Thursday, June 01, 2006

It’s School Opening Time Once Again!

President Arroyo's temper tantrum has focused attention to our country's education problem. But I predict that after a month or after the media had shifted its attention to other issues, the education problem will be conveniently forgotten and its problems unsolved.

Over 20 million students all across the country are returning to school next week. As the children troop to their classrooms, the hopes and dreams of millions of parents go with them. For most families in the Philippines, a good education for their children is seen as their only way out of poverty.

Most people are aware of the deteriorating quality of instruction in our public schools. We already know for example that there is a huge shortage of classrooms, textbooks and teachers, and that the budget allocation for DepEd is always inadequate to meet the annual increase in student enrolment. In fact, most parents would rather send their children to private schools if they can afford it.

But what most people do not know is the extent of the deterioration in our public school system, which is downright alarming. According to a study conducted by the Kaakbay sa Pag-aaral, an NGO engaged in education reform advocacies, only 6 out of 100 grade 6 students are prepared to enter high school. Even more alarming is the group’s findings that only 2 (yes… as in duwa) out of 100 4th year students are fit to enter college. The same study revealed that only 6.59% of graduating high school students could read, speak and understand English well enough to enter college. 44.25% had no English skills at all. Our students perform even more poorly in math and science, as reflected in the results of the National Elementary Assessment Test (NEAT), National Secondary Assessment Test (NSAT) and the National Achievement Test in recent years. The study concludes that a grade 6 graduate of our education system has only the competence of a grade 3 pupil, and a high school graduate has the competence of a grade 6 pupil.

What our education officials are not telling the parents is that they have adopted the “triage” system as an “unofficial” school policy. Triage is defined as “a process for sorting injured people into groups based on their need for or likely benefit from immediate medical treatment.” It is usually used in hospital emergency rooms, on battlefields, and at disaster sites when limited medical resources must be prudently allocated. Applied to our educational system, triage means sacrificing the many to save the few. In most public schools today for example, all the brightest students are put in one “elite” class (normally called Section 1) and students who show exceptional aptitude in math and science are sent to the Philippine Science High School. Those children who are in most need of teacher attention and guidance, the mediocre and low IQ students, are largely left to themselves because tutoring them entails too much effort, time and money. This situation is not entirely the teachers’s fault nor is it entirely the government’s fault. The fault lies on society as a whole: Filipinos are simply breeding more children than we can afford to educate.

So unless Junior is Grade 1 section 1 at Arevalo Elementary School or passes the entrance exam in Philippine Science High School, forget about him getting a high-standard education. But this is probably just as well. If we are just going to be a nation of domestic helpers and caregivers anyway, why bother to spend millions of pesos to educate them? Why produce management graduates, accountants, engineers and scientists when they can make more money employed as domestics and construction workers abroad? In fact, a semi-literate domestic helper working in Hongkong makes more money than a CPA practicing here. And since we are musically gifted as a people, we might as well just teach our children to play the guitar or some other instrument so that they could become entertainers in some swanky hotel abroad. That way, we get more bang for the buck.


rooster said...

Pre, swerte ko lang gali kay may Ma'am Homicillada ako sg Grade II, Ma'am Pigason sg Grade IV kag Ma'am Paredes sg college. Depende sa maestra?

Iloilo City Boy said...

Thank you for your comment. Yes depende man sa maestra kag estudyante. But try bala i-survey ang Grade 1 batch mo (even just mentally) kung pila sa ila nakagraduate sa college. Then tell me kung ga-jive sya sa findings sang Kaakbay sa Pag-aaral NGO.