Support for early childcare workers | Inquirer Opinion

Support for early childcare workers

Support for early childcare workers

One of the running jokes during the pandemic was that parents suddenly realized just how “heroic” their children’s teachers are. After two years of online classes, many parents could not wait for schools to reopen and return their children to the classroom. “I will never take my child’s teachers for granted ever again,” one of my best friends confessed after sharing the challenges she had to keep her son attentive in his virtual classes.

In our post-pandemic world, investing in initiatives aimed at learning recovery at the basic education level has been identified as a priority. The urgency was further reinforced by the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results which showed that the Filipino students who took the exam were five to six years behind in math, reading, and science as compared to other 15-year-olds from other countries. Apart from “catch-up” interventions focused on numeracy and literacy, there is also proposed legislation calling for an increase in teacher wages. Proponents assert that doing so would make the teaching profession more appealing and help increase the quality of applicants, which in turn, would elevate the quality of education in the country.

However, what is not being given equal attention in these discussions is the plight of childcare workers running our public daycare centers. Based on informal surveys done by Unicef, most non-permanent daycare workers only earn P5,000 a month, while others only receive a monthly honorarium fee of P1,000. According to another study that the agency conducted with the Early Childhood Care and Development Council, many public daycare workers lack the skills needed for high-quality early childhood education: Only 48 percent are college graduates, and just over half have attended fewer than two training sessions.

Those familiar with a child’s developmental stages are acutely aware of the importance of early childhood education (ECE). The early years of a child’s life are a critical period for developing essential cognitive, social, physical, and emotional skills that influence their lifelong academic and personal success. A high-quality ECE program also gives children the space to learn how to explore, ask questions, and connect ideas—enhancing their ability to think critically in the future.


Investing in the accessibility and capacity-building of daycare centers can also significantly help improve nutrition outcomes. The EdCom II Year One Report highlights that the Philippines has a high prevalence of stunting (26.7 percent), wasting (16.8 percent), and underweight (5.5 percent) in children under five. Daycare centers serve as crucial partners for the local government in implementing school-based feeding programs as well as nutrition and health education for parents. The stronger the daycare program is, the more efficient the rollout of the interventions will be as well.

Overall, a high-quality ECE program leads to a more educated, skilled, and prosperous population. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds who receive a good ECE are more likely to perform better academically, graduate from high school, and pursue higher education. Research also shows that every amount invested in ECE yields significant returns in the form of reduced need for special education services, lower dropout rates, and increased earnings in adulthood.

It is disconcerting that despite the importance of childcare workers’ roles, their paltry pay suggests otherwise. This connects to the larger problem of the gender wage gap in the country. Female-dominated professions, just like ECE, are still not as valued as jobs that are largely associated with men. This disparity in income was one of the issues highlighted by the World Economic Forum gender equality index where the Philippines fell nine notches to 25th place out of 146 countries.

According to Unicef, an estimated P25 billion is needed to increase the country’s enrollment of 3- to 4-year-olds by 10 percent. This is needed to provide higher teacher salaries and better training, build new centers, implement feeding and parenting programs, and cover school maintenance. I strongly support their recommendation to allocate at least 10 percent of the education budget to early childhood education.


For the past six months, I have been working with Taguig to help strengthen its daycare services. I was immediately impressed by the number of available centers—over 150 sites as of 2024. For parents, this is a gift because the accessibility makes it easy for them to avail of the service. The daycare workers in Taguig are also paid much higher compared to their counterparts in other cities. With many of the basic needs met, our efforts can focus on upgrading teacher skills and increasing the training opportunities available to them.

Depending on the location, public daycare workers typically run three shifts a day of two- to three-hour sessions with 15 to 25 students per shift. When I started to observe the daycare lessons in Taguig, I was immediately in awe of the teachers’ energy and dedication. Whenever I volunteer to teach our elementary classes, I usually need a day and a half to recover. Many of these workers have been teaching for over 15 years, yet they continue to give the same level of enthusiasm in every shift. They sing, dance, and act out stories to engage their students. They gently comfort crying children experiencing separation anxiety from their parents. They patiently encourage each child to finish the provided vegetables in the feeding program. Truly, these teachers give so much of themselves to ensure they are able to give their students the best formation possible.


Elevating the quality of public daycare centers necessitates elevating the profession, which starts with fair wages and benefits, proper training, and infrastructural support. If we truly value the role of early childhood education in creating a flourishing society, it is time to reflect that in the compensation and support of daycare teachers. Our children’s futures depend on it.

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TAGS: opinion, Undercurrent

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