DepEd's K to 12 Misses the Real Difference: Teachers' Salaries

Do we still need to wonder what these students see first in school?
Unfortunately, President Aquino and  DepEd see the curriculum first.
And even with that, they cannot even see things right.
Photo downloaded from 
There are three years left before the United Nations Millennium Develeopment Goal of Education for All. Philippine columnists continue to emphasize how much the country needs to catch up with the world with regard to basic education. DepEd's K to 12 has always been advertised as an effort to meet global standards. There is a rush in addition. In 2015, there is the anticipated free labor market among the members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). In this light, DepEd's K to 12 has been heralded as a response to the future union of countries in the region, a product of a comparative study with the country's neighbors.

Soliven writes in a recent column, "Only 3 years left to reach UN Millennium Development Goal 2015":
...Last year 2011, Dr. Ethel Agnes Valenzuela, the senior specialist and current Research Director of SEAMEO-INNOTECH was commissioned by DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro to do a comparative study of the K to 12 Education in Southeast Asia. She studied the structure, content, organization and adequacy of Basic Education in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia and Singapore as benchmarks against the Philippines. All benchmarked countries have long-term educational development plans geared towards achieving 21st century competence, while the end-goal of Philippine education is to achieve functional literacy for all...

...Given the findings, Dr. Valenzuela suggests some strategies for policymakers to improve Philippine Basic Education. The first task would be to anchor the Philippine educational goals on the development of 21st century competencies. This involves streamlining the content of compulsory subjects, which are overcrowded and too technical in content to provide for more mastery of key skills, knowledge and content. A “spiral” progressive curriculum (one that integrates content across different subjects) should be promoted in the elementary and secondary levels thereby strengthening the link between the two.

The cycle of secondary education should also be extended to enhance the student’s abilities and competencies. Then an end-of-cycle NAT assessment may also be devised to assess the academic qualifications of the fourth year high school students to determine pathways for employment or higher studies. Finally, the upper secondary or Year 11 and 12 should not follow a one-size-fits-all program. The last two years of K to 12 should lead to one of three tracks. Track one leads to taking career-oriented elective subjects (bookkeeping, travel, animation, etc.), track two leads to specialized career-oriented technical or vocational certification, and track three leads to the integration of the general education subjects in college or a pre-baccalaureate course or program for higher education....
The study looked at the number of years. It even caught details of the curriculum. Unfortunately, the most important difference was missed:

(PER MONTH in PESOS not adjusted to purchasing power)

Brunei : 100000
Singapore: 150000
Malaysia: 40000
Philippines: 18000

The number above for the Philippines does not consider the pay given to kindergarten teachers (3000 pesos for teaching one kindergarten class, 6000 for teaching two). One could only imagine what would happen if the free labor movement within ASEAN in 2015 included teachers. 

One can look at a larger list. The figures below are starting annual salaries of teachers in equivalent US dollars (purchasing power parity (PPP) is taken into account). In this scale, a good estimate for Philippine teachers is about 12,000 US dollars PPP per year (Please do not multiply this by 40, PPP already takes into account the purchasing power in the country). 

Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators - OECD © 2009 - ISBN 9789264024755

Australia 32 259
Austria 28 172
Belgium (Fl.) 29 680
Belgium (Fr.) 28 369
Czech Republic 21 481
Denmark 35 691
England 30 172
Finland 28 201
France 23 640
Germany 43 387
Greece 26 326
Hungary 11 216
Iceland 22 443
Ireland 31 977
Italy 24 945
Japan 27 284
Korea 31 717
Luxembourg 49 902
Mexico 14 006
Netherlands 34 272
New Zealand 19 236
Norway 32 148

Portugal 21 304
Scotland 30 366

Spain 34 250
Sweden 27 498
Switzerland 41 998
Turkey 14 063
United States 35 907
OECD average 28 687
EU 19 average 29 518

How could a research specialist miss the glaring item that sets Philippine basic education apart from those of other countries? If there are differences in the curriculum, 10 years versus twelve, the differences here are quite small compared to what the figures above show. A 20% difference in years is highlighted but the obvious 200-300 % difference in teachers' salaries is missed. How could we miss this when PISA results show this in one of its figures:,3746,en_32252351_46584327_46609827_1_1_1_1,00.html#tables_figures_dbase
Teachers' salaries may not perfectly correlate with student's performance and learning outcomes but there must be a threshold. A teacher whose salary is not adequate to support a family's basic needs will have to find additional sources of income. A teacher who has to worry whether his or her family will have something for dinner cannot give the pupils an undivided attention. It is true that at the higher range of salaries the correlation may be weak (although in the figure above, teachers' salaries still correlate strongly among OECD countries, whose average teachers' salary is almost three times higher than those in the Philippines (in PPP terms)) but common sense tells us that at the lower end, the effects on the quality of education can be devastating. When teachers are severely underpaid, the consequences to education are very serious. The above correlation does not include the Philippines. The correlation seen in developed countries between teachers' salaries and student performance can be attributed to how well the teaching profession attracts talent. The situation in the Philippines goes far beyond this. Teachers in the Philippines become victims to loan sharks because they cannot really provide for their own families. If teachers are paid one third to one half of what teachers receive in other countries, students will likewise receive about the same fraction in instruction and guidance. And yet, a research specialist sees years of high school and a spiral curriculum as the major differences. As President Aquino has advised, we may all need to take remedial classes in math.
Whatever we do will not matter
as long as we continue to neglect our teachers.
Such is the simple math of basic education.