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Rough Cuts | The perennial problem of lack of teachers

Today, Monday, June 3, millions will be trooping back to schools as the new school year starts in most if not all public educational institutions. Many of the students are those moving to the next year levels while a good number are new entrants in the kindergarten and elementary grades.

As always the attendant problems are lack of classrooms, teachers, books and other material requirements to effectively impart the knowledge the students deserve to acquire while attending school.

That some of the problems are recurrent is understandable. After all the increase of students every opening of the school year is a given. What with the Philippine population increasing in number by leaps and bounce.

But one problem that we believe should not happen every school year is the lack of teachers in public schools. No less than the Department of Education (DepEd) is admitting that the number of teachers currently in the roster of the Department is disproportionate to the number of students enrolled. This lack is manifested by DepEd by its continued announcement that the government needs as many teachers every incoming school year.
But even with the public announcement of the need for additional teachers by DepEd, the problem of teachers lack still exists. This is in spite of the fact that the number of new enrollees is easily predictable by the agency on a year on year basis.

On the same vein, the education agency is not wanting in ways to project the number of new teachers annually. It has the mechanism to coordinate with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities that will allow monitoring of new graduates for the teaching course as well as the number of licensure examination passers.

The projected figures are the ones used by the DepEd in preparing its annual budget that is submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for initial review and consolidation with the funding requirements of other government agencies. From the DBM the proposed national expenditures will go to Congress for further review, deliberations and final approval after extensive hearings with executives of agencies concerned, the DepEd included.

The education agency’s annual budget of course includes allocation for salaries of teachers under the existing plantilla as well as those that the agency is requesting for creation based on its projected increase in teacher requirements.

We are certain therefore that Congress, being made aware of the growing number of students every year will doubt the figure of new teachers requested in the budget. Hence, in all likelihood, Congress which has the sole power to approve the national appropriations will give its imprimatur on the creation of more teaching positions as per request of the DepEd.
If at all Congress has to do some skimming it is likely to apply it on other proposed expenditures like purchases of books, laboratory equipment, transportation requirement, and possibly on some infrastructures. But as for teacher requirements we can be certain it is the least of Congress clipping attention. But why is there a continuous prevalence of the supposed lack of teachers every school opening?

Frankly, we do not totally believe it is the real situation. From our discreet conversation with some principals of public schools we were able to figure out why the lack of teachers exists in the public school system.

Many school heads confided to us that they have existing opening for teachers of this and that subject. Unfortunately for the principals, applicants who have taken the ranking examination in the district their schools belong are still no shoo-ins for acceptance.

According to the school heads we have talked with even high scores in the ranking test is no guaranty. They confided to us that they have specific instructions from superiors that before any applicant for teaching vacancy is considered, he or she has to get prior endorsement from the Congressional office of the district where the school belongs. They said that for the total number of new teaching plantilla approved in a particular schools division so much number is reserved for endorsees or recommendees of the district’s representative.

In other words, the Division offices of the DepEd only start processing application for teaching position after that “most important” documentary requirement is complied with by the applicant. Meaning, the hands of DepEd regional directors and division superintendents are tied. And they cannot do anything about it because they too, owed their appointment primarily to the congressmen.

Now, what is the percentage of the new or even old passers of teachers’ licensure examinations who have access to the lawmakers of their district? For those who know people who can show them the way to the congressman or to his office, the road to the teaching position applied may only be short and easy. But for those who do not have any connections, the journey could take them so long – even to nowhere.

Should we be surprised why every school year there is this problem of lack of teachers despite the year on year creation of new teaching positions?

Yes, to us, this problem still boils down to the perpetuation of the dictum of political patronage where politicians, the congressmen specifically, make it a point that every new teacher in his or her district feels indebted to them for his or her employment.

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