Page last updated at 12:03 Asia/Manila, Monday, 16 December 2013 PH
There is a clamor for the ongoing economic growth, one of the highest in Asia, to be more inclusive, that is to contribute effectively to eradicating poverty in the country. I am glad that the Government is responding to this demand by significantly increasing the share of education in the annual operating budget. A great part of this increase in the budget for education will have to be spent on the school buildings and other classroom facilities in which there is a huge backlog. Hopefully, another significant part of this budget for education will be earmarked for an increase in the salaries paid to teachers, especially those in basic education. One of the greatest services we can render to the poor is to improve the quality of the education that their children get in the public elementary and secondary schools. There is no question that the quality of education partly depends on how well we compensate the hundreds of thousands of teachers in the public school system.
Assuming that our teachers receive salaries that will enable them and their families to live with a minimum of human comfort and decency. The quality of their service will depend more significantly on whether or not they consider their work as a vocation and not just as a means of earning a living. Since the vast majority of teachers in the public educational system are Christians, I would like to remind them of what an important document issued after the Second Vatican Council on “Lay Catholic in Schools: Witnesses to Faith” (October 15, 1982) declared about the lay Catholic as an educator. Each teacher should remember that she or he is not “simply a professional person whose contribution is limited to the systematic transmission of knowledge in a school; ‘teacher’ is to be understood as ‘educator’—one who helps to form human persons. The task of a teacher goes well beyond mere teaching, though it includes it. Therefore, like teaching, but more so than teaching, educating requires adequate professional preparation to fulfill its task. It is an indispensable human formation and without it would be foolish to undertake any educational work.”
Fortunately, there are in the Philippines a good number of private initiatives, such as the Synergeia Foundation and Philippine Business for Education, among others, that are committed to the continuing formation of educators, who should be among the professional people who should never stop learning and forming themselves in both knowledge and virtues. To be an educator is very demanding because her objective is “integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education..(This) includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, their preparation for professional life, the formation of ethical and social sense in them, imparting an awareness of the transcendental, and giving them a religious education. Every school, and every educator in the schools, ought to be endeavoring ‘to form strong and responsible individuals, who are capable of making free and correct choices’, thus preparing young people ‘to open themselves more and more to reality, and to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life’.”
The educator who professes the Christian faith—whether he be teaching English, Arithmetic, History, the Social Sciences, Chemistry or Physics—must contribute to this integral formation of the person. She will not be able to carry out this task unless she herself has a very clear idea of what it means to be a human person. True to her faith, she must have a strong foundation in Christian anthropology which Bishops, priests, and lay organizations must be able to provide public school teachers in continuing education programs either in parishes or in special institutes. The document mentioned above emphasizes this most important duty of a Catholic educator wherever she teaches, especially in public schools: “In today’s pluralistic world, the Catholic educator is called consciously to inspire his or her activity with the Christian concept of the person, in communion with the Magisterium of the Church. It is a concept which includes a defense of human rights, but as something befitting the dignity of a child of God; it attributes the fullest liberty, freed from sin itself by Christ, the most exalted destiny, which is the definitive and total possession of God Himself though love.
Since the highest virtue exalted by the Christian faith is love, especially the preferential option for the poor, special attention must be paid to the following: “The vocation of every Catholic educator includes the work of ongoing social development: to form men and women for the social commitment to work for the improvement of social structures bringing them more into conformity with the Gospel. Thus, they will form human beings who will make human society more peaceful, fraternal, and communitarian. Today’s world has terrible problems: hunger, illiteracy and human exploitation; sharp contrasts in the standard of living of individuals and of countries; aggression and violence, a growing drug problem, legalization of abortion, along with many other examples of the degradation of human life. All of this demands that Catholic educators develop in themselves, and cultivate in their students, a keen social awareness and profound civic and political responsibility. The Catholic educator, in other words, must be committed to the task of forming men and women who will make the ‘civilization of love’ a reality.”
Public school teachers who are interested, either individually or collectively, in their continuing formation as educators—whatever their religious faith—may get in touch with Dr. Antonio Torralba of the University of Asia and the Pacific for advice on what training programs to undertake. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Torralba has more than forty years of experience working with the public educational systems in the formation of educators. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.