Education · Philippines · thoughts · work

The plight of teachers

I’ve always known that the plight of public school teachers in our country is deplorable. But until I saw with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears from these undervalued and underpaid molders of our country’s young, and those who work closely with them, I never realized how much I didn’t know.

I got this awakening last August 14, 2009 at the Tondo Summit, an evaluation workshop with three elementary schools in Tondo that we facilitated. The summit gathered together the Project Management Teams (PMTs) of Magat Salamat, Manuel L. Quezon, and Vicente Lim elementary schools to discuss the achievements of the previous year, and the challenges that lay ahead for this school year.

PMTs in Synergeia parlance can be compared to the Justice League of education. They are a group of concerned individuals who believe that the quality of instruction in schools deserves every community’s strict attention. PMTs are often composed of a Synergeia site coordinator, the school principal and the grade level coordinator, a barangay captain, PTA officers, parents, and teachers.

It’s a privilege for me to take over Magat Salamat, because their success story is truly phenomenal. From having a non-reader rate of 94 percent to just 4.0 percent by the end of the school year, truly there is much to celebrate! But I learned something important during Synergeia chief operating officer Sunny Sevilla’s discussion with the group. While we celebrate the increase of advanced readers and those reading at second and first reading level, dapat walang iwanan. Four percent may be small, but these kids still do not know how to read. Twenty-eight percent are still at the primary level. What happens then when they get to Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 6?

Here’s something a lot of people also may not realize. A child is in school for six hours. He spends the remaining 18 hours at home with parents. Parents, in fact, may have the greatest contribution to their children’s education.

But not all parents know this. Not all parents understand the important role they play. Not all parents finished school, so how can they teach their kids? And not all parents are actively involved in their child’s education. The responsibility shifts or falls to the second parents—the teachers.

Those news about teachers feeding the students, buying them lunch sometimes, giving them allowance from their own pockets–they’re all true. And they not only provide for one student.

Synergeia focuses on reading because it is the most important subject to be learned by a child. A child who knows how to read will be able to learn all other subject matters in school. Better reading means better schoolwork, better preparation for the future, and greater personal and social accomplishments. The problem however, is that most students do not have access to workbooks and teachers also do not have enough instructional materials. Again, it’s the teachers that provide a solution for this. They photocopy workbooks using money from their own pocket so that the child will have a copy of the workbook. The test papers are also reproduced on their own. We find that constantly, teachers are providing for what the child needs because at home, the parents don’t have the means.

One Grade 3 coordinator place story books in a box inside her classroom. She said, “if we could have story-telling books in each classroom, it will be a productive use of time for students waiting for the class to start.” It made me think: how many of my old story books at home are just gathering up dust?

I will take it from Sir Sunny, “Wow, the things we take for granted.”

There are many things we can do for these beleaguered teachers. But the responsibility of educating kids does not solely rest on their shoulders, which is what’s great about Synergeia. Synergeia is a Greek word that means, “A union of forces whose sum is greater than the parts of its whole.” Everything is collaborative. Everyone is important. Improving the quality of basic education is a shared responsibility.

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