Teachers' Salary in the Philippines Must Be Upgraded to Solve Problems in Basic Education

This blog started about two years ago. Since then, it has received over 800,000 pageviews, mostly coming from readers in the Philippines. During these past two years, the blog went through research studies on factors affecting education. It should now be clear that poverty is high on the list in terms of challenges as well as effects on learning outcomes. Next to poverty and this should not be a surprise, one important factor in education is the teacher.

Copied from ncsuteamone's "Maybe Teachers do Need More Pay?"
Teacher quality is decided by how society treats the profession. There is ample research that shows why teachers salaries play a major role in educating children. There is a lot of noise clouding education reform so it is only necessary to make this point louder and clearer. Quality education is not possible if teachers are treated without respect. A teacher cannot possibly dedicate fully his or her attention to students if day to day survival remains an issue. Here, I reiterate evidence of why attention to teachers conditions is key to improving basic education in the Philippines.

First, Israelis see what makes the educational system Finland rise to the top. This is from the post "Teachers' Salaries: Key to Quality Education":
"Teacher salaries seem to explain Finnish students’ success, Israeli mediocrity" 
A comparison between Israel and Finland yields the following findings.
  • Finland actually invests less in elementary schools than Israel. Obviously, investing less is not the reason why Finland's students have better performance. In fact, considering all the countries that participate in PISA shows only a weak correlation between the test scores and the amount of investment made by each country for its students. Using this weak correlation, Israel estimates that by increasing its investment per student by 50 percent, only a slight improvement is expected, Israel will probably be 33rd instead of 39th. 
  • The total instructional time in a year for a Finnish high school student is about 800 hours, while in Israel, the number is 1000 hours. Longer instructional hours apparently do not lead to better student performance.
  • The pupil:teacher ratios in both countries are similar, 16-17 students per teacher.
  • The math and science classes make up 26 percent of the curriculum in both countries. There is no difference here.
None of the above can explain the much higher performance of Finnish students compared to those of Israel except: 

An elementary school Finnish teacher earns $48 per hour of instruction while in Israel the pay is $18 per hour. In high school, a teacher in Finland receives $79 per hour while an Israeli teacher makes $27. Teachers in Israel also work longer hours than teachers in Finland, 54% more in elementary and 25% more in high school.  
We can compare the above with how the Philippine government has been treating its teachers especially the kindergarten volunteers. These teachers are paid about less than $2 per hour. We will definitely get what we pay for.

In another post, "How Much Should Teachers Be Paid", the following thoughts from the Teacher Salary Project in the United States were cited:

Though it is well documented that the most important school-based factor in students' academic achievement and future success is the quality of their teachers, 46 percent of public school teachers leave the profession within the first five years of being in the classroom. Salaries and stress are among the top reasons teachers say they leave. A good teacher has the power to change the course of a life—yet because teachers in the United States have historically had an average annual salary lower than their peers with similar educational backgrounds, 62 percent of our nation's teachers must have second jobs outside of the classroom-like tutoring, mowing lawns, selling stereos, or bartending—to be able to afford to teach. 
Research has shown that the top-performing school systems in the world all share one consistent feature: top-performing teachers. In the next five years, almost two million teachers will retire. By following four feature teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, our film tells the deeper story of the teaching profession in America today, and what we can do to invest in it for tomorrow. It is our hope that American Teacher will engage, challenge, and inspire audiences to be part of an urgently needed progressive social movement, resulting in a real and lasting impact on the lives of our nation’s children.

It goes to show that even in the United States, teachers' salaries are also problematic. Teachers in the Philippines, however, receive so much less while their class sizes are so much larger. The teaching profession has been treated harshly that it even fails to attract the necessary talent. Teachers are in fact looking for better opportunities and in another post, "Filipino Teachers in Maryland" the plight of Philippine teachers in the United States was described:
Teaching abroad is an attractive option for many Filipino teachers, who stand to earn as much as 25 times their standard salaries in the Philippines. In Baltimore, which has been actively recruiting in the Philippines since 2005, Filipino teachers earn as much as $45,000 a year, as compared to an average of $3,500 earned for teaching public school in the Philippines (and slightly more for teaching private school)...
...Hopefully, these Filipino teachers will not be "exploited" in these SE charter schools, especially because charter schools have no unions to protect them. These "DC charter schools' Filipino teachers" also came yesterday (they were late), and shared that they work in their schools from 7 am to 7 pm. 
Some of them cried while sharing their recent teaching experiences in teaching young children in these charter schools. They said that the children are so "rough". 
One teacher shared that she was hit by a 2nd grader with a chair. 
The teachers said they just persevere because of their desire to secure their visa status and to be able to continue to provide for their families back in the Philippines."
Learning Outcomes as measured by standardized exams like PISA allow for comparisons across countries. In the article, "DepEd's K to 12 Misses the Real Difference: Teachers' Salaries", results that demonstrate how teachers' salaries correlate with performance in this exam are reiterated:

The article noted:
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.  
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.
There are other articles on this blog that mention studies regarding teachers, their pay, and their impact on student learning.

Specific statistics for teachers are highlighted in an article, "Teacher Statistics for the Philippines" to illustrate in concrete numbers their current condition.
These numbers do provide information on their own. But just in case the obvious is missed, here are the important take-home messages:
  • Philippine public school teachers are overworked (based on high pupil:teacher ratio, teaching hours per day, and teaching hours per year). With long working hours and larger class sizes, teachers are unlikely to have the time, energy and opportunity for professional development and lesson plans especially when the curriculum is changing so often.
  • Philippine public school teachers are underpaid. Salaries are stagnant. Teachers' pay do not go up appreciably with years of experience. Teachers' salaries do not keep pace with inflation.
  • Compared to Indonesia and Malaysia, the fraction of Philippine public school teachers under 40 years of age is much smaller. With a significant number retiring in the near future, this can be problematic.
  • Graduation rates in teacher education are less than 20 percent and for those who graduate, only 20-30 percent pass the licensure exam. This means only 4-6 percent of students in teaching colleges qualify to practice the profession.
  • The faculty in teaching institutions lacks advanced degrees. Less than half of higher education faculty have degrees beyond the bachelors' degree. Only about 10 percent holds a doctorate degree.
  • Philippine public school teachers are leaving the country for better conditions and opportunities. 
Add to the above the high poverty incidence in the country and these factors alone can explain the current dismal state of basic education in the Philippines. Education reforms that might work must focus on these issues first.
The fact that teachers' salaries need to be addressed in order to solve problems in Philippine basic education remains falling on deaf ears. Recently, this blog published two articles to reemphasize the grave need to raise salaries:

Should Teachers in the Philippines Go On Mass Leave

Strikes are quite rare. Workers only resort to an organized stoppage when their demands are not being heard. Strikes can be very disruptive especially when these involve public services. In some jurisdictions, there are some professions where strikes are not allowed. For example, in New York, its labor law prohibits strikes of all state public employees. One could imagine that the main argument behind such prohibitions is serving the public interest. Some of these services are very crucial and work stoppage can lead to substantial harm to the public. Such argument has often been used to ban strikes by teachers in public schools. The question of whether such strikes harm learning outcomes still remains to be addressed. Contrary to gut instincts, a causation relationship between teachers' strikes and poor learning outcomes is not clear from evidence. One must keep in mind that strikes are means of last resort, thus, when strikes occur, there is a very high likelihood that schools are already in trouble. This applies for example to public basic education in the Philippines....

Should Teachers Fight for Higher Salaries?

Qout Capita Tot Sensus. There are as many opinions as there are heads. This is basically what one gets when one asks how the dismal situation of Philippine basic education can be addressed. Take, for instance, a recent meeting held at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati that recently addressed the "poor quality" of teaching in the Philippines. Some focused on the licensure exam - as if an exam could really define the quality of teaching. Some looked at the grades of high school graduates entering the teaching schools. Some even provided evidence that people who have finished a college degree before going into a teacher education program were more effective. One person, however, Dr. Cris Acido of the University of the Philippines College of Education, was quoted as saying:

“We don’t get the best minds because of the status we have given the teaching profession. 
Giving higher salaries could be a move in the right direction."This opinion given by Acido is in fact based on evidence.

This blog can only repeat what already should be obvious. Perhaps, it is also to time to remind us of what Father Nebres once said:

"Overall, the really big challenge in the Philippines is how there is such a knowledge and cultural distance between the elites and the poor. If you ask me what our biggest role is, it is a bridge across those gaps. The biggest solutions will only come from our next generation of leaders who will have a better feel for the poverty in the country. People in power have tended to take simplistic approaches to the poverty – consider the businessmen who seek an improvement to our struggling public schools by adding two years to the curriculum. My point is, ‘700 thousand students drop out before grade six, and 1.2 million do not finish the current high school curriculum.’ Solutions like getting more computers or adding years of school won’t work for these student dropouts. Our challenge becomes connecting these leaders with the actual problems the poor have."
The teachers have been telling us for so long now what their problems are, but we are not listening. Instead, we push our own ideas, our own reforms. When will we ever learn?