Tomorrow will be the last day of the month-long celebration of National Teachers’ Month in honor of educators, professors, instructors, mentors, pedagogues but most of all, modern-day heroes who, despite the low pay, long hours, uncomfortable classrooms and stress, show dedication to their work. Sure, there are those who bring shame and disgrace to what has been dubbed as one of the noblest professions—losing their cool and physically or verbally abusing pupils or using their position to mulct money from students through inventive schemes (fines or contributions)—but the good outnumber those bad few.
More often than not, teachers are taken for granted, and many people fail to realize just how important they are to society because they prepare children—our children—to become the next leaders. What teachers impart—and how they do it—can have a great impact on the character and personality of the kids they come across with. As American academic and writer Henry Brooks Adams said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” How many stories have we heard about bright, promising children rising above poverty and difficult situations at home just because a teacher encouraged them, spent time talking with them in a way that parents in their very busy and sometimes clueless existence never did?
That Filipino teachers are some of the best in the world has been proven time and again by Dr. Josette Biyo (after whom an asteroid was named) and just recently, Marietta Geraldino, who was named as one of the best teachers in New York. Colleges and universities all over the world welcome Filipino teachers because of their competence and willingness to go the extra mile—and we can’t really blame these educators if they decide to go look for greener pastures. After all, teachers need to earn enough to pay the bills and send their children to good schools, too.
According to data from the National Statistical Coordination Board, teachers in the United States earn $35,000 to $45,000 yearly—compared to the $5,000 to $6,000 yearly pay for teachers in the Philippines. A few months ago, Senator Bongbong Marcos filed a bill seeking to upgrade the salary of public school teachers to about P25,000 to improve their economic and social status. The senator noted that while the Department of Education keeps getting the biggest share in the national budget, the salary of teachers is still very low compared with other professions.
During the 15th Congress, Senator Antonio Trillanes also filed a bill that would double the take-home pay of teachers, while party list congressman Antonio Tinio sought to upgrade their salary level from 11 to 15. The bills were not passed simply because they were not considered important enough—causing Tinio to fulminate against the president and the budget department for not setting aside funds for teachers’ salary increases. Imagine, there’s so much money being wasted on fake NGOs and ghost projects, yet there’s no budget for our country’s educators? The DBM chief and the president probably think teachers don’t need salary increases because they pay higher taxes than doctors and lawyers. And besides, whatever salary increases the teachers get will just be contributed to the pork barrel funds through taxers, one of our buddies snorted.
In the Global Teacher Status Index published by the London-based Varkey GEMS Foundation (we’ve been assured that it’s authentic, being the philanthropic arm of international K-12 company GEMS Education and with former US President Bill Clinton as honorary chairman), public perception on the social standing and reputation of teachers in 21 countries was studied. As explained by Varkey GEMS Foundation CEO Vikas Pota on the first ever comparative study, “the teacher is the biggest agent of change, but often suffers from low-esteem, low regard and is derided by ‘the system.’ How can we expect change in the classroom if the person responsible for molding the minds of tomorrow’s leaders has no standing in their local community?”
The study, which compared teaching to other professions to determine how much respect teachers get from students, revealed that teachers are looked up to in China (which topped the index) and given the kind of respect accorded to doctors. Americans, on the other hand, regard teachers as more like librarians. According to one of the index report writers, a teacher is like a civil servant in many countries, where the salary might be low but where other factors such as respect and stability come into play. He might as well have been talking about the Philippines.
In our own little way, we would like to say “Thanks!” to all the long-suffering, persevering teachers out there, and encourage them by sharing this quote from the late Trinity University professor, Dr. Ivan Welton Fitzwater: “The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad... Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.”
For comments, reactions, photos, stories and related concerns, readers may email to [email protected] You may also visit and like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/happyhourmanilastandard. We’d be very happy to hear from you. Cheers!