Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones on Wednesday stressed the need for public-school teachers to have financial literacy, as she lamented the fact that teachers in the Philippines currently owe various lending institutions an aggregate of P163 billion.
In a news conference at a hotel in Ermita, Manila, Briones denied that public-school teachers in the Philippines are underpaid. She told the story of a teacher who previously complained at a demonstration in front of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City about his take-home salary of only P3,000.
Briones said the DepEd could not be faulted for it because the man’s salary is actually P25,000, with bonuses and perks, but he owed money to seven different lending institutions. “What the government is responsible for is to give the appropriate and necessary salary, which will sustain a teacher, but what a teacher does to his or her money is also his or her own responsibility,” Briones said.
She said the real culprit behind the shrunk take-home pay of most teachers is the lack of a sound personal financial-management system, and the way borrowing money from loan sharks has become a habit for most of them.
Poor financial decisions lead to financial instability, which is why the DepEd is “seriously considering” teaching financial literacy to public-school teachers and other government employees, according to Briones.
“What do we borrow money for? Do we borrow for a trip abroad, for a child’s entry to a beauty contest, or do we borrow for additional funds for investment, or for a house, or a child’s education? These things have to be thoroughly considered.”
In line with this, Briones also hit lending institutions that make it so easy to borrow money without providing sound financial advice. She said these institutions should also be responsible for launching activities that work toward capacity-building in financial literacy.
The monthly salary of an entry-level public-school teacher in the Philippines is P19,000. Briones has been supportive of proposals to raise this to P39,000 monthly, but has also expressed her worries that any further hike in public-school teachers’ pay would mean a greater divide between them and private-school educators, who, in some parts of the country, receive only P8,000 in monthly compensation.
Regardless of these possibilities, however, she is confident that with enough financial literacy and guidance, the current salary that public-school teachers receive is already adequate.