We got them but we don’t see them: Teachers speak up on LET passing rate as not being ‘best and brightest’
Helping another person learn about the world is no easy task, and to say it is extra challenging for Filipino teachers may even be an understatement. To prepare themselves for the noble job of teaching, aspiring teachers study to earn bachelor degrees, then must pass the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET).
As with other licensure examinations, the LET is no walk in the park and usually prompts prospective takers to review months before the test. But despite the training that hopeful teachers undergo before the exam, the passing rate has dropped over the years.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian raised the issue during a hearing of the Senate committee on education last October. After he asked why the rate was not improving, Runvi Manguerra, executive director of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Teacher Education Council (TEC), reasoned that it could be because those “attracted” to the teaching profession are “not the best and the brightest.”
Manguerra’s statement was initially met with criticism from both teachers and students. In this edition of INQUIRER.net’s Take 10, we were finally able to gather 10 LET-passing teachers who bravely express their stand on whether or not they agree with Manguerra’s explanation for the decreasing passing rate. Their answers illuminate the greater issue at hand – the need for systemic changes that would nurture and affirm, instead of blame, our dear teachers.
Q: Do you agree that teachers attracted to the profession and taking the licensure exam are “not the best and the brightest”?
It’s not about ‘the best and brightest,’ says Raymond Basilio, secretary-general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)
The field of education is not attracting the so-called “best and brightest” because education degrees are not one of the courses the government promotes. Education degrees also do not get sufficient support from the government. The government’s investment towards faculty development, infrastructure, and budget, in general, are with colleges that provide degrees in science, math, and engineering instead.
This is why this is not a conversation of “not the best students”; this is a dialogue on whether or not the support given to students taking education degrees is enough. This is also a discussion on curriculum. Does the current one meet the needs of students who study education?
However, the decrease in the quality of education is also due to the fact that the government does not follow UNESCO’s suggestion on funding for public education. The education budget should be 20% of the national budget or 6% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Currently, only 3.5% of the GDP is allocated for the education sector. The current curriculum is also not designed to shape the minds and capabilities of students. Instead, it is focused on producing semi-skilled sources of cheap labor needed abroad.
‘I disagree,’ says Bless Peña, grade 9 and 10 math teacher at the Maryhill College in Lucena City, Quezon province
The LET itself is poorly constructed. In my experience, there were questions with no correct answers and others with insufficient data to answer it. This instance shows that the commission in charge of checking the materials has failed to uphold the quality of its content.
The compensation of the government and private institutions is also not enough to get the so-called “best and brightest.” If the teachers are treated with respect and given proper benefits, I believe that more students would choose education. At the end of the day, what’s to blame is the system managing it.
‘Absolutely not,’ says Isabelle Cruz, Atelier Manager and Lead Learning Partner at the One Hundred Ways Atelier in Muntinlupa, Alabang
Teachers go through extensive training to gain more knowledge to provide the best quality education for their students. As for the LET, its coverage is wide-ranging. It consists of topics from grade school up until college, across all subjects, as well as the different theories and educational philosophies.
So to study all of these in a limited span of time to pass the LET is not just about being the best and the brightest. It requires more than that. Teachers are a whole lot more than that. Teachers deserve more credit especially at times like this.
‘It takes more than just being bright,’ says Eleanor Bahrami-Hessari, faculty of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Education in España, Manila
It is surprising to hear a DepEd official make this comment. It is important to consider not just the grades of aspiring teachers but also their motivation in majoring in education.
In the Philippines, where teaching is unfortunately seen as the “lesser” profession, young people are less likely to make education a priority major. It may take a whole lifetime to change this, but it all boils down to how educators in the field and in government agencies advocate for OUR profession, uplift OUR morale as professionals and demand we be given appropriate compensation for the work we do.
It is also important to note that all Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs) are monitored by accreditation agencies to ensure the delivery of competent programs. We may not get the “best and the brightest” but we MAKE them competent, committed and compassionate professionals. It takes more than just being “bright” to be a good educator.
A dismaying notion, says Helene Dimaukom, special education teacher at the Canizares National High School in Cotobato City, member of ACT
It is dismaying to know that he has this notion as to why the LET passing rate is low. I am one of the LET reviewers in one of the private universities in Cotabato City. Our passers do not go below 90% of the total reviewees every year.
I always ask my reviewees “Why teaching?” and they would say because it’s their passion. But at the end of the day, they would prefer to be in another field with a higher salary. Others also go out of the country for greener pastures.
During this pandemic, we expect that DepEd would design a curriculum suited to the situation that would not affect the quality of education as mandated in our constitution. But with the blended learning in the new normal, we are frustrated over how we are pressured as we risk our health to adjust to what is being mandated in the higher echelon.
‘I disagree,’ says Louie Dasas, lecturer for the Teacher Certificate Program of UST College of Education; handles research, creativity and innovation for grade 12
Teaching does not attract as many “bright” students because of the teachers’ quality of life here. We are overworked and underpaid. Added fact: some are made to teach even without a license. How will this attract people to pursue an education program if s/he can be given the opportunity to teach even without a license?
We have many TEIs offering programs but some of these do not even produce LET passers. It is important to look into government efforts to regulate these TEIs and on how the curriculum for prospective teachers is implemented. Part of the functions of the TEC is to initiate periodic review of curricula and programs for teacher education. To what extent does the TEC live up to its mandate?
Teaching is a multifaceted discipline. The LET requires general knowledge, professional education knowledge and subject-specialization knowledge. I believe compressing all these test domains in one day affects how well a test-taker will perform in the examination. In addition, some items do not even have correct answers. I personally experienced this on the day of the examination.
‘I highly disagree,’ says Vince Leonsame, MAPEH and PE teacher at the La Consolacion College in Biñan, Laguna
The educational system in our country is the problem — not the students [studying to be teachers]. For example, I myself am a graduate of bachelor of secondary education (BSE) major in MAPEH but not all institutions offer the same degree. They are offering majors in a specific component but there’s no specific licensure examination in the Professional Regulation Commission for it, so it means you need to take the examination as a whole regardless of your major. It is hard to apply all the ideologies, philosophies, and context of one component to one exam but it is a requirement and it’s the law.
No to a demeaning remark, says Teacher A (real name withheld), graduate of early childhood education
I find it unacceptable for Mr. Manguerra, a person with a high position in an important council in education, to make such demeaning remarks. When he was asked for an explanation about the numbers declining, rather than labelling the courageous individuals who are attracted to such a noble profession, I thought he should have focused more on the aspects of improving education systems.
This may include possible revisions on how the council executes periodic reviews of curricula and teacher training and education programs across schools; developing more standards and policies to ensure good quality in teacher education; conducting more in-depth researches on the state of the teacher education; performing data analysis of local and international assessments results; and other underlying factors that impact quality in teaching and learning of teachers and students.
LET is not the basis of a good teacher, says Khyte Mendoza, a high school english teacher
The education sector here in the Philippines has never been this government’s priority and for him to say that is outrageous. Aspiring teachers may not be “the best and the brightest,” but they are the most dedicated and passionate people because they are not doing it for money, but for service. But they need to earn as well to help their families but teaching has never been a high-paying job here.
The LET should not be the basis of how good a teacher is; it’s a multiple choice test. The real stage is the classroom. If they want the passing rate to improve, then DepEd should put a premium on teacher training. It must assure aspiring teachers that the government prioritizes the support for education as well.
‘You’re not seeing your best and brightest,’ says Seth Dungca, MA Special Education student, University of the Philippines Diliman
It’s ironic hearing someone from education immediately find something to blame, rather than find solutions to a problem. Being in education means being well-versed with research, and being prepared to adapt to the rapidly changing concept of education. You already have the best and the brightest, you just fail to see them because you’re looking through the wrong lens.
If your problem is attracting “the best and the brightest,” then give them something to be attracted to. A lot of good teachers prefer to teach abroad because they are well compensated and respected there. Here, you are paid barely enough for your hours, have to work past work hours without pay in order to keep up with the unreasonable demands DepEd imposes, learn a new curriculum without enough training, which leads to teachers appearing like bad people when they’re simply trying to adhere to their superior’s commands. These teachers aren’t being cared for nor polished by their government, so how do you expect them to shine? JB
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