Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is seeking to institutionalize mental health and well-being programs in order to address emotional, developmental, and preventive programs and other support services in public and private basic education schools.
Senate Bill 379, or the Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act, aims to urgently counter the negative effects of, among others, the pandemic school closures on the mental health and socio-emotional development of learners, teachers, and other non-teaching personnel.
“The measure also seeks to hire mental health professionals and deploy them to public elementary, secondary, and vocational institutions,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
If passed into law, Gatchalian said SBN 379 will establish a Mental Health and Well-Being Center in public and private basic education (K to 12) schools and support the Department of Education’s (DepEd) learning recovery plan.
It will create a sufficient number of new plantilla (permanent) positions for Guidance Counselor and Guidance Associate.
“A Guidance Associate should be a graduate of a Bachelor’s degree in Guidance and Counseling, Psychology, Social Work, Human Services, and other allied disciplines or any related courses,” Gatchalian said.
He proposed to raise the Salary Grades (SG) of Guidance Counselor I from SG 11 (PHP25,439) to SG 16 (PHP38,150), Guidance Counselor II from SG 12 (PHP27,608) to SG 17 (PHP41,508), and Guidance Counselor III from SG 13 (PHP29,798) to SG 18 (PHP45,203).
While the DepEd requires basic education schools to hire one guidance counselor for every 500 students, Gatchalian pointed out that the Philippines only has 4,069 guidance counselors as of June 2022 since the first batch took the licensure examinations in 2008.
“With 27.4 million elementary and high school schools, the 1:500 desired ratio of Guidance Counselor to students is not being met,” he said. (PNA)