modes of verification requires teachers to accumulate documents, artifacts and certificates to prove the duties they performed,” the group added.
With the education budget, facilities and support are “sorely lacking,” ACT noted that these “oppressive policies,” put the blame on and that responsibility to teachers on achieving the quality education. Teachers, meanwhile, are “hostages by the policy as benefits and bonuses, as well as promotion depend on the thickness of their portfolio.”
The health of teachers, ACT said, is also compromised due to these policies. ACT said that the 84 days Proportional Vacation Pay (PVP) is a “myth.”
“Teachers are not entitled to sick leave, vacation leave, birthday leave, and special purpose leave benefits guaranteed by labor laws,” ACT said. “What they have instead is PVP during summer and Christmas breaks,” the group added.
ACT said the 84 days provision is “misleading as it counts even the weekends which are nonworking days for all government employees.” The summer vacation of teachers, the group said, is consumed by “paper works, summer reading camp, seminars, [and] meetings” and other activities that are required by DepEd such as the “Brigada Eskwela.”
The group also lamented that many weekends during the entire school year, teachers are asked to “come to school for meetings, parents-teachers conferences, preparation for school activities and programs, and many others.” Meanwhile, ACT added that all the “extra days of work, however, could not be recompensed as they can only apply for service credits of up to 10 days per year” and these “excess days they rendered service are just listed as sacrifices, but are actual days and time lost for ample rest and quality family time.”
ACT, on the other hand, urged the DepEd and the government to recognize these “difficult conditions” that take a toll on teachers and address their concerns. “Not a few of our teachers suffer from exhaustion and work-related ailments,” the group said. “The need to be liberated from such oppressive policies and inhumane working conditions is urgent and imperative,” it added.
The group also expressed support to the bill filed by ACT Teachers Party-list seeking the lowering of teachers’ retirement age to 55 years old, as in the uniformed personnel. “Whatever the fate of this progressive bill may be the sources of teachers’ overwork should be addressed and eliminated,” the group ended.