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A Preliminary Observation on the Situation of Teacher Organization in the Philippines in the Context of Globalization

Prof. Victor Aguilan President Silliman University Faculty Association Silliman University 6200 Dumaguete City, Philippines

October 2002

As we celebrate the centennial of Unionism in the Philippines, labor movement in the country is confronted with a series of major challenges and opportunities. Todays unions are facing the phenomena of falling membership levels, high rates of unemployment in the workforce, a new activism among employers, hostile neo-liberal governments and/or attacks on existing industrial arrangements. These have all contributed to a situation in which the continued viability of unions as significant social and economic actors has been put into question. Moreover, this has led to calls from within and outside the labor movement, for unions to `reinvent' themselves. Whatever the response or responses to these challenges, there is a need to assess the current situation of the labor movement in the country. In this regard, one sector that needs this study are the education workers in the private school. This paper shall attempt to present preliminary observations on the current situations of teacher- organizing in the private school. This paper has two parts: the first part deals with the challenges brought by Globalization, and the second discusses the prospects for teachers organizing in the context of Globalization. It is hoped that this paper shall provide direction for future studies and research. I. THE CHALLENGE OF GLOBALIZATION 1 The forces of globalization are dramatically changing the way we think and conceive of schooling. Due to the vastly improved forms of information technology, instantaneous communication, and a capacity of international capital to move around the world at short notice local circumstances most notably, cheap labor, are taken advantaged of. This means that corporations as well as governments are faced with unprecedented levels of volatility, uncertainty and unpredictability demanding quite different kinds of responses both in terms of work organization as well as workplace skills. These circumstances are characterized by: higher productivity through technological innovation; lower wages, reduced social benefits, and less protective working conditions; decentralization of production to regions of the world with more relaxed labor and environmental restrictions, and greater reliance on the informal economy i.e. unregulated

The challenges identified are based on the Proceedings of the First Consultation on the Situation of Education Employees in the Visayas, held on November 30,2001 in Cebu sponsored by Silliman University Faculty Association, Cebu Institute of Medicine Employees Union-NFL, and Veles College-NFL In this consulation the Visayas Education Employees Forum was organized. 1

labor; and weakening trade unions, which is the single most important factor in restoring the level of profits. 2 We are also witnessing the emergence of new form of government interventions, whereby new means and new areas are penetrated by the state, while others are deregulated and transferred to the market. Castells, the author of the book The Information City: Information Technology, and the Urban-Regional Process, sees this emerging redefinition of the role of the state as embracing: deregulation of many activities, including relaxation of environmental controls in the workplace; shrinkage of and privatization of productive activities, in the public sectors; regressive tax reform favoring corporations and high income groups; state support for high technology research and development and leading industrial sectors; priority and status of defense and defense-related industries; shrinkage of the welfare state; and fiscal austerity, with the goal of a balance budget.3 These changes have implications for the way in which schools are organized and administered, and these along with their implications for teachers work and organizations. In a consultation on the situation of private school teachers held last year in Cebu which was participated by seven unions and one faculty club, three issues brought by globalization were identified namely: (1) Commercialization of education (2) Deteriorating Working Conditions; and (3) A Concerted Attack on Teachers Union 1. Commercialization of Education Running a school costs money. There is a real problem of looking and enlarging the revenue pie. Many schools have only one major source of revenue, and these are school fees. The passage of Education Act 1982 and RA 6728 has strengthened the government policy of deregulation of school fees. These laws have strengthened or legitimized the school management prerogative to increase school fees without or with less intervention from the State. The market approach to education has turned a public good/service into a commodity. Education is business. It is a service commodity that is sold to the student. A good education costs much or is expensive and those who are willing to pay for it should get their money's worth. Since quality education is expensive, those who want that kind of education must be willing to pay for it. One doesn't need to be an economic expert to recognize the application of a marketoriented approach to education. Education is being conceived as a business corporation: the Board of Trustees are the owners who employ teachers for the production of education which is sold to students, the consumers. For the BOT-owners, financial viability means keeping a positive balance between educational revenues and operational cost. It is simply bad business sense to seek relief from revenues other than what the students pay for their education. This view of education as a commodity is the dominant thinking of most administrators of private schools. In a FAPE (Funds for the Assistance of Private Education) sponsored seminar for administrators on resource mobilization, one speaker suggested, " to increase the school's income . . . is to raise the tuition fee. The other area where schools have more leeway to do some increases is in the miscellaneous fees. You may also create new
2 3

Castells, 1989, pp. 23-25 Castells, p 25 2

miscellaneous fee items such as faculty fund, departmental fund, development fund, audiovisual fund, and others." However the high cost of education doesn't translate to quality education because quality education depends greatly on the teachers. And most teachers don't get the quality pay. We, the teachers are working harder and longer, but for less. The problem is about the fair sharing of the school revenues between the faculty and school administrators. This has caused conflict between the Union and the University, most notably over pay (salary increases and 70% share from the tuition fee incremental increase). Private education institutions because of its nature as a private corporation like any other private corporation expect a return of investment (ROI) or profits. In the Philippines, school business is profitable. The law guarantees school owners a 10 percent share from tuition fee increases. 2. Deteriorating Working Conditions Teaching is what teachers do. Teaching takes place in schools with students, colleagues and school administrators. The teaching of students in classrooms includes activities which go beyond contact hours like preparation and correction, student consultation, co-curricula involvement with sport, music and the like not to mention, civic duties. Usually many of these activities are not considered part of the working load or working hours of private school teachers. Today, school management is under pressure from school owners to increase profits by reducing production cost. The most common way of the cost-cutting measure of the school administrators that contribute to the deterioration of the working conditions of teachers is through the intensification of teachers work. Some of the examples are: By increasing student-faculty ratio through merging of sections expenses or costs are reduced. We have an average class size of 50 students. But we know that sometimes we have to accept a class of 60 students. But this arrangement actually increases or intensifies the workload of teachers, i.e., more papers to checks, more time needed for student consultation, etc. With regard to teaching load, 18 units teaching load is required by law which requires 18 contact hours with students. This does not include the number of subjects/courses or preparation factor. A faculty member in some schools may have 5 to 6 subjects. Teachers are also expected to render non-teaching duties, committee meetings, extra-curricular activities, etc. In Silliman University we have what we call the preparation factor. This refers to the number of subjects taught plus the number of units which constitute a regular load. The School Management attempted to remove the preparation factor. Hence, we had to fight for this right/benefit during the 1996 CBA negotiation.4 Government education policies or mandated curricula have also contributed to intensification of teachers work. In the pre-collegiate level, for example, teachers have more school days compared to their colleagues in the tertiary level. And because of the age-level of their students teachers in the pre-collegiate level require more contact hours with students and yet are given more subjects.

SUFA Collective Bargaining Agreement, 2001, cf. DOLE Secretary Decision RE: Labor Dispute at Silliman University, dated 14 May 1997. 3

The introduction of the new curriculum MAKABAYAN or Millennium Curriculum5 threatens the existing working conditions of teachers. It would aggravate their deteriorating conditions. This new curriculum seeks to integrate five core learning areas into one subject called Pag-SIKAP. The latter stands for Pag - Araling Pagpapahalaga (Homeroom); S Sining (Arts and Music); I - Information and Communication Technology (ICT); K - Kultura, Kalusugan at Kabuhayan (Culture, Health and Livelihood); AP - Araling Panlipunan at Araling Pangkatawan (Social Studies and Physical Education). This means that under the proposal, elementary and high school students will have an integrated curriculum composed of only five subjects, namely English, Filipino, Mathematics, Natural Science and PagSIKAP. Class hours devoted to subjects like Social Studies that will be integrated to PagSIKAP will be cut by almost half on a weekly basis. At the same time, class hours for Math, Science, Filipino and English will be increased by one-and-a-half hours weekly. For example, in one week, a Grade IV pupil will take up five hours of Math, five hours of Science, five hours of Filipino, six hours and 40 minutes of English, and five hours of Pag-SIKAP. This means that the five core learning areas like Social Studies within Pag-SIKAP will only be allotted one hour each. Under the proposal, the subject Values Education will be abolished and integrated to the five subjects. Such proposed features of the Millennium Curriculum would only streamlines the curriculum. While it is supposed to provide basic skills, the proposed curriculum sacrifices other aspects that would comprise total and integrative education for students. This would affect the working conditions of the teacher. Additional preparation time or courses would be imposed on the teacher. There is also the danger of downsizing of teachers, especially in the private schools. Another cost-cutting measure being used by school administrators is the hiring of parttime faculty members. By law part-time faculty members can never have permanent status and are excluded from the collective bargaining agreement. This means lesser benefits. Moreover, employees without job protection are bound to appear more "flexible" to administrators, but it is hard to argue that they do a better job. There is an observation that the ratio of full-time to part-time faculty is decreasing which means more part-time teachers or teaching fellows are hired to handle general education courses or specialized courses. Full-time regular faculty positions are slowly eroding and being replaced by a mix of part-time faculty, full-time/limited-term faculty who are not eligible for tenure, and, at some big "flagship" universities, graduate student instructors. Hovering in the wings are plans to use computers, instructional software and the Internet to reduce the number of instructors of any type through reliance on computermediated instruction. Administrators often insist they cannot prevent the gradual decline of full-time faculty, citing inadequate money supply and, of course, the need for flexibility. This means they want the administrative license to adjust the labor supply and its costs to variations in enrollment demand, not unlike their management counterparts in a manufacturing plant, who adjust production to demand for their "product." The end result is the loss of job security for teachers. This condition does not only affect the teachers but the students as well. Pedagogically, it makes sense that good working conditions for teachers make a vital

The Restructured Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC), also known as the Millennium Curriculum, prepared by the Department of Education (DepEd), Republic of the Philippines. (photocopy) 4

contribution to the educational success of students, and poor working conditions create nearly insurmountable obstacles to student learning. 3. A Concerted Attack on Teacher Unions/Organizations School management, however, has difficulty implementing all these measures because of the opposition from organized academic personnel (both unionized or non-unionized). Without the organized teacher group, unions/non-unions, the quality of students' learning and their time at school would be severely diminished. Teachers don't just 'touch the future' they nurture the future. Better salaries, benefits and working conditions for school employees not only enhance the working day of the unionist but also improve the ambience for the student and thereby, quality of the product. As a saying goes A loving teacher makes learning a joy. However, teachers in the private sector remain relatively unorganized. And school administrators are determined to prevent the formation of teachers unions. Some of the methods used are: 1. The creation of joint faculty-administration association or club dominated by management people. Many governments and school authorities do not consider teacher unions as legitimate professional representative organizations for teachers, and the industrial roles of unions are being bypassed or undermined in many ways. There are strong external pressures on teacher unions to make the false choice between the industrial and the professional. But the primary problem of private school teachers is the absence of a truly professional organization. Fifty years of organizing teachers in the private school have not produced a unified national teachers movement. Engineers, doctors, architects and accountants all have the support of national professional associations. Teachers composed the largest professional group in the country, yet they have no such body to promote and represent their professional interests 2. The contesting by management of the representation issue (teaching vs nonteaching, regular vs non-regular). 3. Divide-and-rule tactics like offering tokens or incentives (scholarships, promotion to administrative position, cash incentives to productive or excellent teachers) to discourage teachers from joining or forming a union 4. Black propaganda - Some of the commonly used arguments are: Teachers Union is often portrayed as an organization composed of teachers who are greedy and interested only in protecting their interest at the expense of the students, parents and school. Unions are for industrial workers not for the professionals. Teachers who join the union are unprofessional.

Harassment of teachers such as transfer of assignment, blocking of promotion or career development, and dismissal.

The three challenges that I have mentioned are not unique to education workers in the private schools. These are common challenges that workers in any industry are facing today in the era of globalization. In order to remain relevant unions in various industries must face these challenges. We in the teachers sector of the private schools have began confronting these challenges. In this regard I would like to proceed to the second part of my paper: The prospects for teacher- organizing in the context of globalization. II. PROSPECTS FOR TEACHER-ORGANIZING PROSPECT OF BROADENING OF ISSUES Teacher organizations must now think of the future. Teacher- organizing should not be limited to fish and rice issues. We must devote as much attention to the quality of the product we produce as we do to our members' wages, benefits, working conditions, and security. It should include issues affecting the profession like upgrading of teacher education courses, continued professional development, participation in research and development of the educational, welfare and social needs of students and their communities. Let me cite an example where Union involvement is not limited to the "rice and fish" issue. We know for a fact that teachers need to improve their professional skills. But who controls the access to professional seminars, training and scholarships. Who gets recommended for CHED-DECS-DOST scholarships? What are the criteria? Is it fair? Is it for the common good? Is it based on merit (qualification)? In Silliman University, we had to fight for the retention in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) the Unions right to be represented in the important University Committees such as Faculty Development Committee, Promotions Committee and the Sabbatical Committee. The Union is represented in these committees to ensure that the decision is based on fairness, equity and merit. Another example is the campaign started by the Visayas Education Employees Forum composed of 7 unions and 1 faculty club that the State should regulate all school fees increases. In addition, that unions and student organizations should be involved in the decision-making process. The goal is to ensure that education remains accessible to the ordinary working Filipinos, and their dependents/children.. The root cause of the conflict between the Union and school management is not just money (funding) but power. Yes, funding is an issue. Where shall we get the money for professional development?, is the question that School administrators always ask during negotiation. From school fees? If this kind of management attitude continues, the next millennium for private education will be quite dark. But if money is the only issue how come exclusive private school teachers express similar problems? The root cause is power. Who really runs the school? It is myopic to claim that, having won improvements in pay and conditions, education unions must now turn away from 'fish and rice' issues. In the first place, history has shown that conditions won in the past can easily be eroded if unions do not constantly protect them. Secondly, research has consistently shown that protection of pay and conditions remains the

main reason that workers join and stay with unions6. Unions, that fail to direct their attention primarily to this facet of their role, will not serve their members' interests effectively and are unlikely able to maintain viable membership levels. The conflicts between teachers (individually and collectively) and school authorities (at the school and system levels) are inherent in the nature and structure of schools, schooling systems, teachers' employment, and teachers' work. I believe, that only an organized teachers group can protect their interests and the interests of the students as well. PROSPECT OF STRENGTHENING WORKERS ORGANIZATION AND DEMOCRACY There is a need to strengthen and advance teachers organization through organizational development and training in union democracy. Teachers union structures are basically hierarchical, just like management structures. Prestige, influence, and attention flow upward. We need to change this. Officers of teachers unions and clubs have expressed burden and frustration of carrying the union tasks alone. It seems that burn-out is common among officers of teacher unions. In some cases, school administrators have used the hierarchical and paternalistic union structures to subvert the union leadership. In the consultation of the Visayas Education Employee Forum (VEEF)7 we have heard the request of union officers and leaders to address this concern. While some union leaders will disagree, internal democracy is a legitimate issue. It is a particularly important time to discuss such matters. A strong dose of rank-and-file involvement can only strengthen the union, regardless of how increased democracy may affect some in local or national union leadership. If teachers unions are serious about furthering quality education, they will have to devise ways to promote true union democracy and involve teachers experienced in educational innovation and reform. PROSPECT FOR ADVOCACY AND SOLIDARITY Globalization demands that new alliances be formed between teachers unions and teachers groups. Moreover teacher unions need to be receptive to the objectives of consumer groups, environmental groups, human rights groups, indigenous groups, children's rights advocates and groups representing ethnic communities. This means extending the scope of union representation beyond workplace issues for workers, to a broader social activism. Alternative media and communications strategies, which challenge the power of the monopolies, need to be developed. The union movement needs to utilize the Internet, television, radio and the broad dimensions of information technology more forcefully to inform and mobilize the community. More so, teacher organizations must learn the art of using multi-form tactics in negotiation and advocacy. Tactics or approach to negotiation is contextual or relative. They are never absolute. Teachers have been exposed to two common tactics: FIGHT or
6 7

Griffin and Svensen 1997. VEEF Organization Guidelines, May 1, 2002. 7

COOPERATE. I am saddened when unions fight over these two. I do not believe its a choice between fight or cooperate. I propose instead tactics that ADVANCE and DEFEND the labor movement. THEREFORE TEACHER ORGANIZATIONS MUST FIGHT OR COOPERATE WITH SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS IN ORDER TO ADVANCE AND DEFEND THEIR RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF THEIR MEMBERS IN PARTICULAR AND THE LABOR MOVEMENT IN GENERAL. The key to union survival will be the extent to which they can connect and rebuild for new futures that extend beyond being a traditional union for workers only. Teachers have, by virtue of their work, a great opportunity to do this. The trend towards life long learning provides great possibilities to initiate and renew partnerships and alliances with their students, their communities and the groups that are needed in the new constituency of unions. It is a new form of solidarity. Education unions pursuing professional, industrial and community roles are the hope of the future.

References: 1. Castells, M. The Information City: Information Technology, and the Urban-Regional Process. Oxford, Blackwell. 1989 2. Griffin, G. and S. Svensen. (1997) 'Trade Union Non-Industrial Services: Membership Attitudes', in Bramble, T., Harley, B., Hall R. and Whitehouse, G. (eds), Current Research in Industrial Relations, Brisbane: AIRAANZ.
3. Visayas Education Employees Forum, Organizational Guidelines, May 2, 2002 (photocopy)

Silliman University Faculty Association Collecive Bargaining 4. Agreement, 2001 5. Leonardo Quisumbing, DOLE Secretary Decision RE: Labor Dispute at Silliman University, dated 14 May 1997 (photocopy). 6. The Restructured Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC), also known as the Millennium Curriculum, prepared by the Department of Education (DepEd), Republic of the Philippines. (photocopy)