Urgently address the serious welfare issues of public school teachers that erode their capacities, health, and morale, and put education continuity in jeopardy.
That is the Labor Day call of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on the Duterte government.
The labor situation of public school teachers, being the backbone of education delivery, must be swiftly attended to and be given due consideration in the plans for the opening of the new school year in July.
Signs of teacher burnout are evident in the recent nationwide online survey conducted by ACT among 6,731 public school teachers from March 29 to April 11 to assess the labor situation of education front liners in the first half of the school year.
Survey results show that more than 70 percent of teacher-respondents deem the distance learning workload as negatively impacting on their physical and mental health, with about 10 percent admitting to already falling ill due to the problems with distance learning and their burdensome duties.
The ACT survey noted of extended hours of work for public school teachers to accomplish their assigned duties. The 8-hour work rule is widely violated, with about 41 percent of teacher-respondents in the National Capital Region and 29 percent of those outside Metro Manila working for 9 hours to 16 hours and beyond on class days. Teachers still spend a sizable portion of their supposed rest days to complete their tasks, with 41 percent to 45 percent working for up to four hours on non-class days, 37 percent to 43 percent for eight hours, and 18 percent for even longer than eight hours.
Public school teachers’ longer working hours operate within the context of the extended school year that deprived them of their rightful proportional vacation pay after serving a maximum of 220 class days in a school year. The current school year requires teachers to render service for 297 days, from June 1, 2020 to July 10, 2021, without a day of leave benefits.
While teachers adjust to the new modes of teaching and strive to fill in the inadequacies of government support to distance learning, they noted of additional tasks that render their already heavy duties excessively burdensome. Some 50 percent to 67 percent of teacher-respondents rated as burdensome and very burdensome the various rush reports on distance learning implementation that the DepEd arbitrarily orders, the voluminous requirements for the teacher evaluation system Results-based Performance Management System, and the Learning Delivery Modality course modules that teachers are required to accomplish.
The survey also points to the gravely inadequate funding support from the government to distance learning as a major contributor to teachers’ dire labor conditions. Midway into the school year, it is evident that the government has not exerted serious efforts to provide teachers with their distance learning needs. Survey shows that only about 4 percent to 6 percent of teacher-respondents use DepEd-provided laptops. Some 69 percent to 77 percent are using personally acquired laptops, of which 24 percent are still paying for the devices. Still, some 4 percent to 6 percent of teacher-respondents have no laptop to use for the performance of their duties under distance learning.
The government had also failed miserably in paying for the supplies and operational expenses of distance learning as teachers shoulder the costs of internet connectivity, cellphone load, supplies for printed modules, and increased electricity consumption as they work from home. Based on the survey, about 66 percentof teacher-respondents spend P1,500 and higher per month for such expenses, with 10 to 16 percent spending as much as more than P3,000 per month for distance learning needs.
The survey further showed the dismal implementation of the DepEd order to release a monthly P300 communication expense reimbursement to teachers from March to December 2020. About 58 percent of teacher-respondents outside Metro Manila, and 12 percent in the NCR, said that the order is not implemented at all in their schools. Most teachers who have received partial payments of the reimbursements have only gotten a total of P600 or lower, while only 10 percent in the NCR and 1 percent in other regions were reimbursed the highest allowable reimbursement amount of up to P3,000.
Put to risk
The survey also revealed the reality of teachers being compelled to work outside of their homes, especially in regions outside Metro Manila, despite DepEd’s alternative work arrangement order amid the pandemic. About 58 percent of teacher respondents from regions outside NCR said that they were made to report physically to schools three or more times every week. About 44 percent are also compelled to go to their students’ homes to deliver and retrieve printed modules.
Despite the alarming transmission rate in Metro Manila, there are 5 percent teacher-respondents who come to school three or more times in a week, while 15 percent are compelled to do community/home visitation.
Safeguarding teachers’ welfare and ensuring education continuity
Judging from the labor situation of public school teachers, education continuity amid the pandemic apparently hangs by a thread. Without urgent and necessary government interventions, education continuity could suffer as more teachers fall ill due to dire labor conditions, while not a few leave the teaching profession.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers proposes the following measures to uphold and protect teachers’ rights and welfare, and ensure the delivery of education amid the pandemic:
Grant of due compensation and benefits
- Service credit and 25 percent overtime pay for the 77 overtime days in the current school year;
- Immediate release of the overly-delayed 2019 Performance-based Bonus (PBB)
- Hazard pay for community-based activities
- Legislation of salary upgrading for teachers and education support personnel: salary grade 15 for Teacher 1; salary grade 16 for Instructor 1; and P16,000 monthly salary for SG 1 employees
Allocation of supplemental budget for distance learning needs
- Laptop and P1,500 monthly internet allowance for teachers
- Gadgets and internet subsidy for poorest 5 percent of learners
- P35 billion for module printing
- P14.69B for the preparation of limited in-classroom learning in low-risk areas
Easing of workload and provision of health and wellness support
- Halting the implementation of Learning Delivery Modalities (LDM) course modules
- Suspension of the implementation of the Results-based Management System
- Reduction of reports and paper works
- 80 days proportional vacation pay
- 15 days sick leave benefits
- Medical fund for free treatment
- Extensive and comprehensive mental health support program