August 28, 2005


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Taking on the Phil. Code of Ethics for teachers

The teacher strikes back


Republic Act No. 7836, also known as “The Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act of 1994” placed the Licensure Exam for Teachers under the Professional Regulation Commission and articulated the Code of Ethics for teachers. It expounds on Article II of the Philippine Constitution and the Education Act of 1982, which both talk about the role that education plays in building the nation. Thus, the first “given” in the Code is that the teacher is the partner of the State in developing its “future citizens.” Teachers are “under obligation to elevate national morality, promote racial pride, cultivate love of country, instill respect for constituted authorities, and include obedience to the laws of the State” (Article II, section 1).

This Article, which seems the most obvious, is the one that is often ignored by many teachers. Perhaps teachers of Math and Science would rather leave the patriotism lessons to teachers of Makabayan, or Philippine History, believing that it is unrelated to their subject areas. Or perhaps English teachers refuse to engage in the debate of how learning the English language has been detrimental to Philippine identity because they are convinced that it is English that makes us “globally competitive.” And they can even afford to be smug about it because they have the support of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Ironically, the government is itself guilty of thwarting the Philippine Constitution in this stand. When we promote and laud schools that have “English only zones” or special programs that teach the American accent, aren’t we betraying the nation’s cultural heritage? When we create curricula that are designed to make our graduates “globally competitive,” aren’t we contributing to the brain drain in our own country? As teachers, it is our professional obligation to “inculcate love of country,” so why are we driving our students abroad?

How ironic that in the Licensure Examinations last August 14, our proctor even seemed proud to say that in their school, five Science teachers have already gone abroad. The assumption is that we were taking the Teachers Board Exams in order to qualify for a teaching post abroad. Of course, that may be true for some of them, who seemed dejected that none of the English teachers have been chosen to join the exodus. It has been said that teaching is a social service, an investment in the future; therefore, when we teach abroad, we are depriving our own country of that service. I tell my students that in the Philippines today, we seem to have only two types of teachers: the idiots (who didn’t pass the standards of foreign schools) and the idealists (who refuse to leave the education of Filipino children to the idiots). The fact that our biggest export today is labor is not something to be proud of. Surely it is proof that the government has failed; but it is also somehow the failure of education.

Secondly, Article I, section 3 of the Code requires teachers to be “physically, mentally, morally fit,” specifying the traits: “devotion to duty, honesty, punctuality, and efficiency.” These expectations should have gone without saying, but some teachers need to be reminded that this job requires them to be qualified and adequately prepared for the academic requirements of the subjects they teach. It is also important to remember that we must be devoted to our duty. Certainly, “to become a professional is to acquire duties to the public” (Martin, p. 310). But devotion implies an attitude of service regardless of reward. Surely we want and deserve just wages, but devotion suggests doing more than what we are paid to do and not expecting applause when we do. For example, it is our minimum duty to give tests, but a devoted teacher would take the time and effort to create a test that is a true learning experience for the student and not just a requirement to pass.

Third, Article VIII of the Code specifies the ways by which the teacher should never take advantage of the students, whether it be financially, academically, or romantically. It is obvious that students are theoretically powerless against the teacher, who can, in fact, pass or fail the student arbitrarily or maliciously. This issue is also discussed in the Education Act of 1982, but again, many teachers blatantly disobey this. The Code is unequivocal about it – NEVER TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STUDENTS. I agree. That is to say, I only started dating my husband two years after he had become my student, and to my credit, I did make an honest man out of him eventually!

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Article IV, section 1 reminds us that teachers should “manifest genuine enthusiasm and pride in their calling.” We should be the first ones to consider our job the “noblest profession.” It really isn’t just a job; it is a calling, a vocation. That is why it saddens me when teachers themselves suggest part-time teaching as an unfortunate jobseeker’s last resort. When a fresh graduate cannot get a “real” job, or when someone needs extra money, they intone, “Magturo ka na lang!” In fact, the local magazine Good Housekeeping, lists part-time teaching as one of the top 10 best “rakets,” implying that it is a job that is temporary and is done only for the extra money, like making fruit cakes during the Christmas season.

Why did this happen to the teaching profession? When did it become the last choice? #

Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz is currently the Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of the Cordilleras, Baguio City. She has taught English and Literature in De La Salle University, St. Louis University, St. Scholastica’s College, and the Manila Times School of Journalism.

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