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Want to Achieve Quality Education? Invest in Teachers

Although good quality education became a core aspect of the Education For All (EFA) goals, international attention continued to focus until recently on access to basic education. Because teacher recruitment did not keep pace with increases in enrolment following policies to expand education, many countries, including the Philippines suffer from the most significant teacher shortages in all levels of education.

The pupil/teacher ratio (PTR) has been globally recognized as an important measure for assessing progress towards good quality education. Long before UNESCO declared in the Policy Report No. 19 of EFA-GMR 2015 that the most widely used international benchmark on pupil/teacher ratio (PTR) is 40:1 in primary education and 30:1 in secondary education, DepEd has already undertaken the Rainbow Spectrum since 2003 for easy monitoring and to make disparities more visible. Districts were color-coded according to their pupil/teacher ratios, with blue indicating a ratio below 24:1, red a ratio over 50:1, and black a complete teacher shortage. This simple device raised awareness of teacher deployment issues by making information readily available and easily understandable. Between 2009 and 2011, over 60% of new teacher allocation went to black and red areas (Albert, 2012).

According to Rep. Antonio Tinio, the principal author of House Bill 473 (Public School Class Size Law), the classrooms in the country are among the most crowded in Asia per data of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics. He emphasized that the country’s public elementary school’s average class size of 43.9 is far bigger than Malaysia’s 31.7, Thailand’s 22.9, Japan’s 23.6, and India’s 40. The same data shows that public high schools in the country have an even larger average class size of 56:1.

House Bill 473 which was filed on June 30, 2016, is hoped to remedy the situation by limiting the size of each class handled by one teacher to 35 students. This is in recognition of the constitutional right of Filipino school children to quality education. Also, the provision of additional compensation for teachers handling large size classes (exceeding 35 up to a maximum of 50 students) acknowledges their right to be protected from unregulated increases in class size as well as to compensation commensurate to their actual workload.

Despite the noble intention of the almost 3-year old HB 473, this bill remained pending and suffered various comments and criticisms from different sectors. People are asking if the education reforms sought are the most cost-efficient reforms to warrant an increase in government spending and budget. Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada of the Manila Times noted that nothing in the bill ensures the quality of basic education of learners in the country if they belong in a small class size and that no indicator was provided to show that the education of students in a class size of 35 is better than that of students in a class size of 50. He added that to determine whether regulating class size is the key to improving quality education; there should be an empirical study that would show a comparison of student outcomes. If attaining quality education is the reason for reducing class size to 35, then why would the same law allow a larger class size of 50?

There may be a flaw in the HB 473 for the provision of allowing a teacher to handle a large class size as long as the teacher handling it is compensated with an honorarium of equivalent to one percent of the daily rate for every student in excess of 35. It appears that the bill is not consistent on its objective of improving the quality of basic education through the reduction of class size. Instead of achieving the desired PTR, the law, according to Atty Estrada, may only inspire some teachers to keep the class size larger for the purpose of receiving additional compensation. Also, he emphasized that the use of the National Achievement Test (NAT) to determine whether small class size correlates to quality education is questionable. This is so because according to some reports, NAT has been met with a lot of criticisms and accusations of corruption and cheating in order for public school teachers to get the incentives for high test scores of students.

Also, some leaders question the financial literacy of the teachers. They believe that public school teachers are highly paid and they expect that the allowances and incentives given to teachers would make it possible for teachers to afford more professional activities, such as attending graduate study program or training program, attending seminars or workshops, participating in teacher’s forum, or upgrading their qualification. However, according to some, in practice this allowance does not necessarily influence the professional development participation; many teachers seem to spend it for other living expenses instead of spending it to afford professional development activities.

Reducing class size would entail the construction of more classrooms, and hiring more teachers, according to Atty. Estrada. He explained that hiring new inexperienced teachers to teach in small classes may not equate to better student achievement scores as opposed to bigger class sizes currently being handled by more experienced and trained teachers. There are also reservations about teachers’ teaching competence due to the declining learning outcomes results. DepEd, through the RPMS-PPST, is looking at each teacher’s quality based on the submitted means of verification (MOVs) to quantify their performance.

These arguments may be valid at some points, but it is interesting to emphasize that these also show the low status of the teaching profession in the country, as measured by various markers such as salary, and the respect and value placed on teaching by the legislators and the Filipino people. It may be reasonable to assume that teachers are primarily motivated by the intrinsic incentive of providing good education. Superimposing external incentives may undermine intrinsic motivation (Gneezy et al., 2011). If minimum performance is set low, teachers with high intrinsic motivation may reduce their efforts, perceiving such controls as questioning their commitment. This is true when Teachers I –III are evaluated using the default “Proficient” RPMS tools. Moreover, being deprived of adequate teaching resources, infrastructures and support, despite appropriate effort may be demoralizing.

To improve the provision of good quality education, an adequate pool of teachers and reasonable pupil/teacher ratios are not sufficient conditions. Equally important is ensuring that teachers are well trained, motivated and supported with respect and value by the society.

What respect and value is placed on teaching by the society if the teachers are living below poverty line? Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia clarified on June 2018 that an average Filipino family actually need an aggregate income of P42,000 to live above the poverty line. The perceived status of educators serves as indicators of how society values education itself and whether it values education at all (Fwu & Wang, 2002). We should be reminded that teacher status is an indicator of the importance and significance of education in each society.

Attaining quality education is a serious global concern. If our government is committed to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, there are recommendations stated in the UNESCO’s 2018 Global Education Meeting (GEM 2018). This includes the Global Teacher Status Index key findings that there is a correlation between the status accorded to teachers through the GTSI 2018 and student outcomes in their country. In other words, high teacher status is not just a ‘nice to have.’ Recent researches have proven that increasing teacher status can directly improve the pupil performance of a country’s students. Ministers should take teacher status seriously and make efforts to improve it (Dolton et al., 2018).

Progress towards 2030 SDG will be stymied if the quality and effectiveness of teaching are not front and centre in the main list of targets. Teaching may be considered a ‘means of implementation,’ but comparing teachers to improved infrastructure and increased scholarships ignores, and weakens, the critical role teachers play in the learning and maturation processes of children and youth. To be more transformational, the SDG 4 targets should underscore the need to ensure quality teaching for all by describing teachers who are professionally trained, motivated (through adequate remuneration, working conditions, and recognition), well-supported (through in-service training) and deployed where required (EFA-GMR Policy Paper 16).

Currently, the Philippines has an existing legal framework and sector-specific regulations to improve the social and economic status of public school teachers. Congress has proposed several House Bills and Senate Bills that seek to remedy the current problems of teachers relative to the provisions of the Magna Carta (RA 4670). Still, the Philippine Education continues to be ruled by the new policies of the Department of Education inconsistent with the provisions set forth by RA 4670. Existing laws have proven ineffectual at improving the status of teachers in society, and the Bills have failed to materialize into actual law. If the Philippines is honestly committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the present government should consider the recommendations presented in the 2018 Global Education Meeting. Salaries will need to converge to the long-term trend of countries that pay teachers relatively more. But in addition to these expanded costs, governments will also need to allocate sufficient recurrent education expenditure to non-salary uses, in particular, teaching and learning materials, to make teacher classroom activities more effective. When these reforms are combined with effective school heads and participatory school leadership focused on teaching effectiveness and learning, inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all will definitely be ensured. And when this SDG 4 is achieved, the achievement of other sustainable development goals will be accelerated.


Albert, J. R. G. 2012. Improving teacher deployment practices in the Philippines. Policy Notes, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

Dolton, P., et al. 2018. Global Teacher Status Index. London, Varkey GEMS Foundation.

Estrada, J. (2018). Does class size matter in public schools? Retrieved April 24, 2019. from http://www.manilatimes.net/does-class-size-matter-in-public-schools/403440/

Philstar.com. (2018). NEDA: Family of 5 needs P42,000 a month to survive | Philstar.com. [online] Available at: https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/06/08/1822735/neda-family-5-needs-p42000-month-survive [Accessed 25 Apr. 2019].

UNESCO. (2018). Global Education Meeting 2018. [online] Available at: https://en.unesco.org/themes/education/globaleducationmeeting2018 [Accessed 25 Apr. 2019].


UNESCO EFA-GMR Policy Paper 16 and 19

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