Pupils in many schools in the Philippines last Friday received a lesson in government corruption and the importance of teacher unions in fighting for public education. Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) asked their members to go to school as usual but instead of teaching the prescribed curriculum, the teachers planned activities to engage students in a debate about political corruption and the effect it is having on public education.

Teachers in the country have not had a pay rise since 2012 but at the same time allowances which they had received in the past were halved. Instead a system of performance related pay was brought in which involved teachers in a lot of extra work since they had to hand in a daily log of their activities for assessment. As the chair of the ACT such pay systems 'foster a competitive environment, which defeats the purpose of the collective effort of teaching'.

According to Philippine law, 'teachers must be given pay levels that will afford them a decent and humane living condition.' Currently teachers earn just over $400 a month, with non-teaching staff earning only half that. ACT is campaigning for decent pay for both groups of school employees.

The teachers have received support from the wider labour movement. Roger Saluto, leader of the trade union confederation that the government of Benigno Aquino was pursuing 'anti-people' policies for the benefit of big business and servicing debts to foreign capital: 'Aquino has consistently prioritized the interests of big foreign banks and capitalists and big local bureaucrats over that of teachers, government employees and workers. That’s why protests for higher wages and against his government are getting stronger.'

As well as the special lessons held in schools, the ACT held rallies outside municipal offices and says that the actions will continue if their demands are not considered by President Aquino. They are planning a protest at the Senate on November 19th and further strikes.