September 28, 2023

If the latest report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), was a pizza, we received the least desirable slice: It showed Filipino students ranked last among their counterparts from 79 countries in reading comprehension, science and mathematics. Still, the news did not surprise many of us classroom teachers. Our students’ dismal academic performance has long been obvious to those directly in contact with learners.
What is happening in our schools that may have contributed to our students’ poor showing? Let me hazard some answers.
First, the many activities in or off-campus requiring the participation of teachers or students, or both, have greatly reduced engaged time-on-task, which is time for teacher and students to meet inside the classroom or learning laboratory. These activities include competitions held during class hours, class suspensions, or shortened periods due to faculty meetings or school programs, and many instances where students are pulled out of the classroom to assemble en masse for some announcements, to welcome visitors, etc.
Second, with more office work than “classroom work,” teachers today are more clerks than teachers. Thus, they cannot focus on teaching and its attendant duties, like researching on their lessons, preparing appropriate and effective materials, checking students’ works and providing prompt feedbacks, and designing effective interventions. Teachers enjoy these things. However, due to so many reports about so many activities, indirectly or even remotely related to teaching, teachers just have to grieve silently while they spend most of their time for these tasks.
Third, teaching and learning between students and teacher in their classroom or learning laboratory is not a priority among school leaders or principals. Their priority now is to have more outside activities and programs for more students to attend for more reports to be submitted to higher offices. Invitations from anywhere are accepted. Never mind the days – even weeks – of practicing outside the classroom; never mind that the students involved are those who can hardly cope with lessons, those who cannot afford to be pulled out of their classes. Anyway, at the end, a report is made for the school to add to its portfolio of accomplishments.
DepEd Order 9, s. 2005 is clear. To arrest the deteriorating quality of education, it says, nay, it orders, school authorities to maximize the use of the time allotment for every subject and reduce the non-teaching duties of teachers. Moreover, classes should not be suspended even for celebrations of historical or significant events, and contests in schools must be held outside of class hours.
I know very well the importance of extracurricular activities, contests, and other programs involving our students. However, balance must be observed. Schools must exercise discrimination in choosing which invitations to accept and when to interrupt classes so as not to jeopardize the teaching-learning process nor to deprive the learners of their right to a healthy and balanced education.
I take pride in being a public high school teacher. Teaching is a noble profession; to do it for the government makes it even nobler. I love to teach; take away my time for teaching, separate me from my students or they from me, and I am deeply grieved.
Lastly, some may challenge the arguments I have given here and ask, “Is that research-based?” My answer: We don’t need research for everything; sometimes, people, especially teachers, just need common sense and enough sensitivity. So, like Archimedes, just step into the tub and see for yourself.