Senator Koko Pimentel III on Thursday said that as a lawyer and member of the legislature, he fully respected the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the constitutionality of the government’s K-12 education program.
However, Pimentel urged the executive and legislature “to urgently address and strongly focus on the welfare of teachers and other stakeholders negatively affected by the decision.”
The High Court on November 10 ruled that the Department of Education’s implementation of the K-12 program, which adds two years to basic education, was a valid exercise of the state’s police power.
Any issues or problems relating to the implementation of the K-12 program, was not the court’s concern, the ruling stressed. It had been sufficiently established during deliberations that expanding high school education was meant to benefit millions of students and better prepare them as productive citizens.
“Teaching, unfortunately, doesn’t belong to the category of high-paying jobs.”
“The Supreme Court has spoken on a constitutional matter presented before it. Under the principle of separation of powers and with due recognition to a co-equal branch of government, we should accord fullest respect to the K-12 decision,” Pimentel said.
The lawmaker admitted, however, that the ruling was not without its flaws, particularly on the aspect of removing the teaching of the Filipino language and Filipino literature (“panitikan”) from the list of core subjects to be taught in college.
“Aside from the cultural and educational impact of removing our own language as a subject that should be required teaching, there are likewise clear economic impacts to teachers and professors who would suddenly find themselves without teaching loads and thus would suffer reduced incomes.”
“Teaching, unfortunately, doesn’t belong to the category of high-paying jobs. Our teachers and professors endure a lot of sacrifices just to impart knowledge to the youth. It’s distressing that the Supreme Court’s K-12 ruling may likely drag incomes of a certain group of teachers who teach vernacular subjects down further.”
Teachers’ groups from the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University estimate at least 10,000 Filipino teachers may be affected by the ruling. They may either receive reduced teaching loads or be laid off due to lack of students in their classes.
“We cannot afford to reduce these incomes further without having tangible negative effects on general education.”
“The High Court itself said that it wasn’t concerned with the details of the implementation of the program because its sole concern was legality and constitutionality. This is where the executive and the legislature should do their roles and fill in whatever gaps are produced by the ruling. We should take steps to make the K-12 program better for its direct stakeholders,” the senator stressed.
Aside from urgent action from the education department, Pimentel called on the Senate leadership to look into the matter and consider it a priority.
“Figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2017 point to college, university and higher education teaching professionals earning about 25,000 pesos a month, which is much less than what unskilled workers in the airline industry earn, for instance. General elementary and secondary education teaching professionals earn much, much less at a little over 14,000 pesos.”
“We cannot afford to reduce these incomes further without having tangible negative effects on general education. The K-12 court victory may therefore be considered a legal milestone but with equally lasting economic impacts. We need to find urgent solutions to protect and uphold the interest of our teachers,” the legislator from Mindanao emphasized.