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Teacher Athos and the hope of our future

Gregorio Miguel Pallugna .

JUST very recently, the results of the September 2018 Licensure Exam for Teachers were released and the Professional Regulation Commission announced that 79,212 examinees passed the exams for elementary and secondary education teachers. That’s a lot! But wait till you hear the number of graduates who took the exam. Unless you researched it or you know someone who took the exam, I can bet a million dollars that your guess is too low. The number of education graduates who took the exam is 217,332! Multiply that by two exams in a year and you will realize that every year almost half a million Filipinos try to become licensed professional teachers. That’s much more than the number of people who took the exams to become lawyers, physicians and engineers in 2018, combined! That’s also much more than the bail bond required of Imelda Marcos in her graft case, but that is totally out of topic.

With that number, it would be hard to think why our educational system is problematic. According to the Deped, the ratio between teachers and students in elementary and high school actually increased this year to 1 teacher per 31 students, compared to the ratio of 1:45 last year. Yet, we still have to ask why so many Filipino children still don’t grow up to be good, respectful and law abiding citizens – with our and previous generations being conclusive evidence of this fact.

Just shortly before the LET results were released, I had the chance to talk to a young aspirant who took the exam, Athos. Like most young people, Athos is an idealistic, energetic, and very positive person. He loved to talk about the teaching profession and the hope of being able to contribute in positively molding the youth into kind and responsible individuals, even as he himself could still be considered one. I asked him what he thinks is the most basic problem of our educational system. I started the conversation thinking that he would give me the same problem most lawyers would automatically think of – Not enough pay. And then I would have the chance to rant about the most marginalized issue of why people should be paying us more. But, he quickly replied that the most basic problem is that our education program does not fully equip our youth to get gainful employment after graduation. As a solution, he praises the K-12 program which he hopes will address this issue. Admittedly, this program allows young people to train for practical livelihood even without having to take up useless courses in college. Ideally, that is. I however, personally know so many students who are sent to undergo Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) with private companies and even local government units where they learn nothing but arrange files, carry chairs and do things that are absolutely unrelated to their chosen fields. If this continues, then the K-12 that Athos hopes to help solve the problem will be for naught. The Deped should seriously do something about this issue.

On second thought, Athos told me, the most basic problem of our educational system is that most parents leave education to the teachers. And when you think about it, he is absolutely correct. And I realized that this might be of more significance than the lawyer-problem I mentioned, if not of equal importance. Some children are lucky to have parents who spend time after school to continue to teach their children the most important lessons in life – respect, hard work, kindness, patience, grit, passion to learn, and many more, but many children do not even get help in changing their clothes when they get home. If they’re unlucky enough, they might even get home to a warzone between parents and probably get hit in the cross-fire.

According to Athos, education should be a three-way undertaking. He says it should be a continuous effort between the student, the teacher, and the parents. Even before sending their children to school, parents should already start teaching them basic values and continue to live as good examples. Young children look up to their parents and no matter how hard the teachers try to teach their students, it will be useless if the parents do not act in that manner. If parents do not show their children that they have respect for other people, that they have love for their country and the environment, or that they have passion to improve themselves, children will never learn these things. One teacher for every 31 students is definitely not enough to allow the kind of learning students get from parents at a very young age and as they grow.

This conversation reminds me of the case of Roe vs. Wade in America, where the US Supreme Court paved the way to legalize abortion across the whole country. The decision was released in 1973 and the crime rate in the US was continuously rising at that time. In fact, it continued to rise until the early 1990’s. Then it surprisingly, suddenly started to drop. A study was conducted by American economists John Donohue and Steven Levitt to verify the cause of the drop but there could be no significant reason pinned on it other than the fact that more women had abortions after the Roe vs. Wade ruling. It was suggested that the rise in abortion rate prevented the rise of children being neglected by unprepared or unwilling parents. So, in the early 90’s and onwards, those children who would have been born to unequipped parents since 1973, and would have become adults, and potential criminals for having no proper guidance at home, were no longer there. While I am not promoting abortion in this column, the decision is worth noting because of its effect. It gives us the idea that indeed, those children who do not get proper attention and good values education at home, grow up to be the painfully delinquent members of our society. Athos, who never heard of the Roe vs. Wade ruling before, and in his young idealistic mind, was able to identify the problem.

I then asked Athos how he thinks this problem should be solved. He said, hopefully a law could be passed requiring parents to participate in the formal education of their children, make reports and have regular discussions with teachers, to ensure that children are educated not only in schools but also at home. In the meantime, he said that if he would pass the exam he would dedicate his profession to help mold his students to become persons with good values. With the vigor he had in saying these things, I tend to believe him. We definitely need teachers like him. Fortunately, Athos passed the September 2018 LET exam and is now waiting to take his oath as a full-fledged Licensed Professional Teacher!

As for me, I think that parents should stop complaining about how society has fallen into this quagmire, from which we might never recover, and start spending more time teaching their children how to act as good persons and respectable citizens. And of course, I continue to rant about how people should be paying us more.

Congratulations to Athos Louis Daniot Escalante, and the 79,211 others who are now professional teachers! Be the Roe vs. Wade of our society.

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