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DepEd chief worried as higher pay in gov’t schools pulling in teachers from private institutions

PHILSTAR

DEPARTMENT OF Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor M. Briones on Wednesday said several private elementary and secondary schools in the Philippines are closing down because of the migration of teachers and students to government schools.

“The [reason is that] teachers’ salary from the private schools are not competitive anymore with the salaries of public school teachers. This is not something the public is not totally aware of. You remove the five leading private schools who can happily survive with or without government assistance, but think of private schools in your provinces, Catholic and Protestant schools and they cannot compete with the salaries of the public school teachers,” Ms. Briones said in an economic press briefing at the Palace.

The average salary for the public school teachers, according to the DepEd chief, is “P21,000 plus two months vacation leave, two weeks Christmas vacation, and all other benefits.”

In contrast, “Small private schools, I have gone to private schools, the starting salary is from P6,000, P8,000, to P9,000,” she cited.

“The private sector cannot catch up with that (government rates). So, usually, after young graduates pass the board examinations for teachers, they move on and apply to the public sector. This is what I call a ‘migration’, and this is a serious policy concern,” she added.

Asked what can be done to save the private schools, she said: “What can be done is what is being done right now. There are schools, if they make a presentation, if it is a reasonable presentation, they are allowed to increase their tuition fees. The CHEd (Commission on Higher Education) does that also, but the law says that any increase in tuition, 70% has to go to the increase in the salary of teachers. But there have to be other ways by which private school teachers can be persuaded to stay at a small private school.”

As for the scarcity of teachers, Ms. Briones said: “It’s not so much scarcity, the reason is we are reducing the sizes of classes. You used to report in your childhood and youth about classrooms with 70-80 pupils. We are reducing it to a minimum of 45. To be able to do that, we need more teachers. We introduced also the senior high school program. In the senior high school program, we need different kinds of teachers. Before, we relied on academically-trained teachers; this time we need teachers with different skills. You also have a lot of catching up to do. So, I will not describe it fully as a shortage but as a reordering.”

On the proposal of the private school administrators to create a bureau for private schools that would look into their concerns, Ms. . Briones said she is unsure for now.

“Right now, we have to study that…,very carefully, because we will have to ask more taxes from you to create an additional bureau. When a law is passed, you can be sure there is always a financial implication. When a policymaker opens his or her mouth and says we are giving this to the public, there is a financial implication; and at the end of the day, it goes back to us, to our taxes.” — Arjay L. Balinbin

120,000 deaths annually attributed to air pollution

HEALTH AND environment advocates have warned that air pollution contributes to 120,000 deaths in the country every year.

“In the Philippines, about 120,000 die annually because of air pollution, putting the country as second in the Asia-Pacific Region in terms of mortality rate,” air pollution watchdog Heath Care for Clean Air said in a statement of commitment signed during Wednesday’s launch of an alliance for cleaner air.

The alliance is led by the organization Health Care without Harm Asia (HCWH).

“Air pollution is not just a problem — it is a health menace too,” HCWH Executive Director Ramon San Pascual said.

“We know that at some point, we have to put up a health air alliance that would (push for the) need to improve the air pollution standard,” Mr. San Pascual said.

“It’s about time,” he added.

HCWH cited a World Health Organization (WHO) report released in May indicating that “7 million premature deaths due to air pollution, a third, or 2.2 million, were from the Western Pacific Region, which includes the Philippines.”

Heart disease and stroke contributed to most of these deaths, along with other ailments such as chronic pulmonary disease, lung cancer, pneumonia.

HCWH also reported that the “Philippines ranked third in the number of deaths at 45.3 per 100,000 due to outdoor air pollution. China recorded 81.5 and Mongolia 48.8 respectively.”

The WHO report said “inefficient energy use in households, industries, the agriculture and transport sectors, as well as coal-fired power plants” are the main causes of “outdoor air pollution.”

Dr. Rogelio V. Dazo, outgoing CAMANAVA governor of the Philippine Medical Association, said, “We cannot afford to lose our countrymen to preventable health problems.”

He added, “It is time for us to start demanding for better air quality standards in order to protect our dear kababayans, and the health sector should take active part in supporting the government to do that.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, said that “Protection of the environment must be top priority.”

Mr. San Pascual stressed that even with the Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, “What is forgotten is action to carry out laws.” — Gillian M. Cortez





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