By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — A week into the 2012-2013 school year, problems are still erupting left and right in the country’s public school system because of the implementation of the K+12 program.
Mercedita Rillo, 31, has recently enrolled her daughter in a private school. For the second year in a row, her six-year old daughter Jane would be attending kindergarten.
“I have no choice — she learned practically nothing in public school last year. Her teacher was apologetic when she told us that Jane cannot be promoted to first grade because she still has to master writing and the most basic reading skills. These are needed for grade one students,” she said, a little angry.
She explained that she thought she would be able to save money by enrolling Jane in a public school last year, but she now regrets her decision.
“There were 40 students in her class and her teacher had to handle three classes in all. I should’ve foreseen that given how many students there were, Jane would have been likely ignored. She’s a quiet child, and she has to be coaxed out of her shell. She’s not at all unintelligent, but I don’t think the teacher was able to give her the attention she needed to really learn,” she said.
Mercedita said Jane appears to be much happier now that she is enrolled in a private school.
“There are only 15 students in her class, and there are two teachers as well as a teacher’s aid. My husband and I are paying P25,000 ($581) for tuition, but it’s worth every peso because at least now we can be sure that by the end of the school year, Jane will be able to read and write. She’s happier now: she says her teachers pay her attention,” she said.
The difficulties Jane’s daughter faced in public school are not new or surprising. Fortunately for her parents, they are both employed and can afford to send her to a private learning institution. For the rest of the 1.7 million other Filipino children who enrolled this year for kindergarten, their difficulties are only begining, and learning to read and write will not be a guaranteed achievement.
As for their teachers, their problems are also myriad.
Underpaid volunteer teachers
For all the hype of the Aquino administration and the Department of Education (DepEd) regarding the K+12 program, the weaknesses of the scheme and the proponents’ lack of true preparedness are, critics said, easy to expose.
A lawmaker from ACT Teachers Party-List Antonio L. Tinio decried the dismal plight of volunteer kinder teachers.
“To the front liners of his K to 12 Program, Aquino gives stubs when they need boxes of chalk. They’re being forced to live and work on a P3,000 ($69.76) monthly allowance,” he said.
According to Tinio, volunteer kindergarten teachers are carrying the K+12 program on their backs and are getting only P3,000 ($69.76) monthly for it.
If computed to a daily rate, the P3,000 ($69.76) honorarium the DepEd gives volunteer kindergarten teachers amounts to P100 ($2.32) , or four times less than P446 (US$10.37), the minimum daily wage for the National Capital Region.
The honorarium increases to P200 daily ($4.65) if the volunteer teacher handles two classes. Still, given the family living wage (FLW) level pegged at P993 ($23.09) , their salary fall short daily by P893 ($20.76), or P793 ($18.44), for their own needs and those of their families.
In the meantime, the case of volunteer teachers in far-flung areas is worse: they are reportedly paid only P2,000 ($46.51) monthly, or P66.67 daily ($1.55) ) for handling multi-grade or small classes (with 10 pupils or less).
Their daily budget shortfall amounts to P393.33 ($9.13) when computed against the NCR minimum wage (the highest in all regions), or P926.33 ($21.53) when computed against the FLW.
The independent think tank IBON Foundation defines FLW to be the amount a family of six needs for essentials, P204 ($4.74) daily for food; P2,096 ($48.74) monthly for rent; P1,150 ($ 26.74) monthly for fuel, light and water; and P28 ($0.65) daily for transportation.
IBON’s P993 (US$23.09) FLW is based on the 2008 and latest FLW estimate issued by the National Wages Productivity Commission.
“Even the maximum P6,000 ($140) allowance is barely enough for daily food expenses of one family. Volunteer teachers teach majority of kindergarten classes nationwide,” Tinio said.
During a recent hearing of the House Committees on Basic Education and Higher Education, the DepEd admitted that it hired over 20,000 volunteer teachers using its 2012 budget.
In contrast, only 3,000 regular teachers were hired.
Tinio said there are serious signs proving that the DepEd created the Kindergarten Volunteer Program (KVP, under DepEd Order 21, series of 2012 and DepEd Order 37, series of 2011) as a way to seemingly “solve” the shortage in Kinder teachers “without a thought to the right of teachers to adequate remuneration, among other rights guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution and the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.”
“Malacañang and the DepEd should fund more Teacher I items to decisively solve the teacher shortage. Scrimping on teachers is not the answer, and they do not deserve to be abused and treated inhumanely. Aquino should give them fair compensation befitting their status as educators, the ones who propel his K to 12 Program,” he said.
More school drop-outs
In the meantime, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño today also said that the added years of high school under the government’s K+12 program would mean an additional burden to parents of P9,816 ($228) per student per year, or a total of P58,897 ($1,369) in additional education expenses for average Filipino families with three children, a figure too costly for them to bear.
Casiño based his estimate on the annual Family Income and Expenditure Statistics (FIES) which show that typical Filipino families with three children spend an average of P7,548.50 ($176) per year on education fees alone. Add to this what Casiño estimated to be the incidental cost of education (to include daily transportation, food and clothing) at P7,300 ($170) per student per year, then a typical Filipino family with three children would have to spend an additional P29,448.50 ($685) per added year of high school for each.
At two years under the K+12 program, this would add up to P58,897 ($1,369) in additional expenses.
For poor families earning less than P100,000 ($ 2,325) per year, comprising 35 percent of total families, the cost would be a little lower at P22,788.56 ($ 529.95) per year for three children. This would take up as much as 33.94 percent of total annual family expenditures.
For extremely poor families, the cost would be P22,064.86 ($513) per year for three children, comprising a staggering 66.92 percent of total family expenditures.
“While DepEd officials insist that tuition is free in public schools, families still have to spend for transportation, food, school uniforms, projects and other incidentals. This amount is not a joke — for many families, this comprises a fortune,” Casiño said.
He explained that today’s average annual family expenditure is around P175,000 ($4,069)
“The additional expense of almost P60,000 ($1,395) for two more years of high school would mean that a considerable chunk of their income allotted for basic necessities like food, shelter and clothing would have to be diverted to education,” he argued.
“We might have a world-standard curriculum but if families can’t afford to send their children to school, what’s the point?” said Casiño.
He said the higher cost of sending children to school would most likely result in more dropouts especially among the poor and extremely poor families. “We are, in effect, marginalizing the already marginalized sectors of our society. The government is only adding to the burdens of the poor, including those who really want to be able to get an education and finish high school,” he said.