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











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Two-shift Classroom Scheme Does Not Solve Education Crisis

Recently, Department of Education Officer-in-Charge Fe Hidalgo was publicly scolded by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for reporting that there is a shortage of classrooms. The President claimed that there is no shortage if the two-shift classroom scheme is used. If we go by the President’s formula, there is no classroom shortage. However, this does not mean that the problem is already gone.


A two-shift system involves one class taking the morning session, with the next class occupying the afternoon one. This maximizes the use of a classroom since more students can use it in one day.

According to Antonio Tinio, chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), to accommodate the students, most public schools schedule two, three, and sometimes even four shifts within the entire day, with 70 to 80 students packed in a room. Usually, the first class starts as early as 6 am to accommodate the other sessions.

This would mean less time for the students’ lessons, says Tinio. And if the results of achievement tests were an indication, this system cannot improve the quality of education in the public school system.

Below 75% passing rate

According to Tinio, public school students do poorly in diagnostic and achievement tests. Last June 2002, the overall performance score of Grade Four students who took the national diagnostic test (NDT) was 39.99%, while the first year high school students had a lower 28.04 percent.

The national achievement test (NAT) the following March delivered slightly better results, with the fourth graders garnering a 43.55%, while the first year high school students earned a 36.13%.

Despite the slight improvement, the scores are still way below the 75% passing rate, Tinio said.

The Philippines in bottom five of poor achievers

Internationally, the Philippines belongs to the bottom five of poor achievers in Math and Science.

According to a study by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003, out of the 45 participants in the Science Achievement test at the 8th grade level (second year high school in the Philippines), the Philippines ranked 42, beating only Botswana (43), Ghana (44) and Africa (45). The top five performing countries were Singapore, Chinese Taipei, South Korea, Hong Kong and Estonia.

In the Math Achievement test, the Philippines ranked 41, besting Botswana (42), Saudi Arabia (43), Ghana (44) and South Africa (45). The top five were Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Japan.

“These students were prepared by their teachers months before the actual tests, and their teachers had to go to a seminar in PNU (Philippine University of the Philippines) in preparation for the review, but still their performance is poor,” Tinio said. “Though it is possible that the other countries did some tweaking of their own, the fact is, our scores are still very, very low.”

According to the Department of Education, 75% of those who graduate from public elementary schools cannot read on their own. Independent reading, Tinio said, is one of the basic skills one would expect an elementary school graduate to have mastered already.

Teacher shortage also a problem

In order for the two-shift system to work, Tinio said that there has to be two sets of teachers. The first set will teach the first session, and the next set will teach the next one. Tinio said that this is meant to avoid overworking the teachers, which will greatly help in their efficiency.

At present, the Philippines has the worst pupil-teacher ratio in Asia at 45:1, Tinio said, as the universal standard is pegged at 25:1. According to an assessment report by Education for All in 2000, at the elementary level, Japan has the lowest pupil-teacher ratio at less than 20:1, followed by Malaysia and Thailand, at 21:1 and 21.5:1, respectively. The closest to the Philippines is Laos (31:1) and Vietnam (30:1).

At the lower secondary level, the Philippines still has the highest student-teacher ratio at 45:1, while Laos is the closest at 31 is to 1. Japan and Indonesia have the lowest ratio (17:1), followed by China (17.6:1).  

Since there is a shortage of 49,699 public school teachers in the Philippines, Tinio said that the government must also solve this shortage if it insists on a two-shift classroom scheme. 

Simplistic and crude formula

Different schools have different needs. This is why the President’s formula is crude and simplistic, according to Tinio. “It doesn’t take into account the uneven distribution of shortages.”

According to him, the reports made by the Department of Education are based on the principals’ own assessment of their schools. The shifting that the President is talking about has already been accounted for, he said, so the shortage of classrooms is a very real problem which costs P20 billion (P378.43 million, based on an exchange rate of P52.85 per US dollar).

Tinio said that this is the amount needed to construct the much-needed 55,145 classrooms for public elementary and high schools for this academic year.

Educational tragedy

According to Raymond Palatino, president of Kabataan Sectoral Party, “The DepEd pupil-classroom ratio currently pegged at 45:1 is already worrisome. What Arroyo wants is an educational tragedy.”

Data from a 2003 study of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics show that the Philippines has a public elementary school average class size of 43.9 students in a classroom, as compared to Malaysia’s 31.7, Thailand’s 22.9, Japan’s 28.6, and India’s 40.

In high school, the Philippines has an even higher average with 56.1, while Malaysia’s is 34, Thailand’s is 41.5, Japan’s is 33.9, and India’s is 39. 

This is a far cry from the 15 students-in-a-room goal of the National Education Association in the United States.

The President’s formula will only institutionalize overcrowding in public school classrooms and increasing the maximum capacity of the classrooms will not resolve the shortage of classrooms, he said.

Pipe dream

The two-shift scheme as a solution to classroom shortage is nothing but a pipe dream. If the real solution is to be found, the problem must first be faced and not made to disappear by changing the basis of computation.

Indeed, it is necessary for the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to acknowledge that such a problem exists. Bulatlat

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