We need to listen more to our teachers | Inquirer Opinion

We need to listen more to our teachers

/ 05:09 AM December 11, 2023

A common bias that leaders fall into is a phenomenon called the “sunk cost fallacy.” Rather than admit that they made a bad decision, people tend to follow through with something they have invested time, money, or effort into—even if the current costs outweigh the benefits. Hence, leaders must learn how to gracefully and humbly accept when a well-intended idea does not succeed.

Through my work, I have witnessed the power of listening to teachers’ feedback in enhancing school programs and effectiveness. Part of what we do is introducing education innovations based on international best practices that we had tweaked to be adapted to the local context. This has led to significant successes; including being a recognized expert in project-based learning and social emotional learning despite our limited resources. However, we have also had some very unsuccessful endeavors—decisions that appeared promising in theory but presented unforeseen challenges during implementation. Our main safeguard against “sunk-cost fallacy” is prioritizing the views and experience of our teachers—the primary implementers. Listening to what they have to say allows us to better understand what works, and what does not, what should be adjusted, and what should be completely discarded.

For years, many educators have tried to voice out their concerns about the implementation challenges brought on by the No Filipino Child Left Behind (NFCLB) Act of 2010. Undoubtedly, the state policy was well-intentioned: seeking to give every Filipino learner the quality education they deserve and allotting resources for public schools to expand their education programs for struggling children. However, various academic research on its outcomes, coupled with insights from teacher groups, has highlighted specific challenges that should be considered.


One recurring concern is the inadvertent creation of a “mass promotion” culture in some schools wherein teachers feel pressured to lower their academic standards and just pass failing students to inflate level completion and graduation rates. Another feedback is that some teachers were given additional tasks and responsibilities for NFCLB-related programs without adequate resources to do them well, resulting in burnout and decreased job productivity.


The country’s consistently low performance in international standard test results seems to validate that our current education system is unable to fully uphold its commitment to ensuring no child is left behind. Based on the recently released results of the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), Filipino children lag by five to six years in mathematics, science, and reading compared to their 15-year-old peers in most participating countries.

Whenever I run teacher training sessions, I hear a common sentiment: Many teachers feel that they bear the responsibility for their students’ success, yet they feel powerless when it comes to making crucial decisions concerning them. This leads some teachers to feel demoralized about introducing changes and new initiatives. Instead of adhering to a one-program-fits-all bureaucratic approach, we need to give teachers, with their intimate knowledge of their student’s needs and circumstances, more freedom to innovate. Budget allocations must also be reviewed and prioritized to effectively support teacher-led NFCLB initiatives like proper remediation for struggling students.

Professional development seminars, a cornerstone of teacher growth, also require an overhaul. Frequently, the topics and approaches presented are grounded in ideal scenarios, often disconnected from the reality of public school settings. The strategies being taught require facilities and equipment that the schools do not have or seem unrealistic to implement given high teacher-student ratios. Instead of lecture-based approaches, training should shift toward modeling these techniques by instructors who have experience in applying them to similar classroom conditions. There should also be constant training and mentoring to help teachers effectively run individualized instruction for large, multilevel classrooms.

The Department of Education described the recent Pisa results as indicative of the resilience of our education system—highlighting that our performance did not fall further despite pandemic-related challenges. To truly address the problems of our education system, however, we also need to be able to have honest and open-minded discussions about its failings. School administrators should start by asking their faculty and genuinely listening to their feedback. They may not possess all the answers, but their insights provide a valuable starting point for improvement within their respective schools. The key to achieving education quality lies in our collective ability to listen, learn, and empower those at the forefront of shaping young minds—our teachers.


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TAGS: Teachers, Undercurrent

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