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THE CRISIS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THE PHILIPPINES Anecito Zito Gorduiz Galdo, MA
The modern world in which we live is often termed a "knowledge society"; education and information have become production factors potentially more valuable than labor and capital. Thus, in a globalized setting, investment in human capital has become a condition for international competitiveness. In the Philippines, there is always harsh criticism against the politics of globalization. At the same time, regarding the labor markets, I can hardly think of another nation that is so much a part of a globalized economy than the Philippines with nearly ten per cent of the overall population working beyond the shores of the native land (Jurado & Sanchez, 1998). In a matrix that follows, a summary of these important setbacks to education are outlined, followed by a detailed discussion: Problem Brain Drain Social Divide
Gargantuan Problems Equity
Action by the Government Offer additional local work opportunities Creation of CHED, TESDA, an DepEd to focus specific levels of education Provision of free elementary and secondary public schooling Provision of additional schools and facilties Emphasis of considering diversity in classrooms
Brain drain. Apart from the much debated political, social and psychological aspects, this ongoing mass emigration constitutes an unparalleled brain drain with serious economic implications. Philippine society is footing the bill for the education of millions of people, who then spend the better part of their productive years abroad. In effect, the poor Philippine educational system is indirectly subsidizing the affluent economies hosting the OFWs. With 95 per cent of all elementary students attending public schools, the educational crisis in the Philippines is basically a crisis of public education (Mingat & Tan, 1987). The wealthy can easily send their offspring to private schools, many of which offer first-class education to the privileged class of pupils.
Social divide. Still, the distinct social cleavage regarding educational opportunities remains problematic for more than one reason. Historically, in most modern societies, education has had an equalizing effect. In Germany, for instance, the educational system has helped overcome the gender gap, and later also the social divide. Today, the major challenge confronting the educational system in the country is the integration of millions of mostly non-European, in most cases Muslim, immigrants. Importantly, this leveling out in the context of schooling has not occurred in this part of the world. On the contrary, as one Filipino columnist wrote a while ago, "Education has become part of the institutional mechanism that divides the poor and the rich." Let me add an ideological note to the educational debate: Liberals are often accused of standing in the way of reforms that help overcome social inequalities. While, indeed, liberals value personal freedom higher than social equality, they actively promote equality of opportunities in two distinct policy areas: education and basic health care (Orbeta, 2002). For this reason, educational reform tends to have a high ranking on the agenda of most liberal political parties in many parts of the world (Tan, 2001). Representative Edmundo O. Reyes, Jr, the Chairman of the Committee on Education of the House of Representatives, and DepEd Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz had both given imposing presentations on the state of Philippine education. We always hear reports again and again through the frankness and directness with which people address problems in public debates. "The quality of Philippine education has been declining continuously for roughly 25 years," said the Undersecretary -- and no one in the audience disagreed. This, I may add, is a devastating report card for the politicians who governed this nation in the said period. From a liberal and democratic angle, it is particularly depressing as this has been the period that coincides with democratic rule that was so triumphantly and impressively reinstalled after the dark years of dictatorship in 1986! Describing the quality of Philippine school education today, the senior DepEd official stated the following: "Our schools are failing to teach the competence the average citizen needs to become responsible, productive and self-fulfilling. We are graduating people who are learning less and less." Gargantuan problems. While the Undersecretary very patiently and impressively charted out the four policy directions of the political leadership of his Department (taking teachers out of elections, establishing a nationwide testing system, preserving private schools,
raising subsidies for a voucher system), to me, these remedies sound technocratic considering, what one writer has recently termed, "the gargantuan magnitude of the problems besetting Philippine basic education." (Orbeta, 2000). Reportedly, at last count more than 17 million students are enrolled in this country's public schools. At an annual population growth rate of 2.3 per cent, some 1.7 million babies are born every year. In a short time, these individuals will claim their share of the limited educational provisions. "We can't build classrooms fast enough to accommodate" all these people, said the DepEd Undersecretary, who also recalled the much lamented lack of teachers, furniture and teaching materials. In short, there are too little resources for too many students. Equity. It is providing equal learning opportunities for all learners, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, learning and thinking styles, and personality and temperament. In the real world though, it is easier to define equity than to implement it because there is a tendency to perceive diversity as a divisive factor rather than a uniting factor. In an article (Manasan & Villanueva, 2002) I read, a teacher blamed his five students who are non-Tagalog speakers as the primary reason for his school¶s low performance in the National Achievement Test (NAT). The teacher opined that because the students are from Bicol and do not speak Tagalog which is the Mother Tongue in Southern Luzon, they do not perform well in class and they are becoming a problem. He went on ranting and ranting blaming the five students for the low NAT performance of their school. There was a mixed opinion on this matter. Some teachers agreed; others did not. I belong to the latter. I think that the five students are not to blame for their school¶s dismal performance in the NAT. The primary reason is the teacher¶s inability to address the issue of diversity in the classroom. The teacher was not effective in considering individual differences among his students. The above situation is one of the many situations depicting the diversity and equity and the need to address it. As propositioned by education reformists, the ³one size fits all´ policy is not the solution to addressing diversity in the classroom. Curriculum and instruction must be modified to meet the different needs of the learners. What works in the city, may not work in the rural areas. There are already programs in place such as the Alternative Learning System (ALS) and the MTBMLE as well as the Mobile Teachers program; however, the problems on delivery of educational services and providing equal access to education to all learners remain. The blaming game will always be there; however, it is about time we start working together, despite of
and in spite of socio-political and economic ideals and affiliations. The main thrusts should be on reforming the educational system to provide equity in education. Reforms are not done overnight, it may even take our lifetime to reform the educational system and we may not be able to see the fruits of these reforms; but what is important is we are doing something. We may fail but at least we did something. There is hope. And it is time we work together rather than blame each other. Let¶s make it happen. Two alternatives. In this situation, logically, there exist only two strategic alternatives: either, one increases the resources, which is easier said than done considering the dramatic state of public finances, or one reduces the number of students. This second alternative presupposes a systematic population policy, aimed at reducing the number of births considerably. But this, too, is easier said than done, considering the politics in this country -- or to quote Congressman Reyes: "Given the very aggressive and active intervention of the Church addressing the population problem is very hard to tackle." References: Jurado, G. and Ma. T. Sanchez (1998) Philippine Employment And Industrial Relations Policies: An Assessment, PIDS Discussion Paper Series 98-10. Manasan, R. and E. Villanueva (2002) Who Benefits From Government Spending in Education? PIDS. Mingat, A. and J. Tan (1987). Analytical Tools for Sector Work in Education, EDT74, Education and Training Department. World Bank. Orbeta, A. (2000) Macroeconomic Policy Change and the Joint Schooling and Labor Force Participation Decision of Children 1 024 Years Old, MIMAP Research Paper, January.
Orbeta, A. (2002). Globalization and Employment: The Impact of Trade on Employment Level and Structure in the Philippines, PIDS Discussion Paper Series No. 2002-04. February. Tan, E. (2001). The Political Economy of Education Reforms, IDE.