MANILA, JUNE 5, 2012 (MANILA TIMES) Two problems await grade school pupils when classes open today. First, a big shortage of teachers, materials and facilities. Second, high anxiety level. Education Secretary Armin Luistro has a solution for the second: Try a little tenderness.

At the launch of the Department of Education’s Child Protection Guidelines last week, Secretary Luistro told teachers to wear a constant smile on opening day. Why? Because pupils would be meeting new faces. They would be separated from their parents. The level of anxiety and stress would be high.

A smile could have a very positive effect on the students, Luistro said, in a news story published in the Manila Bulletin.

Teachers who fail to flash a smile would be marked “No Uniform,” the Bulletin story said.

The reporter did not mention if Luistro will engage the services of a “smile secret service” to spy on and report disobedient (“erring” in Filipino journalese) teachers.

The story said the Education boss will not issue a formal memo but will “strongly” encourage the grin directive to make the kids feel welcome for the rest of the schoolyear.

“Nonsense” was the reported reaction of France Castro, secretary-general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), who remarked that instead of issuing such a directive, DepEd should focus on the shortage of chairs, classrooms and teachers.

DepEd is anticipating bigger enrollment with the new K+12 program that adds kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 7 classes to the curriculum. The classroom deficit plus overcrowded classes will place an additional strain on teachers and pupils. The stressful atmosphere calls for courtesy and pleasantness all around.

The Philippine government conducts courtesy campaigns from time to time as part of its social engineering program. Public servants, for example, are often advised to serve with a smile.

The rule does not apply at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where customs and immigration employees are reminded by their superiors that a smile could be mistaken by tourists and other arriving passengers as hint for a well-deserved tip.

We called a DepEd insider about the smile strategy. He assured us that all teachers are ready for school opening. “We had a rehearsal in all grade schools yesterday and we are pleased by the quality of their smile. It will surely put the students at ease.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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