Teacher Protection Act hurdles House committee level

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MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education and Culture has approved a bill that seeks to institutionalize the protection of “overworked and underpaid” public school teachers and school personnel.

ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tino said House Bill No. 58 or the Teacher Protection Act was approved by the committee last Monday.

The measure was sponsored by Tinio and Rep. France Castro, who stressed the need for measures governing student discipline and classroom management to ease the burden of public school teachers and school personnel.

“For so long, the overworked and underpaid teachers, who are at the very forefront of the delivery of education services to millions of students, are already heavily burdened by large class sizes, multiple shifts and their clerical tasks. They have been facing challenges in classroom management and in instilling discipline among their students,” Tinio said in a statement, Wednesday.

Teachers, he said, have also been victims of the “half-baked and ill-prepared” K to 12 program of the Department of Education (DepEd).

Tinio said the program “forces them to work extra hard due to the additional tasks like the preparation of educational materials for the class and shelling out their own money in the process.”

On top of these burdens, the progressive lawmaker said, teachers also lack institutional support because there are no existing standards and effective methods of instilling discipline on students.

This, as well as the absence of guidance counselors to act as support personnel, has made the teachers vulnerable, without legal assistance and representation, according to Tinio.

To some extent, he said teachers have also been victims of extortion and other forms of harassment where parents or guardians of their students can easily file complaints against them for allegedly violating the provisions under RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

The Teacher Protection Act mandates the creation of a uniform School Manual or Code of Discipline, a set of standards and guidelines on classroom management that clarifies the acts of the teacher or school staff which should not be deemed as child abuse, cruelty, or exploitation under RA 7610.

Upon enactment, this proposal will require every school to comply with a 1:200 ratio of guidance counselor per student population.

Castro, for her part, said the employment of a sufficient number of guidance counselors would ensure the proper intervention of an expert.

“The guidance counselor is the most suitable professional to be entrusted with the handling of behavioral issues of the students for appropriate resolution. The hiring of an adequate number of support personnel will effectively address the need to monitor the wellbeing of the students and will help the teachers in instilling discipline,” she added.

The proposed Teacher Protection Act also provides measures to protect teachers and school personnel in cases related to student discipline and classroom management.

These safeguards include legal assistance and representation by counsel and union or association representatives, with the confidentiality of proceedings ensured and the identity of all parties protected.

Tinio and Castro have likewise called on the swift passage of the measure, saying it would address the clamor of all public school teachers for better working conditions and would bring substantial reforms to the country’s public education system.

“We urge the House leadership for its immediate passage and enjoin our colleagues in the Senate to file and pass a counterpart bill,” they said.

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