Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 17      June 4-10, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines











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Picturing the State of Education

Shortages in chairs, electric fans, classrooms and teachers, among others, seem to be common media fodder come the first Monday of June when classes open. Such problems have become common since nothing much has been done to solve them through the years. A visit to a school in Navotas, Metro Manila gives one a “picture” of the state of the country’s education.


A visit to a public elementary school located in Navotas, Metro Manila only leads to one conclusion. This is a school that needs a lot of work.

Many of its classrooms’ ceilings have deteriorated so much that the wooden rafters are already showing and marks left by rainwater that has seeped through are clearly visible. A teacher who requested anonymity said that when the rainy days come, students experience rain inside the classroom.

A classroom is rendered unusable, as during high tide, water from the street floods the classroom. This happens, said a teacher, because the street is higher. Due to lack of funds, they have to resort to dumping pebbles instead of reconstructing the whole floor to raise it, according to the principal.

Teachers said that some classrooms have only two ceiling fans, one of which is already antiquated. They added that not all classrooms have stand fans because these sometimes get stolen. “Ang init-init pa man din dito, lalo na ‘pag June at July na” (It can get quite hot in here, especially during the months of June and July), a teacher said. The doors and its locks are broken because of the burglaries, they said.

There is an average of 37 chairs in a classroom that accommodates 45 to 50 pupils, a teacher said. Those in the back row are usually in a state of disrepair. When asked how 50 students will fit in 30-something chairs, the teacher just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Minsan tabi-tabi na sila diyan, dala-dalawa sa isang upuan para magkasya.” (Sometimes they sit beside each other, two in a chair meant for one so that they can all fit in.)

Screened windows

As one walks along the corridor, one would notice that some classrooms have screened windows. A teacher said that this is necessary, as the people living next to the school throw their trash into the empty lot located in between them. The parcel of land is a breeding ground of mosquitoes, which explains the necessity of screened windows. However, not all classrooms have this. One of the classrooms used for Grades I and II students is an example.

The bathrooms at the end of the corridor have no water and students have to make use of buckets to get water at the other end of the school. This is the case because the water tank’s connection is broken, a teacher said.

A gutter in front of the bathrooms is readily visible and it is almost filled with murky water. Plastic cups and other garbage float in the mess, and upon closer inspection, one will see kiti-kiti (larva of mosquitoes), tadpoles and other creatures.

According to the assistant principal, classroom shortage is a problem though not as serious as the shortage of chairs. She said that the school only needs one or two more classrooms. There are many elementary schools in their area so the school’s student population is not saturated compared to other schools.

Education budget should be doubled

The situation in this public elementary school in Navotas shows the problems plaguing the country’s educational system, mainly rooted in the government’s lack of budgetary allocation for education.

How much should the Philippines be spending on its education? Citing a UNESCO study, Tinio said that the Philippines should be spending 6% of its gross national product (GNP) on education. Currently, it is only using 3% of GNP.

With this figure as basis, Tinio stressed that P72.3 billion ($1.37 billion) should be added to the education budget last year to meet the 6% standard of UNESCO.

Spin-off of financial crisis

The low budgetary allocation for education has its roots in the 1997 financial crisis, from which we have yet to recover, Tinio said. “During that time, a ‘limited or zero growth’ policy was implemented on public development. Napako yung budget, lalo na ng education.” (The budget remained as is, especially for education.)

He said that this policy should be lifted now as prices of goods keep rising, as well as the number of enrollees.

Another issue is foreign debt payment. “In the proposed budget for 2006, P721 billion ($13.64 billion) will be allocated for interest and principal payments. That is seven times more than the proposed budget for education,” he said. 


Some schools, according to Tinio, rely instead on charity to finance the maintenance of the school.

Tinio said that charity will not work for the public school system. Aside from not addressing the lack of government budget for education, it maintains unequal social relations, wherein a public school waits for a dole-out from an obscenely affluent donor. “Why isn’t charity the solution to poverty? Because it doesn’t solve the problem. Nananatili yung di-pagkakapantay-pantay sa lipunan.” (The social inequality remains.)

Education as basis of democracy

Tinio stressed that as citizens, the people must fight for their right to be educated. “Nasa Constitution yon, it guarantees the right of everyone to education. Obligasyon ng ating gobyerno na tugunan ito, dahil ito ang basis ng demokrasya. Ipaglaban natin ito. Government should prioritize education, not debt payments.”  (The Constitution states that we have a right to be educated; it guarantees the right of everyone to it. It’s our government’s obligation to address it, because education is the basis of democracy. We must fight for it. Government should prioritize education, not debt payments.) Bulatlat

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