Teachers’ pockets can’t catch up with ‘Catch-Up Fridays’

Teachers’ pockets can’t catch up with ‘Catch-Up Fridays’

/ 05:30 AM March 11, 2024

PHOTO: Grade 4 students at President Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Quezon City take part in “Catch-Up Fridays” at the start of the program on Jan. 12, 2024.

MAKING READING A HABIT | PHOTO: Grade 4 students at President Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Quezon City take part in “Catch-Up Fridays” at the start of the program on Jan. 12, 2024. (File photo by LYN RILLON / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

That good intentions may sometimes lead to unpleasant results is a truism being felt by many public school teachers, who find themselves shelling out personal funds to cover the learning materials needed for “Catch-Up Fridays.”

Other teachers meanwhile spend out-of-pocket for prizes and other incentives to entice more students to attend the Department of Education’s (DepEd) latest initiative to improve the reading proficiency levels of Filipino learners. The nongraded activity has been plagued with absenteeism.


“Since teachers practically get no support from DepEd for the reading materials [for the program], teachers will have to shoulder their cost, and that’s where the problem lies,” Benjo Basas, chair of the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), told the Inquirer in a phone interview.


Quoting his fellow teachers, Basas said they shell out at least P300 in monthly expenses to cover the materials. Fortunately, some schools distribute soft copies to students, sparing some teachers this extra expense, he added.

While Basas stressed that the TDC “does not condone” passing on this expense to students, he noted that DepEd and the public need to understand why there are reports of this “inappropriate practice” happening.

“If it weren’t for the [program], there would be no need for teachers to even look for [extra] resources,” he said.

ACT Teachers party-list said it does not tolerate the practice either but noted that it is “unjust” for teachers to come up with their own learning resources and spend for them because of the “lack or insufficiency of books or materials” from DepEd.

Snacks and candies

Anne Francisco, a Grade 7 teacher at Signal Village National High School in Taguig City, said she did not have to spend on learning materials as teachers in her school need only to “request [the materials] ahead of time,” since these “printed materials” are covered by the school funds.

But to effectively implement the program, Francisco said she had to buy snacks and candies worth around P100 as giveaways to students, after she noticed that her class of 47 has an average of five absentees every Friday.


“Catch-Up Fridays are not [graded], that’s why some kids prefer to just skip it,” Francisco told the Inquirer. “We provide prizes for [the students] so they won’t get bored and [we can] persuade them to go to class every Friday.”

The program that started on Jan. 12 replaced regular Friday classes to give way to activities meant to reverse the low rankings of Filipino learners in reading and comprehension. While not graded, the students’ performance is monitored through their “reflection journal.”

More workload

Strategies to help students deepen their love for reading vary among fellow teachers, said Francisco, who noted that her students have “leveled up in reading and comprehension” since she started moderating the program.

“We make sure that they’re having fun, [and] we make activities that relate to the stories they’ve read,” she said.

Francisco added, however, that she prefers having the weekly reading sessions deferred until the next school year “just so we’re not pressed for time to come up with a lesson [plan].”

Aside from added expenses, Basas said the new program has “further burdened” teachers with more workload because those who conduct the reading sessions now have “a new subject that they would have to teach, instead of just the usual regular subjects.”

The added workload and the unwelcome financial burden have led both the TDC and the ACT Teachers party list to call for the program’s suspension.

“From the very start, we’ve been saying that this is not a necessity. In fact, we have a National Learning Camp (NLC) … which has almost the same objectives [as Catch-Up Fridays],” Basas pointed out.

The NLC was rolled out last year to similarly address learning losses through “enrichment, intervention or remediation activities” for Grades 7 and 8 students while they are on their end-of-school-year break, he said.

‘Reduced’ schedule

Basas clarified that the TDC is not against interventions meant to address the learning gaps among Filipino students, as shown in the recent results of national and international assessments.

“No teacher in his or her right mind will oppose measures to recover learning losses,” he said. “Our only concern is that [Catch-Up Fridays] may do more harm than good.”

He noted that the current school year has already been reduced by two weeks to accommodate “our common desire to revert to the June to March [school] cycle.” Now “we are again reducing the week by a day [for Catch-Up Fridays],” he said.

ACT Teachers also argued for the suspension of the program in the absence of clear guidelines, noting that “it is the teachers who bear the brunt of additional workload in [its] preparation and implementation.”

Earlier, the group pointed out that “the decision [on Catch-Up Fridays] was made without democratic and extensive consultation with teachers and stakeholders. Consequently, teachers had to procure books and photocopy reading materials from their own pockets.”

‘Collating the feedback’

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa, however, said the agency was not inclined to halt the implementation of the program, which would run until the end of the current school year on May 31.

DepEd is now in the process of threshing out issues that may have led to hiccups in the program’s implementation, he added.

“We have issued a memorandum to the field last Friday, encouraging our teachers, teachers in charge and principals to provide feedback and recommendations on the conduct of Catch-Up Fridays,” Poa said in a text message.

“Based on the feedback and recommendations received, we will implement appropriate measures to continuously enhance the program and address the issues encountered,” he added.

READ: House bill proposes P50,000 as teachers’ monthly pay

However, Poa did not categorically address the concerns raised by teachers on out-of-pocket costs. “We’re [still] collating the feedback,” he said.

Basas said he is looking forward to DepEd’s possible adjustments to the program following the issues raised by some teachers.

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“Let us think collectively on how to implement the program effectively,” he said. INQ

TAGS: Department of Education, DepEd Catch-up Fridays, Teachers

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